Updated on Feb.8, 2013
One of the most dazzling celebrations on earth, Rio de Janeiro Carnival is a variegated festival made up of samba school parades on the Sambódromo, hundreds of street Carnival parades and parties with blocos, and Carnival balls.
Carnival season extends beyond the Saturday-to-Fat-Tuesday limits. Long before the holiday, samba schools start open rehearsals at their quadras, or headquarters, and, as Carnival approaches, launch their free technical rehearsals at Sambódromo. Street Carnival has a pre- and a post-Carnival season, and the tourist who arrives in Rio a couple of weeks before the festival or the weekend after it will find plenty of opportunities to parade (or "go out", in local lingo) with some of the city's best Carnival associations.
The growth of international tourism in Rio during Carnival is indicated by new records such as the one in Carnival 2012, when, according to Jornal do Brasil, an unprecedented 37 cruise ships anchored at Píer Mauá bringing 86,000 passengers to the celebrations.
Carnival in Rio de Janeiro requires early planning: in July of the previous year, email the hotels or hostels you're considering for a stay and request the package rates, which usually consist of four or five nights.
Rio de Janeiro Carnival Parades on the Sambódromo
Most tourists associate Brazil Carnival with the parades on the Sambódromo - an experience anyone interested in Brazil Carnival deserves to live at least once.
In 2013, there are going to be some changes in the Sambódromo parades. The changes won't affect Special Group parades dates.
- Special Group 2013
Rio de Janeiro's main parades take place on Carnival Sunday and Monday; the top six winners parade again the Saturday after Carnival in what is known as the Champions' Parade. Ticket sales to the main parades usually start about three months before Carnival and tickets must be purchased in Rio de Janeiro, so make plans to get help from a Carnival ticket service, a tour agent in your country or a representative in Brazil such as your hotel or a receptive tour operator.
In 2012, the grand winners of the Special Group were Unidos da Tijuca - see photos of their parade on the Riotur Flickr.
See photos of previous Special Group champions: Beija-Flor (2011), Unidos da Tijuca (2010) and Salgueiro (2009).
- New Access Group Parades
The new access group parades, which will take place on Friday, Feb.8, and Saturday, Feb.9, 2013 are the resulting association of the former access groups and as such, a blend of samba schools in two categories of luxury. The blend should make for more balanced parades and an interesting start of Carnival on the Sambódromo. More details are coming up on how tickets to each day will be purchased.
- Children's Parade
A year of learning and growing in creativity leads up to this fantastic parade, which used to be the first official Carnival event at Sambódromo and will now be held on Fat Tuesday.
- Samba School Rehearsal Parades
Read about Rio's main samba schools rehearsals on the Sambódromo, free and a top attraction in Rio de Janeiro pre-Carnival.
Carnival balls and galas go back a long way in the history of Rio de Janeiro Carnival.
- Bailes do Rio
A series of Carnival balls through Fat Tuesday, with Rio's official gala opening the city's festivities.
- Carnival Ball 2013 at the Copacabana Palace
The most glamorous Carnival party in town will take place on Carnival Saturday, Feb.9, 2013. As of this Feb.8, update there are still tickets available. For more information, call 55-21-2548-7070.
- Carnival 2013 at Scala
Some of the city's best-known Carnival parties take place at Scala. As of this Feb.8, 2013 update there are still tickets to tonight's party with Cordao da Bola Preta. Tickets to all the parties can be purchased at Scala (Avenida Treze de Maio 23, in front of Theatro Municipal, in Cinelândia). Individual tickets R$90 and up (cash).
Free Rio de Janeiro Street Carnival:
Every year, hundreds of blocos parade in the streets of Rio. Some are new associations; others have existed for decades. Each has its own story, atmosphere and loyal revelers who know what type of music and vibe they're going to find.
Street Carnival parades often change their parade places and schedule. The blocos featured in this guide will be updated as soon and as accurately as possible. You can keep up with the latest for all the blocos each Carnival on:
Here are top picks for Rio de Janeiro street Carnival
- Great Carnival Saturday Blocos 2013
- Great Carnival Sunday Blocos 2013
- Great Carnival Monday Blocos 2013
- Best of Fat Tuesday Blocos
- Best of Post-Carnival Blocos
Profiles of Great Rio de Janeiro Blocos:
Some of the city's best blocos, listed below, are members of the Sebastiana association - a great introduction to the Rio de Janeiro street Carnival. They also have some great parties, especially a costume ball.
- Bagunça Meu Coreto, Laranjeiras (Updated on Feb.7, 2013)
- Bangalafumenga, Aterro do Flamengo (Updated on Feb.7, 2013)
- Banda de Ipanema, Ipanema (Updated on Feb.7, 2013)
- Barbas, Botafogo (Updated on Feb.7, 2013)
- Bloco da Ansiedade, Laranjeiras (Pre-Carnival only; 2013 parade was on Feb.2)
- Bloco das Carmelitas, Santa Teresa (Updated on Feb.7, 2013)
- Bloco de Segunda, Botafogo (Updated on Feb.7, 2013)
- Bloco Virtual, Leme (Updated on Feb.7, 2013)
- Cordão do Boitatá, Centro
- Cordão da Bola Preta, Centro
- Escravos da Mauá, Zona Portuária, Centro (Pre-Carnival only; 2013 parade was on Feb.3)
- Frevo Prato Misterioso, Centro
- Gigantes da Lira, Laranjeiras (Pre-Carnival)
- Imprensa Que Eu Gamo, Laranjeiras (Pre-Carnival)
- Me Esquece, Leblon (Pre-Carnival)
- Meu Bem, Volto Já, Leme/Copacabana (Updated on Feb.7, 2013)
- Monobloco, Centro (Post-Carnival)
- Que Merda é Essa, Ipanema (Updated on Feb.7, 2013)
- Quizomba, Lapa (Post-Carnival; 2013 parade on Sat, Feb.16 at 9 a.m.)
- Simpatia é Quase Amor, Ipanema (Updated on Feb.7, 2013)
- Spanta Neném, Lagoa (Pre-Carnival)
- Suvaco do Cristo (Pre-Carnival)