The arrival of February is the “ok” sign for the entire city of Rio de Janeiro to go out to the streets and crack a cold one before noon with the justification that Carnival has come. If you are coming to Rio during this popular event, it is very helpful and enjoyable to know which parades you should attend in order to live the very best of the occasion.
Street parades, known as blocos in Portuguese, are the sensation of Carnival right after the glamorous samba school parades at the Sambadrome. People get dressed up with no restraints, which allows them to shamelessly explore any secret alter egos and identities – ranging from angels to firemen. Then, they meet up at a point in the streets, usually with marching bands and/or allegorical cars that ensure they are in the right spot.
Fun costumes, typical Carnival music such as Samba and Brazilian funk, drinks and a multitude of strangers dancing and coexisting in the streets is definitely not something you would want to miss. Below are some of our favorite parades granted to fulfill any passer-by’s Carnival experience in Rio.
- Suvaco do Cristo
An old parade that kicked off in 1986, Suvaco do Cristo is one of the most adored parades during Carnival season. It carries the carioca essence perfectly and is well known for it. The name translates literally to “Christ’s Armpit”, which sounds pretty funny, but was actually labeled that way after the first experimental parade due to its location in Jardim Botânico, as it took place under the armpit of Christ the Redeemer statue. The meeting point is a bar, although there is never any shortage of beer during the event. Suvaco do Cristo is a must to get your Carnival spirit started and warmed up before its official arrival in March.
Where: Bar Jóia, Rua Jardim Botânico, 594, Jardim Botânico
If you are looking to party in daylight, you might as well do it at the Carmelitas parade; it was born in 1990 as a tribute to Laurinda Santos Lobo, a socialite whose house roofed the most extravagant parties of Santa Teresa in the early 1900s. What better way to honor her, than loosening up with some samba and booze in the heart of Santa Teresa? Apart from the parade itself, the neighborhood will prove to be very pleased with and without huge masses of people.
Where: Corner of the Ladeira de Santa Teresa, Rua Dias de Barros, Santa Teresa
- Cordão da Bola Preta
Cordão da Bola Preta was birthed in 1918 and is perhaps the oldest parade of Rio de Janeiro, as well as one of the most unmissable. It all began as a homage to a pretty lady that always walked by on the same street, with her distinctive white dress with black polka dots. “Bola Preta” translates literally to “Black Dot”, hence the parade’s name. Cordão da Bola Preta is just the right occasion for more than just a taste of beer and a bite into carioca culture. After all these years, it never disappoints.
Where: Av. Presidente Antônio Carlos in front of Menezes Cortes, Centro
- Cordão do Boitatá
Cordão do Boitatá came to existence around 23 years ago next to the Arcos da Lapa. A little bit after, it was used to create a substantial concentration of spectators that would listen to and participate in a discussion relating to the revitalization of the empty streets of the city’s center. Therefore, when the parade takes place, the crowd makes sure to stir up the center’s street life like no one else does the rest of the year.
Where: Praça XV, Centro
- Sargento Pimenta
Although Carnival is a very Brazilian event flourishing with its culture (music and traditions), the Sargento Pimenta parade implements a bit of classic British culture as well as rock; this is due to the fact that it is entirely based on the idea of remixing samba and The Beatles. Sargento Pimenta is Portuguese for Sergeant Pepper. If you are not familiar with samba, you will feel a little bit more comfortable at the sound of lyrics the entire world has never ceased to get tired of.
Where: Aterro do Flamengo (near Monumento aos Pracinhas)
- Banda de Ipanema
Banda de Ipanema goes a long way back, and is one of the most praised parades of the south of Rio. It takes place next to the famous calçadão sidewalk of Ipanema, and is great when the bathroom lines get too extensive or the climate too hot, as the ocean is right next to it. The parade is also well-known for being warm and welcoming towards all genders, sexualities, races and forms of self-expression/individuality.
Where: Rua Jangadeiros, corner of Gomes Carneiro, Ipanema
- Mulheres de Chico
Mulheres de Chico translates to “Chico’s Women”, due to the parade’s entire purpose. A selection of women gets on an allegorical car and cover songs of one of the most famous and important Brazilian singers/songwriters, Chico Buarque. In the past, he was a very influential artist because of his graceful resistance and fight towards the dictatorship at that time, via his lyrical compositions. Mulheres de Chico aims to keep alive the history Brazil is so keen on pretending never existed, and critiques the country’s current situation, but with tons of glitter and beer alongside it.
Where: Praia do Leme, Leme
- Simpatia É Quase Amor
Where: Praça General Osório, Ipanema
- Bloco da Preta
Where: Primeiro de Março, Centro
- Céu na Terra
Where: Largo dos Guimarães, Santa Teresa
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Take a look at our post about the how to celebrate Carnival the best way possible with our Ultimate Guide for Carnival.