Carnival in Brazil is one of the most dazzling festivities to take part in. Though a kaleidoscope of cultural influences, the festival's roots are firmly planted in the Catholic holiday Ash Wednesday. African-Brazilian culture, along with various folkloric traditions native to Brazil, have also shaped the celebration into what it is today. Carnival begins the Friday before Ash Wednesday and comes to a close on Ash Wednesday. This year, that means Carnival will take place on Friday, February 24, and end Wednesday, March 1. If you're thinking Carnival sounds similar to Mardi Gras, you've hit the nail on the head. The difference is that the former is a uniquely Brazilian take on the anticipation of Lent. If you're celebrating Carnival in Brazil this year, keep reading for everything you should know before heading over.
The most popular destinations for Carnival are in Rio de Janeiro and São Paolo. Rio de Janeiro's festivities are the most widely attended, and with good reason. Music and dancing are central parts of the performances, particularly for groups known as blocos that trapeze up and down the streets of the city. Samba is the music of choice at Carnival, and samba schools and professional dance troupes alike participate in Carnival every year. Samba schools are accompanied by percussive music, and every year, new themes are crafted and showcased on parade floats. Performers wear costumes bedecked in a lavish assortment of jewels, feathers, and beading in vivid colors. São Paolo's celebrations take place on Friday and Saturday, while Rio Carnival spans Sunday and Monday. Attend both for four incredible nights of revelry and a look at two incredible cities.
Get ready to take notes because there is plenty of delicious food to be had at Carnival. First on the list of foods to try is feijoada, a quintessential Brazilian recipe consisting of a black bean and pork stew. Another stew that's not to be missed is moqueca baiana, which is made with fish. Both stews are typically served over rice. Gumbo is also a popular option, particularly in the form of carurú, made with okra, shrimp, and toasted peanuts or cashews. Festivals are filled with street vendors, so sample what's available for an authentic taste of Brazilian cuisine.
Numerous options are available for accommodations during Carnival. Prices tend to skyrocket as the festival draws near, so book both accommodations and your flight as early as possible. We recommend booking at least four to six months in advance. If you're celebrating in Rio de Janeiro, the best area to stay is directly around the Sambadrome, where the biggest parades are held. The South Zone, one of the safest and most beautiful areas in Rio, is also convenient in location to the Sambadrome. In this area, you'll find beautiful beachside neighborhoods like Copacabana, Leblon, and Ipanema.
Rio de Janeiro is an easy city to find your way around. There are shuttles available that pick up festivalgoers from their hotel and take them to the Sambadrome. A shuttle ticket will cost between $31 to $47 depending on the location of your hotel. For a budget-conscious alternative, the city also has a metro system that runs 24 hours a day during Rio Carnival. Taxis are also available for convenient rides at any time of day, although this is a pricier option. São Paolo also has a complete metro system, along with buses and taxis, to take you to every end of the city.