Carnival in Rio de Janeiro
Go for the experience of a life-time! See, breathe, sense and live the Carnival.
In bright colors was a carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Olinda and Salvador all clamor for this title. The Carnival in Rio is definitely the biggest and most famous, not just in Brazil but in the whole world. And it is most visited as well. Hence Rio is dubbed the Carnival Capital of the Globe
Where should I stay in Rio?
Try to stay in Southern Rio (the Zona Sul), which is not just the most beautiful area but also offers the best infrastructure and is the safest. Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon are the best, most up-market and priciest options, especially the last two. Botafogo, Lapa and Flamengo are more down-market but still within 15-20 minutes from Copacabana and Ipanema by subway, which runs 24 hours during Carnival.
When should I book?
Book flights and accommodation at least 4 months in advance. Get tickets as early as possible. The best tickets sell out early and prices usually increase as time passes.
Which events should I attend?
Rio Carnival’s highlight is the Samba Parade. Go to a few balls especially to the Gala Ball in Scala. Join in as many street parties and street band processions as you can, both downtown (Centro) and in South Rio (the Zona Sul). Sample at least one samba school night.
Which are the best street parties?
The street band of Ipanema is the most famous and flamboyant one. The parties downtown (e.g. Cordão do Bola Preta) are the biggest.
Which are the best balls?
High society attends the Magic Ball at Hotel Copacabana Palace. For fun and a big night dance go to the Gay Gala Costume ball in Scala.
When and where can I buy my tickets?
You only need to buy your tickets well in advance for the annual Samba Parade competition and the Magic Ball at Hotel Copacabana Palace. Some Scala balls sell out also quickly. See ticket details for all events.
What is a samba school?
It is an association of people in the same neighborhood preparing for the Samba Parade and entertaining the community with samba nights. They are not actual samba teaching institutions as their name may suggest.
Where can I learn to samba?
Best to learn it just by watching others. Then have a go. You do not have to join a samba school. They do not offer courses or classes. Just go to a samba night at a school, watch and learn.
How can I participate?
Join in the street parties and march with the street bands. For the absolute knock-out experience parade yourself in costume in the Sambodromo
Rio Carnival History
The roots of Carnival trace back to the ancient Romans and Greeks who celebrated the rites of spring. Across Europe, including France, Spain and Portugal, people annually gave thanks by throwing parties, wearing masks and dancing in the streets. Such traditions were carried over to the New World.
The Portuguese first brought the concept of “celebration or carnival” to Rio around 1850. The practice of holding balls and masquerade parties was imported by the city’s bourgeoisie from Paris. However, in Brazil, the traditions soon became different. Over time, they acquired unique elements deriving from African and Amerindian cultures.
Groups of people would parade through the streets playing music and dancing. It was usual that during Carnival aristocrats would dress up as commoners, men would cross-dress as women and the poor dress up as princes and princesses – social roles and class differences were expected to be forgotten once a year but only for the duration of the festival.
Brazilians used to riot the Carnival until it was accepted by the government as an expression of culture. The black slaves became actively involved in the celebrations. They were able to be free for three days. Nowadays the slums’ black communities are still the most involved groups in all the carnival preparations and they are the ones for whom Rio Carnival means the most.
By the end of the 18 century the festivities were enriched by competitions. People would not just dress up in costumes but also perform a parade accompanied by an orchestra of strings, drums and other instruments. These ever more organized competitions became the main attractions of the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
Until the beginning of the 20th century, street carnival in Rio was musically a very euro centric affair – Polkas, Waltzes, Mazurkas and ‘Scottish’. Meanwhile, the emergent working class (made up mainly of Afro Brazilians, along with some gypsies, Russian Jews, Poles etc.) developed their own music and rhythm. These people were mostly based in the central part of Rio, on a land that the rich did not want – on the hills and swamps behind the dockyards – an area which came to be known as ‘Little Africa’ now recognized as the cradle of samba.
The parades were halted during World War II and started again in 1947. By then the main competition took place downtown on Avenida Rio Branco.
Carnival has gone a long way since it was brought to Rio, having become one of the biggest events in the World. One of the most important recent developments was that the biggest parade the Samba Parade moved from the streets downtown to the purpose-built Sambodromo.
With Love 4rm – Hemant Khurana (Happy)