Lasai in Rio de Janeiro was recently named one of the World's Best Restaurants by Travel + Leisure and Food & Wine. It's worth planning a trip around — here's what you should explore once you're there.

Inland facing aerial view of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Credit: Getty Images

In a city that clings heavily to tradition, innovative chefs, entrepreneurs, and creatives looking to push the envelope have made one neighborhood their home: Botafogo. Once just the quiet residential thruway between Ipanema's buzzy beaches to the south and Centro's business district to the north, it has transformed over the last several years into Rio's hub for forward-thinking bars, restaurants, and event spaces. 

Two scenes from Slow Bakery, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: treats on display, and man reading the newspaper on the terrace
Credit: Eduardo Martino/Alamy

What to Do

Start the day with a cold brew and croque madame at The Slow Bakery, whose owners take the slow-food approach to both their naturally fermented breads and their coffee: The cold brew is brewed for up to 72 hours in the bread fermentor. 

Other Botafogo staples include Quartinho, a bar reminiscent of a friend's eclectic living room, where impeccably curated Brazilian tunes are always playing and not one of the inventive cocktails is lackluster. And don't miss Comuna, a casual spot known for its burgers — arguably the best in Rio — and DJ sets that keep people dancing late into the night. The multi-use space also hosts events (most recently, a very on-brand plant fair), so check their schedule and plan accordingly.

No self-respecting hip neighborhood would be complete without a natural wine bar, and Cru, the city's one and only, makes for a great introduction into the world of minimal-intervention wines (thanks to a British co-owner, it's also the only place in Rio you can order a Scotch egg). The airy exposed-brick space offers a relaxed, unpretentious setting to sip wines by the glass, and often serves as a venue for guided tastings, events with visiting producers, and talks on natural winemaking. 

BRAZIL, Rio de Janiero, Bar Urca patrons drinking on the seawall
Credit: Cannon Photography LLC/Alamy

Despite everything trendy popping up in Botafogo, some traditions are well worth holding onto, so take a cab around the curve of Guanabara Bay to catch the sunset at Bar Urca, a Rio institution. Sitting along the stone seawall with an ice-cold Brahma beer and an order of salt cod, surrounded by the chatter of cariocas and boats bobbing on the horizon, you'll understand why this has been a favorite pastime of locals for the last 50 years.

Where to Shop

For an experience that typifies the vibrant, creative energy of this community, check out the happenings at Olho da Rua, a bar, café, gallery, music venue, and event space, with an accompanying shop that sells locally made artwork, jewelry, and clothing. 

Reception area of the hotel Emiliano in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Credit: Courtesy of Emiliano Rio

Where to Stay

Despite all the buzz around Botafogo, the neighborhood's hotel scene can't yet compete with that of more heavily touristed areas of the city. Instead, hole up in Copacabana at Hotel Emiliano, or venture further afield and stay at the chicly minimalist Janeiro Hotel, the two-year-old Leblon venture from fashion designer Oskar Metsavaht. 

Read about Lasai and the rest of the World's Best Restaurants here

Karen Chen is always planning her next great escape and loves the beach more than anyone else you know. See her prove it on Instagram @karenichen.