On Friday or Saturday nights, make your way to the area around Lapa.
Under the arch where the Santa Teresa tram goes by, around 10pm and later, there should be a gathering of people there, making music, selling alcohol, sparring 'capoeira'...
Follow the music and head towards a area of narrow streets which is made up of very basic local pubs (of plastic chairs, no decorations whatsoever). Street stalls are set up along this street dispensing food. Guys with an ice-box become instant bars, selling a lot of 'cachaca'. Happy people gather here and make music, just because.
Watch, wriggle, sweat, squeeze, dance, drink...
This is absolutely an open bar, casually self-organised by the party-loving 'cariocas' themselves. An amazing atmosphere, you have to be here!!
Try and go with a friend from Rio.
At one point we jumped off the tram and went to check out this old mansion that has been restored into an open air museum / park kind of place... Do told us that this is a favorite spot for fashion photo shoots. The views from the place was really great.
Our Brazilian friend / guide Do took us to the historic Lapa district for a tram ride. It was one of the highlights of our Rio trip.
It is a less touristy thing to do - which is good -. You basically take the tram for a tour of the Lapa neighborhood with Cariocas living in the area.
You can start your tram tour at the station in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral. I've read somewhere that this church is inspired by the shape of the early American space capsules.
The cobblestone streets and the colonial architecture of the houses is beautiful. Anyways, check out the pics - they speak for themselves!