Handicrafts and artwork make fine souvenirs and are best purchased directly from the artist or artisan. For genuine indigenous arts and crafts, have a look in the Artíndia stores of Funai (the government indigenous agency) and museum gift shops.
Artisans in the Northeast produce a rich assortment of artistic items. Salvador and nearby Cachoeira are most notable for their rough-hewn wood sculptures. Ceará specializes in fine lace. The interior of Pernambuco, in particular Caruaru, is famous for wildly imaginative ceramic figurines.
Art & Crafts
Although nearly everything can be found in Rio and São Paulo, there is a premium for moving craft and art pieces from the hinterland into the fancy stores of the big cities. Rio has excellent shopping at markets such as the Hippie Fair, the wild Feira Nordestina and the popular Babilônia Feira Hype. Among Rio’s handicrafts shops, O Sol in Jardim Botânico, Pé de Boi in Botafogo and La Vareda in Santa Teresa offer good selections.
Outside these big cities, your best bets for craftwork are artisan fairs – held on Saturday and Sunday in many cities – cooperative stores and government-run shops. The Northeast has a rich assortment of artistic items. Salvador and nearby Cachoeira are notable for their rough-hewn wood sculpture. Artisans in Fortaleza and the southeastern coast of Ceará specialize in fine lace. The interior of Pernambuco, in particular Caruaru, is famous for its wildly imaginative ceramic figurines.
Some Amazonian indigenous peoples now make artifacts such as bows, arrows, baskets, feather headdresses, carvings, pottery and beads specifically as commodities to sell. Some are very attractive, even if not quite the genuine article. Two excellent shops for authentic Amazonian/indigenous crafts, artwork and traditional items actually in the Amazon are Araribá Cultura Indígena in Alter do Chão and Galeria Amazônica in Manaus.
Functional and decorative hammocks are available in cities throughout Amazonia. They’re indispensable for travelers and make fine, portable gifts. A typical one-person hammock costs R$60 to R$100; a large casal (double) hammock might run around R$140.
Coffee-table picture books on Brazil and DVDs of Carnaval and of highlights of the national football team and Pelé in various World Cup matches are hawked in the streets of Copacabana – though better book selections are found in Ipanema bookshops.
Guaraná powder, a stimulant (said to be an aphrodisiac) derived from an Amazonian fruit, is sold by health stores, such as Rio’s Mundo Verde and some pharmacies. In the Amazon region itself, there are plenty of shops and market stalls devoted to herbal and natural medicines. Belém’s Mercado Ver-o-Peso and Manaus’ Mercado Municipal Adolfo Lisboa are fascinating places to browse. One of Brazil’s best food markets is São Paulo's Mercado Municipal.
Rio’s Ipanema has dozens of shops selling the Brazilian fio dental (dental-floss bikini) as well as stylish beachware for men and women.
Candomblé stores are a good source of curios. They range from magical incense guaranteed to bring good fortune and increase sexual allure, wisdom and health to amulets and ceramic figurines of Afro-Brazilian gods.