8 Places to Celebrate Carnaval in Brazil

Over 3 million revelers are expected to attend Carnaval in Brazil this year, and while the celebrations in Rio de Janeiro are the best known, there are many other cities in Brazil to visit that throw equally massive parties in equally gorgeous settings. If you're planning to attend the country's most exciting party from March 1 to 9 in 2019, you should know about these 8 places that will be hosting events during Carnaval this year.

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Celebrate in Salvador de Bahia

Where to celebrate Carnaval in Brazil: Carnaval in Salvado

Salvador, the capital of Bahia, has an estimated 2 million festival attendees during Carnaval and has been cited in the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest street party in the world. Bahia is considered the musical state of Brazil with a rich mixture of genres and rhythms like axe, pagode, and samba. People here sing and play Brazilian musical instruments like the berimbau, agogos, and atabaques, and the carnival is dominated by the “trio elétricos”—music-trucks with singers and dancers on top. 

Carnaval in Salvadore kicks off with an intricate masquerade ball called "Baile dos Mascarados" and an event where the mayor hands over the keys of the city to the designated "Carnaval King." This ceremony signifies that the city belongs to the revelers of Carnaval, after which the parades commence to celebrate the spirit of its people.

Visitors can get involved in local activities and celebrations by choosing a neighborhood block to join in the Carnaval parades. The only requirement to join a block is to buy a shirt to participate and follow the “trio elétricos” through the circuit around the city. If tourists prefer to take part as spectators of Carnaval, they can observe the parades by buying access to a “camarote” or “viewing box.” The viewing boxes are often accompanied by live music, food, and drinks as well as a great overhead view of people dancing down the streets. Another alternative is to join in the independent blocks of the city where there is no cost to participate in Carnaval.

The 2019 Carnival de Salvador starts on Friday, March 1 and continues until Tuesday, March 5, 2018.

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Party in Diamantina de Minas Gerais

Where to celebrate Carnaval in Brazil
Glauco Umbelino

Carnaval in Diamantina, a small colonial town in Minas Gerais, has the special distinction of taking place among narrow streets full of old mansions, remnants of the rich history of this 400-population town. Here the party seems to never end with five days of non-stop festivities, day and night. By day, the street blocks get people dancing down the cobblestones, and at night, the Batucada groups and Bat Cave direct the batucada. The celebration all takes place in the Old Market Square, with more than 15,000 joining the fun people daily.

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Learn Some History in Fortaleza

Where to celebrate Carnaval in Brazil
Louis Vasconcelos

In Fortaleza, the capital of the state of Ceará, the party has varied rhythms of music, away from the hegemony of samba and axe. What stands out the most are maracatu groups and dances at Iracema Beach and Avenue Domingos Olimpio, the most prominent locations of Fortaleza’s Carnaval. It is also here that visitors can witness participants dressed in blackface, a tradition in the city's maracatu cearense to enact Afro-Brazilian characters. However, the use of blackface in this tradition has recently received some backlash and has largely been discontinued.

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Get Competitive in São Paulo

Where to celebrate Carnaval in Brazil
Sergio Savarese: CC license

Similar to Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo has a competition between different samba schools during its Carnaval, which starts on the Friday and Saturday of Carnaval week, a day before Rio de Janeiro, at the Anhembi Sambadrome.

Anhembi Sambadrome is the largest outdoors event venue in São Paulo and was designed by the great Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. It is here that the top samba schools congregate to compete for the grand honor of winning the Carnaval championship title. Some of the well-known and top samba schools competing include Nenê de Vila Matilde, Gaviões da Fiel, Vai-Vai, Camisa Verde Branco, and Peruche.

Festival-goers can expect to see a lot of Afro-Brazil cultural influences and dances as part of the festivities as well as daily parades through the city streets.

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Olinda and Recife

Where to celebrate Carnaval in Brazil: Olinda and Recife Carnaval
Prefeitura de Olinda

Carnaval in Olinda and Recife is a unique experience. Recife has its own distinctive Carnaval symbol: the “Galo da Madrugada” (Rooster of Dawn), and millions of revelers follow this festive and folkloric doll down Forte das Cinco Pontas to the harbor during the traditional Saturday morning parade, dancing to frevo, Recife’s regional Carnaval music.

For Brazilians, Recife is one of the top Carnavals to attend, and the city's population actually drastically increases to more than two million people in celebration of the festival. The Carnaval opening ceremony in Recife is kicked off with a commencement ceremony in the neighborhood of Rua da Moeda. 

Recife’s neighbor, Olinda, also has carnival dancers jumping with umbrellas to frevo music. The five-day festival, beginning with the typical parade of giant puppets known as mamulengos, is a smaller and more accessible celebration than the Carnaval in Recife. 

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Head South to Florianopolis

Where to celebrate Carnival in Brazil: Carnaval in Florianopolis
Francisco Anzola

Florianopolis, located in the very south of the country, is known for its seaside views and beach culture, and Carnaval in Florianópolis is known as one of the best in Brazil.

Similar to Rio, the celebration here is cheerful and open to all. For example, during Carnaval, gays, lesbians, and gay rights supporters can head to Magic Island to enjoy a lively street party, and at the city center, the samba schools parade on the Nego Quirido catwalk along with tourists and locals of all ages.

The 2019 Florianopolis Carnaval will kick off on Friday, March 1 and will continue until Tuesday, March 5 this year.

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Enjoy Carnaval in Manaus

Where to celebrate Carnaval in Brazil

Manaus is located in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, and due to its location, it has a unique culture, and its Carnaval is just one example of the city's distinct traditions.

The creation of the "Carnaboi" party joins the celebration of Carnaval with the traditions of the local Boi Bumba festival, creating the most famous Carnaval in the Amazon. The Manaus Carnival keeps the customs of celebrations held in the early 20th century—the great parade of traditional costumes—and brings new customs to the historic city center each year from Thursday to Tuesday of Carnaval Week.

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Rio de Janeiro

Where to celebrate Carnival in Brazil
Nicolas de Camaret

For many years, Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro has been notoriously known for its samba parade, which will take place from March 1 to March 4 with a special Champions Parade on Saturday, March 9, 2019. During this enormous parade, six of the 12 best samba schools march to the Sambodromo (Samba Stadium) each day for the opportunity to be selected this year’s champion.

What many travelers might not know prior to planning their trip is that the fun doesn't end there—the festival has additional samba parades, Carnaval balls, children's parades, neighborhood block parties, and other events that are just as entertaining. 

For many attendees, Carnaval in Rio actually starts and ends with the "street blocks," or individual neighborhood street parties. During this time, Rio locals take to the street to dance and sing behind the “trio eletricos,” giant trucks with a sound system, of their favorite band. Full of creativity and humor, these blocos create an energetic joy in the city, and best of all, they are free and open for the public to attend.

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