As a direct budget flight from London launches this week, our Brazil correspondent picks out favela feasts, samba sessions and seaside cycle rides to savour
When Rio introduced a bicycle hire scheme (sponsored by Banco Itaú), the bikes were constantly broken and the system frequently froze. It works much better now, with three-gear bikes available across the city with payment plans as cheap as £3 for three days. Seaside cycle paths lead from the Marina da Glória through the leafy Aterro do Flamengo park, with its joggers, families, picnics, rope walks and samba rehearsals, all the way to Urca, the Sugarloaf and Copacabana beach. From there, the beachfront lane goes on to Ipanema and Leblon. And, on Sundays, half of Rio’s waterfront highway is closed to traffic, making the distinctive orange bikes a quintessentially carioca way to reach the beach. You may need help to register on the Portuguese-only site.
Sidewalk fish bars
Cariocas, as Rio’s laconic, sociable residents are known, adore street life, eating seafood and hanging out in the no-frills streetside bars and food stalls known as pé sujo – literally, “dirty feet”. Hence the popularity of the two fish bars on a nondescript street on the edges of raucous nightlife neighbourhood Lapa, where cars pass perilously close to the chairs and tables spilling over the pavement as all human life wanders by, and the beers are always ice-cold. Both Bar do Peixe and Bar Peixe e Cia serve delicious leão velososeafood soup (£2.50) and enormous plates of fried fish, rice, salad and pirão, a sort of thickened fish gravy, for two that would feed a small family (around £10).
• Bar do Peixe, Rua André Cavalcanti 16b, Lapa, open Mon-Sat 11am-midnight, Sun 11am-10pm. Bar Peixe e Cia is next door and a bit cheaper