Although Carnival (Carnaval in Portuguese) is celebrated in towns and villages throughout Brazil and other Catholic countries, Rio de Janeiro has long been regarded as the Carnival Capital of the World. The Rio Carnaval is not only the biggest Carnival, it as also a benchmark against which every other carnival is compared and one of the most interesting artistic events on the Globe. Almost everyone has heard of the Rio Carnaval. Foreign visitors to it alone number around 500,000 every year.
Rio Carnival is a wild 4 day celebration, 40 days before Easter. It officially starts on Saturday and finishes on Fat Tuesday with the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday after which one is supposed to abstain from all bodily pleasures. Carnival with all its excesses, celebrated as a profane event, can be considered an act of farewell to the pleasures of the flesh. It usually happens in February, the hottest month in the Southern Hemisphere, when the Rio summer is at its peak. There are carnival celebrations in virtually every corner of Brazil, the best-known ones taking place in Recife together with the neighboring Olinda (in the North of Brazil) and Salvador. But the biggest and most famous carnival is undoubtedly the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. One of the greatest elements of the Rio Carnaval is that it not only provides entertainment for many people around the world but it also gives a chance to learn about the true culture of Brazil. Carnival is very important to the Brazilians, it sums up their culture. It is a euphoric event where people dance, sing, party and have tons of fun. There are many parties that take place before, during and after Carnival all night and all day. It allows someone's true heart to come out and have as much fun as possible. Rio Carnival is the result of months of preparation. People eagerly anticipate the start of each year's Rio Carnival. It begins with the crowning of the Fat King (King Momo), who is presented with a giant silver and gold key by the city's mayor.
Then it is Carnival all over the place, in the streets and squares, bars, clubs and all other venues, taking over the whole city of Rio and culminating in the Rio Carnival Parade also known as the Samba Parade. One of the most involved groups in Rio Carnival are the poorest neighborhoods, the so called favelas. The favelas are shantytowns or slums, in which houses are made of cardboard or other scraps, and they are often without water, electricity and sewage system. However, no matter how bad a situation the favelas´ residents are in, they join in the festivities and they actually "make" the Carnival in Rio. Carnival really means a lot to them, because for once during the year they get to go out and have as much fun as they can. And you will see, they can indeed. Residents of the favelas are often members of a local samba school and are deeply involved with the performance and costumes of their groups. Carnival and samba is their passion alongside football. They may try to organize it, glamorize it, televise it, even industrialize it but Rio Carnival is something that comes deep from the fun-loving soul of the Rio people. It does not depend on any authority or sponsor to happen. Carnival in the streets is a living proof of this passion. It's free, and everybody's welcome to participate.
Book your air-inclusive or hotel-only pakcage with us. You should really organize your accommodation for Rio Carnival well in advance. The best hotels, especially in South Rio (the Zona Sul) are booked up early, so it's a good idea to make a reservation at least 3 or 4 months in advance. The so-called Zona Sul (the South End i.e. South Rio) is by far the most pleasant place to stay in Rio. It is by the sea and is the most civilized part of the city. Copacabana and Ipanema together form a big stage offering a carnival happening at every corner. Leblon, being a bit more upscale is also an excellent location. Most hotels only offer a fixed-rate 5 night package during Carnival, against pre-payment, and these rates are significantly higher than at other times of the year. Rio-Carnival.net has pre-booked hundred of rooms at over 50 hotels, from 3 to 5 stars, beach front or just a couple blocks from the beach in order to guarantee our party goers the best price on the internet. Check our accommodation options.
Even though we suggest you to get a hotel room for the service and safety involved, many people in Rio rent their apartments or a room privately during Carnival as rates are so high at that time. You can search under temporary accommodation or through friends. The roots of Carnival trace back to the ancient Romans and Greeks who celebrated the rites of spring. Across Europe, including France, Spain and Portugal, people annually gave thanks by throwing parties, wearing masks and dancing in the streets. Such traditions were carried over to the New World. The Portuguese first brought the concept of "celebration or carnival" to Rio around 1850. The practice of holding balls and masquerade parties was imported by the city’s bourgeoisie from Paris. However, in Brazil, the traditions soon became different. Over time, they acquired unique elements deriving from African and Amerindian cultures. Groups of people would parade through the streets playing music and dancing. It was usual that during Carnival aristocrats would dress up as commoners, men would cross-dress as women and the poor dress up as princes and princesses - social roles and class differences were expected to be forgotten once a year but only for the duration of the festival.
Brazilians used to riot the Carnival until it was accepted by the government as an expression of culture. The black slaves became actively involved in the celebrations. They were able to be free for three days. Nowadays the slums' black communities are still the most involved groups in all the carnival preparations and they are the ones for whom Rio Carnival means the most. By the end of the 18 century the festivities were enriched by competitions. People would not just dress up in costumes but also perform a parade accompanied by an orchestra of strings, drums and other instruments. These ever more organized competitions became the main attractions of the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Until the beginning of the 20th century, street carnival in Rio was musically a very euro centric affair - Polkas, Waltzes, Mazurkas and 'Scottish'. Meanwhile, the emergent working class (made up mainly of Afro Brazilians, along with some gypsies, Russian Jews, Poles etc.) developed their own music and rhythm. These people were mostly based in the central part of Rio, on a land that the rich did not want - on the hills and swamps behind the dockyards - an area which came to be known as 'Little Africa' now recognized as the cradle of samba.
The parades were halted during World War II and started again in 1947. By then the main competition took place downtown on Avenida Rio Branco. Carnival has gone a long way since it was brought to Rio, having become one of the biggest events in the World. One of the most important recent developments was that the biggest parade the Samba Parade moved from the streets downtown to the purpose-built Sambodromo.