You are heading to Rio for Carnival and you have your tickets for Sambadrome and your sparkly outfit ready. What next? Well, let’s get serious about the parties and events that bring nearly 1 million people to Rio each February. Here’s Tripmasher’s ultimate Rio Carnival guide to street parties, bloccos and balls.
To get you in the mood take a listen to the Bossa Nova classic “Garota De Ipanema” originally written and performed by Vinicius de Moraes and Tom Jobim. A swoon song about the most beautiful woman they see walking along Ipanema beach. I love this Amy Winehouse version. Be careful. It’s one of those earworm songs that will stay with you all day.
The ‘Magical City’ comes alive all the way from streets to beaches.
I loved this part of Carnival.
People everywhere are enjoying music from classic Brazilians songs to modern day pop. The sun shines and gives everything an ethereal glow. It’s almost like the entire city has been given an Amaro Instagram filter.
So let’s get straight into it, otherwise the ice will melt and the glow will fade…
Rio Carnival Guide to Street Parties and Bloccos
The Arches of Lapa – All Carnival nights (Friday-Tuesday) from 8.00pm until dawn
Lapa is one of the most popular neighbourhoods in Rio and most of the action takes place around the Arches.
AM – During the day street merchants are selling costumes, entrepreneurial chaps have eskys on wheels with all your favourite beverages and there is usually a random drum parade heading down in the afternoon.
PM – The place shines from about 8pm til dawn with performances on the set up stages all fuelled by a myriad of bbq food and drink.
Banda de Ipanema – Saturday and Tuesday of Carnival, 4.00pm
The start of the parade is at Praça General Osório in Ipanema. It’s a flourish of colour, flamboyant costumes with over 20,000 people taking part.
Open-air party at Cinelândia – All Carnival nights (Friday-Tuesday) 5.00pm – early hours of the morning
The Downtown venue brings together acclaimed singers and musicians celebrating carnival music and atmosphere from the past. Attracting an older audience, but don’t let that fool you. These guys know how to move and party. It’s Brazil!
The Sambodrome – Samba Parade nights (Sunday & Monday)
Can’t get into the Sambadrome for the Parade? Not to worry. Join the thousands that create their own party outside. It sounds quite makeshift, but it is far more organised than you think with loads of bars and food stalls around. When paraders from the Samba schools finish, this is where most will end up partying with friends and family into the wee hours of the morning.
Samba Land (Terreirão do Samba)
So this isn’t technically free with a R$15 admission fee, but it is a proper event with a big stage and food and drink stalls. Kicking off around 7pm the event goes on until 6am.
Street Band competition in Centro – Tuesday, 8.00pm
One of the best places to check out street bands is along Av. Rio Branco in Centro. With over 300 bands performing during Carnival, you will get to see a diverse group of musicians and of course, there is dancing and drinking.
Other Bloccos during and pre Rio Carnival 2016
31 January – Cordão da Bola Preta in downtown
5 February – Carmelitas in Santa Teres
6 February – Bloco do Barbas in Botafogo
8 February -Sargento Pimenta in Aterro do Flamengo
8 February -Afroreggae in Centro
14 February – Monobloco in Centro
Rio Carnival Guide to the Balls – Worth the extra expense?
The balls are another major part of the experience of Rio Carnival. We didn’t go, but a few from our group did attend the Black Beads Ball at Rio Scala. Those that attended didn’t rate it that highly with an entry cost of US$73 (2016 price) for standing only. The ticket offers access to all the ballrooms, but food and drinks are extra – with a lot of faffing buying tokens and redeeming them at the bar. If you are on a budget you may want to skip this and spend your money at a blocco party instead.
Of course, if you have the money, fancy getting dressed up and a little outrageous then I would spend my money on the Ball of Balls – The Gay Ball (no pun intended). The Tuesday night ball marking the end of the Carnival is legendary. Ticket prices are high and often sold out well before Carnival, so if you are keen then buy your ticket at least 3 months in advance.
Friday, February 5
23:00 Black Beads Party in Rio Scala
Saturday, February 6
23:00 The Magic Ball at Copacabana Palace Hotel
23:00 Samba School Mangueira Ball in Rio Scala
Sunday, February 7
23:00 The Marvelous City Ball in Rio Scala
Monday, February 8
23:00 Long live the Beer Ball in Rio Scala
Tuesday, February 9
23:00 Gay Ball in Rio Scala
It’s been great reliving our time at Rio Carnival – easily one of my favourite experiences in all my travels. Nothing can really prepare you for the atmosphere and energy of the people, but hopefully, this post goes someway to make your Carnival experience complete. And, if you haven’t read it yet, check out Tripmasher’s Rio Carnival guide with tips for the Sambadrome parade, accommodation, budgeting and safety.