Banda de Ipanema (Ipanema)
Banda de Ipanema is one of Rio’s oldest and most popular running blocos. Starting at Rua Gomes Carneiro, it fills the connecting streets up until Praca General Osorio. The nearby beach is a welcome retreat when things get too hot and a quick dip in the sea to cool off can be divine on those sweltering summer days. This bloco is open to everyone with crowds consisting of families to flamboyantly dressed drag queens.
Carmelitas (Santa Teresa)
Santa Teresa is one of the most popular spots for blocos in Rio. Carmelitas starts at Rua Almirante Alexandrino and ambles through the winding streets of this bohemian neighbourhood. The bloco is based on the local legend of a Carmelite nun who escaped over the local convent’s walls to join in with the Carnival antics outside. This tale has inspired many party-goers to wear coloured veils at this bloco.
Cordão do Boitatá (Centro)
This family-friendly bloco starts at Rua do Mercado to Rua do Ouvidor and ends with a street party at Praça XV. It is a peaceful and calmer bloco than many others, which attracts families with children. Weaving through the cobbled streets of the historical city centre, this bloco is based on the mythological Brazilian fire snake, Boitatá, and costumes are highly encouraged.
Cordão do Bola Preta (Centro)
The biggest and oldest bloco in Rio is expected to attract 1 million attendees this year, yet in 2011 an estimated 2.3 million people gathered in the streets to join in with this legendary street party. Being the first official bloco to start carnival is the key to its appeal and most of the crowd will come in costumes of black polka dots on white, the signature look of this bloco. It starts at Largo da Candelária in Centro, before parading down Avenida Rio Branco until it arrives at Cinelândia Square.
Sargento Pimenta (Flamengo)
Whereas most blocos lean their music preferences towards traditional and classic samba hits, Sargento Pimenta‘s attraction is to mix The Beatles with samba and pop influences. The main stage is in Flamengo Park and the surrounding areas fill quickly with people who want to be close to the music. Arrive early to get a good spot near the music or simply enjoy from the outskirts if you arrive later – either way, it’s a fantastic bloco.
Que Merda é Essa?! (Ipanema/Leblon)
Legend has it that a group of drunk party-goers got confused and started to walk in the opposite direction to the parade. This prompted a group of sober onlookers to shout at them ‘Que merda é essa (what shit is this?), the parade is that way!’ Since this noteable day, the bloco has continued with this name and starts at Rua Garcia D’ávila and Rua Nascimento Silva before parading along Vieira Souto to the border of Ipanema and Leblon.
Simpatia é Quase Amor (Ipanema to Leblon)
This bloco attracts mostly a young crowd in the 18-30 range group, yet everyone and anyone is welcome. It starts at Praça General Osório and parades down next to Ipanema beach, until it arrives in Leblon. Despite its popularity, it doesn’t attract the huge numbers that the blocos in the city centre get, but it is arguably one of the most beautiful with the stunning beaches to one side and the rocky backdrop framing the party.
Suvaco do Cristo (Jardim Botânico)
Literally meaning Christ’s Armpit, the name derives from the location that is considered directly under the famous Christ the Redeemer. This increasingly popular party starts at Rua Jardim Botânico, before parading from through the Jardim Botânico (Botanical Garden). It is a low-key bloco that escapes the mass crowds yet attracts a tight group of bohemian party-goers that eventually stop in the square in Gavea for a post-bloco after-party.
Céu na Terra (Santa Teresa)
Céu na Terra means Heaven on Earth and is one of the most popular blocos in Santa Teresa, attracting a large yet friendly and fun crowd. It starts at Rua Dias de Barros, in front of Serginho Bar and continues through all the back streets of Santa Teresa. It is one of the most traditional blocos that tells its story through costumes, stilts and giant puppets.
The popularity of this bloco lies in the fact it plays various music genres; expect a mix of coco, ciranda, marcia, xote, samba-rock and funk, in addition to the classic samba tracks. It moves along Avenida Rio Branco and Avenida Presidente Vargas, before ending at Cinelândia square.