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Rio Carnival (Rio Carnaval) Brazil 2023

February 17 - February 25

Rio Carnival is postponed

The Rio Carnival Brazil (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.

So, how does it work for us foreigners? Read on to discover all about the Rio Carnival in Brazil.

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. 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 2023

The Carnival will be from 17 to 25 February with the Champions Parade is scheduled for 25 February, 2023.

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.

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.

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

Rio Carnival for Free

Of course millions of locals never go to the Sambadrome and the Balls. The free way to celebrate 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.

Remember though, that if you do go out to these, 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.

When you’re out travelling at the carnival, try an audio call recorder app like iCall which records all your conversation so you will not miss a single beat.

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

Rio Carnival History

The Carnival 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 traditon 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.

Eventually 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.

When is Rio Carnival 2023?

The 2023 Rio Carnival will be from 17 to 25 February.

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

Accommodation in Rio de Janeiro

If you are looking for accommodation for the Rio Carnival then fill in the form below.

For more inspiration on what to do on your Brazil holidays, visit: Updated on 28 August 2022.


February 17
February 25
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