When visiting Rio during Carnival, the Sambodromo is the only
place to see the samba schools on parade. With a seating capacity
of up to 50,000, The Sambodromo covers 102,000 square yards. Billed
as the world’s greatest parade stadium, The Sambodromo was
the creation of designer Oscar Neimeyer. Located in downtown Rio
de Janeiro, Brazil, The Sambodromo plays host to the competitive
parade which features Brazil’s finest Samba schools and is
considering the crowning event of Carnival.
The area in which The Sambodromo is located was one a 700 meter
stretch of the Marques de Sapucai, a downtown Rio street. The facility
features bleachers on both sides as well as an area at the end of
the parade route that serves as a square in which party-goers gather
at the end of the parade. Although The Sambodromo was built exclusively
with the parade competition in mind, the venue is also used for
international music concerts. Featured performers have included
The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Nirvana, Pearl Jam,
Carlos Santana, and Avril Lavigne.
Samba schools begin rehearsing in The Sambadrome in December to
prepare for the parade in February, just prior to the beginning
of Lent. A four day event, the Carnival parades are held on consecutive
nights. Schools are on parade from 8 pm until early the following
morning. On Saturday night, the Grupo de Acesso A schools kick off
the event followed on Sunday and Monday by the Grupo Especial schools.
The Grupo De Acesso B schools finish up the event on Tuesday. The
Grupo Especial competition features 14 of Rio de Janeiro’s
If you’re planning on attending the parade’s at the
Carnival, all four nights will provide excellent entertainment,
however, it is the Sunday and Monday night parades that typically
draw the largest crowds. The parades are televised on national television
and are a favorite attraction of visitors and residents alike. Each
school is given 80 minutes to parade from one end of The Sambadome
to the other. A performance typically includes thousands of dancers,
drummers, and floats. Schools are judged and in most cases, the
competition is fierce. The winners of the competition are announced
on Ash Wednesday. The following Saturday, another performance featuring
the five winning schools in the Grupo Especial category is given
at The Sambadome. This event is known as the Parade of Champions.
To Americans, the prices for the event are extremely reasonable
with ticket prices for the Grupo Especial competitions ranging from
$60 to $220.00 per person. In comparison, tickets for the Grupo
de Acesso A competition were selling between $5 and $13 dollars.
Unfortunately, the commercialization and extreme popularity of the
event has driven the cost of attending too high for many Brazilians
who instead host free block parties all over the city instead. Tickets
for the Parade of Champions were between $30 and $110 dollars last
If you’re not lucky enough to get seats at The Sambodromo
for the parades or visit Rio de Janeiro at another time, you can
still visit The Sambadome and stop in to check out the Carnival
Museum. The trophies of the Samba schools are displayed in the museum
as well as many other exciting artifacts of Carnival. The photographs
in the museum are an excellent source of information and provide
visitors with a pictorial understanding of all facets of Carnival.
Admission to the museum is free and the English speaking staff is
more than accommodating. The museum is also located in downtown
Rio de Janeiro, next door to The Sambodromo. Throughout the year,
there are other cultural, educational, and even sporting events
that may be held in the area. You’ll want to check with your
travel guide to find out what might be happening during your visit.