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The Carnival of Rio de Janeiro
Carnival and Brazil are synonymous. The birthplace of modern Carnival is considered to be Brazil and Rio de Janeiro.
Rio de Janeiro Carnival
Carnival and Brazil are synonymous. The birthplace of modern Carnival is considered to be Brazil and Rio de Janeiro.
From the 21st to the 28th of February, 2020, approximately 2 million people will take part in a series of daily events to celebrate and indulge before Lent.
The streets become filled with parties, parades, decoration and festivities. Samba schools are formed and elaborate dance routines are performed in every corner of the city.
These festivities culminate in an epic display within the equally impressive Sambadrome – the home of the Rio de Janeiro Carnival.
Expect to not know which way to look and expect a true spectacle! This week-long celebration of samba, dance, music and freedom of expression is like no other.
The Carnival of Rio de Janeiro is the largest in the world and will surely not disappoint. The following is a list of annual events that take place during the carnival celebrations:
On the opening Friday of the carnival, two main events take place. Firstly, we have the crowning of King Momo. King Momo is a legendary character in Latin American festivities and considered to be the king of carnivals – he originates from the Greek mythological god Momus.
Traditionally, King Momo crowning takes place and then he proceeds to dance to officially open the festivities. As soon as the King dances, a parade and celebrations erupt around him.
The king will usually dance through the Sambadrome in a series of antique carriages surrounded by a troupe of chosen Samba dances. Furthermore, the current mayor of Rio will usually present Momo with the key to the city.
This event is the first of many parades and is a wonderful spectacle. King Momo is a highly regarded position and respected among carnival lovers.
Once the king has officially opened the carnival, it is time for the first children’s parade. The first samba display of the carnival is also held on Friday and takes place in the Sambadrome.
12 different samba schools each perform a wonderful dance routine in the parade. You can expect elaborate floats and costumes, fantastic theme music, and sublime samba dancing.
In the days following the carnival opening, there is a series of orchestrated Samba parades. From Friday through to Monday there are two access displays and two special group performances.
During each procession, the 12 competing samba groups entertain the crowds with a series of awe-inspiring displays.
As the competition is highly respected, expect dancing, music and performing like nothing else you have witnessed. The energy and atmosphere are electric.
Each samba school parades through the Sambadrome and performs carefully choreographed routines. The routines are accompanied by vocal performances and rhythmic drum beats.
Each school chooses a specific theme (such as the jungle, magic or fantasy for example) complete with matching costumes, floats and music. The costumes and floats combine together to create imagery and display their chosen theme to the spectators.
The variety and difference between each schools display is mesmerizing – to see 12 unique and colourful parades is quite monumental. Performers dance in time to the music and make their way along the Sambadrome parade area.
Each parade will feature some key components. To provide you with a little background information, we have listed some of the main features of a Samba school parade:
Aside from the above, each samba school may also have their own floats and parade trucks. Each school has their own style and theme and the attention to detail is truly fantastic.
When the results of the special group parades have been determined, the winner’s parade can take place. This parade usually takes place on the first Saturday after the initial competitions have taken place.
This parade is epic in every sense of the word. The six top samba schools get the chance to show their skills once again to thousands of spectators at the Sambadrome.
As the winners have been announced, the atmosphere is much more relaxed and you can see the joy on the performer’s faces. The winner’s parade usually attracts an immense turnout and many celebrities attend this event.
If you obtain tickets for this closing parade, you are guaranteed a night of colourful and electric entertainment.
If you cannot obtain tickets for any of the main Sambadrome events don’t worry – there are plenty of other festivities to attend! Throughout the city, the locals will join together in “Blocos”- these are awesome street parties that anyone can be a part of.
We advise scouring the streets around your hotel and the Sambadrome to find a Blocos. You will not forget the experience! A Blocos is basically a huge party.
You can expect dancing, music, food and other frivolities. The atmosphere of a Blocos is stupendous and everyone simply has a good time and parties in true Brazilian style.
So does the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro live up to its expectations? Of course, it does! As the largest carnival in the world, this event is a true wonder.
Brazil has a reputation for fantastic carnivals, and Rio de Janeiro is the pinnacle of their creations. If you attend one major carnival in your lifetime, why not do it in style and see the most spectacular and entertaining event in the world?
The Rio de Janeiro Carnival is everything you would expect – loud, proud, vibrant, rhythmic and over the top. It stands as a testament to the spirit and creativity of the Brazilian people. If this sounds like something you would enjoy (of course you would, who wouldn’t!) why not start planning your carnival adventure today?
To help plan your carnival experience, we have provided three essential tips to make your Rio adventure memorable:
The main parades and Samba competitions are fantastic, but we also advise that you attend a Blocos! Throughout Rio, carnival blocks are held in the streets and are a joy to experience. Each Blocos is traditionally started by a street band and contain floats, music, dancing and festivities. Streets become packed with locals and tourists and the atmosphere is electric. Involve yourself in the dancing, singing and let your inhibitions lose!
