Photo Gallery: The Carnival Parades at the Rio Sambadrome

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The first thing I notice at the Rio Sambadrome is the crush of humanity.  People are packed into the stadium seating with just enough room for little Brasilian surgically-enhanced bottoms.  Personal space, as we Americans like to call it, is disregarded. Luckily, pretty much everyone is standing and many are dancing.  The supporters of each Samba school enthusiastically wave their flags.  The beer was free-flowing and the party atmosphere infectious.  Everyone was somehow dressed up (or down!) even if the adornment is just a garland of flowers.

Rio's Carnival Parades at the Sambadrome

Tickets to the Sambadrome

Most people in Brasil (or even Rio) don’t go to the Sambadrome.  It is way too expensive.  They watch the Samba School’s parade on television and celebrate Carnival itself at the blocos (street parades) or other private parties.

We got tickets to the Rio Sambadrome for $250 per person.  We would have liked to have box seats but they were going for $1000/person.  We were seated in Section 9 which is reserved for tourists.  It’s a terrific location right across from where the judges  sat.  Every parade that passed us was going all out to impress the judges.

Rio Sambodrome Carnival 2016
The box seats didn’t look that special.

Having been to the Rio Sambadrome, I don’t think the more expensive box seats were any more comfortable.  They did, however, have a lounge area behind the seats so that our children could have slept there.  On the other hand, it was still cheaper to bring along a nanny and send the children home before they were too exhausted.

Rio Sambodrome Carnival 2016
The kids are dressed and ready to party.

We used Carnaval Turismo to book our buy our tickets and bus transportation to the Sambadrome.  They dropped us off in front of Stand 9, the foreign visitors stand, and picked us up there as well.

Tip:  Most of the people in Rio are out partying on the night of Carnival.  Taxis are few and far between.  Pre-organised transportation is a must.

Food and Drink at the Rio Sambadrome

The food served at the Rio Sambadrome is of the usual stadium quality found worldwide.  The Brasilian chain, Bob’s Burgers, has a stand that was doing brisk business of burgers, beer, whiskey and vodka.  The other option we found was pizza – a thick gelatinous layer of cheese on thick bread.  Neither food option was impressive but the beer was great!!

Rio Sambodrome food stand
food and drink stands at the Rio Sambadrome

In the stands, the vendors selling beer, water and ice-cream weaved their way expertly through the crowds.  People were joyous but we did not see anyone drunk or messy.  Although we felt safe in the crowd, as a precaution we did not bring any valuables or bags with us.

Rio Sambodrome Carnival 2016
The ice-cream sellers were a real service in the heat of the night.

The Rio Sambadrome Stadium

The Sambadrome is a stadium like I have never seen before.  It is long and thin with a pretend road down the middle. The stadium seats are on either side of the fake road.  Each samba school parade starts with a parade and ends with a flurry of workers sweeping the road clean behind them in preparation for the next samba school parade.  Each samba school had their own theme, song and costumes.  A lot of the sartorial references were beyond me though.

Rio Sambodrome Carnival 2016
An Empire of the Sun?

The Sambadrome parades started at 8 pm and went on until about 4:30 in the morning.  Each Samba School had a maximum of an hour and a half to parade before they would start losing points.

Rio Sambodrome Carnival 2016
The parade has a clock which counts the time for each school.

Each night there were six schools that get to parade.  Although there are shows from Friday through Monday, the best schools perform on Sunday and Monday.  The whole thing was run with an impressive efficiency which I thought would make Brasil a world power if only they would apply it to their economy.

Photo Gallery of the Samba Parades

The Samba parades were amazing!  While the tickets were expensive, each parade was a spectacle in itself.  Stumbling home at 4:30 in the morning, we watched 4 of the parades at the Rio Sambadrome.  We felt we had gotten our money’s worth as each parade was an individual show in itself.  We went on the Sunday so we did see some of the best floats.  Unfortunately, this year’s winner was in the Monday parade.

Rio Sambodrome Carnival 2016
The outfits for both men and women were amazing.
Rio Sambodrome Carnival 2016
It was great to see the floats arrive as well as leave!
Rio Sambodrome Carnival 2016
A real crowd pleaser was a Pele lookalike running on top of a football.
Rio Sambodrome Carnival 2016
All sorts of fantastical creatures were made into floats.
Rio Sambodrome Carnival 2016
Portuguese influenced tea cups? Not sure why these people were dressed in these outfits.
Rio Sambodrome Carnival 2016
Nor did I understand why a bunch of football players came running out of the orca’s mouth.
Rio Sambodrome Carnival 2016
Criminals and a taxi? say what??
Rio Sambodrome Carnival 2016
A drag queen dressed as the Queen of England (Ok, they are playing on the word queen).
Rio Sambodrome Carnival 2016
Bow to my magnificence peons!
Rio Sambodrome Carnival 2016
Dancing Caiprinhas

This post is linked up with Pierced Wonderings, Weekend WanderlustWeekend Wanderlust Inspiration and City Tripping.

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20 thoughts on “Photo Gallery: The Carnival Parades at the Rio Sambadrome”

    1. Everyone was happy and they kept the tourists mostly together in section 9. I’m sure they’re aware of the bad press if anything were to happen to a foreigner.

  1. Wow! This does look impressive. Maybe this is the best quality I have seen in parades (in terms of the costumes and details). I saw photos of this year’s Mardi Gras and you cannot event compare the two events. Rio de Janeiro (and Brazil) is expensive, so, I am not surprised by the ticket prices.

  2. We had a chance to attend the Sambadrom performances two years ago and loved every minute. Our big grace was having a new Brazilian daughter-in-law who wrangled with a local tour agent to get us good and relatively inexpensive seats. The couple sitting behind us spent ten times what we did and came in briefly only off a cruise ship! Still everything about the show was extraordinary. I love how hard each of the dance schools works to be a top prize winner. Extraordinary.

    1. You’re really lucky to have the local contact! It makes a big difference in Brasil I found. I did see lots of cruise ship people too. Didn’t realise they were only there for the night. A lot of the fun of carnival are the Blocos.

  3. What incredible photos – and what an amazing experience. I’ve only been to Rio once, and loved it, but never for Carnaval. The parades always look amazing though, it would be a great way to see them. #citytripping

  4. This is stunning! Seriously, it is so amazing. Great job with those pictures, you definitely make me wanna go to Rio right now. I have actually never been there but it looks so impressive that it just went on my travel list. Thank for sharing! Visiting from #citytripping.

  5. Ha ha, I had a laugh at all your comments on the photos of the floats. I would LOVE to see this someday. When I take Zumba classes, I mentally pretend that I’m part of a big Carnival parade. This looks like so much fun! Great tip about pre-arranging transportation.

    1. I’d love to be coordinated enough for Zumba. If you ever get to carnival, you can pay to be on one of the floats. That Zumba practice could come in handy.

  6. What an amazing experience. Your photos are spectacular! I’ve never heard of this event but what a great way to see the parades – and possibly with a better viewpoint that you would normally. I feel a bit sorry for those who get the early morning slot though!! Thanks for linking to #citytripping

  7. Gosh that must have been something amazing. I am expecting some wonderful things with the Olympic this year over and above the sporting brilliance! #citytripping

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