Updated on Feb.28, 2014
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 2014, over 400 blocos registered with the city administration.
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 2014 (March 1).
For complete listings of Rio de Janeiro street Carnival parades, check out the excellent 2014 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 dos Guimarães
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.
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. www.facebook.com/cordaodabolapreta
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, not-as-huge alternative to Cordão da Bola Preta.
10 a.m. Bloco da Favorita + Carrossel de Emoções, São Conrado
Starting Point: Av. Prefeito Mendes de Morais.
Funk music in street Carnival: a very festive combination which draws a beautiful crowd to one of Rio's most scenic beaches.
11 a.m. - Escangalha, Gávea/Jardim Botânico
Starting Point: Rua Major Rubens Vaz
One of the very cool choices at 11 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.
11 a.m. - Empolga às Nove, Copacabana
Starting Point: Posto 6 (Lifeguard Station 6), Avenida Atlântica
Without a doubt, one of the best blocos in Rio, brimming with youthful energy and moved by a primal band.
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.
4 p.m. - Barbas, Botafogo
Starting Point: Rua 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.
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).
4 p.m. - Exalta Rei, Centro
Starting Point: Rua da Imprensa
One of the newer Carnival blocos in Rio, Exalta Rei started in 2009. The king in its name is Brazilian pop music idol Roberto Carlos, whose songs the excellent band plays with a Carnival vibe. www.facebook.com/banda.exalta.rei
5 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, March 4, at 5 p.m., starting at the same point.
5 p.m. - Carioca da Gema, Lapa
Starting Point: Rua dos Arcos
Carioca da Gema, the famous bar with live music in Lapa, promotes this cool bloco featuring artists who perform there.
6 p.m. - Banda da Bolívar, Copacabana
Starting Point: Rua Bolívar
Another bloco that runs like clockwork every Carnival from Saturday to Fat Tuesday, popular Banda da Bolívar goes down Rua Aires Saldanha, Rua Almirante Gonçalves and Avenida Atlântica back to Rua Bolívar.
10 p.m. Os Siderais, Centro
Starting Point: Next to Centro Cultural Carioca
Eclectic music played by a wonderful brass band in a fun parade through the streets of Centro. www.facebook.com/Os.Siderais