Books and Music
Like most places in Rio, livrarias aren’t just for reading or browsing, but for seeing and being seen. This explains why they fill up on weekends and at night (many are open until midnight) with real and pretend intellectuals who spill into the delightful cafés and bistros that coexist with the stacks of books and magazines.
Aside from author readings, many offer intimate live musical performances of jazz, samba, chorinho, and bossa nova—all of which only enhance the romance factor.
The best livrarias are in Ipanema and Leblon, where aside from a wide assortment of English-language books and media, you’ll be seduced by the excellent array of art and coffee table books. These are also great places to buy maps and guidebooks.
The main branch of Livraria da Travessa (Rua Visconde de Pirajá 572, Ipanema, tel. 21/3205-9002, www.livrariadatravessa.com.br, 9 a.m.–midnight Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–midnight Sun.) has an extensive collection of books about Rio (some in English), as well as lots of CDs and DVDs. Its sleek mezzanine bistro, B!, has delicious things to nibble on.
The main branch of Letras & Expressões (Rua Visconde de Pirajá 276, Ipanema, tel. 21/2521-6110, www.letraseexpressoes.com.br, 8 a.m.–midnight Mon.–Thurs., 8 a.m.–2 a.m. Fri.–Sat., 8 a.m.–midnight Sun.) is a favorite hangout for intellos and insomniacs, who end up staying up even later after ordering the cappuccino in Café Ubaldo, reportedly the best in the city. The collection of international magazines is enormous, and you can buy all types of fancy cigars (including Cuban) at its tobacco shop.
In Leblon, you’ll find smaller branches of Livraria da Travessa and Letras & Expressões, along with the tiny but charming Beco dos Virtudes (Av. Ataúlfo de Paiva 1174, Loja 3, Leblon, tel. 21/2249-9525), a combination gallery and secondhand bookstore that sells contemporary artworks by local artists as well as new, imported, rare, and used books devoted to art, architecture, design, and cinema.
Many livrarias have good CD sections devoted to Brazilian music. However, if you’re a serious aficionado, equally seduced by golden oldies and the latest trends, all roads lead to Modern Sound (Rua Barata Ribeiro 502, Copacabana, www.modernsound.com.br, 9 a.m.–9 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–8 p.m. Sat.). In existence since 1966, this megastore has an amazing variety of CDs and very friendly, helpful staff. In the evenings, its Allegro Bistro Musical hosts great shows featuring diverse performers from all over Brazil.
Bossa nova fans should head to the Espaço Cultural Toca do Vinícius (Rua Vinícius de Morais 129, Ipanema, tel. 21/2247-5227, www.tocadovinicius.com.br), a CD store/shrine to the poet, diplomat, and beloved Carioca composer who penned “A Garota da Ipanema” (on this very street) along with Tom Jobim. Aside from personal mementos and original music by Vinícius, this is a good place to pick up bossa nova, chorinho, samba, and MPB CDs and vinyl. On Sundays, out front there are frequently free shows—often with a piano on the sidewalk.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition