🇧🇷 Rio de Janeiro Carnival

Carnival is celebrated all around the world but without a doubt Rio de Janeiro is the greatest of them all! This article is filled with lots of useful information, advice, tips and more to help you have the best time ever at Rio Carnival!

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    When is Rio Carnival 2023?

    When is carnival in Brazil? One thing that holds true about carnival is that it is always unpredictable! Just like Easter the date is not fixed and changes every year. Carnival in Brazil will always officially start on the Friday prior to Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. And it will always finish on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.

    When is Rio Carnival 2023? The 2023 Rio Carnival will take place from 17 February to 25 February, 2023. The 2023 Rio Carnival Parades will take place on Sunday February 19 and Monday February 20, 2023.

    What time is carnival? Carnival in Rio is 24/7! Blocos are always occurring somewhere in Rio during carnival.  The Samba Parades at the Sambadrome start around 10 or 11 and end at 6 or 7 in the morning.

    Carnivaland recommends tours, events and accommodation based on our extensive experience and knowledge of them. We may earn affiliate commission from affiliate links in this article. Read more about our policy. 

    The Biggest Party on Earth!

    Rio de Janeiro Carnival is the mother, the mecca, the king of all carnivals. Every year prior to the start of Lent, Rio de Janeiro transforms into the biggest party on the planet, a party that is attended by five million people from all around the world. What is Carnival? If you really want to know what carnival is, then you must head to Carnival in Rio to find out for yourself.

    How is Carnival Celebrated in Rio?

    rio janeiro carnival

    While some people have a misconception that Rio is all about non-stop parties and sexy Brazilian women in revealing costumes, dancing to tribal beats, that’s not the case. Rio Carnival in fact, it is all about music and dance, specifically samba. The highlight of Rio Carnival is the world-renowned Samba Parade’s hosted in the Sambadrome.

    Carnival is an exhilarating time to be in Rio, all the businesses unrelated to carnival shut down and the Brazilians completely embrace the carnival spirit. From the beaches of Copacabana stretching all the way out to Rio’s suburbs, millions of people join street parties across the city. Rio Carnival is famous for being the biggest party on Earth.

    Top things to do at Rio Carnival

    Rio Carnival is both a public and private carnival celebration. During the day you can attend free street parties. But you must also see the Rio Carnival Samba Parades which are an essential Rio Carnival Experience. There are also some masquerade balls and parties that take place which are extremely glamorous and fun.

    Whether you want to watch the famous samba parades, or party in the blocos there is something for everyone:

    Rio Carnival Samba Parade Ticket Packages

    Fun Events

    Top Sightseeing Tours

    Everyone Joins in the Party!

    Carnival in Rio is a time when all colors of the rainbow unite together. It doesn’t matter your age, race or background, there is something for everyone. Brazil is a very multi-cultural society and the Cariocas (Rio locals) are famous for their friendliness and warmth.

    Entire families celebrate carnival together, from the kids to the grandparents. With several blocos thrown just for families! No one is excluded from attending a Rio Carnival Party!  There is even a Children’s Parade at the Sambadrome.

    Rio Carnival is also a very LGBT friendly carnival. There are plenty of carnival events solely for the LGBT community including a gay blocos that attracts about 50,000 and a gay ball at the Scala Nightclub.

    King Momo and The Carnival Queen

    rio janeiro carnival

    An amusing Rio Carnival tradition is the crowning of the King Momo. Rio Carnival begins each year when the mayor of Rio crowns a carnival king, known as King Momo. When King Momo gives the signal, Rio Carnival kicks off and carnival fever spreads over the whole city of Rio.

    In Greek mythology Momo is the god of mockery. Carnival legend has it that Momo was expelled from Olympus and decided to settle in Rio where he is seen as representing joy and posterity.

    Every year a jolly fat man is selected to be King Momo. There is also a Rio Carnival Queen but unlike the selection for King Momo, the Carnival Queen is chosen through a series of beauty and dance pageants.

    Samba

    Samba music is the beating heart and soul of carnival in Rio and has been ever since it first appeared in the 1920s. Samba music is famous for its rhythmic beats and catchy rhythms. Samba is central to all the traditions seen during Rio Carnival, it is a core part of Brazil’s cultural identity.

    Samba infiltrates all parts of Brazilian society, from the richest neighborhoods in Rio to the poorest favelas, Samba brings Brazilians together. Your economic class doesn’t matter because everyone is bonded over their love of Samba.

