If Cariocas had to list their primary joys in life, shopping certainly wouldn't come out at the top -- there are, after all, beaches, music, and sex to consider -- but it'd certainly be in the top five. Even on the beach, vendors peddle an enormous range of products. Elsewhere clothing, shoes, arts and crafts, musical instruments, and other souvenirs can all be had at good prices.
The old downtown neighborhood of Centro offers great deals for clothes and shoes. Fun to explore are the pedestrian streets around Rua da Alfândega, Rua Uruguaiana, and Rua Buenos Aires, jampacked with hundreds of merchants in small shops side by side. Back in the '70s the area was slated to be demolished to make room for a viaduct, but over 1,200 shopkeepers formed a merchant's association and banded together to put a halt to the development. The best days for shopping are Monday through Friday when downtown is full of office workers. More upscale clothing can be found around the Rua Gonçalves Dias, with many stores selling Brazilian brand names and local designers.
Botafogo has two interesting shopping centers, the Botafogo Praia Shopping and the older Rio Sul. Rio Sul was one of the first malls of Rio and is still a very popular shopping destination. Many Brazilian stores can be found in this mall, and it makes a convenient place to browse and get a sense for brands and prices.
Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon don't have any large malls, just boutique malls known as galerias in Brazil. The prominent shopping areas are the main streets of the neighborhood. In Copacabana, Nossa Senhora de Copacabana is the main shopping street, with the best stores concentrated around the Rua Santa Clara and Rua Figueiredo de Magalhães. The beachfront area also houses a street market on Saturdays and Sundays, selling souvenirs and arts and crafts from various regions of Brazil. For upscale and exclusive shopping in Ipanema, try Rua Visconde de Piraja, especially between the Rua Anibal de Medonça and Rua Vinicius de Moraes. Another popular destination for Rio's well-heeled shoppers is the classy São Conrado Fashion Mall, located in São Conrado, a neighborhood wedged in between Leblon and Barra. Those who prefer megamalls may want to head straight for Barra da Tijuca. This newly developed neighborhood is home to many malls, including the Barra Shopping -- the largest mall in Latin America.
Hours for small stores and neighborhood shops are typically Monday through Friday from 10am to 7pm, and 9am to 1pm on Saturday. Malls are usually open from 10am to 10pm Monday through Saturday and limited hours on Sundays (2-8pm). In tourist areas shops will often be open on weekends.
While street vendors and markets take only cash, most shops accept one or more type of credit card. Often you can negotiate a discount for paying cash instead of with a credit card. Sometimes you will see two prices listed on items: á vista (always the lower price) refers to cash payments; cheque ou cartão is the price for payments made with a check or credit card. Please note that there is a difference between Credicard (a brand of credit card) and cartão or cartão de credito (the generic word for any kind of credit card).
Galleries -- For many more galleries, see www.mapadasartes.com.br.
Musical Instruments -- The berimbau, that wooden string instrument from Bahia, is one of Brazil's most popular souvenirs, but for music lovers there are many more interesting instruments to choose from (most of which are far more portable). The Rua da Carioca has turned into Music Store Central with at least five shops grouped together on its short length. Look for rattles that fit in the palm of your hand, or else pick up a tambourine or small set of drums. The agôgô is an interesting-looking double bell used to keep a beat. Guitar players will love the cavaquinho, a Brazilian mandolin. It's what gives samba its distinctive twang. For these and more visit Musical Carioca, Rua da Carioca 89 (tel. 021/3814-3400; www.musicalcarioca.com.br); Casa Oliveira Musicais, Rua da Carioca 70 (tel. 021/2252-5636); or Guitarra Prata, Rua da Carioca 37 (tel. 021/2262-9659; www.aguitarradeprata.com.br). Metrô: Largo da Carioca.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.