Best places to party: Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro Brazil: it’s about the Sambódromo and Carnaval parade; about costumes and masquerade balls, voluptuous breasted women and quivering hips; about Samba music and movement; one of the greatest parties on earth where masses upon masses of people celebrate until they drop. The Rio de Janeiro carnival festivities have a history dating back to 1723, but today there are over two hundred samba schools, which form five leagues, that work year-round to create the most elaborately themed dances, the most outrageous costumes, the glitziest floats and even compose their own music and lyrics, all to compete for top positions in the Carnaval de Rio parade.
Carnaval de Rio parade
The main venue for Carnaval de Rio events is the Sambódromo – the massive stadium and parade avenue situated from Avenida Presidente Vargas all the way to Rua Frei Caneca, and including the Apotheosis Square. The parade avenue is 700 meters long, with spectator bleachers on either side; a vast runway for elaborate costumes and floats in the official Carnival parade. The Sambódromo can accommodate about 90,000 spectators in its grandstands, suits and boxes (tickets are required), but non-ticketed viewing is possible from behind the parade avenue bleachers.
The Rio Carnaval is one of the world’s largest party extravaganzas, celebrated each year just prior to lent. Dates change, but it usually falls in February or March. The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is officially four days (from Saturday to Tuesday), however the evening prior is when Rio’s mayor hands the city over to debauchery, revelry and mayhem. The ceremony involves placing the key to the city into the large chubby hands of King Momo, who rules during the festivities with a crown and a jovial smile. The key-exchange, and of course a massive party, marks the commencement of festivities, so in actuality the Rio Carnaval is five days, starting on Friday evening.
2013: February 8th – 12th
2014: February 28th – March 4th
2015: February 13th – 17th
2016: February 5th – 9th
2017: February 24th – 28th
2018: February 9th – 13th
2019: March 1st – 5th
2020: February 21st – 25th
Blocos Rio de Janeiro – street parties
The Sambódromo is not the only party venue in Rio during Carnaval. The Copacabana Palace is the next best place for extravagant samba balls for the elite (usually by invitation), so Cinelândia Square in central Rio, is where local partiers tend to flock. But it won’t matter where you are, the streets are alive with music and dancing, known as batucada, with over three hundred brass bands plus singers, dancers and millions of partiers joining the carousing. A street party is a “bloco” (headed by a samba dance school), and during carnival in Rio there can be eighty to a hundred blocos throughout the city, with as many as 5 million in attendance. The best blocos Rio de Janeiro offers start at various points, however many commence on Avenida Rio Branco near Praça Mauá in the center. Make a special note of bloco Cordão da Bola Preta since it’s one of the oldest in the city with one of the most impressive parades, performances and street parties.
Rio de Janeiro nightlife
Throughout the year, Rio de Janeiro continues to be one of the party capitals of the world, with live music clubs like Rio Scenarium on Rua do Lavradio in the Centro Antigo, and Casa da Matriz dance club, as well as a plethora of quaint music bars in the Lapa district. One of the most unusual contemporary and avant-garde clubs in Rio is Shh! Club Silêncio (in Dama de Ferro, Ipanema) where everyone wears headphones. Each headphone has three channels, and each channel has a different DJ, so dancing to the beat of your own drum takes on a literal meaning at this Rio de Janeiro nightlife venue. Shh!
Year-round street parties in Lapa & Baixo Gávea
No matter what time of year you visit the city of the Carioca (the local word used to describe the people of Rio de Janeiro), you’ll find the best nightlife isn’t necessarily in clubs, but at casual street parties. Music, dancing and vivacious chaos fill the streets, especially on Friday and Saturday in places like Lapa, starting at the stairway of Rua Joaquim Silva and along Avenida Mem de Sá, which is closed off from around 10pm until 5am to accommodate throngs of partiers. Also, the Gávea area, in the Zona Sul (meaning the South Zone) offers a variety of nightlife options including the bohemian Baixo Gávea district with a Sunday street party that runs from Praça Santos Dumont to Rua José Roberto Soares – although, due to it being a university area, partying tends to wrap up around midnight.