Carnival is Rio's main event. It happens at the peak of summer, when “Cariocas” are at their best. Festivities attract thousands of people from all corners of the world. Carnival is a 4-day celebration. It starts on Saturday, and ends on Fat Tuesday. Carnival Sunday is seven weeks before Easter Sunday. Dates change every year. In 2012 it will take place from February 18 through 21.

The Samba School Parade at Rio´s Sambodrome is something everybody has to experience at least once in life.

The parade takes place on Sunday and Monday, with seven “Samba Schools” each time. The schools are magnificent and sumptuous, each containing approximately four thousand participants.

The parade starts at 9 PM and goes on until sunlight the next day, around 6-7 AM. This samba marathon is also a fierce competition. Each year a school is downgraded from special to access group, and vice-versa.


Winners Parade

On the Saturday after carnival, the Samba Schools winners of the Special Group, from Sunday and Monday, parade in their entire splendor.

Those who have seen it before come back for more. For first timers the impact is unforgettable. The Parade of the Samba Schools in Rio is one of the greatest shows on earth. The parade is like an opera, in which scenery and fantasy float past the public, the story being told with the song, the symbols, the costumes and the floats, which year by year become more creative. The parade usually starts around 8pm, and goes on through the night, sometimes lasting until dawn, though the rising sun softens the effect and the show is more spectacular at night.

The Samba Schools in Rio have their own fan clubs, just like the soccer clubs, and the parade, apart from the entertainment and spectacle, is a competition between the schools. Various aspects are judged - the theme song, evolution, the drum band, dancers, harmony, dance-master and standard-bearer, among others. On the following Wednesday, the Carnival Champion is announced, a title disputed as fiercely as the Soccer Championships.

There are two unforgettable aspects of the samba parade. One is the march-past of the band, made up totally of drums and percussion instruments, around 300 of them. There is no one alive who would not feel the force of the primeval rhythm that goes right through you and sets your whole being vibrating. The other is the multiplicity of color and beauty of the participants, men and women, their sculptured bodies shining in the floodlights, and a contagious smile on their faces. It’s a ball!

Samba School rehearsal

In the evening, depart to watch and participate in a Samba School rehearsal.

Samba school rehearsals are a great pre carnival idea. They happen every weekend at the samba courts, know as quadras de samba. These venues are in distant areas that are tricky to get to. Go with a group in a package including local escort and round trip transportation. Once you are inside, it´s very safe.

It’s an opportunity to get together with the local Cariocas that go there to practice and learn the new song from their Samba School to the next Carnival, without costumes or floaters.


The Sambodrome is divided in sectors, and each sector has different kinds of seats.

Grandstands / Bleachers:

With most reasonably priced seats. The elevated position gives you a better idea of schools as a group. There aren't actual chairs to sit on - bleachers are not much more than big concrete steps.

Runway boxes:

They are numbered sets of six seats with a small coffee table. Frisas are at street level, offering a very close view to the parade. There are only four rows of frisas in each odd sector, so the number of seats is quite limited. The first row is usually the most expensive.


Carnival in Brazil through 2016
Rio de Janeiro

2012 - Feb 18 - 21
2013 - Feb  9 - 12
2014 - Mar  1 - 04
2015 - Feb 14 - 17
2016 - Feb 6 - 9

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