Carnival at the Sambodromo in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The heart of Rio de Janeiro's famous carnival is the Sambodromo, a massive grandstand street in the Estácio district that transforms into a boiling cauldron of colour and music every February.

The Sambodromo runs from Avenida Presidente Vargas, near Praça Quinze, to Rua Frei Caneca. Every year, the famous Rio de Janeiro Carnival is held here, which is one of our top 10 sights in Rio de Janeiro.


For four nights at carnival time, the misery around the concrete block is forgotten and the Sambodromo vibrates under the rhythm of the drums, the feet of the dancers and the enthusiastic shouts of the spectators.

PICTURES: Carnival in Rio de Janeiro

Photo gallery: Carnival in Rio de Janeiro

Carnival in Rio - the spectacle of the year

The Vila Isabel Samba School at the 2011 Carnival at the Sambodromo in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - © Celso Pupo / Shutterstock
© Celso Pupo / Shutterstock

The Sambodromo was built in 1984 by Brazil's world-famous architect Oscar Niemeyer. Since then, the spectacular parades of the famous Rio de Janeiro Carnival have taken place here every year. Although the Sambodromo holds tens of thousands of people, it almost becomes small. However, it is a listed building and therefore cannot be demolished or extended.

Without the music and the colourful dancers, the Sambodromo looks almost ugly in its concrete appearance. But every Friday before Ash Wednesday and the following 4 nights, the unassuming building is transformed into a roaring sea of light, colour, music and movement. The arena itself is 700m long and has room for 88,500 carnival enthusiasts, with thousands more crowding outside the Sambodromos to catch a glimpse of the parades.

Tip: Travel to the Sambodromo on Carnival days by metro or taxi; you often have to wait for hours for buses. There are separate carnival taxi companies, which are a little more expensive, but there are enough of them and they are allowed to drive up to the individual sectors.

Carnival itinerary in Rio de Janeiro

Samba dancer at the carnival in the Sambodromo of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - © gary yim / Shutterstock
© gary yim / Shutterstock

The carnival starts on the Friday before Ash Wednesday after the programme from 18:00. The loud and colourful parades parade through the streets of Rio until the early hours of the morning.

All the samba schools take part in this spectacle and compete directly with each other. In an overwhelming procession of graceful dancers in breathtaking costumes, the participants parade through the Sambodromo and show off their samba skills. A jury judges the performances according to various criteria such as costumes, rhythm and whether the drum rolls are in harmony with the dance.

Carnival live - visit to the Sambodromo

The colourful costumes and floats alone are worth a trip to the carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Here, night is turned into day. Anyone who has experienced this will be thrilled to discover that nowhere else in the world are people celebrating with such joie de vivre and enthusiasm as at carnival in Brazil.


If you want to be part of the carnival, get your tickets for the Sambodromo in time. The hottest atmosphere and best acoustics are enjoyed by spectators in Sectors 9-11 in the so-called "drummers' niche", where the percussion musicians line up for each performance.

It is even more difficult to get a hotel room in Rio during Carnival. Usually the whole of Rio and the surrounding area is completely booked at this time. Typical for this time, hotel prices also skyrocket!

Of course, the carnival is broadcast live nationwide on television and radio. It is a special experience for everyone to watch the dancers moving to the rhythm of the music.

Security at the Rio Carnival

A dancer in a stunning costume at the Sambodromo, Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - © Celso Pupo / Shutterstock
© Celso Pupo / Shutterstock

The Sambodromo is perfectly secured due to the countless celebrities among the spectators and is probably one of the safest places in all of South America during Carnival. The few entrance gates are well guarded and no one gets past the security guards unseen. It is therefore no problem to bring film and photo cameras, only professional equipment is not allowed.

Outside the Sambodromo, however, you should be more careful with your belongings. Considering the many thousands of visitors and artists, pickpocketing is relatively limited.

Also for safety reasons, bottles, glasses or umbrellas may not be taken into the Sambodromo. However, drinks in plastic containers are allowed.

Tip: There are some snack bars inside the Sambodromo, but they only sell fast food. It is ideal to have dinner before the show begins. As the show lasts until dawn, it is advisable to bring pillows, as the seats can get a bit hard after a while. Extra toilet paper may not be a mistake either.

Related links:

Official website of the Sambodromo