A guide to the REAL Brazilian Carnaval

Vithoria Escobar

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February 24th-28th. The most expected and celebrated week in Brazil: Carnaval!
Colours, costumes, glitter, dance, friends, party, music, happiness. During that week, every Brazilian forget their problems and just let themselves go in the most beautiful party in the world.

However, I noticed that people usually associate Brazilian Carnaval with Rio de Janeiro and with the samba school parades. The parades are indeed a really important part of Brazilian Carnaval but Carnaval is way more than that and it carries way more tradition, and what I want to explore here is the Street Carnaval, a beautiful tradition (and also my favourite) that most people who aren’t from Brazil don’t even know that exists.

And, to get you into the Carnaval vibe, I recommend you to read this article while listening to some great Carnaval songs:

So, what is Street Carnaval?
Street Carnaval in Brazil is also known as “Bloco de Rua” (which can be translated as Street Block) and it is when loads of people go to streets following a massive sound car, named electric trio, which are leaded by DJ’s or even bands. Almost every trio carries a characteristic theme, usually associated with elements from Brazilian culture, and the theme defines the costumes that should be used and the music that will be played. And the best part is: street blocks are mostly FREE!


Where can I enjoy the best of Brazilian Street Carnaval?

  • Bahia

Bahia is,unquestionably, the Carnaval land. The capital, Salvador is one of the most traditional places in Brazil to celebrate Carnaval and it is considered the biggest Carnaval in the world as the city receives over 500 thousand people every year.  Axé music and Olodum are the rhythms that marks and dominates Bahia’s Carnaval. Also, besides Carnaval, Bahia is simply stunning. It’s a beautiful place, colourful and full of culture and traditions.

Olodum rehearsal – Carnaval 2014

  • Rio de Janeiro

Rio is definitely the most known Carnaval in the world. Besides the parades, the city has thousands of street blocks all day and all night with all kinds of music and it receives over one million tourists every year. It’s really common to walk on the streets and listen to music and when you realize it, it’s a street block passing by.  Also, as it has loads of really good street blocks it’s common to go to more than one street block per day.
Particularly, my favourite thing about Rio is that is simply beautiful everywhere you go and the blocks usually end up by the beach, so you can enjoy an amazing sunset at the end of your day.

Block “Amigos da Onça” – Carnaval 2016
  •  São Paulo

São Paulo has a great Carnaval and most people have no idea. People used to run away from São Paulo during Carnaval but over the last years São Paulo’s Carnaval had a great progress and now it offers over 500 street blocks with an expectation of over 2 million people.
Besides the capital, there are a variety of traditional Carnaval parties in São Paulo’s country side. The most known are São Luiz do Paraitinga and Votuporanga.

Street Block “Primavera, te amo!”- Carnaval 2016
  • Pernambuco

Recife and Olinda are two cities located in the State of Pernambuco and their Carnaval is one of the most traditional in Brazil. The street blocks are all free and the main characteristic is the giant dolls during that lead the blocks.
Frevo and maracatu are the traditional local rhythms in Pernambuco’s Carnaval. The block Galo da Madrugada, in Recife, is considered the biggest street block in the world, with over 2 million participants every year. Likely Salvador, Pernambuco is a really traditional place in Brazil with a lot of local culture to offer.

Giant Dolls in Olinda Carnaval
  • Minas Gerais

Minas Gerais has really famous Carnaval parties in Brazil, especially in cities in the country side, as Ouro Preto and Muzambinho.
Ouro Preto is a city that is basically composed by university students and there are over 300 university republics, so their Carnaval is really famous between the young public. Every year, the republics organize their own Carnaval parties, so the parties takes over the city during the Carnaval holiday. Ouro Preto has also a beautiful architecture, composed mostly by a baroque style.

Ouro Preto – Carnaval 2014


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Vithoria Escobar