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Lapa, Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro
Brazil's insider take:

Located near Centro, Lapa is a neighborhood that was—and still is—pretty run down, but in pretty fantastic way. The warren of small streets and faded colonial buildings has a seedy/arty/downtown feel far removed from Zona Sul's burnished glamour, and is about 20 minutes away by cab. Even more unusual, you'll find the working class, artists, and professionals mixing to listen to live bands and drink cachaça, making for one of the most vibrant scenes in the city. Music seems to fly in the wind in Brazil, but you won't likely find better musicians playing traditional samba than at Carioca da Gema, where well-known sambistas often make an appearance, and the middle-aged crowd shows its enthusiastic approval in the space that only takes 300 people (55-21-2221-0043). Meanwhile, the Rio Scenarium is bursting the seams of its aging foundation with atmosphere (55-21-3852-5516). This former antique clearinghouse is comprised of three stories, and the top two floors have atriums cut into the floor so the audience can lean on the guardrail and see the band playing on the first floor. Every corner is stuffed with esoteric antique furniture, errant lamps, and knickknacks, and it gives off the vibe of a grandmother's house gone wild. The younger crowd prefers the Teatro Odisséia (55-21-2224-6367): A former porn theater, it also utilizes its three floors and the roof to showcase live bands and DJs playing at the same time in different sections.

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