Rio Carnival is a time when your personal attire can be as extravagant (or non-existent!) as you like. The locals dress in fantastic costumes that are bursting with colour – you should do the same! Women often wear bright and revealing bikinis laced with feathers and jewels and groups of friends often wear hilarious joint outfits. Consider creating your own carnival attire or heading to one of the local shops to purchase something outrageous and eye-catching!
This might sound like an obvious tip, but It is surprising how many people become dehydrated during the Rio Carnival. Brazil has a hot climate – when combined with the intense activities of the carnival, it is easy to see why hydration is so important. Consider carrying several bottles of water with you at all times and drink frequently. If you feel dehydrated at any time – remove yourself from the crowds and find shade.
The main events of the Rio Carnival are held within the immense Sambadrome. The Sambadrome Marques de Sapucai was purpose-built in 1983. This epic parade area includes several impressive stadiums and a 570m long parade strip.
Since its creation, the Sambadrome has been used to hold the Rio de Janeiro Carnival. Aside from the Sambadrome, various street parties (known as Blocos and Bandas) are held throughout the city.
When stopping in Rio de Janeiro, we advise making your trip even more epic by exploring the city and visiting the popular sites. This city is brimming with culture, superb architecture and some gorgeous natural parks. The below is three of Rio’s most popular and interesting attractions, and one of its most popular nightclubs:
Christ the Redeemer is a world-renowned statue and an icon of Rio de Janeiro. Whilst this awe-inspiring statue is a must-see attraction, the surrounding Tijuca National Park is just as impressive. This 3,000-hectare forest has a myriad of walking trails that are waiting to be explored. Wildlife within the park includes Toucans, Hawks, butterflies and even Capuchin monkeys!
A set of stairs might seem like a bizarre tourist attraction, but the Escadoria Selaron is truly magnificent. Started in 1990, this flight of stairs on Rua Manuel Carniero was a work in progress by artist Jorge Selaron.
The stairs are covered in a series of beautiful and vibrant mosaics. Colors of the Brazilian flag are prominent and a range of materials are used such as pottery and glass. As a gift to the Brazilian people, Selaron has left a truly remarkable legacy in the centre of Rio.
Rio has a plethora of beautiful religious buildings and it is hard to pick one out! The monastery and church of Sao Bento, however, is a true gem. Constructed in the 17th century, this complex has some truly stunning decoration. Practically every surface is covered with carvings, frescos and decoration. The colours, artwork and detail is sublime – a true Benedictine masterpiece.
If you have had your fill of sight-seeing and want to continue the carnival atmosphere into the night, consider visiting the Rio Scenarium nightclub.
Located in the Centro district, close to the Parque Campo de Santana, this establishment is spread over three floors and has a wonderful local atmosphere. Expect night-long dancing, a superb selection of drinks and some authentic live Brazilian music – the perfect night out and at a reasonable price!
Rio de Janeiro has a multitude of world-class hotels, apartments and hostels. Although the Carnival is a huge event, Rio is a popular tourist destination in its own right. Many people travel here to lounge on Copacabana beach, enjoy the nightlife or see Christ the Redeemer among others.
When visiting Rio for the Carnival, it is advisable to pick a hotel close to the Sambadrone and main event areas. To that end, we have selected several popular accommodation choices for your enjoyment.
First, we have a budget option for backpackers or those looking to make a saving. Hostel Zainha is ideally located; only a 5 minute walk from the Sambadrone.
This hostel benefits from free WiFi, a roof terrace and a series of comfortable dorms. Furthermore, the prices are extremely cheap – you can stay here for under 30 Euros per night! Please be aware that prices do tend to increase during the Rio Carnival period – you will more than likely pay an increase of approximately 20%.
Secondly, we have the Nobre de Sagres apartment complex. If you are looking for accommodation near the beach, this is a great choice!
Only a 1-minute walk from the beach and metro station, Nobre de Sagres is a great base from which to explore Rio. Each apartment has a fully-fitted kitchen with microwave and modern fixtures.
Third, we have Hotel Diamond located on Rua da Gloria – only a stone’s throw from the Escadaria Selaron. From 50 Euros a night, you can stay in a comfortable hotel complete with a games room and on-site restaurant! The rooms are well-furnished and the hotel as a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
We hope you have found these hotels of interest! When planning your carnival adventure, be sure to check Booking.com for special deals!
As you would expect, Brazilian cuisine is just as vibrant as its carnivals! With influences from various other cultures, Brazilian food is a true joy. Expect a myriad of flavours and some fabulous creations. When stopping in Rio, be sure to try the traditional Feijoada (a meat stew with black beans) and farofa.
