Ipanema is among the most famous neighborhoods in the vibrant Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro. The song The Girl from Ipanema, which was written by Rio native Tom Jobim in 1962, helped to put the neighborhood on the international map. Jobim used to frequent Ipanema, and his most famous Bossa Nova hit was inspired by one of the local girls who often passed by the songwriter's favorite bar-café on the way to the beach. Ipanema, it should be noted, is the birthplace of Bossa Nova, and when it comes to the neighborhood's beach, it's simply among the best and most popular in the Rio area.
As is true in the adjacent neighborhood of Copacabana, hanging out at the beach is easily among the top things to do in Ipanema. In fact, the neighborhood's beach is the main seaside recreation destination in Rio de Janeiro for both locals and visitors. On the long and wide strip of sand in Ipanema, you can see plenty of scantily-clad beach girls, not to mention a healthy number of speedo-wearing men who often shun the use of a beach chair or a beach blanket. You can certainly people watch to your heart's content at the Ipanema Rio de Janeiro beach, as there are a lot of interesting people to see. Different blocks of the beach usually attract different crowds. Many tourists often find themselves hanging out in front of the renowned Caesar Park Hotel, but you're not limited to this area if you aren't a local. The famed Posto 9 part of the beach is definitely worth visiting. This eclectic beach area has a counter-culture appeal and is a favorite with open-minded people.
Many of the top things to do in Ipanema revolve around the neighborhood's famous beach. There's beach volleyball, for instance, and it's not uncommon for beach soccer matches to break out. Surfing is also an option when the waves are up, as is bodyboarding. Back on land, you can stroll or jog on the beach sidewalk. On Sundays, the beachfront Avenida Vieira Souto is closed to cars, making it a prime avenue for cycling and inline skating enthusiasts. Many people also cruise along the Avenida Vieira Souto on scooters. This is a lively neighborhood with a very lively beach culture, and as you might imagine, it is often crowded.
The list of things to do in Ipanema is a long one, and since there are other great attractions close by, getting bored during your stay at one of the neighborhood's beach hotels isn't really an option. Among the nearby attractions are the lake in Lagoa, which is a joy to drive around, and the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens. Back in Ipanema, art galleries mix with cafes and theaters, and the restaurants are among the best in all of Brazil. Shopping at the boutiques along the famed Rua Visconde de Piraja is one of the top things to do in Ipanema, and for nightlife enthusiasts, some of Rio's best bars and clubs call the neighborhood home. More great restaurants and shops can be found in the adjacent neighborhood of Leblon, which some people consider to be a trendier version of Ipanema.
No discussion of Ipanema would be complete without mentioning its neighborhood band. The Banda de Ipanema, as this group of musicians is known, is Rio's most traditional south side neighborhood band. It is also known for role in bringing back the rebirth of Rio's Street Carnival Festivities. These festivities are lively street parades that take place in various neighborhoods in and around Carnival time. The first Banda de Ipanema parade took place in 1965. The country was under a military dictatorship at the time, which is part of the reason why the city's Street Carnival Festivities had gone on a sort of hiatus.
When the Banda de Ipanema takes to the neighborhood's well-manicured streets, you can join in the festivities if you please. You might want to wear a costume or at least paint your face if you want to fit in. Curiously enough, many of the men who take part in the lively Banda de Ipanema parades dress as drag queens. There are three occasions when the Ipanema Banda takes to the streets. Their first parade is held on a Saturday two weeks before Carnival begins. The other two are held on Saturday and Tuesday during Carnival time.
No visit to Rio de Janeiro would be compete without spending some time in the trend-setting neighborhood of Ipanema. Unless you are staying at one of the many Ipanema hotels, you can take a bus to get there. You can also take the metro to neighboring Copacabana and then walk, take a bus, or hop in a cab to get where you want to go. For those who are renting a car at the airport and driving to Ipanema, the ride shouldn't take longer than 25 to 30 minutes, unless the traffic is bad.