Updated on Feb.8, 2013
Rio de Janeiro street Carnival is going through a revitalization phase which has boosted the number and the quality of blocos all over town. In 2013, 492 blocos registered with the city administration, an increase of 15%-plus over last year.
Many of those parades are outside the range of the international traveler, but a whole lot of blocos go out in touristic areas, mainly the South Side, in Centro, Santa Teresa, and Lapa. Whether you've paid for a parade on the Sambódromo and still have energy for more, or simply arrived in Rio with nothing but a place to stay and a tight budget, free street Carnival in Rio could be the experience of a lifetime.
Here are some of the top picks for free bloco parades on Carnival Saturday 2013 (Feb.9).
For complete listings of Rio de Janeiro street Carnival parades, check out this excellent 2013 Rio Street Carnival Guide from Agenda Samba e Choro. You can search parades by date, name or neighborhood (bairro)
- 6 a.m. – Céu na Terra, Santa Teresa
Starting Point: Largo do Curvelo
One of the best (super early) morning blocos on Carnival Saturday. Costumes are welcome and highly encouraged. The parade follows the Santa Teresa tram towards Largo das Neves.
- 7 a.m. – Embaixadores da Folia, Centro
Starting Point: Avenida Rio Branco near Praça Mauá
The Revelry Ambassadors show off their stamina in this traditional morning parade which opens Carnival with people in costume, tossing confetti, and a great band playing classic marchinhas and new songs. By the time the parade ends, you'll still be able to enjoy nearby Cordão da Bola Preta. In 2013, they are also parading in post-Carnival: on Fev.13 at 2 p.m. and Saturday, Fev.16 at 2 p.m. but with the starting point at Avenida Gomes Freire.
- 9 a.m. – Cordão da Bola Preta, Centro
Starting Point:Avenida Rio Branco 70. The parade will go down Avenida Rio Branco, from Avenida Presidente Vargas to Cinelândia.
Some of the largest crowds in Rio Carnival go out with Cordão da Bola Preta (the Black Dot Cordão), founded in 1918 and the oldest bloco in Rio de Janeiro.
- 9 p.m. - Azeitona sem Caroço, Leblon
Starting Point: Rua Dias Ferreira
Leblon has great Carnival blocos which tend to gather people of all ages. This one ("Pitted Olive") has its start and finish at one of Rio's trendiest streets, home to great restaurants and nightlife, shopping and the Leblon Spot Design Hostel. A good, less crowded alternative to Cordão da Bola Preta.
- 9 a.m. - Escangalha, Gávea/Jardim Botânico
Starting Point: Rua Orsina da Fonseca
So many cool choices at 9 a.m. this Carnival. You might know Baixo Gávea nightlife, but did you know the neighborhood had this bloco? The band plays a mix of samba school themes and Carnival classics.
- 2 p.m. - Barbas, Botafogo
Starting Point: Corner of Rua Assis Bueno and Arnaldo Quintela
The bloco music is good and they have a water truck to cool you off. A member of the Sebastiana league, Barbas ("Beards") has some of the best Carnival in Rio's Zona Sul.
- 3 p.m. - Aconteceu, Santa Teresa
Starting Point: Largo das Neves
Less crowded than Céu na Terra in the morning, the Aconteceu ("It Happened") parade is ideal for the tourist staying in Santa Teresa. You can wear a costume or come as you are. The bloco will also parade on Carnival Monday, Feb.11 at 3 p.m. with the same starting point.
- 3 p.m. - Cinebloco
Starting Point: Bar do Mineiro, Rua Paschoal Carlos Magno 99
The movie aficionado Carnival is right here, with this theme brass band that blends the rhythms of Brazilian revelry and film soundtracks. Flick-themed costumes are very welcome.
- 3 p.m. - Banda da Bolívar, Copacabana
Starting Point: Rua Bolívar
Another bloco that runs like clockwork every Carnival from Saturday to Fat Tuesday - but parading a little earlier this year - popular Banda da Bolívar goes down Rua Aires Saldanha, Rua Almirante Gonçalves and Avenida Atlântica back to Rua Bolívar.
- 4 p.m. - Banda de Ipanema, Ipanema
Starting Point: Rua Gomes Carneiro
Wear an over-the-top costume to go out with Banda de Ipanema, one of the largest blocos in Rio de Janeiro Carnival and an LGBT favorite. The bloco has a full schedule which includes a great pre-Carnival parade and another on Fat Tuesday, Feb.21, at 5 p.m., starting at the same point.
- 4 p.m. - De Palhaço e Louco Todo Mundo Tem um Pouco, Laranjeiras
Starting Point: Rua General Glicério
Laranjeiras, a neighborhood full of history and colorful atmosphere, has great Carnival and one of its best blocos is this one, named after a popular saying in Portuguese (meaning everyone has a little bit of a clown or a lunatic in them). Find more Carnival in Laranjeiras
- 4 p.m. - Carioca da Gema, Lapa
Starting Point: Carioca da Gema, Rua do Lavradio 168
Carioca da Gema, the famous bar with live music in Lapa, promotes this cool bloco featuring artists who perform there.
- 9 p.m. Os Siderais, Centro
Starting Point: Largo de São Franciso
Eclectic music in a fun parade through the streets of Centro.