Brazilian Carnival

Summer, fun, and fooling around.


Brazil is the country of samba and there are those who say that Brazilians are born with dancing feet! The sensuality and creativity of the Brazilian carnival are spectacular and this is why it is considered one of the best carnivals in the world.

The first carnaval in Brazil took place in 1641 and today it is one of the most popular manifestations in Brazil and is celebrated in the entire country. The word carnival could have originated from the Latin expression “carrum novalis”, used by Romans at the openings of their festivities. Or maybe from the word “carnelevale”, which means “good-bye to meat”, in Milanese dialect, a reference from the beginning of Lent.

Every year, the festival takes place days before the beginning of Lent, four days before Ash Wednesday — Saturday, Sunday Monday and Fat Tuesday. Today, as much as in Recife (Pernambuco), as in Salvador (Bahia), carnival includes Ash Wednesday and the following days, including at times, Holy Saturday.

Rio de Janeiro

Samba, vibrant colours, splendid costumes and beautiful women are the main ingredients of carnival in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Many samba schools parade at the Sambadrome at Marquês do Sapucaí, which can hold up to 600,000 people.

Samba schools compete for the title of carnival champion and the fight is very competitive! Portela, Salgueiro, Mangueira, Império Serrano, Beija-Flor and Imperatriz Leopoldinense are among the oldest and most well known schools in town.

Sao Paulo

The Paulista carnival was inspired by the Carioca carnival. The parade of Paulista samba schools takes place in the Anhembi sambadrome, with a capacity of up to 30,000 people.

Nenê de Vila Matilde, Vai-Vai, Império de Casa Verde, Mocidade Alegre and Rosas de Ouro are the most traditional samba schools. In São Paulo, sporty samba schools also parade, Gaviões da Fiel and Mancha Verde are among the most famous.


Sensual, lucid, strong and spiritual, the carnival in Salvador is the largest urban party in Brazil. Famous for the sound trucks equipped with gigantic speakers and a stage where artists perform their songs, including samba, samba-reggae, and axé. Over two and a half million partiers follow these sound trucks, singing and dancing during the five days of the festival.

Some of the most traditional sound truck groups in Salvador are Dodô e Osmar, Tapajós, Marajós, Tupinambás, Saborosa and Novos Baianos. There are also mini trucks, which are affiliated to a group (bloco) and marked off by cords. Some of these are the groups Eva, Trás os Montes, Cheiro de Amor Camaleão and Pinel. All of these make up the carnaval in the city, circulating and drawing in the crowds. But the carnival in Bahia is made even richer because of the strength of other cultural manifestations, showing up in groups such as Afro llê Aiyê and Araketu, and others.


The cities of Recife and Olinda have carnivals unlike anywhere in the world. The festival lasts five days and the main rhythms are Frevo, Ciranda and Maracatu. The carnival in Olinda displays dozens of gigantic dolls; one of the most well-known is the Midnight Man. Some of the most traditional groups are Pitombeira dos Quatro Cantos and Elefante de Olinda. The meeting place for followers of these groups is in front of the Municipal Mayor’s building, where you can find the largest number of parties per square meter!

In Recife, carnival begins with the largest carnival group in the world, the Galo da Madrugada. Many shows take place on stages spread out around the neighbourhoods of Recife, where, simultaneously, RECBEAT also takes place, the alternative youth carnival of Recife.

Minas Gerais

With a style all its own, the Minas carnival has many different types of groups such as the caricatos, which takes place in cities in the interior, and the street carnival, where historical Minas cities are in the spotlight. Diamantina, for example, is a great place for those who like to party and have fun. In Mariana, the carnival is moved by tradition and lots of fun, with marchinhas and folkloric city groups.

In Ouro Preto, the carnival stands out because of the organized groups made up of the students in town. Currently, there are around 30 groups, with an average of 2,000 participants in each one. The Diretoria is the most traditional group, founded by locals from Ouro Preto who get the crowds going with choreographs that have never been seen before.