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Gay Rio, Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro
Brazil's insider take:

For one of South America's leading gay destinations, Rio is surprisingly straight. Or rather, gay life has become so integrated into the daily fabric of the city that you'll have to search hard for a gay ghetto or even gay-exclusive hangouts. Despite Brazilians' undoubtedly machismo culture, few Cariocas will raise an eyebrow at openly gay customers, particularly in areas popular with tourists, such as Ipanema, Copacabana, or Santa Teresa.

The nearest Rio gets to a "gay street" is Ipanema's Rua Farme de Amoedo, where a cluster of businesses cater largely to gay and lesbian customers. Many visitors stay at hip high-rise Ipanema Plaza Hotel (55-21-3687-2000), eat breakfast at the Colher de Pau café (55-21-2523-3018), and lunch on grilled chicken at Galitos Grill (55-21-2287-7864). Natter over strong coffee at Cafeina (55-21-2521-2194) or Tô Nem Aí (55-21-2247-8403), which edges seamlessly into a see-and-be-seen cocktail bar in the early evening. Around the corner is the Body Tech Gym (55-21-2287-8531), where the Barbies—as muscle marys are called here—pump iron before heading to the hopping gay section on Ipanema beach (look out for the rainbow flags between Posto 8 and Posto 9).

For hard-core nightlife, the place to go is The Week, an import from São Paulo that's located in a faded old warehouse downtown with a huge dance floor, several bars, and even a wading pool; big-name international DJs frequently spin on Saturday nights (154 Rua Sacadura Cabral; 55-21-2253-1020). Trustworthy Le Boy has been around for eons and can be a mixed bag, though its Sunday night parties are usually hopping (102 Rua Raul Pompéia; 55-21-2513-4993); the same owners also run the city's biggest lesbian club, La Girl (55-21-2247-8342). For up-to-date info on gay-friendly parties and events, look for flyers on Ipanema beach's gay section, or check out the comprehensive listings published by Rio Gay Guide and Rio Gay Life.

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