Three Cariocas enjoying Carnaval Balls in Rio. The two women are dressed in luxury costumes with feathers, glitter, and gold. The man is athletic, shirtless, with bright yellow pants and a gold hat. Image courtesy of

Carnaval Balls in Rio de Janeiro

In addition to the Samba Parade, and all the fun in the streets, Rio offers a selection of Carnival balls that you really should not miss. You won't have to spend a fortune to have a great time. Tickets to most balls are quite affordable. If you are coming with a group, you may reserve a table, or even a box.

Carnaval balls in Rio have a tradition of live music, and percussion bands from Samba Schools often participate. The traditional soundtrack includes marchinhas, sambas, frevos, and other Brazilian beats. Many prominent Blocos promote balls, sometimes with a guest vocalist or group. They are very popular, and help to fund the costs of the free street events.

There are also a host of Carnaval parties with dance music, where local and international DJs play their latest sets. If you have an issue with people in costumes or samba they may be your best bet.

Carnaval Party with As Freneticas: live music, people in costumes, and a happy atmosphere.
As Frenéticas as guest stars at a fabulous ball with live music.

If you're looking specifically for information about this year's events a good first stop is our Carnaval Party Planner. We select the best events and list them neatly by dates, from Pre-Carnaval to the Champions Parade. 

This page is more dedicated to the history and curiosities about Carnaval Balls in Rio de Janeiro, from the colonial period to the present day. We have noticed that some websites use our original content as reference, so we try to keep up.    

Painting portraying Carnaval in the late XIX century with people dressed up in classic costumes such as ballerina, court jester, and harlequin.
Classic Carnaval Costumes include court jesters, ballerinas, and harlequins.

Carnaval Balls in Colonial Rio

The first big Carnaval ball in Rio happened in 1846 when they were also popular in Europe. It was promoted by the Italian wife of the owner of a hotel. Clara Delmastro missed the glamour of the Venetian Balls. Over 1,000 people showed up at the party, held at Teatro São Januário. Luxury costumes or black ties, just like you see in the paintings from the 19th century.

It was a way for aristocrats to celebrate in a protected environment. Ordinary people participated in Entrudo, where squirting water on other people was the idea. Dom Pedro I, who would eventually become our first Emperor, joined the event. Allegedly he squirted the wrong person, and was reprimanded. 

Painting by Debret portraying Entrudo, part of the traditional colonial Carnaval festivities. A young boy is squirting water on a lady wearing festive make-up and a colonial dress.
Part of the fun of the colonial Entrudo was squirting water at strangers, as portrayed by Debret.

Carnaval Balls in the 20s

Jumping to the Roaring Twenties, the luxury hotel Copacabana Palace opened its doors in 1924. It was built in the tradition of grand hotels of the French Riviera. The palace brought glamour and international attention to Rio. Their Carnaval balls stayed in history.

Jorginho Guinle, the “playboy” son of the owner, had close connections to old Hollywood. among the beauties who were guests: Dolores Del Rio, Katharine Hepburn, Lana Turner, and Marlene Dietrich. Jorginho Guinle hosted fabulous Carnaval Balls until 1973!

Another ball that became an institution was the Official City Gala Ball at the historic Theatro Municipal. The first edition in 1932 had 4,000 patrons – including then President Getúlio Vargas. The balls went on until 1975 when experts concluded that all the thumping was damaging the structures of the historic palace.

Carnaval Cordão de Bola Preta em 1938. Foto de Bricio de Abreu. Reprodução colorizada.
O Cordão da Bola Preta has been part of Carnaval in Rio for over a century.

Carnaval Balls in the 70s & 80s

While luxury balls continued to happen at the Copacabana Palace and Hotel Glória, the cultural changes in the seventies also changed the way people partied. The Yacht Club came up with the first Carnaval pool party. There were fabulous balls at Clube Sírio e Libanês, Monte Líbano, and Canecão. People were free, scantily clad, on a different vibe. Photos of these events, which included local celebrities, were published in glossy magazines that sold like hotcakes. 

In the 80s balls became even wilder. Everybody remembers the legendary parties that Guilherme Araújo promoted at Morro da Urca. Live music with the best Carnaval songs, performers, and special guests. There were spaces indoors and outdoors, beautiful people from all around the world, and a view that wouldn’t quit.

