What are the best cultural activities in Rio de Janeiro?

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The beach makes up such an important part of life in Rio that some beach lounging time is a must. Spend a Sunday afternoon at Ipanema beach, when the road along the beach is closed to traffic, and the orla, as the beachfront strip is called, literally teems with activity: people rollerblading and skateboarding, vendors selling steamed corn and tapioca snacks, high schoolers hanging out in packs, surfers riding by with their boards attached to their bicycles and older couples strolling (who miraculously still have toned and tanned bodies). On Sunday night, have a feijoada dinner at Casa Rosa, a converted colonial house that is now a hip club in the Laranjeiras neighborhood. Feijoada, the Brazilian national dish, is a black-bean stew with chunks of beef, pork and sausage simmered into it to give it its rich, savory taste. Stay for the samba roda (live band) after dinner.
 
Another great place to catch live samba is at Pedra do Sal on Monday nights. Set in a tucked-away little corner in the city's Centro, this is authentic Rio culture, not made for tourists. Buy cheap beers from a street vendor, some grilled meat skewers if you're hungry and listen to a live band play samba music with distinctly African roots, while Brazilians dance alongside. If you have the time, catching a futebol (soccer) game, and joining in on the raucous singing, yelling, chanting, and flag-waving is also a fun way to see first-hand the palpable fervor of Brazilian fans.

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