Samba in Rio is not about some manufactured ‘cultural show’ where you sit at tables and watch flashy dancers perform on a stage. Whether you want to get involved and try dancing samba yourself, or whether you’d prefer to simply be around it, enjoy some drinks and the music and soak up the atmosphere, the best places are the real clubs and events attended by locals.

If you want to learn the steps so you can feel like you know what you’re doing, check out these fantastic samba classes.

Here are a few places we love and that provide an authentic experience:

Pedra do Sal

Known as the berço do samba (the cradle or birthplace of samba), Pedra do Sal is an important location for the black history and culture of Rio. Dominated by a huge, sloping rock (pedra) which has steps cut into it, this large, open space was once a place that salt (sal) was unloaded. It was also the place that many black Brazilians from Bahia arrived, bringing samba to Rio.

On Fridays and Mondays, Pedra do Sal hosts very popular open-air, live samba performances. There’s nothing fancy here, so if you’re hoping for air-conditioning and home comforts then think again. But this is a great place to join the locals dancing in the square or perched on the rock and soak up an authentic samba experience.

If you have both days free, I’d recommend Monday over Friday. They used to cancel the event in case of rain, but nowadays they put up a big tent / awning and the show goes on! While you’re there, don’t forget to drop in on Bafo da Prainha which is just around the corner (though closed on Mondays).


Botequim Vaca Atolada

I LOVE Vaca Atolada, especially on Thursday nights. If you like your samba raw and real then this is the perfect spot. Just off the main strip in Lapa, it’s a fairly small place that gets quite crowded, especially on the weekend. The decor/facilities are a bit rough and ready, but the local crowd is super-friendly and the live samba music is excellent. Free entry, cheap beer, no-frills but all heart.


Samba do Trabalhador

This is probably my favourite roda de samba of all. Headed up by carioca samba legend Moacyr Luz, supported by a hugely talented group of musicians (including foodie friend of Eat Rio, Gabriel da Muda!), there’s something about these events which makes them feel just better than 99% of all the others. The musicians, clearly, are a big part of that, but also the crowd and the interaction between the two.

Although there are occasionally events held at Amarelinho da Cinêlandia (map), I would give strong preference to seeing them in their original venue, Clube Renascença in Andaraí (map). But don’t just show up with your fingers crossed! Check times and dates – it was always an event that started weirdly early (around 4-5pm) on Mondays, but these things change.

Trapiche Gamboa

On a good night, Trapiche Gamboa can really blow you away. It’s a grand samba club over in the Port Zone (not far from the Museum of Tomorrow). As you enter you’ll see a long hall beautifully decorated hall with seating in front and a bar at the back. As you look up you’ll see a mezzanine level with more seating. If you look even further up you’ll see yet another, smaller mezzanine level which looks down over the entire space.

I always recommend that people visit this place on a Friday or Saturday night; because it’s quite large, on the quieter weekdays it can feel a little empty. But on the weekend it fills with friendly, happy locals and the full experience is fantastic. Samba musicians sit around a table crowded with drinks and instruments and before long they’ll be surrounded by people dancing and singing.


Bip Bip

2nd March 2019: Sad news – we’ve just heard that Alfredinho passed away today. A true legend of music and boteco culture in Rio.

This is one of those unique places that is hard to summarise but totally reflects the boteco music spirit of Rio. This small bar is run by the one and only Alfredinho. Alfredinho loved music but hates too much noise, so anyone chatting too loudly will earn a scowl and a ‘shush’ – and no clapping here thank you very much, just click your fingers to show your appreciation. The musicians sit inside the bar while the audience sit outside on chairs. Different styles of music feature on different days of the week.

Map – Site 


The name Baródromo is a modification of the word Sambódromo (sambadrome), the venue where the annual carnival processions take place. And make no mistake, this samba club is obsessed with carnival. From the soundtrack when the live music takes a break to the amazing decor festooning the walls (including costumes and huge props from past carnivals) – everything here is about Rio’s most famous party. Don’t miss the awesome artwork at the very back of the venue.