In addition to the Samba Parade, and all the fun in the Streets, Rio offers a selection of Carnival balls you really should not miss. You won't have to spend a fortune to have a great time. Tickets to most balls are affordable. If you are coming with a group you may reserve a table, or even a box.
A true Carnival Ball features live music. The traditional soundtrack are marchinhas, sambas, frevos and other Brazilian songs. Usually there is one or more percussion band - from a Bloco or a Samba School. And maybe a guest vocalist or group.
This is a well-tried formula that works. The Carnaval Ball scene is always changing, yet these are the basic elements. Hotel Copacabana Palace throws the most traditional Carnaval Ball in town. It always happens on Carnaval Saturday, and guests wear luxury costumes, masks or a tuxedo. Gala Gay at Scala Rio on Tuesday is another staple.
Hand-picked Carnaval Balls
To save you from the guesswork we select and publish events every day, including the best Carnaval Balls. Check the newsfeed at the bottom of this page. If you want to plan ahead, our Carnaval Party Planner features the best events before, during and after Carnaval. It has already featured on the print edition of the Lonely Planet guide to Rio!
The best contemporary Carnaval balls are powered by the most popular Blocos. Street Carnaval in Rio grew to gigantic proportions. and there are events with over on million revelers. Monobloco, Bloco da Preta and many others have special editions at clubs.
The old circuit including an official gala ball where the mayor hands the key of the city to King Momo no longer is. Yet some of the venues where legendary Carnaval balls happened are still around. Guilherme Araujo would be proud to know that Morro da Urca is home to balls.
The Jockey Club, Circo Voador, Fundição Progresso, and other large clubs feature different parties every night. A star DJ from NYC or Berlin could easily be followed by a costume party with glitter, live bandas, and Cariocas having a wonderful time playing host to the thousands of visitors.
Since Baile dos Enxutos, Gay Carnaval Balls are a tradition in Rio. Before the LGBTQ term was coined, people cross-dressed - and they still do. Baile Scala Gay remains a reference. People come from all parts of Brazil to dress up and shine. TV channels sometimes even send reporters to interview at the door.
There is a discreet side door, if you are that kind of a person. And there are other great costume balls where nobody will care about your orientation. We publish a LGBTQ Party Planner where you can find all the suggestions, or check the newsfeed at the bottom of this page, updated daily.
Carnaval Balls have a long tradition in Rio
The first big Carnaval Ball happened in 1846, promoted by the Italian wife of a hotel owner. Clara Delmastro missed the glamour of the Venetian Balls. Over 1,000 people showed up at the party at Teatro São Januário!
And then the Copacabana Palace happened. The landmark hotel founded in 1924 brought glamour and international attention to Rio - this is where Fred first met Ginger! Hollywood mixed with local aristocrats. Jorginho Guinle hosted fabulous Carnaval Balls until 1973! Today the tradition is kept by the group that owns the hotel and VIP guests include singers, socialites, and celebrities.
Another ball that became an institution was the Official City Gala Ball at the Municipal Theater. The first edition in 1932 had 4,000 patrons including President Getúlio Vargas. The balls went on until 1975 when experts concluded that all the thumping was literally damaging the structures of the historical palace.
In the 70's and 80's balls spread to venues like Clube Sírio e Libanês, Iate Clube, Monte Líbano and Canecão. Guilherme Araújo promoted luxury balls at the Sugarloaf. Ricardo Amaral launched the feijoada-chic with special T-shirts.
Carnival Ball Etiquette
Tickets are for sale at the box office of clubs and venues where balls happen, all you have to do is enter the line. If you prefer to plan everything ahead, some balls are good bets (see bottom of this page). Call for box office hours, and purchase your ticket a couple of days earlier if it makes you feel safer.
Some balls also sell tickets online with a small service fee. Costumes are not mandatory, with the exception of few balls. Putting on something special will help you get in the right mood, though. If you are traveling with a group, coordinated costumes are a lot of fun. At least wear a mask?
Bonus Video - Grande Baile Gay with As Frenéticas!
Rio Carnaval Balls 2015
Previous Balls - Carnaval 2015
Events in Rio de Janeiro tonight