    It’s a contagious style of music that makes it impossible for the listener to not dance along. Samba music and dance evolved from African slaves that brought their music, dance and rhythmic drumbeats from Africa.

    Samba Parades

    rio janeiro carnival

    The Rio Samba parades also known as the desfiles are the absolute highlight of the Rio Carnival and known as the Greatest Show on Earth! Rio Carnival goes big on everything! Except maybe the skimpy Rio Carnival Costumes worn by the Brazilian women, and nothing highlights this more than the Rio Carnival Samba Parades.

    The Rio Carnival Parades are a result of a years’ worth of hard work, dedication and passion. They feature giant 20m floats, dazzling costumes and 60,000 performers. Each Samba School sings and dances to a packed stadium of 90,000 screaming spectators. All whilst under the intense scrutiny of the judges, with the goal of being crowned the Best Rio Samba School.

    Read our guide to the Rio Carnival Samba Parades.

    When is the 2023 Rio Samba Parade’s?

    The 2023 Rio Carnival Samba Parades will take place on Sunday February 19 and Monday February 20, 2023.

    What time is carnival? Carnival in Rio is 24/7! Blocos are always occurring somewhere in Rio during carnival.  The Samba Parades at the Sambadrome start around 10 or 11 and end at 6 or 7 in the morning.

    TIME

    SUNDAY

    February 19, 2023

    MONDAY

    February 20, 2023

    10:00 PM Império Serrano P. do Tuiuti
    11:15 PM Grande Rio Portela
    00:30 AM Mocidade Vila Isabel
    01:45 AM Unidos da Tijuca Imperatriz
    03:00 AM Salgueiro Beija-Flor
    04:15 AM Mangueira Viradouro

    Read our guide to the Rio Carnival Samba Parades.

    The Blocos – Rio Carnival Street Parties

    It doesn’t matter if you attend the Rio Carnival Parades at the Sambadrome or not, because most of the action takes place on the streets and beaches of Rio at the blocos. What are blocos? Blocos, also known as bandas, are free street parties organized by the neighborhoods during carnival.

    Over five million people attend the Rio Carnival Parties, and one Rio blocos alone attracts over two million people. Over 500 blocos are thrown during carnival in Rio. For six wild days people dressed up in costumes sing, dance, kiss and drink the days and nights away. It isn’t carnival without attending a Rio Carnival Party! 

    Read our Ultimate Guide to the Rio Carnival Blocos

    Rio’s Carnival Balls

    What are the Rio Carnival Balls? The Carnival Balls are deeply rooted in the history of carnival celebrations. In keeping with the European origins of carnival in Brazil, there are many extravagant private parties and balls in Rio during carnival. These balls add an air of exclusivity to Rio Carnival. Your Rio Carnival experience is not complete without attending a carnival ball.

    The Carnival Balls are themed and have a fancy-dress requirement. The Rio Balls can be described as glitzy, entertaining and over the top affairs. The most famous balls are the Magic Ball at the Copacabana and the Scala Balls held each night at the famous Scala Nightclub.

    Read our Guide to the Rio Carnival Balls

    What to wear for Rio Carnival?

    rio de janeiro carnival

    Wondering about your Rio Carnival Costumes? We highly recommend that you get into the carnival spirit and dress up in some awesome Rio Carnival Costumes! The rule is that you can wear as much or little as you like, there are absolutely no guidelines! The key is to just make some sort of effort.

    When you think of Rio Carnival, most people just think of the Rio Carnival Costumes that are worn at the Rio Carnival Parades! But colorful, sexy costumes with the giant feathers are just for the Rio Carnival Dancers in the Samba Parades, you do not need to wear one to the street parties or the watch the parade!

    When it comes to the blocos, the locals take Rio Carnival Costumes very seriously and it’s a time when everyone indulges in their fantasies. Most locals spend months planning their carnival costumes. And they may dress up as anything from animals to superheros, Disney characters, pirates, police, fairies, vampires, celebrities and more.

    If you don’t want to wear a full-blown Rio Carnival Costume then just select a cool Rio Carnival Outfit, most people will just wear some bright or sparkly colors, or some face paint, glitter or just bring along some cool accessory! Many people will have colorful Rio Carnival Makeup.

