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Culture Lover’s Guide To Fun | Best Events At Rio Carnival 2014
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Culture Lover’s Guide To Fun | Best Events At Rio Carnival 2014

Picture of A. J. Samuels
Updated: 9 February 2017
Rio de Janeiro is known around the world for its unique Carnival, which takes place in February every year. This explosion of colour, dance, and music is an event that attracts millions of visitors to Brazil. From concerts to balls and parades, here is a selection the best events happening during 2014’s Rio Carnival.

Opening Ceremony at the Sambadrome

Friday 28 February

The entire summer is considered to be Carnival season in Rio de Janeiro, although the official festivities start on the Friday before Ash Wednesday. Thousands of people crowd the various sectors of the Sambadrome to take part in the ceremony that kicks off the celebrations. The highlight of the evening is the coronation of King Momo, who is embodied by a portly and jolly-looking man, and who is symbolically considered the king of Latin American carnivals. The mayor of Rio himself crowns the king and grants him the key to the city. Once crowned, King Momo gives the go-ahead for the festival to begin. The coronation is inevitably followed by the first samba parade of the season.

Sambódromo da Marquês de Sapucaí, Avenida Marquês de Sapucaí, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Baile Devassa

Friday 28 February

Attending one of Rio de Janeiro’s many balls is the best way to experience the glamorous spirit of the Carnival. Although wearing a colourful costume is not mandatory, for most of the balls it is definitely an unmissable experience. Over the years, some of the most famous venues have been deemed too commercial by the Cariocas, who now prefer some of the less mainstream balls such as the Baile Devassa. In the true spirit of the carnival, Baile Devassa starts after 11 p.m. and goes on right until the sunrise. Hosted on the grounds of the Sociedade Hìpica Brasileria, Baile Devassa is the way to go for those who want to spend the night dancing away to live bands, surrounded by glitter and glamour.

Sociedade Hìpica Brasileria, Avenida Borges de Medeiros, 2448, Lagoa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Banda de Ipanema Street Parade

Saturday 1 March

The ‘holy trinity’ of carnival events consists of balls, samba performances and street parades. While the first two are mostly ticketed events, everyone can join in the fun on the street parades. The street parade of Banda de Ipanema is one of the most exciting and engaging events of the entire carnival. The first time that this band started parading in the streets was in 1965, and in 2004 it was recognised as part of the city’s cultural heritage. The crowds start gathering around 4 p.m. at Praca General Osorio and then follow the band through the streets of Ipanema. There is no dress code, so everyone can join, from drag queens in outrageously colourful and elaborate costumes to the sunbathers of Ipanema beach still in their bathing suits.

Praça General Osório, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Luxury Ball at the Copacabana Palace Hotel

Saturday 1 March

The Luxury Costume Ball at the Copacabana Palace Hotel is nothing less than legendary. From Madonna to the Rolling Stones, and from Rita Hayworth to Marilyn Monroe, all the way to Princess Diana, the Copacabana Palace Hotel has hosted royalty in all its forms. The black-tie ball held during the carnival is not only one of the most glamorous events of the carnival but arguably of the entire year. This ball is the ideal choice for those who want to spend a fabulous night surrounded by a number of national and international VIPs, in the lavish setting of the Copacabana Palace Hotel.

Copacabana Palace Hotel, Avenida Atlântica 1702, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Samba Parades

Although the name might be deceiving, samba schools are actually not teaching institutions. A carioca samba school is a gathering of people from the same neighbourhood or favela who enjoy meeting on a weekly basis to dance and practice in the samba court or quadra. Samba schools provide a means of social inclusion and in many cases a good amount of jobs for all those involved in the year-long production of the carnival parades. A successful samba parade requires creativity, lavish costumes, elaborate floats and precision in the execution of the dance routine. As all these elements require hours of work by the participants, winning a spot in the special group becomes a matter of pride for all those involved. The parades are divided into Special, Access and Champions groups and performances are held on each of the five days of the carnival.

Sambódromo da Marquês de Sapucaí, Avenida Marquês de Sapucaí, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Special Group of The Samba Parade at the Sambadrome

Sunday 2 March, start at 9 p.m.

Televised all over the world, the Samba Parade is an event that should be on everyone’s bucket list. This samba marathon, lasting for nearly 11 hours, is both a dazzling show and a fierce competition. All the samba schools of Rio de Janeiro take part in this event and compete with each other for a spot in the highly coveted special group. Each samba school chooses a different theme for the parade and participates with thousands of dancers, floats and music bands. Special attention should be dedicated to admiring the wing or ala of the spinning baianas, the older members of the school, who spin around in their luxurious colonial-style costumes. Due to the amount of people participating in each school’s performance it might take up to 45 minutes for them to walk the entire length of the Sambadrome.

Sambódromo da Marquês de Sapucaí, Avenida Marquês de Sapucaí, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

A Night Out Under the Arches de Lapa

Lapa is one of the most interesting and lively neighbourhoods of Rio. Located in the centre of the city, this once bohemian neighbourhood, often referred to as Montmartre Carioca, is now Rio’s heart of nightlife and contemporary music. While always fun and entertaining, Lapa shines during the Carnival, and it is considered to be one the most ‘happening’ spots in town. With its multitude of bars, restaurants and pubs Lapa is the ideal place to have a drink, listen to live music or grab a bite to eat. It is also home to one of the most interesting bars in the city, Rio Scenarium, which made the list of The Guardian’s top ten bars of the world in 2006.

Arcos da Lapa, Travessa do Mosqueira, Centro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The Children’s Samba Parade at the Sambadrome

Tuesday 4 March, start at 9 p.m.

The Children’s Samba Parade is definitely the most family-friendly event of the entire Carnival. Visitors should not be fooled by the fact that the show is performed by children, because this parade can rival those of the ‘major leagues’. The children of Rio write the songs and, under adult supervision, make their own floats and costumes. Nearly 2,000 children participate in the carnival and during the year they attend special schools that provide them training in design, carpentry, sewing and other practical skills. The samba parade is a unique opportunity for the children of Rio’s favelas to have fun while learning useful skills for their futures.

Sambódromo da Marquês de Sapucaí, Avenida Marquês de Sapucaí, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Gay Gala at Rio Scala

Tuesday 4 March, start at 11 p.m.

The famous nightclub Rio Scala hosts balls on each of the five nights of the Carnival, but the most outrageous and fun of them all is definitely the Gay Gala. Rio de Janeiro is known to be a very gay-friendly city, and during the carnival the LGBT community is especially encouraged to express its colourful creativity and joie de vivre. The Gay Gala is not only a chance to admire the most extravagant and unconventional of costumes but also a chance to be admired. Wearing a costume on this night is a must, probably more so than for any other event of the carnival. This ball is an opportunity for all, gay and straight alike, to show off their creativity and uniqueness.

Rio Scala, Avenida Treze de Maio, 23, Centro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Rio Music Conference

19-21 February and 28 February-4 March

Rio de Janeiro has something is store even for those who feel that a five-day event full of parades, balls and samba just isn’t enough: the Rio Music Conference. This event, launched in 2009, quickly became the largest gathering of electronic and dance music of the southern hemisphere. Conferences, debates and workshops will be held from 19 until 21 February, but once the Carnival descends upon Rio, the focus will shift to clubbing and parties. From 28 February until 4 March the promenade of Marina da Gloria will be the venue of some of the most upbeat parties of the carnival, featuring world-renowned DJs and performers such as FatBoy Slim, Dimitri Vegas and Armin Van Buuren.

Avenida Infante Dom Henrique, Glória, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


By Oreste Giorgio Spinelli