Events, Festivals and Exhibitions

Rio Carnival (Rio Carnaval) Brazil 2024

9 February - 17 February

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The Rio Carnival (Rio Carnaval) is the biggest and greatest celebration on Earth. While locals know where to go and what to do. However, as it’s a big Latin American city, the rules are different for them than for visitors. Read on to discover all about the biggest carnival in Brazil.

Why Do We Celebrate Rio Carnival?

The Carnival celebrations here are a mix of Portuguese and African traditions. It marked the last time to eat freely before entering the 40 days of Lent. Carne Vale means ‘farewell to meat’ in Latin. Nowadays, the party focuses on the parades of the samba schools at the Sambadrome, particularly on the Sunday and Monday of the Carnival. They bring about 30,000 participants and there are about 90,000 seats to see the show, which starts at 10 pm and can go until dawn. It is electrifying, but if the energy ebbs you can still slip away.

Rio Carnival 2024

The Brazilian Carnival will be from 9 to 17 February with the Champions Parade is scheduled for 17 February, 2024.

Rio Carnival
One of the many Rio Carnival dancers, Deposit Photos

Rio Carnival Costumes and Rio Carnival Parade

The Rio Carnival floats move down the 700 metre runway, surrounded by the precise choreography of their followers, who show absolute dedication. Success here can bring fame or, conversely, demotion to a lower league of samba schools; that keeps everyone focused.

The Carnival Balls are another element that should not be missed and were originally inspired by the French Masquerades. Costumes are usually not compulsory, but add to the fun and you may feel out of place without one. Each one has its own theme. While there you can save all these great memories with an audio call recorder.

For an alternative carnival in South-America, head to neighbouring Colombia for its Barranquilla Carnival, the world’s second biggest fiesta.

The Magic Ball in the Copacabana Palace Hotel is the most exclusive, though others have prices that are much more reasonable. Usually you can buy an ordinary ticket that gets you in, or a VIP that comes with drinks, food and perhaps a table. Shop around and choose the Ball that fits you. There are the Beer Ball and the Gay Scala Ball (with its pink carpet), for example.

The Sambodrome

This is the centre of the Rio Carnival where visitors can watch samba schools competing along the Marques de Sapucai avenue. Able to seat some 90,000 people it was conceived of by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer who designed the capital Brasilia. Forty judges decide which samba school is the best with the results announced on Ash Wednesday.

Rio Carnival
Parade of the samba school Academicos do Sossego, at the Marques de Sapucai Sambodromo, Deposit Photos

Do You Need Tickets for Rio Carnival 2024

Of course millions of locals never go to the Sambadrome and the Balls. The free way to celebrate this Brazil Carnival is to join in the street parties and street parades. It is not a time for cars or quiet nights. Streets are closed down and the revellers congregate to have fun.

Where Is the Best Place To Stay in Rio for Carnival?

Is Rio safe during carnival? We advice you stay either in Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon. Remember when you do go out to take enough money for the night, in a roll (no wallet) and stick it into underwear or interior pockets safely. Leave valuables behind. Only take your cell phone if you have somewhere safe to store it and expect to walk back from wherever you get to.

What Do You Wear to Rio Carnival?

Make sure you wear something light and comfortable. It gets hot and you will probably end up dancing the night away whether you wish to or not.

For more on what to do in Rio, read Rio de Janeiro New Years Eve.

Rio Carnival History

The Brazil festival dates back to the 1640s when huge feasts were organised in honour of Saturnalia and Bacchus by soldiers. This riotous and somewhat irreligious celebration was converted by the Roman Catholic Church to align with the period leading to Lent, as is the tradition for most carnivals around the world today.

In 1840, the first Rio masquerade took place, but the music had a distinctly European flavour with waltzes and polka, rather than what you might associate with the current Rio Carnival. Costumes were made of feathers, grass and bones.

Rio Carnival
Samba music played on drums, Deposit Photos

Eventually the carnival spread out to Rio’s neighbourhoods, with parades involving cordoes, or samba-led groups of people, accompanied by percussionists, drummers and other musicians.

These parades converted into the competitive blocos, or street parades, that characterise today’s Rio Carnival. Now the city is full of Rio Carnival dancers in their Rio Carnival costumes.

It is this which provides the carnival with its unique feel – a riotous drunken celebration by colonial soldiers, converted by the Church, provided with European finesse, before being taken over by the people and given an African beat.

What Dates are Carnival in Rio 2024?

The Rio Carnival 2024 will be from 9 to 17 February.

Can’t make this Brazil carnival, then try our round-up of the best carnivals around the world.

For more inspiration on what to do on your Brazil holidays, visit: Updated on 1 January 2024.


9 February
17 February


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Mike East

Mike East

Mike began his career in travel writing by writing his own guide on his holidays. He sent this manuscript off to a range of travel guide companies and got a range of rejection letters — all except one. Getting a contract to write for Roger Lascelles Publications on Trinidad and Tobago, and The Bahamas was how his career began. With this opportunity came other pieces for British magazines, The Sunday Telegraph and now Travel Begins at 40.

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