Bebel Gilberto my favourite places in Rio de Janeiro



The singer loves returning to her home town of Rio, for its food, drink, music and beaches, as well as for the memories it holds
When I get back to Rio, the first thing I want do is go to the beach. I’ll jump straight into the sea – that is my way of reacclimatising to the city. There’s a little beach I love called Arpoador, between Ipanema and Copacabana. You’ve got rocks there to walk on and the water is cleaner than other city beaches because it’s on a headland that reaches into the ocean.

Then I’ll have a mate, a drink that beach vendors sell from metal urns they carry up and down the sand all day. It’s like sweet iced tea, and is a real Carioca [a Rio local]thing. It’s also the cheapest thing you can buy at the beach. Next, it’s time for a long stroll all the way along Ipanema and on to Leblon. You have amazing views of the Dois Irmãos mountains in front of you all the way.

Beach culture is such an important part of Rio life and most people try and go at some point in the day. I prefer it in the morning when it’s quieter and cleaner. People who work might go for an hour at lunchtime to cool down but it’s getting popular to go later in the day – or even at night, as the beaches are lit up after dark now.

The Santa Teresa neighbourhood is where I went to school and it holds special memories for me because it was where I first encountered Rio’s alternative, bohemian scene. It’s an arty neighbourhood up in the hills and feels so different and disconnected – like a village in a way. A lot of artists have studios and houses there and there’s lots of beautiful colonial architecture. The streets still have cobblestones, too.

If you want a taste of typical Brazilian food, eat at Bar do Arnaudo (Rua Almirante Alexandrino 316). It’s in the Santa Teresa neighbourhood and serves heavy, tasty dishes – like feijoada (black bean and pork stew, Brazil’s national dish). But the one meal you have to try is carne seca com abóbora (dried meat with pumpkin), a classic dish from north-east Brazil. Arnaudo is a Rio institution but the prices are very reasonable – and it’s halfway guaranteed I’ll bump into someone I know there.


My favourite restaurant is just out of the city, near the beautiful beach of Grumari. It’s called Bira de Guaratiba, which does food from Bahia. My father [legendary bossa nova musician Jõao Gilberto]is from Bahia, in north-east Brazil, so that’s why I have a soft spot for the place, especially the food. Go for the moqueca de camarão, a rich prawn casserole of west African origin, made with coconut milk and palm oil and served with rice. The restaurant is above the coast so the views over the ocean and forest are stunning. It’s the perfect day trip.

The view from the top of the Vidigal favela is amazing. Even though they don’t have much money, we say people who live in Rio’s favelas have the millionaire views because they live on top of the mountains. I used to live on the road up to Vidigal. It’s safe to go up there now. In fact, it’s one of the hippest parts of town these days. I haven’t been but I hear there’s a great new bar up there, Barzinho, that has live music and a view over Rio.

For live music go to Circo Voador, which means the Flying Circus, opposite the famous white arches of Arcos da Lapa. It’s an arts space that myself and many other artists helped found in the early 1980s. We built a summer circus tent on the beach in Aparador but after two seasons they moved it to Lapa, and now it’s become one of the best venues in the city. Ticket prices are still quite low and the atmosphere is magical – there’s an outdoor terrace lined with palm trees and a sunken dance floor. I love playing there. You can see international acts as well as traditional Brazilian samba, and there are classes in capoeira, percussion and acrobatics.


A classic Carioca bar is the Academia de Cachaça in Leblon, which stocks hundreds of cachaças [the firewater in a caipirinha], though personally I don’t like it so I drink caipiroska, which is the same drink but made with vodka instead – and I love it with tangerine instead of lime. They have dozens of fruits, too, so the combinations are endless.

A great place to escape to – but which is still inside the city – is Cachoeira do Horto. This is a waterfall near the Botanic Gardens. It’s a great place midweek but can be busy at weekends.

Joatinga is great “secret” beach on the way to Barra. You need to drive or take a bus to Joatinga then find the tiny path and walk down a steep hill to the secluded beach. It’s a morning beach because the sun disappears behind the hill in the afternoon.

After school we used to go up into Paineiras, near the Christ the Redeemer statue, in the Tijuca forest. It’s a real adventure as you’re hiking in the jungle but still in the city. We saw snakes and monkeys but I don’t know if you still do today

Mili Thakur