Mall-fever may be an unfortunate addition to carioca high streets, but at least here in Rio they largely avoid the glaringly obvious chain stores and host some quality restaurants alongside the big fast food giants. Plus, when there is as much space to spread out as in Barra da Tijuca, the vast complexes make for a worthwhile day out of the rain thanks to a host of entertainment options to suit pretty much all ages.
Rua Uruguiana, Centro
The old, cobbled streets around Uruguiana Metrô quickly fill up with grimy puddles so as long as you wear something more solid than flip-flops on the feet, exploring the madness of SAARA can become akin to a treasure trove for fans of all things sparkly. A historic association of traders, the multiple cloth and material shops of Rua Buenos Aires are also filled with little beads and balls with which to craft the ultimate fancy-dress outfit for Carnival, but there’s a Havaianna store, outdoor sports shop and a whole unit dedicated to fridge magnets among the 600+ waiting to be explored. Plus a huge covered market starts at Rua Uruguiana, with sections dedicated to mobile phones, watches, DVDs, suspiciously cheap ‘Nike’ trainers and even fishing rods.
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Rua Afrânio de Melo Franco, Leblon
The slickest, sleekest of the Zona Sul malls, Shopping Leblon is not the place to go bargain hunting. It does, however, play host to all the great carioca labels like Reserva, Redley and Auslander and international brands from Lacoste to Calvin Klein. Moreover, the Livraria da Travessa bookshop is one of the biggest around with its own café, and there are plenty of comfortable sofas and armchairs to take a load of and make use of the mall’s wi-fi. The top floor has a big selection of mostly fast-food restaurants (Rascáls not withstanding), and the four-screen cinema means you can round of a day of splurging with a blockbuster.
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Avenida das Américas, Barra da Tijuca
Ah, the mighty Barra Shopping. Once the biggest mall in Latin America, in spite of huge and ever growing competition it remains the face of faceless Barra. Big, green and ugly, it nevertheless poses a shopaholic’s paradise thanks to the likes of French electronics giant FNAC and Made in Brazil, a music megastore of all things samba. As you would expect there are plenty of restaurants to fuel the frenzy, as well as a 20-lane bowling alley and kid-heaven Megazone (pictured) to really help occupy any bored minds with some healthy competition.
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Rua Francisco Otaviano, Copacabana
Where Copacabana slowly morphs into Ipanema by way of Arpoador, a historic art deco mall is crammed with enough antiques and art to make you forget that you are surrounded by glorious beaches. The overpriced but browse-able furnitureland of Tok e Stok occupies much of the lower two floors, but upstairs things get a bit more leftfield thanks to huge old vases and lamps and galleries like Movimento (pictured) housing big names from the graffiti world like Toz. The restaurant in the middle of the escalators does an ample, home-cooked por kilo buffet and on Saturdays the whole space turns into a huge flea market. Across the road is a smaller mall almost entirely dedicated to surf and skate wear if things get a little too pedestrian among the antiques.
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