Congrats on deciding to make a trip to Rio De Janeiro for the most epic time of year in Brazil--CARNAVAL. You will be embarking on a culturally rich, highly adventurous trip here replete with endless festivities that can keep you up all day and night! If there is one thing the people of Brazil know how to do a damn good job of, it's HAVING A GOOD TIME. It’s basically the country’s gross national product so arrive in good, laid back spirits and embrace the tropical way of life!
All things considered, I strongly urge you to read this safety article about Rio before visiting. Please do not approach going on a trip to Brazil like visiting a European country. I caution you, there are things you must know and understand about the Brazilian way. Find more about that, plus plenty of fun tips, below!
Where to stay in Rio during Carnaval?: I’ll cut right to it--if safety is your top priority, generally you’ll want to stick with the neighborhoods in the Zona Sul (South Zone): Ipanema, Copacabana, or Leblon. You will want to book your lodging WAY in advance for this trip--especially considering the summer high season. Note that this is the most expensive time of the year to visit Rio but focus on the opportunity of having this experience and don't let the cost of lodging turn you away from visiting! This is an important life lesson for everyone! Opportunity cost weighs more.
When to visit Rio during Carnaval?:
Although Carnaval in Rio is essentially a month long event, we specifically targeted the last Thursday through Tuesday that historically represents the culmination of the event before the start of lent. Though the date of the main event of Carnaval jumps around a bit every year, it’s generally some time between mid-February up through early March. This year (2019), the major dates happened to be February 28th through March 9th, and we chose to join attend one of the more upscale events at the Sambadrome right during the peak of the festival week on Monday, March 4th.
The 3 Day Weekend Itinerary of Sheer Debauchery in Rio De Janeiro | Carnaval Style
Day 0 in Rio: Thursday night
Dinner at Bagatelle around 8:30/9:00pm
This upscale international restaurant is known for going from dinner to dancing on top of tables late night. Before you know it, a buff man in a batman costume will be pouring shots in your mouth. Don't have high expectations for the food or service--it's more about the atmosphere and the Bagatelle experience itself.
Dress: Club attire
Address: Praça Santos Dumont, 31 - Gávea, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22470-060, Brazil
Day 1 in Rio: Friday
Morning workout at Muscle Beach
Cariocas (as Riolocals are known) are known for prioritizing their health, wellness and physique. You'll find the beach packed with joggers and bikers all throughout the day. Start the morning the Carioca way with a run to muscle beach. Yes, it's quite the street version of a beach gym, but you're in Rio so why not!
On your way back, pick up an acai bowl from a beach vendor. This is a popular Brazilian dish and no place better to get it then right after your run on Copacabana beach!
Continue embracing the Carioca way by posting up at Ipanema beach right around lifeguard posts 9 or 10, which are known for being two of the most lively.
If I had to compare Copacabana to any beach in the world, it would be the Brazilian equivalent of Venice Beach in California. You'll find the beach packed with locals and vendors selling you everything from caipirinhas, bikinis, sunglasses, etc. etc. First thing in order when arriving to the beach is getting a couple of chairs for you and the gang--which can be purchased from these vendors. No need to look for them, they will find you.
Cariocas will sit at the beach lounging on rented beach chairs under rented umbrellas for hours. But they don’t just sit. You’ll find sports, barbecue, food, vendors, beach chairs, and drinks flowing--anything goes on the beach in Brazil, and it is a world unto itself. You’ll soon find how much energy is buzzing there, as you witness the carioca liveliness full scale.
Lunch at Bar Astor Rio
When that appetite starts to hit, head over to Bar Astor. The restaurant is walking distance from post 9 at Copacabana Beach and doesn't mind your beach attire nor the sand you may be covered in. Enjoy yourself on the restaurant's lovely patio facing the beach, perfect for sipping their crafted cocktails and people-watching the cariocas.
Reservation: Not required
Address: Av. Vieira Souto, 110 - Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22420-002, Brazil
Once we were done at lunch, we headed back to the beach to spend the rest of the day listening to music, swimming, and drinking caipirinhas.
Dinner at Xian Rio, located inside the Bossa Nova Mall. One of the reasons we came here for dinner was because The Prodigy Hotel adjoins the Bossa Nova Mall and that was the spot to pick up AND decorate our Camarote N1 T-shirts. If you don't know what I'm talking about when I say Camarote, please read this Rookie's Guide to Brazilian Carnaval. Camarote N1 was our favorite part of our Rio Carnaval experience so you will want to know all about it!
