15 Essential Ways to Enjoy Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro

Ipanema beach with surfers at Arpoador and Dois Irmãos mountain in the background

A traditional beach neighborhood with a tangy Brazilian twist, Ipanema is a bubbling corner of Rio. Here the white sand bumps into the Atlantic ocean, meaning icy-fresh waves originating from the Antarctic.

There are infinite ways to enjoy Ipanema, which used to be farmland. Far from the noble neighbourhoods of Laranjeiras and Catete, where Imperial Portuguese royalty bumped around in the 1800s, Ipanema is now the place to rub shoulders with celebrities.

One difference to notice between Ipanema and Copacabana is the design of the Portuguese black and white stones on the sidewalk. While in Copacabana the famous wave style, evocative of Lisbon is used, in Ipanema squares are the game. Art Deco styles pavements, shining white sand and some of the best cuisine in town.

Ipanema Knockout Neighbourhood Guide by Footloose Lemon Juice 1

1. Eat Açaí and Filé mignon at Polis Sucos

Açaí is a frozen drink made from the Amazonian berry Açaí. The berry pulp is mixed with Guaraná syrup to make a delicious tropical slushy. You can mix in anything you want, though each addition costs something. Sprinkle granola on and add sliced banana for filling Brazilian breakfast. 

Polis Sucos is a juice bar on the corner of Visconde de Parajá and Maria Quitéria that has a few benches and a bar where you can stand to eat. They added several tables and umbrellas, so you can now settle down or you can stroll down to the beach to sip your açaí with a view.

The açaí is more than enough, but if you want to make it a real meal you can grab a filé mignon sandwich, which is scrummy. It looks tacky on the sign, but it is melt in your mouth.

Pay before you eat at the till and hand the receipt over to one of the guys to put your order through. 

2. Settle down at Ipanema Beach

From my knowledge and upbringing as a Brit, it is the norm to head down to the beach with your towel and pay for nothing. In Ipanema the norm, and I would suggest you follow it, is to pay for a chair and an umbrella. Unless your hotel/ Airbnb has spares.

The Brazilian sun is bright and hot. You are going to want to protect your beautiful skin. This way you have a break from the blazing inferno. Plus the business that rents these umbrellas and chairs can also serve you ice-cold refreshments. Most of these stalls accept card payment, but check before sitting down.

Don’t bring your flash stuff to the beach. Always leave anything you bring with a friend when you swim. Also, watch out for the flag that the life guards put out in the morning. If there is a red flag, you shouldn’t be swimming. There could be undercurrents and rip tides.

To sit on Ipanema beach you’ll need to be open to a constant bombardment of vendors. Ipanema is not a relaxing beach, but more like a social hub. Constant movement, constant noise.

Ipanema Knockout Neighbourhood Guide by Footloose Lemon Juice 4

Ipanema Kiosk Knockout Neighbourhood Guide by Footloose Lemon Juice 5

3. Surf at Arpoador 

Arpoador is technically a mini neighbourhood and it is the name of the rock that juts out at the end of Ipanema. The Arpoador rock separates Ipanema from Copacabana beach. Most people love to stroll down to this rock and watch the sunset, which in the summer is applauded, by the way.

There are several surfing schools that meet at the Arpoador. Arpoador is great because there a steady waves that don’t tower too high over newbies. Perfect for finding your sea feet.

Not into surfing? Head to Arpoador early morning and walk to the top where there are large boulders to meditate on. The view spreads over the neighbourhoods of Ipanema, Leblon, Vidigal, Cantagalo and Copacabana, as well as a stunning angle of Christ the Redeemer statue. Plus you can watch more experienced surfers catching the waves below.

4. Sample Brazilian BBQ at Ipanema’s Steakhouses

The best road for Brazilian BBQ in Ipanema is Vinicius de Moraes. It has 3 top meat restaurants that each offer a different slice of Brazil’s meat culture.

Churrasqueira RJ is a highly successful restaurant from the State of Minas Gerais, which opened it’s first branch in Ipanema in 2017. Meat comes out sizzling from the kitchen. We wrote praises of Churrasqueira in our post 6 Restaurants to Eat Traditional Brazilian Food.

Pura Brasa serves BBQ nibbles or petiscos in Portuguese. This is a very trendy, busy bar. They show the main football games and pack out on match days, Wednesday and Sunday. The draft beer is more pricey at Pura Brasa, but the food makes up for it.

Mad Brew Ipanema opened in 2022. Just steps away from these other BBQ houses, Mad Brew offers craft beers the other locations don’t. We enjoyed the fries and Gorgonzola dip that comes with the steak dishes.

Ipanema Knockout Neighbourhood Guide by Footloose Lemon Juice 2

5. Try the French Restaurants in Ipanema

This is the neighborhood to chow down on world class French cuisine. Everyone loves Brazil and the French in particular migrate on mass to this tropical country. Consequently, French restaurants are authentic, delicious and maybe quite pricey. 

In fact, even Master Chef Brazil, has a French judge.

A great French restaurant in Ipanema is L’Entrecôte de Paris Ipanema. It famously only has one dish, a steak, with a super-secret 17 ingredient sauce. The dish is served with salad and French fries. 

6. Stumble Between the Ipanema Bars  

Some would send you to the ultra busy, nightlife central Lapa, but Ipanema has some of the snazziest bars in town. 

Barzin is a bar on the lower floor, which also serves food and upstairs becomes a sectioned off nightclub. 

Izza Bar is a tiny bar that sells Brazilian breakfast, coffee and cocktails and beer at night. Foreigners seem to gravitate there.

