A Rio de Janeiro travel guide – samba school parades, carnival balls and street parties
Get into Carnival mood with your own costume. The most exclusive balls take place in glitzy Rio de Janeiro hotels like the Copacabana Palace and Gloria. Scala nightclub tickets aren’t quite as expensive but just as much fun. Each night takes a different theme. There could be a gay ball or nights dedicated to samba schools, football teams or the city itself.
Thousands of visitors on Rio de Janeiro holidays come for Rio Carnival, many with the Samba Parade in mind. A fierce competition between Rio de Janeiro’s samba schools, it takes place in the Sambadrome stadium. Performers go through their samba routines, composed especially for Carnival. It’s a spectacular sight of floats and costumes, flowers and feathers and scantily clad bodies.
The samba schools’ float theme, song and costumes take months to prepare. If you’re not here during Rio Carnival, you can catch the samba schools rehearsing in the Sambadrome each weekend from November. In the weeks before the Rio Carnival they open their dance halls to the public for a taste of the real community spirit. Listen to the singers and drummers or pick up a few samba steps yourself and join the dancing.
During Rio Carnival, the streets of Rio de Janeiro vibrate with the sound of street bands. Around 300 parade along Avenida Rio Branco and downtown districts. Elsewhere you can meet the carioca locals and soak up the Carnival atmosphere at concerts in Praça Onze and under Lapa district’s arches, in Cinelândia Square and outside the Sambadrome.
When: Feb/Mar - Saturday to Shrove Tuesday
Where: Throughout Rio de Janeiro
Tickets: Some events free but book well ahead for Balls and Sambadrome
Rio de Janeiro Guides
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