Rio de Janeiro City’s Gay Scene

Beachgoers near a tent with a rainbow flag and beach chairs on the white sand of Ipanema beach.

Pride flags fly on Ipanema beach.Photo by estark licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

With a reputation as the “Marvelous City,” one would expect Rio to have more of a gay scene. While the vibe is gay friendly, there is not really a gay area to speak of, and fewer specifically gay and lesbian venues than there are in São Paulo. Actually, lesbian venues are pretty nonexistent. As in many other cities in Brazil, instead of a gay neighborhood, GLS (a Brazilian slang term for gay, lesbica, e simpatisante; i.e., gay friendly) spaces rule, with gays, lesbians, and heteros mixing socially.


Ipanema

The closest thing Rio has to a gay hood is a high-profile strip of Ipanema beach stretching from Posto 8 to Posto 9. If you’re walking along Avenida Vieira Souto, you’ll see beach barracas flying rainbow flags and the toned outlines of well-oiled muscles. The street perpendicular to the beach, Rua Farme de Amoedo, also attracts a gay crowd. Trying to replace the beloved A Bofetada, which recently closed down after years, Tô’Nem Aí (Rua Farme de Amoedo 87-A, 21/2247-8403) is a laid-back bar that draws a mixed GLS crowd and offers great views of the action, which is more interesting than the bar itself.

Nearby, the Dama de Ferro (Rua de Vinícius de Morais 288, tel. 21/2247-2330) is a funky lounge/disco/art gallery operated by artist Adriana Lima. The inspired furnishings in the industrial chic lounge are by Lima and are for sale. Upstairs, local and international DJs make sure that everyone’s taken care of on the musical front. The bathrooms, which open right onto the dance floor, are tiny galleries unto themselves. To say the menu is unusual is an understatement when faced with the likes of chicken sorbet with warm tomato topping.

On the street parallel to Rua Farme de Amoedo, Rua Teixeira de Melo, there are a few other gay spots, including the intimate Galeria Café (Rua Teixeira de Melo 31, 21/2523-8350), another hip hybrid space sheltering a café and art gallery. Come night, it holds sizzling festas with soul and drum-bossa music that reels in a trendy crowd. Sundays are reserved for the clothing and design bazaar, where you can check out local designers’ creations while getting your groove on.

More cozy and quiet is Casa de Luaé (Rua Barão da Torre 240, 21/2523-8350), one of Rio’s only lesbian bars.


Copacabana

Copacabana also has a few gay spots. As in Ipanema, the gay crowd has conquered a prize strip of beach — directly in front of the Copacabana Palace — where the barracas Quiosque 35 and Rainbow are located.

Meanwhile, at night the most eclectic group of homegrown and international gays (among them Calvin Klein, a Carioca convert) line up to enter the notorious temple of gaydom, Le Boy (Rua Raul Pompéia 102, 21/2513-4993). Aside from dancing galore, this enormous club offers debauchery in the form of go-go boys and a quarto escuro (dark room). Upstairs, its sister club, La Girl (Rua Raul Pompeia 102, 21/2513-4993) attracts a rather glam following of girls who just wanna have fun.


Lapa

In Lapa, Cabaret Casanova (Rua Mem de Sá 25, 21/2221-6555) is Rio’s oldest gay bar, dating back to 1929. It attracts a refreshingly non-trendy (downwardly mobile) crowd who cheer on good old-fashioned drag queens.

Hilariously kitschy and deliciously untrendy is Buraco da Lacraia (Rua André Cavalcanti 58, 21/2221-1984), a three-story club where entertainment ranges from drag shows and videoke contests to snooker tables and electronic games.


Centro

Another alternative to the Zona Sul’s upscale muscle boy scene are the wild parties held at Centro’s Cine Ideal (Rua da Carioca 62, Centro, 21/2221-1984). Housed in an ingeniously renovated belle epoque building that was formerly one of Rio’s most glamorous cinemas, this disco — featuring various bars and a fabulous open-air rooftop lounge — is a current hot spot, as is the even more massive and upscale São Paulo import The Week (Rua Sacadura Cabral 150, 21/2253-1020).


Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Brazil.


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