Only 90,000 seats are available in the Sambadrome, yet over five million people celebrate carnival in Rio every year! So not attending the Samba Parades doesn’t really matter because most of the celebrations take place on the beaches and streets of Rio! All the fun and excitement of Rio Carnival takes place in the street parties known as blocos or bandas.
What’s a blocos?
What is a bloco? Blocos are the free public street parties that are occur during Rio Carnival which are organised by the neighbourhoods. There are over 500 blocos that occur during Rio Carnival throughout the entire city, one Rio blocos alone receives two million in attendance.
Streets, beaches and parks all the way from the beaches to the suburbs are full of people partying.
When are the Blocos? For the six days of Rio Carnival there is a blocos on somewhere in the city at every hour. Some of the most popular blocos will start about 8 am and run all day.
What should I expect?
Blocos at Rio Carnival take place over every inch of the city during the week-long carnival. People in fancy dress essentially spend six days dancing, singing, socialising, laughing, kissing and drinking insane amounts of alcohol. There is nothing in the world that comes close to the Rio Carnival street parties and the best part is that it is free for everyone to enjoy.
The blocos are usually led by moving vans or floats that have large sound systems or stages, attached to the back or top. They crawl slowly through the streets of Rio pumping out the samba music, followed by large crowds of thousands and sometimes millions of people who dance, kiss, and drink the day away.
Some feature live shows with musicians, singers and dancers performing. The Rio Samba Schools who haven’t qualified in the Sambadrome instead parade through the streets of Rio. Street vendors are everywhere weaving through the crowd selling alcohol, food and drinks.
Blocos by Neighbourhood
Blocos cover every inch of Rio. Here is a quick snap shot to help you determine which blocos may suit you.
- Centro: The city centre of Rio is home to the biggest, oldest and most popular The first blocos of Rio Carnival is called Cordão do Bola Preta which can attract crowds exceeding 2 million.
- Ipanema & Leblon: These two different neighbourhoods often merge together as one during carnival when the blocos spill over into each other. Blocos in Ipanema and Leblon are worth attending for their fun and friendly crowd. Banda de Ipanema is one of the most popular carnival blocos to attend which parades along Ipanema beach. Two others popular blocos are Simpatia é Quase Amor and Que Merda é Essa?!
- Copacabana & Leme: This is a touristy area where dozens of blocos are held every day. Blocos in these neighbourhoods will appeal to the under 30s crowd, who want to.
- Santa Teresa: This is quite a bohemian and artistic neighbourhood that hosts two very popular blocos. The first is called Carmelitas based on a nun who escaped a local convent to join in the carnival celebrations. The second is Ceu na Terra which hosts traditional carnival celebrations with large puppets re-enacting local stories.
- Aterro do Flamengo: Blocos here are held in a park on the grass so they feel more like a music festival. One of the most famous blocos is Sargento pimento which is a blocos dedicated to playing Beatles music.
- Jardim Botânico: Rio’s Botanical Gardens hosts much smaller yet still lively Blocos’. A popular one is called Suvaco do Cristo, which translates as the Christ’s Armpit because it takes place just under the Corcovado mountain where the Christ the Redeemer statue.
- Lapa: This area hosts several wild blocos similar to the ones found in the Due to its smaller streets, the crowds are smaller and more manageable.
- Botafogo: This area is a favourite amongst the locals.
What Are the Best Blocos?
Where to find the best Rio Carnival Blocos? Finding a Rio Carnival Street Party is easy. Some 600 blocos occur all over Rio even in the favelas. Blocos come in all different shapes and sizes, some blocos are attended by a few hundred, while others draw crowds of millions.
If you’re asking yourself which is the best Rio Carnival Street Party to attend? The best way to find out is to ask a carioca (a Rio local) on the day what is happening. But it is worth doing research prior to see which ones suit you. The Rio Carnival programme 2020 for the blocos is released one month before carnival begins.
If you’re wondering what are the best blocos Rio Carnival 2020, here are our suggestions on the some of the best Rio Carnival street parties.
Cordão do Bola Preta – Centro
This is Rio Carnivals biggest and most popular bloco! It is attended by a staggering 2.5 million people! Everyone comes out to celebrate this bloco, doesn’t matter your age. It is known is English as the Black Ball, or the Polka Dot Bloco. This bloco transcends time as it recently celebrated its 100-year anniversary.
This is the first official blocos of Rio Carnival and is traditionally held on the Saturday of Rio Carnival. When attending this bloco you should wear an outfit that has black polka dots on a white background, to match the blocos signature uniform. The Polka Dot Bloco is one crazy party full of people, energy and passion so avoid this blocos if you don’t like big crowds.
Banda de Ipanema – Ipanema Beach
Banda de Ipanema is one of Rio’s most popular blocos, as well as one of its most iconic blocos. It parades along the famous Ipanema beach at sunset. Its also one of Rio’s oldest blocos and has been running since the sixties. Everyone is welcome at this blocos from families to drag queens.
It is famous for the extravagant costumes worn by the revellers, so you will be expected to attend dressed in your brightest and craziest colours. Because you are right on Ipanema beach it’s the perfect location to have a quick swim to cool down from the crowds.
Carmelitas – Santa Teresa
Carmelitas winds through the narrow streets of the bohemian neighbourhood of Santa Teresa. This is a very popular blocos and is packed with large crowds and colourful floats. Carmelitas was inspired by a local legend about a nun who escaped a local convent during Rio Carnival to join the carnival celebrations. Revellers dress up as nuns to honour this local urban legend.