Baile Gala Gay at Scala. Celebrities Roberta Close and He Man John Hutson. Photo by Duny Casion property of All rights reserved.
Baile Gala Gay at Scala in Leblon. He Man John Huston greets Roberta Close. The mix of local and international celebrities was very glamorous.

Cross-dressing has always been part of Carnaval. Baile dos Enxutos was the pioneer. Gala Gay eventually became the main event on Carnaval Tuesday. First at Canecão, and later at Club Scala. Drag queens in luxury costumes, local and international celebrities, and curious people, it was a fabulous mix.

Reporters from magazines ‘O Cruzeiro’ and ‘Manchete’ were always there to capture images for their Carnaval editions. Eventually the entrance was broadcast live on open TV, and it was a riot!

Carnaval parties with world-famous DJs playing their sets started in the 90s. They have evolved and now they are one of the big attractions. It is considered an honor to be invited to play at a major party, some cater to thousands of people. As they do not play anything related to the date, though, many people consider this Off-Carnaval. I like the term.

Off-Carnaval Parties have turned into an Electronic Music Festival that has a loyal following
Off-Carnaval Parties have evolved into an awesome Electronic Music Festival where Cariocas and visitors dance to the beats of their favorite DJs

Where’s the party?

Cutting to the chase, the best contemporary Carnaval balls are powered by the most popular Blocos. Each one has a loyal following, and patrons attend both street events and balls. The Jockey Club, Circo Voador, Fundição Progresso, and other large clubs feature different parties every night. Other spaces pop up in Centro, Flamengo Park, and Marina da Glória, it’s hard to keep up.

The easiest way to find out what’s happening is by joining a social network and snooping around. You may join a group of Brazilians who love Carnaval. Invitations to parties are often published, with instructions on how to buy tickets. Leaving it for the last minute or trying to buy them the door may not be the best approach. Try to plan before you arrive, and hopefully make friends online to meet in person when you are here.

cute dog browsing the internet on his notebook with a cup of coffee next to him
Brazilians use social networks - a lot. If you're coming to town you can make friends online who share the same interests. Rio caters to all tastes.

If this is not the way you like to go, don’t worry. We hand-pick every year what we consider the best Carnaval balls, parties, and other events. They are neatly listed in our Carnaval Party Planner. There are things to d  before, during, and after Carnaval. Our guide has even been featured in the print edition of the Lonely Planet guide to Rio, you’re in good hands.

Beautiful lady wearing a hat with a lamp hat together a handsome shirtless man. Photo courtesy of All rights reserved.
We do not sell tickets to parties or events.This gives us the freedom to pick out and suggest only the best bets.

Carnival Ball Etiquette

Costumes are not mandatory, except for a few balls. Putting on something special will help you get in the right mood, though. If you are with a group, coordinated costumes are a lot of fun. The same goes for street Carnaval. If it makes you feel silly, forget about it. Just make sure you wear some footwear that actually protects you.

LGBTQ Carnaval 2024 in Rio - Party planner by

LGBTQ Carnaval 2024 in Rio

All colors of the rainbow are present at our Carnaval festivities. In addition to all the street fun and the Samba Parade, the party circuit is amazing. The best local and international DJ's are in town! This page is daily updated to make sure you get all the latest news! Courtesy of

Having said that, we are living in an era where a few loud people get offended by everything. Some traditional costumes are no longer acceptable. Wearing hate symbols, for instance, is not OK. Use your good sense.

A group wearing colorful Carnaval costumes always stands out. Photo property of All rights reserved. Todos os direitos reservados.
A group wearing colorful costumes always stands out.

Once we covered that part, let’s talk about not annoying other people. All closed spaces in Brazil are non-smoking. Many venues offer a patio or an open space where smokers can congregate without getting dirty looks.

If you’re going to a ball, you’re an adult. Hopefully, you know your limits with substances. The legal age for drinking in Brazil is 18, not 21. Do not take drinks from strangers, and do not leave your drinks unattended. Other than that, have fun!

A couple celebrating Carnaval with drinks in their hands. Photo courtesy of All rights reserved.
The concept of brown-bagging is competely alien to Brazilians.

We hope you have enjoyed our page. Please share it with your friends on social networks. You’re welcome to use our original material as reference. If you're going to copy and paste please include the source. Our images have credits for accessibility. You will find original photos, public domain images, and reproductions under fair use for educational purposes.

Hope to see you in town. Share they joy of Carnaval in Rio with your friends!