Throughout the carnival areas and street parties, you can indulge in a plethora of mouth-watering bites.
Typical street food includes cassava chips, Kibe, Pao de Quiljo (cheese bread), chicken coxinha and Pastel de Quijo (cheese pastry). Don’t forget to try some barbequed Picanha also which is a top choice of sirloin within Rio. Aside from the street food, we have selected three top restaurants we highly recommend for your Brazilian adventure:
Firstly we have a fantastic restaurant that caters for vegetarians and vegans. Located in the district of Botafogo, Refeitorio Organico is one of the best meat-free restaurants in the city. Guests can tuck into a vegetarian buffet packed full with a range of delicious treats.
You can enjoy a range of innovative salads all prepared with organic materials. A partiocular favourite is the Tofu burger with spinach.
Next, we have the Espirito Santa which provides guests with a true slice of Amazonian cuisine. Located in the district of Santa Teresa, this restaurant is only a short distance from the main carnival arena. Each dish is brimming with delightful flavours and plates such as the Tambaqui fish are like nothing you have tasted before!
Third, we have the restaurant simply known as Market. Tucked away in a narrow alley, this restaurant is a hidden wonder within the Centro district. All dishes are prepared with fresh ingredients and the combinations are diverse and interesting. We recommend the perfectly cooked Salmon with risotto – the flavours are superb! Aside from the food, you can also enjoy some refreshing juices and cocktails!
As mentioned above, the Carnival is centralised around the Sambadrone and we advise staying in Rio to experience the festivities. Whilst other cities such as Sao Paolo and Belo Horizonte are fantastic destinations, the atmosphere within Rio is unmissable during this time.
The main airport servicing Rio de Janeiro is the Galeao International Airport. This airport is actually located on its own island and is the second busiest in the whole of Brazil.
Airlines travelling to Galeao include Air France, American Airlines, Aerolineas Argentinas, KLM, Iberia, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, United Airlines, Emirates, Delta, British Airways and Copa Airlines. In most cases, international passengers will fly to this airport either direct or via connecting flights.
As the airport is located on an island, there is a range of dedicated transport options to reach the centre of Rio. The primary method of transport is the BRT (Bus Rapid Transport).
This bus service has two lines – the TransCarioca line and the TransCarioca Express. Both lines travel from the airport and stop at various destinations within the city.
Aside from the BRT, you can also use a taxi service, private transfer, or even a standard local bus service. Prices vary as does the reliability, however, and we highly recommend using the BRT.
Although Rio is a large and spread-out city, it has a fantastic transport system. Travelling around Rio is extremely easy, even in-between districts.
The primary method of long-distance transport (between districts) is the Metro system. With 3 lines and 41 stations, the metro system is punctual and easy to navigate. A typical one way trip costs between 2-5 Reals depending on the number of stations. You can purchase a day pass for between 3-11 Reals, and you can also buy a monthly pass if you plan to stay in Rio longer for between 39-72 Reals.
If you are travelling within districts we recommend walking, cycling or using a Minivan. Rio has a fantastic public bike-sharing system and there is possibly no better way to see the city than on two wheels.
Alternatively, if your feet are tired, you can always hail a Minivan (simply known as vans by the locals). Minivans are a quick mode of transport and are extremely cheap. Simply hop into the back (it might be a squeeze!) and then yell “Para!” when you want to stop!
If you are considering renting a hire car there isn’t a great deal of parking availability within the city. We advise checking with your accommodation to ensure they have a dedicated parking space you can use. We also advise against the use of a hire car to travel to the centre to see the carnival. As mentioned above, the transport system within Rio is more than adequate and we recommend you make use of it.
The tradition of Carnival (or Carnaval) in Brazil has origins in both the Catholic religion and pagan Europe. In past centuries, Carnival was a food festival celebrated before the period of Lent. Citizens would indulge and gorge themselves to prepare for the fasting of this religious period.
As time progressed, carnival developed as a result of overseas influences. Portuguese colonists brought their version of carnival including bright costumes and parades. Additionally, African settlers introduced rhythm, music and dance.
The resulting combination was in effect a huge street party celebrated annually before Lent. Citizens of Rio would come together and enjoy festivities, dancing, parades and feasts in a grand style.
As this tradition developed, other recurring events were added. In 1917, Samba was developed and samba schools were created. Today, Samba is an integral part of the carnival and the Samba School parade is a central event broadcast to the world.
Aside from dancing, food and samba, the carnival allows people to escape from reality. The carnival is traditionally a period of time where practically anything goes.
Boundaries of society are broken down, and traditional notions are washed away. The poor dress in extravagant costumes whilst the rich mingle freely in the streets. Men dress as women, women dress as men (or wear next to nothing at all!) and freedom is a central theme of this joyous event.See Available Deals