Best for Brazilian football
Right opposite the Clube de Regatas do Flamengo, the home of Brazil’s biggest club (their fans will tell you the world’s), the Cobal do Leblon might normally lack the atmosphere of its cousin in Humaitá, but when the rubro-negro are playing it packs to the rafters with obsessive fans. A massive screen under the covered market area-cum-bar is the focus of the attentions, the food is simple but effective, and the beer flows freely. Rua Gilberto Cordoso, Leblon.
Praça Varnhargen, Tijuca
Experiencing something of a new lease of life having been abandoned and left to rot a few years ago, Tijuca's famous Varnhargen square, named after a Portuguese engineer, now stands as a gastronomic hub in the region, replete with bars and restaurants. Which also equates to lots of places to watch the big match, creating an atmosphere only rivalled by nearby Maracanã (at least when it was open) during local derbies. Buxixo and Garota da Tijuca are the two main attractions, but smaller bars are dotted around the edge too and well worth a look if the others are packed. Avenida Maracanã 760, Tijuca.
A classic Ipanema pé sujo hole-in-the-wall bar since the '60s, Popeye's TV screens seem to show football matches 24-7, and the pavement fills up with passers by as soon as the level of shouting increases to hint at the action. 179 Rua Visconde de Pirajá, Ipanema.
Chopperia Brazooka, Lapa
Live football is part of the menu at Brazooka, part of the Matriz Group’s chain of pubs, bars and clubs spread across the city. All four floors have at least one television around which to huddle, and being bigger than your average bar (the capacity is over 300), the feeling of a genuine crowd roar is live and kicking for the bigger games. Avenida Mem de Sá 70, Lapa.
Despite the name, Olé in a revamped terrace in Botafogo is more of a classic American Sports bar, as the banks of flat screen televisions showing everything from boxing to basketball will attest. Two floors of action, Tuesday quiz nights, fast internet access to check the rest of the league’s scores and a menu that includes sporting staples like buffalo wings and cheesey chips make up for the lack of natural light, but that’s also a bonus for anyone feeling like they should be out in the sunshine. Rua Conde de Irajá 201, Botafogo.
Planalto do Chopp, Flamengo
The Flamengo (neighbourhood, not necessarily team) venue of choice is the big, old-fashioned Planalto do Chopp, a no-frills chopperia with a big outdoor space and smattering of televisions big enough to be seen from almost any vantage point within. Filling up with the smoke of a hundred grilled picanhas on a Sunday afternoon, its utterly carioca and full of life. Nearby Praça São Salvador with its collection of smaller bars also springs to life for Brazilian league games and the occasional Premiership match. Rua Barão do Flamengo 35, Flamengo.
Non-Football and International leagues
Okay so it might not be immediately obvious to the casual observer, but there are popular sports that exist here outside of football. The pubs are the obvious source of the English premier league, Spanish football, NFL, NHL, rugby and even the odd test match if you look hard enough, but a few options are cropping up that specialise in giving the more wide-eyed sports fan his daily dose.
The Blue Agave (Rua Vinicius de Moraes 65, Ipanema) started life in Ipanema and now has a branch in Copacabana, and the American owners are badgered sufficiently days before major games to ensure there’s always something on. Plus they’re big NFL and UFC fans, with drinks promotions linked to the scores so even if you don’t care about the Patriots or the Packers its worth keeping an eye on the score.
Following the demise of The Irish Pub in Ipanema, Lapa’s branch (Rua Evaristo da Veiga 147, Lapa) has become the slightly less-convenient option for rugby matches, Premier League football and other less Brazilian sporting action.
Among its rich and varied cultural menu, most Wednesdays at Botafogo’s Comuna (Rua Sorocaba 505, Botafogo) are dedicated to sport be it European football, Libertadores, tennis, formula one, or something rather more out of the ordinary. Going by the name of Le Sportif, its a perfectly relaxed atmosphere that won't get too heavy if the wrong team wins.
Most famous as a rendez-vous for the all-important World Cup matches, there are no bars as such at Alzirão, but where Conde de Bonfim meets Alzira Brandão the roads are closed off, televisions are wheeled out, and the important business of 30,000 fans cheering on the national team takes over.
For the post match digesting of the action over a glass or two of chopp there are a few musts, and its easy enough to spot the fans’ leaning via the colours of their shirts (quick recap: red and black is Flamengo, black and white Botafogo, Black with white diagonal stripe Vasco, maroon, green and white Fluminense). Clipper bar (Rua Carlos Góis 263, Leblon) unites Flamengistas by the dozen, right in the heart of Leblon on the main road Ataulfo da Paiva it is simple, unpretentious and a straight up beer-and-nuts joint.
Lapa’s MOFO (Avenida Mem de Sá 93, Lapa) is run by a dyed-in-the-wool Tricolor (Fluminense fan) and as well as showing midweek games downstairs in the bar, the ins and outs of the Laranjeiras outfit’s campaign is always up for in-depth discussion.