Start: 17 February 2023
End: 25 February 2023


Rua Marquês de Sapucaí - Santo Cristo, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20220-007, Brazil

GPS: -22.911451141769, -43.196803380456

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World capital of the carnival, the city of Rio de Janeiro is the artistic reference for parades, balls, festivals, parties and street parades. Rio Carnival has not only African origins (dances and percussion such as the samba) but also European ones. Initially, this event is a Portuguese festival called the entrudo. It has its roots in the imperial festivals of antiquity (such as the Saturnalia, Lupercalia and Bacchanalia in the Roman Empire or the Kronia and Dionysia in ancient Greece). Carnival games (considered by many at the time to be crude) and large puppets enliven this popular festival in the main Brazilian urban centres. In the Christian calendar, these festivities precede the period of Lent (a 40-day fasting) with abundance. Its participants take advantage of this to eat and drink profusely until Ash Wednesday (corresponding to the first day of Lent for the faithful).

In the 19th century, it was at the Paris Carnival that the concepts of moving parades, costumes, masquerades and masked balls were imported from France by the Carioca bourgeoisie and then gradually adapted to the Rio carnival.

Carnival celebrations do not only take place in Rio de Janeiro but also in the vast majority of Brazilian cities. However Rio remains the epicentre of the country’s festivities because of the numerous samba schools that compete in a great carnival show.

More than 300 neighbourhood groups, clubs or schools parade through the streets of Rio de Janeiro (each group organizes its own carnival with balls and concerts). Numerous events (blocos and batucadas parades) precede the Rio carnival up to three weeks before the official date. The event itself is held during the five days preceding Ash Wednesday.

Every year, after months of preparation, the samba schools of Rio de Janeiro challenge each other for the title of Rio Carnival champion. Each of them chooses a particular theme to stand out from the others in the hope of winning the competition. They have to be imaginative, talented and creative (in the choice of music, dances, costumes, props, floats, fireworks, special effects…) to offer the most beautiful of shows. The best schools have the privilege of performing in the Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí (an open-air avenue lined with bleachers) while the others take to the streets of the city in a fiery atmosphere.

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  • The extravagant parade of sambas schools and the delirious processions of floats
  • The fantastic performances of the dancers (Passistas), singers (Puxadores) and drummers (Baterias)
  • The numerous street animations by the blocos and the music played by the bandas (orchestras)
  • The atmosphere of general jubilation
  • The balls held in the various clubs of the city
  • A character called Rei Momo is given the keys to the “Cidade Maravilhosa” (the wonderful city) by the mayor just before the festivities begin.
  • Rio Carnival parades are also an opportunity for various organizing groups to convey political messages or denounce injustices in the country.
  • A total of 40 judges are responsible for scoring the performances of the different samba schools in order to decide between them on the basis of ten criteria (4 different judges per criterion). A prize and money are given to the school that is designated the carnival champion (this money is generally used to prepare the next edition of the carnival).
  • Before Carnival took its current form, the most practiced dances were the waltz and the polka. The samba, a music and dance created by descendants of black slaves, was only introduced in 1917 with the success it is known for.
  • The streets where the carnival is held are generally closed to cars and motorized traffic.
  • Wearing a costume or disguise is not mandatory but highly recommended to blend in with the crowd.
  • Samba schools give the opportunity to parade with them or organize dance classes upon reservation.
  • Paqueta Island, located in Guanabara Bay, offers an atypical setting for celebrating the carnival off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. It is accessible by ferry from the Praça XV pier (allow 1 hour for the crossing).
  • The street demonstrations (blocos) are free and open to the public. Some vendors sell food and sweets during the parades, including the famous brigadeiros (chocolate dessert that look like truffles).
  • Access to the Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí is subject to a fee (prices vary according to the location of the seats and the programme of shows).

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