From Brazilian flip flops to Art Deco antiques, Rio’s markets offer something for everyone. (Photo: Getty Images)
Perusing a city’s local markets is an excellent way to discover its art, culture, food and style. The bonus? Getting the chance to pick up souvenirs along the way. Thankfully, Rio de Janeiro has no shortage of markets worth browsing. Most of them are outdoors, often in charming spots, turning shopping into a novel way to explore neighborhoods and spend time among locals. The early bird tends to catch the worm here, so arrive in the morning to get the pick of the bargains. It’s best to bring cash, though some stallholders will accept cards, and be sure to barter to get “um bom preço” — a good price.
Ipanema’s Hippie Fair
Ipanema’s Hippie Fair is a rite of passage for most Rio tourists. It takes over Praça General Osório on Sundays, rain or shine. The square’s perimeter is packed with stalls selling souvenirs, jewelry (including semi-precious gems), leather goods, T-shirts, bikinis and handcrafted objects. Affordable artwork and photography, mostly of familiar Rio scenes, are also for sale. Trying food from the northeast of Brazil, notably acarajé— deep-fried patties made of shrimp, smashed black-eyed peas and onions — is all part of the fun.
Feira de Antiguidades
On Saturday mornings a large flea and antiques market, the Feira de Antiguidades, sets up near Praça XV in Rio’s Centro. The goods peddled here are many and varied, and the fair attracts professional antique sellers, often hawking Art Deco objects from house clearances. You’ll also find lamps and other lights, glassware, cutlery, crockery and paintings, and even stalls that sell secondhand clothes.
Collectors often come here in search of records, toy cars, military paraphernalia, film posters and other niche items. Old telephones, printers and computers stack up, which makes for interesting displays, if not the most enticing purchases. The site is on the water, close to where the city’s former municipal market building was located. These days only one octagonal tower remains, which houses a classic seafood restaurant, Ancoramar.
Feira Rio Antigo
Not far from Centro, close to the arches of Lapa’s white aqueduct, is Rua Lavradio. One of the oldest residential streets in the city, Lavradio is lined with pastel-colored, slightly crumbling, Colonial-style houses. Today, the area has morphed into the city’s antiques district, with many of the houses now serving as design shops and emporiums. On the first Saturday of every month, Feira Rio Antigo takes over the street, with vendors selling furniture as well as handmade and artisanal objects, accessories and clothing.
All day the street hums as thousands of visitors flock to soak up the atmosphere, listen to live music and sip a cold beer in the sun. It goes from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. but often runs later given the number of lively bars and restaurants close by.
Sunday Market on Santos Dumont Square
In Gávea, a quiet residential area close to the botanical gardens, a small but respected antiques fair unfolds in Santos Dumont Square on Sundays. Rugs and carpets are laid out on the pavement, and glass and brass objects, chinaware, vintage sunglasses and watches are usually for sale. Stallholders here tend to be knowledgeable about their wares so be warned, they also know their value and drive a hard bargain. Browsing the market is also an enjoyable way to kill time while waiting for a table at one of the popular nearby brasseries.
Chow Down at a Food Market
The food markets that crop up on Rio’s streets throughout the week are also worth a stroll, even for travelers who don’t have facilities to cook or store groceries. Great pride is taken in laying out food displays, and the bold colors of Brazil’s fruit are always pleasing to the eye — and to your Instagram followers.
Vendors encourage passersby to try their best produce, and deals can usually be made, particularly around 2 p.m. when the markets start to pack up. At the city’s organic farmers’ markets, vendors sell jams and honey, goat cheese, milk and yogurt, as well as seasonal fruit and vegetables — all of which are certified organic.