Time Out Rio de Janeiro

Time Out's Ten Days of Christmas

It’s the time of year for drinking too much and eating as if the New Year is going to bring a plague of locusts to the larder, even in body-conscious Rio. It doesn’t have to be all about gluttony, though, so follow our essential guide to the best ways to spend the run-up to Christmas. With a bit of gluttony thrown in, naturally.

1. Indulge in some seasonal menus
D’Amici will be open from 7pm on 24 December with a specially-formulated Christmas menu (R$140) for the night that includes such show-boating as shrimp flambéed in champagne and boneless lamb shank in red wine. A rather more traditional dish can be found at Fratelli (Avenida General San Martin 983, Leblon, 21 2259 6699/fratellirestaurante.com.br), with stuffed turkey, caramelised onions and roast potatoes (R$49) and bacalhau (cod) in port (R$85, pictured) among the highlights along with a very Christmassy panettone slathered in chocolate sauce.

2. Try a rabanada
The humble rabanada (fried, sweetened toast with cinnamon) is as traditional as it comes at this time of year and Fiametta has unveiled its quase-baguette-sized version complete with flambeed fruits and ice cream, as if any additions were required. Even Prima Bruschetteria have got in on the rabanada act and their limoncello version complete with lime ice-cream is the star attraction on the menu for the whole of December.

3. Go Ice skating
At either end of the city there is now an ice rink at which you can zip around as if on a frozen lake in Lapland (or any other less tropical locale than Rio). Rio Sul mall unveiled their rink for the first time last year and it proved enough of a success to give it another go. At Barra on Ice (Avenida das Américas 1510, Barra da Tijuca (21 2493 5228/patinacaonogelo.com.br) you can even get a class in ice hockey or watch some figure skating to drum up a little inspiration for the next go.
Rio Sul, Mon-Fri 3-10pm; Sat 10am-10pm; Sun noon-9pm. Price R$20/half hour; R$30/hour.
Barra on Ice, Mon-Thu 2-8pm; Fri 2-10pm; Sat-Sun 1-10pm. Price R$30/hour.

4. Visit Santa’s Wonderland in Jardim D’Alah
As if having the world's largest floating Christmas tree wasn't enough, Rio can now pride itself in another unlikely Guinness world record; largest open air collection of nativity scenes. Standing at up to 2.5 metres tall, the figures form part of the goings on at the Vila do Papai Noel beside the canal that runs between Ipanema and Leblon, along with a puppet theatre, magic shows and a gospel choir. As well as, of course, the obligatory Father Christmas dishing out presents on Saturdays and Sundays before his big day. Jardim de Alah, Praça Grécia, daily 10am-10pm until 25 December. Free.

5. Go to the beach until midnight
The increased security in Zona Sul following the pacification of communities like Cantagalo has had the added effect of luring locals onto the beach until later at night, especially in Arpoador under the glare of the huge floodlight. There’s no doubt that certain parts of Copacabana beach are still not recommended to loiter around late on, but on a steamy summer eve there are few cooler places to be, in every sense.

6. Hit the Theatre
The classic Christmas production The Nutcracker Suite (Os Quebra-Nozes in Portuguese) arrives at the Theatro Municipal just in time for Christmas, providing the perfect excuse to go to one of the most beautiful venues in Rio and watch an absolute seasonal must. For those after a few more thrills and spills in their performance, Cirque du Soleil will be climbing the high wires and throwing themselves around at the Marina da Glória for the first production of Varekai to hit these shores.

7. Drink champagne by the Lagoa
Okay, so it might be a ludicrous boast having the world’s largest floating Christmas tree, and it may bring the traffic to a standstill every night at a few crucial points, but the Lagoa’s beacon of light represents a little bit of seasonal magic too. As the thousands of LEDs come on (accompanied by fireworks on Saturdays) the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ can be heard all around, and on a balmy evening there are few better places to find a patch of grass, open a bottle of champagne, and toast Santa.

8. Window shop in "Fifth Avenue" of Rio
There's nothing like daydreaming about what Christmas would be like if money was no object. If all the practicalities of the big day are wearing you down, head to Garcia d'Avila, or Rio's version of Fifth Avenue, for some fantasy window shopping. Swoon at the bikinis and glamorous beach accessories in Lenny, in styles your friends definitely won't already have. Or splash an imaginary fortune in Redley, the smart street wear specialist. Back in the real world, head down from there to Visconde de Pirajá for a few last minute decorations to tart up the house.

9. Load up on treats
Too much shopping for other people can get a little tiring, hence the recurring need to reward oneself with cupboardloads of chocolate, biscuits and booze at this time of year. Kopenhagen have 145g chocolate boots filled with marshmallow, and Cafeína's shelves are bulging with tempters like the good old chocolate log (pictured) and a takeaway ten-man feast (R$689) for those who have really had their creative energies sapped. Finally, grab one of Grand Cru's (Rua Vinícius de Moraes 130, Ipanema, 21 2247 1089/grandcru.com.br) considerately-created boxes of wines (R$115-$370) to see you through, coupling delicious drops like Argentinian La Salamandra Nocturno Brut and the Chilean Santa Rita Reserva Sauvignon Blanc with a Fasano cake.

10. Christmas partying
Ensure you wake up on Christmas Day with a fuzzy head and a hearty appetite by hitting the town on Saturday night or make the most of not having work on Monday by bidding adieu to the family after dinner and sallying forth. Casa da Matriz opens as normal on both nights with Paradiso and Sundae Tracks respectively and weekly Sunday samba jam Projeto Raizes at Casa Rosa (pictured) is set for a packed Christmas special even if few punters have room for the usual feijoada binge. 00 also opens on both nights with Duo on Christmas Day proving the perfect escape with its 5pm kick off, and Fosfobox hosts Festa Eu the same day, promising a rock and pop feast.

Words by Time Out Rio de Janeiro editors

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