This is where Ipanema starts, right at the border with Leblon. Until the 70's this is where the streetcars turned. In the 90's the area was remodeled, and received a gift of questionable taste. An obelisk was erected right in the middle of busiest commercial street, coupled with a sort of an overpass that doesn't have any practical purpose. Originally they had designed it for pedestrians, but enraged residents of the surrounding buildings were not happy about having peeping toms passing right out their bedroom windows.
Diamond Row & Rua Garcia D´Ávila
A couple of blocks away from Bar 20, between streets Garcia D´Ávila and Aníbal de Mendonça is Rio's Diamond Row. In addition to the Amsterdam Sauer Museum of Gems, visit the headquarters of jewelers H. Stern to take the free workshop tour, and see the steps in the production of a jewel. Explore Rua Garcia D'Ávila, the most sophisticated cross-street in Ipanema. Designer furniture, fashion, jewelers, and branches of shops like Louis Vuitton, Cartier, and Mont Blanc are perfect for window-shopping (and a little day-dreaming).
Rua Vinícius de Morais
The street, formerly known as Montenegro, always had an important role in Ipanema. The first open air fashion shows in Brazil happened here, at Blu-Blu in the 70's. This is where the famous Velloso Bar was located. Tom Jobim and Vinícius supposedly composed the song Girl from Ipanema here - the lyrics were written on a napkin, according to legend. Later Velloso would be renamed Bar Garota de Ipanema, and the street named after Vinícius. Tom Jobim ended up as the name of Rio's International Airport. This whole street is full of interesting bars, shops and eateries. Do not miss Toca do Vinícius, a shop that has everything Bossa Nova - from rare CD's to literature and memorabilia.
Praça da Paz
One of Rio's prettiest green plazas, with well-manicured lawns, a beautiful art-deco centerpiece, small pond with ducks, and countless cast-iron statues. The Peace Square is a haven of tranquility right on the main street. Arrive early and take part in the tai-chi-chuan practice, watch the babies and children arrive with their mothers and babysitters. The farmer's market on Friday morning is another non-touristy way to enjoy the routine of locals. This square is surrounded by excellent restaurants, nightclubs, shopping, a gym, beauty salon for pets, you name it. Take your time and explore the surroundings, visit the small but beautiful church, stop for a gourmet coffee, a fresh-squeezed juice, or an unforgettable meal. You will probably come back for more later.
Praça General Osório
Unfairly considered by some the Peace Square's poor cousin, General Osório is also a spot you do not want to miss. Its fountain, though badly in need of a restoration, is a masterpiece by master Valentim. The hippie fair happens here on Sundays, and this is where Banda de Ipanema gathers for Carnival. It is surrounded by discount stores, restaurants, supermarkets, a post office, etc. From here you have a view to the popular community of Cantagalo, that stretches all the way to Copacabana.
Visconde de Pirajá
This may be the most attractive commercial street in Rio - especially if you are not a fan of hyper malls. The street is lined up with banks, bars, restaurants, travel agencies and some of Rio's best boutiques. There are also many specialty shops, hotels, gyms, night clubs, 24-hour bookstands, drugstores... you will find everything could be looking for, and then some.
Basically all streets that start at Lagoa and run towards to the Beach are worth exploring. Each one has its own characteristics and attractions. Walking from one end to the other is a fun way to discover why people who live in Ipanema would not consider moving elsewhere. If you have time to do only two or three, we suggest Garcia D'Ávila, Vinícius de Morais and Farme de Amoedo.
While most of Ipanema features a healthy mix of residential and commercial buildings, some streets running parallel to the beach are still mostly residential. They feature a number of 4-story buildings, and many houses still stand - despite the soaring prices of real estate. Barão de Jaguaribe, Nascimento Silva and Redentor are good examples, with a similar profile.
Baixo Quitéria, Baixo Farme & Baixo Gay
Baixo is a term locals use to define areas that concentrate a number of bars and cafes, attracting a young crowd. Baixo Quitéria is on Rua Maria Quitéria (between streets Prudente and Visconde). Baixo Farme revolves around Bar Bofetada on Rua Farme de Amoedo, almost at the corner of Barão da Torre. Take a seat at one of the tables, and enjoy delicious appetizers as you chat away. Or just grab a drink, and leaning on a car people-watching. Learn a phrase or two in Portuguese to break the ice, and do not be shy. Talking to strangers, making new friends and flirting are some of the reasons Baixos exist, after all. For gays and lesbians the best alternative is Rua Teixeira de Melo, with lounges and dance clubs.
Even if you are traveling on a budget an afternoon window-shopping in Ipanema is always fun. It could even be considered a cultural activity, if you need any excuses. There are too many options but if your time is short here are some musts. Bikini boutiques like Salinas, Blue Man and Bum-Bum (they also carry bathing suits for guys). Clothing stores born in Ipanema that became national chains: Krishna, Chocolate (women), Richard's, Wollner (men), and Company (family). Major jewelers on Rua Visconde de Pirajá like H. Stern, Amsterdam Sauer. Signature purses and handbags at Glorinha Paranaguá. Fashion underwear for men at Foch. Fine leathers at Frank e Amaury. Shoes at Mariazinha (women) or Mr. Cat (men). The possibilities are really endless...