Sargento Pimenta – Aterro do Flamengo (Flamengo Park)
This Blocos is for you Beatles fans. The blocos name in English translates to Sergeant Pepper, which of course if you are a fan of the band you will know is the name of one of their most famous albums! This blocos only plays Beatles records but with a Brazilian influence. The main stage is in Flamengo Park, and it is advised you arrive early to get a good spot near the stage.
Que Merda é Essa?! – Ipanema/Leblon
The essence of blocos are all about being free spirited and having fun. Many blocos’ have names that are jokes, and in English this blocos translates as “What the sh*t is this?”, which means “Que Merda é Essa?” in Portuguese.
It is rumoured that this blocos started after a group of drunken carnival revellers walked in the opposite direction of the parade, and onlookers began to shout this saying to them. The name has stuck, and it is reputed to be one of the best blocos in Rio.
Afroreggae – The Centro
If you’re a Bob Marley fan, then this is the blocos for you. This blocos is dedicated to reggae music and the atmosphere is chill. The percussion instruments dominate this blocos bringing a high energy to the party. It’s one of the more famous street parties held in Rio’s Centro and is attended by tens of thousands.
Suvaco do Cristo – Jardim Botânico (Botanical Gardens)
Suvaco do Cristo literally means “Christ’s Armpit” because it takes place directly under the armpit of the Christ the Redeemer statue. It starts under the armpit and then parades through the beautiful Botanical Gardens of Rio.
While it’s becoming more popular every year, it is one of the more low-key blocos that are away from the large crowds. It attracts quite a bohemian crowd and has a very fun yet relaxed atmosphere.
Monobloco – Cinelândia
Monobloco is a blocos that is popular for young people. Monobloco is one of the main carnivals blocos and often is attended by millions of party-goers. It’s becoming more popular every year that the blocos had to relocate to accommodate its growing audience.
This blocos is led by famous percussionist Pedro Luis e a Parede. The music stays true to its roots and plays authentic Samba music.
Simpatia é Quase Amor – Ipanema/ Leblon
Simpatia é Quase Amor attracts a young and flirty crowd in the 18-30 age group. It rumoured to be a good place to meet people in Rio. It parades down Ipanema beach and arrives in Leblon. Its signature colours are yellow, and purple inspired by an old Brazilian remedy to prevent hangovers.
While it doesn’t attract huge crowds, it is still a popular blocos worth attending if you are in that younger age bracket, although everyone is welcome to join.
Bangalafumenga – Jardim Botânico (Botanical Gardens)
This blocos which is also known as “Banga.” This is a bloco that was so successful and popular from playing lots of funk, pop, and rock songs, that the core members organising the bloco created a band of the same name – Bangalafumenga. They gig all year round in Rio but remain loyal to the blocos and feature in the street parties every year.
Cordão do Boitatá – Centro
This blocos draws heavily from Brazilian folk traditions. It is a family friendly bloco that features parades and is a fun event for both adults and children. It parades through the Centro Historico area and the majority or revellers wear costumes.
Céu na Terra – Santa Teresa
This bloco literally means heaven on earth and parades up the beautiful cobblestone streets of Santa Teresa. There is a reason it is called heaven on earth, because you go for the party, but stay for the views.
It attracts a family friend crowd and puts on quite traditional carnival celebrations with giant puppets, stilts, masks, ribbons and lots of costumed participants. It is one of the most traditional blocos in Santa Teresa.
Bloco Areia – Leblon
While this is one of the smaller blocos, it still attracts crowds of around twenty thousand. This blocos starts early in the morning and attracts a young crowd of party goers, who are either still partying from the night before, or who have gotten up early to have a full day of partying.
Where to stay for Rio Carnival?
If you’re wondering where to sleep during carnival in Rio, you have plenty of options. There are hotels, hostels, or apartments to rent for all budgets. The best place to stay is close to the blocos. There is no point staying around the Sambadrome because it’s not a great neighbourhood for tourists.
The best place to stay in Rio during carnival is in Rio’s Zona Sul which includes the suburbs of Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon & the Centro, the most popular events happen in this vicinity. Staying here means your close to the action and close to Rio’s best beaches and shopping. Santa Teresa is also a good option it’s a bohemian neighbourhood that hosts some of the best blocos.
Check out some accommodation deals here.
Take a tour for Rio Carnival!
Leave the guidebook at home and experience carnival under safe and knowledgeable guidance. There are loads of Rio Carnival Tour itineraies you can check out on Tour Radar. Whether you want to samba in the parade, join a conga line with locals, or witness the parades, there is something for everyone.
Carnival in Rio is a crazy, hectic and chaotic experience, which is all part of the fun but if you want to have a hassle-free vacation then why not join a tour! Also carnival is better to experience with people so check out some awesome Rio Carnival Tours here. Or even check out Viator which has hundreds of carnival tours and activities!
One more thing
Be aware of pickpockets! Especially during carnival when there are big crowds and it is easier to get your stuff stolen. So be aware of your valuables at all times or even leave them back at your hotel and only bring some cash with you. Or check out Amazon and invest in one of these travel safety accessories, like a fanny pack hidden under your clothing to store your essentials in. If you have to take your phone out with you, don’t have it on show for long.