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Rio Samba Parade Types

Get to know in full the Samba Parade event

Three different types of samba parades take place at the Sambodromo during carnival time and these usually follow the same pattern year after year, beginning with the Access Group Parade and ending with the Winner's parade.

The Access Group

This group is made up of 16 large samba schools and the winner of this group gains entry into the Special Group the following year. Schools in this group perform on Carnival Friday and Saturday, which falls on February 28th and March 1st in the coming year. 

The schools that compete in this group usually do not have access to the financial resources and sponsors that many of the Special group schools do, but most of them are as experienced and proficient.

people parading in a samba school costume - Rio Carnival
Unidos do Porto da Pedra - Alex Ferro | Riotur

The Special Group

The performances of the Special Group are the highlight of the samba parade at the Sambodromo and this magnificent spectacle is recognized as the main carnival event around the world. Out of the 12 schools in this group, perform on carnival Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. In 2025 these dates fall on March 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively. 

Floats - Rio Carnival
Beija-Flor - João Gabriel | Riotur

The Children’s Parade

Most samba schools have a children’s section and they perform as well during carnival, in the same manner as the main groups. In 2025, the children’s parade will commence on Tuesday March 4th.

Children's parade - Rio Carnival
Tijuquinha do Borel - Alexandre Macieira | Riotur

The Champion’s Parade

After the winner has been announced, the following Saturday – March 8th in 2025 – showcases the victorious parade, comprising of the schools ranked 1 to 6 in the samba parade of the special group. This parade is not as expensive as the parades of the previous Sunday and Monday.

Carnival samba schools in Rio de Janeiro
Mangueira - Alexandre Macieira | Riotur

How the samba parade is judged

The participants in the Rio samba parade are judged on 10 categories which are Percussion Band, Samba Song, Harmony, Flow and Spirit, Floats and Props, Costumes, Vanguard Group, The Flag Bearer, Theme of the Year and Overall Impression. The appointed judges are located at various points of the samba runway and allocate points on a scale of 5 to 10, with 10 being the highest. Each of the 10 categories has 4 judges, resulting in a total of 40 judges at the event.

In the Percussion Band category, judges look for consistency amongst all performers and the ability to work in tune with each other. Being innovative within the limited scope allowed (wind and brass instruments are not allowed) is highly favored.

The school’s samba song is judged based on its lyrics, melody and ability to bring out the essence of the theme for the year, while schools that are able to successfully synchronize all the elements of the performance will score in the Harmony category. Flow and Spirit judges the members on how smoothly they are able to maintain the pace of the performance and transition between sections, while at the same time adding character and vitality to the show. Costumes, Floats and Props are judged on their visual appeal, creativity and appropriateness with regard to the theme.

While the Vanguard Commission is judged on the choreography of its performance and how well it catches one’s attention in introducing the school, The Flag Bearer and her escort are judged on how well they coordinate as a couple, their proficiency in dancing, poise, flexibility and range. The Theme of the Year category refers to how creative, understandable and relevant a school’s theme is and how well it has been incorporated in the program, while Overall Impression is a subjective category where schools are judged on the effectiveness of their performance as a whole.

The Flag Bearer and her escort - Rio Carnival
Viradouro - Alex Macieira | Riotur

Choosing your ticket for the samba parade

Depending on what you want to see and how much your budget allows you, you can purchase tickets for the samba parade accordingly. The prices vary by day, based on which group is performing. The tickets to watch the Special Group perform are the most expensive, as this is the main show.

Opting to attend the Group A performances might be the perfect choice if you do not wish to spend a lot of money. These tickets are around half the price of the Special Group’s and since the Group A schools are also excellent performers, it is a good option.

Once you’ve decided which day to go on, there are a variety of seat options to choose from, ranging from unmarked bleachers to luxury suites.

Buy HERE your Carnival Tickets