    Just remember it is summer and the temperatures can reach above forty degrees so make sure that your Rio Carnival Outfits are not too hot. Also, you will also be on your feet all day so no high heels, just wear some comfortable shoes with your Rio Carnival Outfit.

    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.

    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 happening in this vicinity. Staying here means you are close to the action and close to Rio’s best beaches and shopping.  Zona Sur is where most of the popular blocos are held. It is also where the beautiful beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon are.

    Check out some accommodation options in Zona Sur.

    Flamengo, Botafogo, Lapa and Santa Teresa are also popular areas for tourists during carnival. These areas see plenty of blocos occurring and near the Lapa Arches is where tons of people meet for drinks each day.

    There is no need to stay close to the Sambadrome during carnival because its neighborhood doesn’t have the best reputation at night. There is plenty of transport heading to the samba parades, so it’s recommended that you just make your ways to the parades.

    Anywhere near a train station is also recommended during carnival because most of the main streets of Rio are closed for blocos during carnival. The train goes 24/7 so it is easy to just pack in with all the other party goers.

    For those really trying to do carnival on a budget then you can check out a couch surfing website for friendly Brazilians willing to open up their home.

    Check out Booking.com for the best places to stay in Rio.

    Tickets to Rio Carnival

    rio janeiro carnival

    Do you need tickets for Rio Carnival? The blocos are free! However, if you want to go see the world-famous samba parades or attend a ball then yes you need tickets. Is Rio Carnival worth it? The answer is yes absolutely! Carnival in Rio may hurt your bank account but it’s something you must experience at least once in your life.

    How much are tickets for the Sambadrome? The Samba Parades have tickets for all budgets ranging from between $20 -$2000US, depending on what parade you see and how good your seats are.

    How much are tickets to the Rio Carnival balls? Tickets to the Rio Carnival Balls can cost anywhere from $100 to over US$1000 depending on which one you wish to attend.

    What to See and Do in Rio?

    rio janeiro carnival

    When is the best time to go to Rio? You’ll be happy to know that any time of year is the perfect time to visit Rio, irrespective of carnival. So, if you’re wondering what else can I do besides attend the carnival in Rio? The answer is lots!

    Rio is famous for its beautiful beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon and its tropical rainforests that cover the city. Make sure you visit some of its most famous sights like the statue of the Christ Redeemer or Sugarloaf Mountain. Rio’s beach culture is great. You can go to the beach to relax, have a swim or surf. Or you can even join the cariocas in a game of football or beach volleyball.

    Check out Viator’s Top Tours in Rio de Janeiro

    Fun Events

    Top Sightseeing Tours

    How to get to Rio?

    Rio has two international airports that have connecting flights to many major international cities and domestic flights across Brazil. Brazil also has a great bus network so if you’re on a budget, you might consider a bus journey instead of an expensive air-fare.

    Is Carnival in Rio Safe?

    rio janeiro carnival

    Is it safe to attend carnival in Rio? Many people want to know how safe Rio carnival is. While Rio doesn’t have the best reputation for being a safe city it is fairly safe. The most common crime affecting tourists are pickpockets and street muggings.

    So be aware of your valuables at all times or even leave them back at your hotel and only bring some cash with you.  If you have to take your phone out with you, don’t have it on show for long and keep an eye out for teens on bikes who are trying to pinch phones.

    It is best to stay in the touristy areas and not wander through the favelas. A lot of Brazilians speak English so if you need help it won’t be too hard to find.

    What should I know about carnival in Rio? The best advice is to plan as much of your carnival in advance as you possibly can. That way you can get the best deals on accommodations and tickets. It is very important to check if you need a tourist visa as Brazil has strict visa requirements for several countries.

    Also, it is good to note that it is summer in Brazil and temperatures can reach at least 40 degrees. So, make sure you stay hydrated by drinking lots of water and protecting yourself from the sun. Remember carnival is a marathon not a sprint so don’t get too drunk too quick. Also, you can be arrested and fined for public urination so don’t pee in the streets.

    Find a good group of people to celebrate carnival because nothing will be more enjoyable than celebrating with like-minded people. Choose with blocos you want to attend and go all out with your Rio Carnival costumes. The best tip is to just let loose and go with the flow because you never know where your carnival experience might take you.

    Carnivaland recommends tours, events and accommodation based on our extensive experience and knowledge of them. We may earn affiliate commission from affiliate links in this article. Read more about our policy.

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