Rio, samba and plenty of feathers | Original Senses

The carnival issue

Rio, samba and plenty of feathers


Rio Carnival needs no introduction. A heady combination of Portuguese and African culture, this irresistible celebration of rhythm, showmanship and lust for life takes place from 1-9 March 2019. 

The grand stage for the Rio Carnival is the Sambadromo, a 700m avenue that was recently remodelled to Oscar Niemeyer's original 1984 design. For four nights, 90,000 spectators fill the sectors, cheering as the most elite Samba Schools strut and sashay down the runway, all vying to out-perform each other.The top samba schools each have 3,000 to 5.000 members, who sing and dance their hearts out for over an hour. Typically, the ladies are dressed in plumed headdresses, stack heels, and little else but some strategically placed sequins.


The Sambadrome may be the main event, but the whole city feels like one giant party in the run-up to Carnival. More than 500 ‘blocos’ – free street parties with live bands, blaring sound systems, and lashings of attitude – bring Rio to a standstill.  You’ll be swept along with thousands of dancers following the infectious beat of bossa nova, hip-hop, funk, and of course, samba. Fancy dress — or fantasia, as the Brazilians call it – is optional.

These parties can draw a few hundred spectators or a million, and range from 7am starts to sunset parties on Ipanema beach. So come prepared for early starts and late nights. Surviving the Carioca carnival requires a constant intake of caipirinhas and coffee.

Hfasanoriojaneiro Vista Piscina

Can’t wait to be part of this uplifting, uproarious show? Be quick. Time is running out to secure front-row boxes in the Sambadrome, a suite at the Fasano, a Philippe Starck landmark right on Ipanema beach, and a ticket to the Magic Ball at the Copacabana Palace —the most exclusive party in town.

Copacabana Dancing Queen

Images courtesy of Belmond Copacabana Hotel Rio de Janeiro and Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro