Carnaval 2016 happens from February 6 through 9, Saturday to Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras). Carnaval season opens with the first parade of Banda de Ipanema on January 23. It ends on Sunday, February 14, after the Champions' Parade and a huge street Carnaval celebration in historical Centro. That is correct - you have a whole month to plan your visit to Rio!
To save you from the overload of information, mostly in Portuguese, we have been offering our Carnaval Party Planner since 1996. As we are not trying to sell you anything other than our peculiar lifestyle, you are in good hands... or not. Rio is addictive.
We are assuming you are coming for the main event, during the peak of high season in Rio. We will also give you some tips and pre and post Carnaval ideas - and save. Arriving a few days ahead if you can makes a lot of sense. There's so much to do and see partywise that you will not have much time left to explore the city.
To experience Carnaval in all its glory there is a checklist of must-do's that you do not have to follow. Street festivities (bandas and blocos), the Samba Parade, and Carnaval Balls make the trilogy; The party circuit is an optional, yet a lot of people come to Rio only to dance to their favorite DJ's and enjoy the beach.
Your travel budget is also an important issue to address. Hotel rates are higher, and the city is as crowded as it gets. Luxury costume balls and tickets to the Sambodromo are expensivish, yet street carnaval is free and parties are affordable. Your call!
The Samba Parade at Sambˇdromo - Feb. 5-8
The greatest show on earth is not a hype. Carnaval in Rio lives up to your expectations, whatever they may be. The Samba Parade started in the streets and found a permanent home in 1984 at Ave. Visconde de Sapucaí at the Sambódromo.
It was renovated and expanded recently. Now the odd and even sectors mirror each other, according to the original plan of architect Oscar Niemeyer. There are more seats, the acoustics improved, and each year we are suprised with novelties at this fierce competition. The performers are everyday people, celebrating the joy of life.
Where you fit into this equation is your choice. You can join a Samba School by purchasing a costume and joining one of the wings. Each wing features people wearing the same or complementary costumes. Prices vary, most schools keep a website where you can shop around.
As a spectator you can watch the big leaguers on Sunday and Monday. On Friday and Saturday Group A samba schools are more afforable - both to watch and to join. And if you do not want to spend at all, rehearsals that happen on pre-Carnaval weekends are free of charge!
Carnaval 2015 - Special Group Samba Schools
Carnaval 2015 - Access Group A Samba Schools
To save you from the guesswork, we have picked out our favorite choices on each official Carnaval day and night. This list only includes events of the trilogy we mentioned - Samba Parade, Street Fesvitities and Carnaval Balls.
At the end of this page you will find a newsfeed from our Facebook page, where we post our party suggestions always one day ahead. For your convenience we include e-flyers where you can confirm your presence, check out who is also going, interact with other guests, and see if this is the scene for you! As there is a lot of everything, we are sure you will have a great time!
Pre-Carnaval Banda de Ipanema
This is a great way to save, as it happens two weeks ahead. The city is not as crowded, more comfort for you at the beach. Street festivities feature favorite neighborhood blocos. They are the most traditional ones, gathering residents and their friends. Other than Banda de Ipanema there are other favorites on Saturday and Sunday.
Regarding the Sambódromo, you can watch the rehearsal of Special Group Samba Schools! They are not wearing the costumes yet, it's backstage, free, and loads of fun! The party scene is fun as usual (newsfeed below). Hotel rates are lower!
Pre-Carnaval Simpatia é Quase Amor
Your second opportunity to enjoy pre-Carnaval in Rio is as attractive as the first one! This is as close to the main event as it gets, without paying higher hotel rates. There are free Street Carnaval festivities, including one of our favorite blocos. Simpatia é Quase Amor parades one Saturday ahead in Ipanema!
Rehearsals at the Sambódromo are over, yet you can visit Cidade do Samba, the workshop where they create all magic. And percussion bands of Samba Schools are often invited to play live at special parties. The city is still not so crowded. We suggest you arrive before the very busy weekend!
Carnaval Friday - Feb. 13
It is not even an official Carnaval day, and some people are still at work. But unofficial is perfectly fine. There are more Carnaval activities than you can handle and the party scene is fierce. Thank God it's Friday and you are in Rio. As this is the peak of high season arriving earlier makes sense. Hotel rates are higher only during Carnaval.
Sambódromo is already on full Carnaval mode, and this is the first night of the parade of Group A, the Access Group Samba Schools. They include many household names, and tickets are priced lower. You can even pay for a spot at a special camarote!
Carnaval Saturday - Feb. 14
This is the first official Carnaval day. Banda de Ipanema concentrates at Praça General Osório at 4 p.m. At night do not miss the legendary ball at the Copacabana Palace Hotel. Luxury costumes or black tie are mandatory. You will rub shoulders with a number of international and local VIP's, top models, the works.
Streets are taken over by Bandas and Blocos in all formats and sizes. Terreirão do Samba adjacent to Sambódromo features non-stop shows. Group A Samba Schools parade at Ave. Marques de Saucaí, trying to climb their way up (or back) to the special group. Prices of tickets - and costumes are lower!
Carnaval Sunday - Feb. 15
Today Banda Simpatia é Quase Amor takes over Ipanema Beach, with as many as 50 thousand revelers! It is the largest parade in this celebrated neighborhood, with mostly young people enjoying life. While at Banda de Ipanema the band is at street level, Simpatia has a float with the band and another with loudspeakers. Guaranteed fun!
This is your first chance to watch Special Group Samba Schools march at Rio de Janeiro's Sambodrome. The show starts at 9 p.m., and ends around 5-6 a.m. Do not buy overpriced tickets from online vendors. If you do at least check first the face values.
Carnaval Monday - Feb. 16
Monday is the second day of the competition. Six other samba schools take over the Sambodrome runway known as the Passarela do Samba. Catch up with your sleep first to enjoy this samba marathon! If you are game for new experiences, consider marching with a Samba School.
Some Cariocas march with as many as 3 or 4 on a single night! You do not have to go that far, but taking part in the show is such a unique experience, that you could at least consider the idea. If you are on a budget, watch the concentration outside the Sambodromo, go to the balls, or watch the shows at Terreirão do Samba.
Carnaval Tuesday - Feb.17
Mardi-Gras or Fat Tuesday is another day full of activities. In the afternoon Banda de Ipanema parades for the last time of the year. Bring your camera to capture the images of the hilarious drag queens that march in front of the band. At night you have a number of balls to choose from.
Tuesday is also the day of the Luxury Gay Costume Ball at Scala Rio, now in historical Centro. It is a fun, straight-friendly event, and the door is often broadcast live on TV! If you are shy, wear a mask - you may be picked out for an interview. The party scene is happening like there's no tomorrow!
Post Carnaval - Champions' Parade
The winner of the Samba Parade is crowned on Wednesday. It is worthwhile staying in town for a few more days. The Winners Parade is on the following Saturday. It features the six Special Group schools that made the best score, and the winner of the Group A. Tickets are priced half!
On Sunday do not miss Monobloco, one of the largest Blocos in Rio. It has already attracted as many as almost one million revelers. They are expecting a half million this year... They start in the morning and go on until around 3 p.m. Your post-Carnaval experience includes a bit of everything, and you save!
Our Facebook posts about Carnaval 2015