Vinicius de Moraes bar and restaurant has live music every night. The food is not great, but for drinks, beer and Brazilian music it shines.

Delirium café has all the beers you could want.

Ipanema Knockout Neighbourhood Guides Lagoa View Footloose Lemon Juice

7. Dine in Front of the Lagoa in Ipanema

Moving away from Ipanema’s beachfront is Bar Lagoa, which serves German cuisine. Altered marginally for a Brazilian clientele. The view of the lake is splendid, and we’ve never been to this restaurant when it wasn’t packed. Once we saw Caetano Veloso, one of Brazil’s most famous singers, dining with his hipster band. If it’s good enough for Caetano, it’s good enough us.

Don’t forget to bring mosquito repellent, you are by a tropical lake. The mosquitos are my only frustration with the location.

Still hungry? You can also sample any of the restaurants in our 8 Wonderful Places to Eat Brazilian Food in Ipanema.

8. Munch Down on Street Food in Ipanema 

In the evening, the street food vendors appear from nowhere to populate the beach sidewalk. You can get yourself a whole meal from what’s on offer and it gives you an excuse to wander along the buzzing beachfront. 

Corn Man: 

Corn cobs that are boiled then smothered in butter and sprinkled with salt. The corn is not sweet like we get in the UK and US, but it goes great with this delectable mixture. 

Churros: 

The Spanish pastry is very common on Brazilian streets. You can choose to fill it with dolce de leite (condensed milk) or chocolate. Then you could workout on the beach! 

Hotdogs: 

You’ve not seen anything like a Brazilian hotdog. They give you the standard dog in a bun and then there is buffet of toppings. You can have them all… though it may spill over a little. Most common is to put mayonnaise, thin chip sticks/crisps, sweetcorn and quail eggs. You read it right, quail eggs. 

Tapioca: 

A gluten free pancake made from the flour of the tapioca root. This is typical from the Northeast and you can fill with savory or sweet choices. 

Garota de Ipanema by Footloose Lemon Juice

9. Try Garota de Ipanema for a Touristic Meal

The restaurant takes its name from the song, Garota de Ipanema and is great if you want to see all the cheesy tourist stuff and eating Brazilian food.  The restaurant has open windows all around the corner restaurant so without fail entertainment touts will arrive during the night to serenade you. 

Either it is live samba music parading around the restaurant or a Capoeira group who perform mouth-dropping stunts. The capoeira guys sometimes ask volunteers to stand and a hefty athletic man literally somersaults over your head. 

The food is not too bad as long as you opt for the grill yourself picanha. They’ll bring out a metal grill with a gas fire underneath and raw meat that you can cook yourself to your preference. 

10. Work Out on Ipanema Beach

As I mentioned, Ipanema is a hive of workout maniacs. During the summer (also in Leblon) there are free gyms mounted on the edge of the beach. There are also public muscle workout stations scattered around the whole city. Get yourself some gloves and use this free workout station with a view.

11. Buy Havaianas at the World’s Largest Havaiana Store in Ipanema

With 4 floors of the famous flip flops you won’t leave Brazil without a couple. Thought it was just flip flops? Nope, Havaiana now has clothes, closed shoe options, wedges shoes and memorabilia. At this mega-store in Ipanema there are also bins for you to recycle your old pairs. You can also add gems or engraved names to your Havaianas at this location.

Ipanema beach with surfers at Arpoador and Dois Irmãos mountain in the background

12. Go to a Brazilian Chocolate Cafe

Dengo is a saying in Portuguese that means something like caress or sweet thing. Dengo is an independent chocolate store focused on sustainability and fair trade.

You choose your chocolate flavours from large slabs. The assistant will break them down according to how much you fancy. You pay for the weight, mixing and matching between flavours. We love any of the flavours with passion fruit seeds. This adorable chocolate store also serves coffee and hot chocolate, so stop off for a relaxed afternoon brew.

13. Try Beach Tennis in Ipanema

Beach tennis is a sport matching rackets with sand. Played in doubles, beach tennis is a full-body workout. In Ipanema there are several beach tennis schools:

  • BTS Beach Tennis located at Posto 10 and with another location in Leblon Posto 11.
  • Flavia Muniz Beach Tennis founded by this international beach tennis star who is considered the fourth best beach tennis player in the world.
  • Metta Beach Tennis stationed opposite Av. Henrique Dumont in Ipanema. They offer classes in the morning, afternoon and evening.
  • P10 Beach Tennis, by Posto 10 boasts accessible classes for all beach tennis levels.

14. Check out Nosso Senhora de Paz Square

A beautiful green space in the middle of Ipanema, Nossa Senhora de Paz is family-orientated. Bring the little ones to rent remote control cars big enough for your kid to sit inside. They will be safe driving around the fenced-in compounds of the park.

On Fridays the local outdoor market circles the fence around the park. You can buy freshly caught fish and local organic produce.

Have lunch at the Talho Delicatessen, that also sells imports from Europe and South American countries. They have their own homemade ice-cream, meringues and strawberry juice.

Our preferred Japanese sushi restaurant faces Nossa Senhora de Paz park, Jappa da Quitanda.

15. Listen to Live Music in Ipanema

Brazil is a wonderful place to drink and listen to music in a comfortable seat. Current places that have a regular rota of musicians are the following:

  • Vinicius de Moraes every day of the week.
  • Boteco Boa Praça on the beachfront on Friday and Saturday night.
  • Barzin Gastrobar most evenings.
  • Choperia 14.08 has forro and Northeastern style music on Monday nights.

What else do you like to do in Ipanema, Rio? 

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