All eyes might be on the World Cup this year, but lest you forget Rio has another event on a global scale to host first – the 2014 Rio Carnival officially kicks off this Friday evening and runs through till Ash Wednesday five days later. A far cry from the demure carnival balls of Europe and indeed the UKs humble pancake day, this is a no holds barred 24 hour celebration of life and love in true Brazilian style. The most famous images that come to mind of the Rio carnival are from the highly commercial Samba Parade with all its floats and finery, but you don’t need a degree from “Samba School” (yes, pedants, we know this isn’t a real thing) to realize that the real action takes place on the streets. With over 300 “blocos” to choose from it can be difficult to know where to begin, so we suggest you politely ignore your guidebook’s well intentioned advice to trot along to Banda de Ipanema together with thirty thousand other like minded revelers, and follow Dehouche’s hour by hour guide to the best of this year’s blocos, designed to help you squeeze the maximum fun out of every waking hour!
As the saying goes “the early bird catches the worm”, so for those of you not wanting to lose a second of partying then these are the blocos to start off your day.
Céu na terra – Saturday, 8am
Start your day by heading up into the hills of Santa Teresa to enjoy a bit of Heaven on Earth. The hilltop location of this bohemian area makes Céu na Terra one of the best blocos to experience. The large crowd dances its way up the hill to the sound of a 30-man band. The famous yellow bonde (tram) that used to lead the way will not be in service until June but this just provides more space for street fun.
Where? Largo dos Neves, Santa Teresa
Volta, Alice! – Monday, 9am
In the shadow of Corcovado and Christ the Redeemer, Laranjeira’s bloco attracts a large crowd of finely-clad carnival-goers. Follow the large dolls, Mario and Alice, up the twisting road of Rua Alice and move your feet to the rhythm of a 70-piece band. The beat of the drums will leave you longing for more carnival events later in the day!
Where? Rua Alice, Laranjeiras
Carmelitas – Tuesday, 8am
Why not start your Shrove Tuesday with a religious theme? Brazil has the largest number of Catholics in the world but the nuns at this bloco are here to party! The story behind the silliness tells of a nun from the Carmelite convent in Santa Teresa jumping the wall to join in the carnival fun. This bloco pays tribute to her sneaking back in again without getting caught!
P.S. If you can’t wait ’til Tuesday then check out the earlier outing of the Carmelitas on Friday 28th Feb at 3pm, which marks our holy sister’s initial dash for freedom!
Where? Rua Almirante Alexandrino, Santa Teresa
By 10am the sun is already hot in Rio. But for you Mad Dogs and Englishmen that enjoy the heat, carnival is only just heating up!
Thriller Elétrico – Sunday, 10am
Tired of not knowing the words to any of the carnival songs? Well this is the bloco for you! The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, is the inspiration here with songs such as Billie Jean, Bad and of course Thriller being played to a Brazilian beat. So get your sparkly glove and fedora hat ready and join the crowds in Vila Isabel.
Where? Praça Barão de Drummond, Vila Isabel
Cordão do Boitatá – Sunday 12pm
This midday bloco is for those with their factor 50 sunblock ready. Despite only being in its eighth year, this bloco has become one of Rio’s most tradtional. The musicians bring together various types of traditional and folk music from across Brazil, a great place to discover all Brazilian rhythms. This bloco also attracts some of the best fancy dress so have your imaginative costumes ready.
Where? Praça XV, Centro
AfroReggae – Monday, 10am
This is one of the most popular celebrations in Rio consisting of infectious samba reggae rhythms. It is organised by a charity from the Vigario Geral favela, created after the infamous massacre of 1993. Today the charity promotes art, music and theatre in the community and the group performs throughout the year both nationally and internationally. The charity is most famous for its bloco so do your good deed for the day and join in the fun.
Where? Avenida Rio Branco, Centro
For those late risers, or those just wanting to miss the midday heat, then come join the well oiled revelers at these later afternoon parades.
Aconteceu – Saturday, 6pm
A slightly ‘quieter’ alternative on the streets of Santa Teresa is the bloco of Aconteceu. Despite a smaller crowd this bloco consists of an amalgamation of the best samba drummers from other bands who will definitely get your feet moving!
Where? Largo dos Guimaraes, Santa Teresa
Sargento Pimenta – Monday, 3pm
Sergeant Pepper costumes and Beatles’ songs are the order of the day for Monday afternoon in Flamengo. Despite being a new addition on the bloco scene, expect a huge crowd to this one. And who wouldn’t want a day of everything Beatles mashed up with the best of Brazilian music? So get your voice ready for seven minutes of Hey Jude and your feet prepared for lots of samba!
Where? Aterro do Flamengo, Flamengo
Orquestra Voadora – Tuesday, 5pm
Shrove Tuesday sees Aterro do Flamengo once again flooded with people for Orquestra Voadora, one of the best blocos of carnival. Started in 2008 and with its own samba-anthem, this bloco always has its own interesting theme which has so far included Batman and Looney Tunes. Go along and check out this year’s theme!
Where? Aterro do Flamengo, Flamengo
Super Mario – Wednesday, 5pm
Even 80s video games have their role in the Rio Carnival. Designed to prise nerds away from their screens and join in the fun, the Super Mario bloco has been a huge success two years running. They even play Super Mario songs! So put on those dungarees and fake moustaches and join everyone on the hills of Santa Teresa.
Where? Rua Aprazivel, Santa Teresa
If you’ve made it this far, sunset is the time to truly let your hair down. Here are the parties for you to enjoy all night long:
Bloco Virtual – Friday, 7pm
A good bloco to start everything off with on Friday evening is this one in Leme. A relatively small yet friendly bloco where you can get your fill of Maractu, Olodum, mambo and reggae. This bloco was started in 2000 and each year the theme is decided by contributors online, making it a bloco “virtual”. Always memorable – if only because once those caipirinhas kick in it might be the last thing you remember before resurfacing on Wedesday afternoon…
Where? Avenida Atlântica crossing Rua Padre Antonio Vieira, Leme
Cinebloco – Monday, 7pm
When looking for a theme for bloco then who could forget cinema? Here you will hear themes from various films remixed with samba beats, creating a unique sound. So go find the costume of your favourite film character and join in the folia in Gloria.
Where? Praca Luiz de Camoes, Gloria
Viemos do Egito -Tuesday 9pm
The late night streets of Centro become filled with pharaohs and mummies all dancing to the sound of Brazilian music. Popular with the young and beautiful and not on official listings, come Tuesday evening you will truly feel like a local who knows their way around Rio’s blocos!
Rio Music Conference – Friday to Tuesday, 10pm
Sick of Samba and looking for a nighttime reprise? Throughout Carnival the Rio Music Conference will be held at Gloria’s Marina. The largest Electronic Music festival in the Southern Hemisphere, this show promises big names such as Steve Aoki and Fatboy Slim. So head on down and dance the night away. Just don’t forget to set your alarm for 7 to start all over again the next day!
Where? Marina da Gloria
Contact Dehouche to tailor make your ultimate carnival experience!