Exploring art galleries is another fun way to get an insight into the local culture. There are two major art galleries in Ipanema you do not want to miss. Bolsa de Arte is on Rua Prudente de Morais near Farme de Amoedo. Galeria de Ipanema is on Aníbal de Mendonça, right on the beach block. Both feature paintings and art objects by major Brazilian artists. The hippie fair at General Osório Square on Sundays is great if you are looking for naïf paintings of tourist sights, wooden sculptures, handicraft, or exotic musical instruments.
Although there are no mammoth malls in Ipanema, Rua Visconde de Pirajá is lined up with commercial buildings with two or three stories with shops, beauty salons, and the like. Forum and Ipanema 2000 are among the most sophisticated. The upper floors are taken by private practices, offices, and lots of fashion wholesalers. Buyers from other states are frequently seen dragging huge shopping bags from buildings like the Visconde de Pirajá 580. You will find pieces very similar to what the fashion boutiques below have on display, for half the price (minus the prestigious label, of course).
Ipanema is a five minute walk from Copacabana beach but it's worlds apart. Gone are the sleazy prostitute bars and sex tourism and in are lots of classy boutiques and chic cafes. Ipanema is not quite as upscale a neighbourhood as Leblon or Barra de Tijuca, but it is still expensive and well-policed.
The beach in Ipanema is well-known throughout the world. Its name is a Tupi Guarani word meaning "bad waters" as the locale is notorious for dangerous currents and few fish. Despite the capricious currents, the view and atomosphere are considered supreme. Populated with tiny-bikini clad bodies and lots of rich Brazilian youth, the beach is a symbol of pleasure and wealth. Two hills known as the 'Two Brothers' rise at the western end of the beach. The beach is marked into segments with points known as postos. Posto 8 marks the beginning of what is considered the gay stretch of beach, which lasts up until Posto 9, which is known for the illicit smoking of marijuana. There are always circles of people playing football, volleyball, and footvolley, a combination sport unique to Brazil.
Ipanema has a few bars that attract a crowd, though considered somewhat touristic and mainstream. There are a couple of Irish bars - a current craze in South America - and small cafes known as botequim where Brazilians like to sit, drink, eat, and chat. On Rua de Maria Quiteria there is the popular bar the Emporio, where the crowd often pours out onto the street. It closes at 4am, but with Ipanema's all-the-time partying atmosphere, many people still drift down to one of the kiosks on the beach after closing.
Although Ipanema may look like a paradise of the rich, there are still two favelas or slums close by and there is still a subtantial risk of crime, especially at night. Although it's fairly safe during the day, there are still risks walking at night, especially near or on the hills close to the favelas.
Ipanema is a neighborhood that summarizes the best Rio de Janeiro has to offer. There's a legendary beach, a bustling nightlife, restaurants to write home about, the most sophisticated street shopping in town, cultural centers, museums, excellent hotels in all price ranges...
Better yet, everything is in a walking distance, and it's easy to find your way around. Streets are lined up in a grid, and you have the beach and Lagoa as your references. If you had only one day in Rio, and you want to experience the city like a local instead of a tourist, this is the place you would be heading to.
Most of what is known as Ipanema today belonged to aristocrat José Antonio Moreira Filho, the Barão de Ipanema. Ipanema means bad water in Brazilian Indian dialect, but since the name was inherited from the baron, it has nothing to do with our beautiful blue sea. Once the tunnel connecting Copacabana to Botafogo was opened, Ipanema was finally integrated to the rest of the city.
In 1894 Vila Ipanema was founded, with 19 streets and 2 parks. The neighborhood started to grow faster with the arrival of streetcars in 1902. Ipanema became a household name in the 1950's and 60's - it is the birthplace of Bossa Nova. The whole world learned about it with hit song The Girl from Ipanema by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Morais, both Ipanema residents.
Since then Ipanema is always setting new trends, and what happens here reverberates throughout the country. Take Banda de Ipanema, for instance. What started as a celebration among a few dozen friends ended up bringing a new life to Rio de Janeiro's Street Carnival festivities. Today the parades attract as many as fifteen thousand, and many other neighborhoods have street bands of their own.
The first pregnant woman in a bikini was actress Leila Diniz in the 70's, she lived on Rua Aníbal de Mendonça. The first men sunbathing in a bikini bottom was Fernando Gabeira at Posto 9 in the early 80's. The first topless woman (who bothered asking? - 80's), and the dental floss bikini (late 80's) are among fashion statements that were made here first.
Ipanema has played an important cultural role in the city since its early days. There are major art galleries, universities, several schools, avant-garde theaters, art movie theaters, cyber-cafés... Do not be surprised to discover a cozy café with a web connection inside a bookshop or clothing store.
Fitness is also a big thing. Expect to run into juice shops every other block. People going into and coming out of the many state-of-the-art gyms. Activities offered sometimes include capoeira, you could well walk in and give it a shot. Keep your sunglasses on to better watch the sun-kissed girls and boys of Ipanema go by.
When the sun sets, the fun does not end. With an assortment of cafes, bars, and clubs there's always something happening at night. Stroll around Praça da Paz, Baixo Farme and Baixo Quitéria. Watch a live music performance, crash a circuit party, sip a beer or fresh coconut under the stars at a beach kiosk. Gays and lesbians have their own beach spot, and enjoy venues and clubs on Rua Teixeira de Melo, Farme de Amoedo and surroundings.