Dress: A range of semi-casual to
Address: Avenida Alm. Silvio de Noronha, 365 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20021-010, Brazil
Post Dinner Moves:
I Love Rio Party in Sugarloaf Mountain
This is an awesome themed party with multiple DJs, open bar, and ridiculous views of Guanabara Bay from the mountaintop upon which the party sits, Morro da Urca (right next to Sugarloaf). You will take the famed Sugarloaf bondinho (cable car) up to this party.
Purchasing Tickets for the I Love Rio Party (note: the link posted here may be set to expire.) may not be the easiest party to Google, so in the event that you are searching for tickets to this party for a future date, I would recommend going to eventbrite.com and searching ‘I love Rio’ Party. This is a party that recurs every year! The cost is around $70 USD.
Note: You'll notice that when purchasing tickets for events in Brazil--whether to parties such as this or other events like camarotes--most of the pages will be in Portuguese and you will not have the option to translate these pages automatically. In that case, if you don't have a good friend to bother that speaks Portuguese, use the translate option within your Google Chrome browser to comprehend the site a bit, and and make your purchase accurately. I know, this is common sense advice, but you'll be surprised how many people were hitting me up about being lost in translation.
Day 2 in Rio: Saturday
Saturday is all about the blocos! You'll find the streets of Rio filled with men and women of all ages in costume. Bloco schedules can generally be found within the local Globo Newspaper’s G1 site. If you're unsure what to wear to blocos, check out this article here on how to pack for Brazilian Carnaval. Bloco themes run the gamut all over the city, spanning from Afro-Brazilian themes to electronic music to more heavily costumed extravaganzas. Many blocos are more accessible at any moment and easier to bump into right on the seafront of Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana, but some of the blocos are exclusive, and have locations announced last-minute. If you want in on some of those more hidden “secret” blocos, well… You’ll have to make some local friends and secure the word ;)
At some point in the day while you're bloco hopping--don’t miss out on trying a T.T. Burger--one of Rio’s best. This is a famous Rio burger chain and you won't be disappointed.
Visit Lapa - Lapa is a GREAT and very local part of the city that many upper-class cariocas detest—purely because it was historically dangerous and they shun it. But if you want to capture a sense of Rio’s true cultural soul, replete with live street music, spontaneous art, and delicious caipirinhas, don’t miss it! I would recommend going at about 8pm on a Friday night during the high tourist season: this is a night when lots of visitors are out and about, and there are plenty of police on patrol. Walk around the aqueducts and tuck back into the main alleyway behind the Lapa vendors area to find the the famous Escadaria Selarón, or Selaron Steps in English. You can ask just about any local (or police officer) how to get there. Please note meanwhile that it’s not recommended to go walking about just any back alleyway in the Lapa area, especially at night—please stick to where there are crowds of visitors and exercise discretion! Then around 9 head over to Rio Scenarium - This is one of Rio's most interesting restaurant-clubs. You can either have dinner right in front of the club (there are like 4 restaurants there) or you can go into Rio Scenarium to eat. Plan on spending your Friday night there, with more than 6 rooms of music and a seating capacity of over 2,000, the place turns into quite a unique, great time!
Day 3: Sunday
Hike Pedra Bonita
Duration: It takes about 45 minutes to hike up there and another 45 to hike back
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate depending on your stamina
Value: In my opinion, this is THE BEST hike in Rio. Why? Because with the least amount of time and difficulty (when comparing to the various other popular hikes), you have one of the most amazing views of Rio. You can see everything from Christ the Redeemer in the distance, to Pedra de Gávea rock, and a 270 degree view spanning Rio’s South and West zones! If there is one hike I could recommend to those visiting Rio, it's Pedra Bonita!
Camarote Número 1!! A camarote is essentially a private box viewing area, but in terms of Brazilian Carnival, it's basically a VIP bleacher area. This Camarote happened to be one of the most epic festivities I have ever attended in my life! The party went on till 7 am and included dinner, breakfast, open bar, hair stylists, make up artists, and celebrities and IG influencers from all over Brazil and the world. Even with the incredible perks and exclusivity of this Camarote, what really blew me away was the Sambadrome competition. If you're unfamiliar with the Sambadrome Competition, peep the Rookie's Guide to Brazilian Carnaval article.
It is highly recommended that tickets are purchased much in advance. The cost of the ticket during the pre-sale was around $400 and the night leading up to the party, prices and inflated to almost $1700!! Very important you purchase in advance to avoid paying for an overpriced ticket. To know when these tickets release, I recommend following the Camarote N1 page on Instagram.
You can find more details on the Camarote and the culture around it here Rookie's Guide to Brazilian Carnaval.