The depressing mall trawl just days before 25 December elbows its way into the calendar is a positively unavoidable trap for all but the most organised of shoppers. With a little preparation and a few fresh ideas, however, the panic can become a pleasure, so Time Out Rio offers up a few tips to success.
There's nothing like getting out there and browsing, and though the last Feira do Rio Antigo before Christmas has been and gone, Praça XV 's Saturday market still holds some possibilities. As ever, stall after stall of weird and wonderful collectables can be poured over at a leisurely pace, with inspiration coming from the most unlikely of sources. Collections of antique crystal drinking glasses, lampshades, armchairs and rare records and are all laid out for the upmost ease of browsing, so you are likely to pick up something you would have never considered in a million years from infront of your laptop.
Elsewhere in Centro the Granado flagship store can be a fullsome fountain of stocking fillers from multipacks of their beautifully-presented soaps (from R$9) to the occasional limited-edition run of die-cast metal signs from bygone eras (R$80). The owner has branched out into the world of interiors too, and the newly-renovated Besi not only has a great café but shelves full of potentialy giftable goodies.
When it comes to coffee lovers, though, Armazem do Café is the place to be, with their Mini Express coffee machines (R$89, pictured) providing a sharp espresso hit in style. Nearby, the Saara may not be the source of the big show-stopping gift, but smaller bits and bobs from the Havianas store (Rua da Alfandega 176/havaianas.com) to the hundreds of sports accessories shops (the fisherman in your life will be well served) and never-knew-you-needed-it plastic tat abounds.
Heading out of downtown towards Flamengo, the MAM Design Store holds an intriguing selection of carefully-considered delights, with prices ranging from the agreeable to the astronomical. The jewellery (starting at R$65) is crafted by local talents, hand-made kids' wooden toys (from R$20) are a battery-free option for children, or splurge on a beautiful leather Ottoman chair if you're lucky enough not to have to look at price tags. Elsewhere in the neighbourhood you'll find some fashionable little nooks unique to the area like Dversa with their kooky jumpers that transform into rucksacks and cool retro gear, and Mariskal, where the shelves bulge with potential girlfriend-pleasers.
Copacabana is well stocked with options not immediately obvious to the casual browser too. The large mall next to Siqueira Campos metrô station may not be the most enticing spectacle from outside, but inside is a series of Aladdin's caves of dusty antiques and goodies. Hully Gully is the epicentre of the action, regularly receiving a fresh wave of oddities from home accessories to jewellery you'd be hard-pushed to find elsewhere, though the increasing number of second hand stores are now offering some stiff competition.
At the far end of Copacabana Beach by the Sofitel and the road up through Arpoador is the Cassino Atlântico mall, hope to a wealth of antique shops, galleries and furniture stores just ripe for the exploring. A lot of the glass birds and wildlife won't be to many tastes, but for every few questionable items there will be something worthwhile that catches the eye, and Saturday's indoor market further increases the potential, with stalls filling the corridors. A mall of a different kind is around the corner, and in the tiny shops of Galeria River (Rua Francisco Otaviano 67, Arpoador) you'll find the best selections of skate and surf boards in the city, not to mention all the gear to go with including a wide selection of trainers.
On the beach side of things, Blue Man and Lenny will cover any emergency trunk and bikini presents, each with their own distinct style and the new season for the summer always brings some striking originality to the shelves that you simply won't find anywhere else. Further into Ipanema, Homegrown's selection of T-shirts and jeans is supplemented by a host of cool miniature figures, graffiti canvases, belts and wallets, and the limited edition trainers are among the best around.
Elsewhere in Ipanema, wine specialists Cavist (Rua Barão da Torre 358, Ipanema, 21 2123 7900) has some rather snazzy Veuve Clicquot mini-fridges in yellow (R$250) and, for the girlier girls, in pink (R$290, pictured), that ape the classic Smeg ‘50s design and immediately become a desirable little object. If that takes care of 'her' then 'he' might be happier with a bottle of top-notch beer from Belgian brewers St Feuillon, packaged up with a personalized beer glass (R$99) from Delirium Café.
FInally, a pretty essential part of the pre-Chrimbo calendar for anyone after some fashion bonus points in their presents is the Babilônia Feira Hype event on 10-11 December. Stall after stall of fresh designer get up from the designers of tomorrow will be on show, as well as art and artisanal products, meaning a clever selection from the next big thing could provide the ultimate brownie points and an eternal favourite.