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Rio Carnival Guide for Beginners

Celebrate Carnival in Rio and have an unforgettable experience

Of all the carnivals, the Rio Carnival is without doubt, the real deal. This is the time when Cariocas are at their best, and why won’t they be when Rio is known as the Carnival Capital of the World. The fact that most people call it the greatest show on earth means there has to be something about it. The four-day celebration begins on Saturday and ends on Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent. There is distinctly a vibrant, licentious air in Rio during the Carnival, with many even referring to it in fun as a sort of ‘carioca madness’ that is seemingly contagious. To find out if this is the party for you ask anyone in Rio who has celebrated the Carnival. Many will say this is a once in a lifetime experience and should not be missed. 

People parading - Rio Carnival
Unidos da Tijuca - Alexandre Macieira | Riotur

How it all started

There are many theories as to the origin of the Carnival with stories of it being a pagan celebration in ancient Rome. Carnival balls became popular in Rio in the nineteenth century with legendary balls held at the Copacabana Palace Hotel and the Municipal Theater. The inevitable influence of Afro-Brazilian culture in the form of the samba heralded the beginning of the Samba Parade in the 1930s. It is the ethnic melting pot of Rio that makes this festival unlike any in the world. The combination of the cultural diversity and Brazilian swing rhythm is what makes the Carnival in Rio so unique.

Samba Schools and the Sambadrome

The center of attraction is, of course, the Sambadrome in downtown Rio, where the Samba Parade has been held since 1984. As tourists begin to arrive, the city virtually comes to a halt for all four days leading up to Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. While the Sambadrome may be the focus of the Carnival, the focal point is undoubtedly the samba schools and their vivacious women samba dancers, who are a quintessential part of the Carnival. 

Aerial view of a samba school parade in the Sambadrome - Rio Carnival
Unidos da Tijuca - Marcos TerraNova | Riotur

Five Nights of Competition

Each samba school has 70 minutes minimum up to 80 minutes maximum to parade down the strip at the Sambadrome. The Carnival kicks off with the opening ceremony on Friday where King Momo is crowned by Rio’s mayor. In the evening a children’s parade sets the tone for the next four days of revelry combined with an intense show of dance, theater, arts and music. On Saturday, members of the Access Group strut their stuff in the hopes of joining the major league players. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday are reserved for the 12 best samba schools vying for the championship spot where six of the finest march on each day.

Rio Carnival Floats
Vila Isabel - Alexandre Macieira | Riotur

Glorious Themes and Samba Schools

The schools of samba are a musical genre symbolizing Brazil. At the Sambadrome, each school plays out its own story with a common theme ranging from politics to arts and sports. What everyone looks forward to apart from the dancers is each team’s unique song, creative costumes, and choreography. Each samba school tries to be more creative than its competitor. From levitation to a flying astronaut, the Sambadrome is always full of surprises. And each year the schools seem more and more creative as rich imagination give way to show stopping flights of fancy.

Float - Rio Carnival
Vila Isabel - Luciola Villela | Riotur

A Ticket to Entertainment

All roads lead to the Sambadrome on Carnival nights. It is advisable to take the subway or our Special Transfer to reach the stadium. You can purchase a parade ticket and a costume in our website and show up on time at the Sambadrome and you will be able to be an active Carnival participant. 

A Magic Ball Night At Rio Carnival

If you are a reveler that is looking for a glamorous night during the Carnival in Rio, you can’t miss the Magic Ball at the chic Copacabana Palace Hotel.

Buy HERE your Carnival Tickets