Think of carnival and you’ll probably think of Rio de Janeiro – Brazil’s biggest, most colourful and loudest party is definitely worth a visit. But a closer, shorter and cheaper trip to Tenerife or Venice will also enable you to get into the carnival spirit closer to home. Find out when you can travel to Rio, Santa Cruz de Tenerife or Venice, and what attractions await you during the 2024 carnival season.
Carnival in Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro will soon be bedecked in sequins and feathers as the streets come alive with the sounds of samba and fun. Rio’s carnival will take place from 9 to 17 February 2024 – a week before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent in the Catholic Church. This has been the tradition ever since 1840, when the Portuguese first organised the “Entrudo” masquerade in Rio, featuring polka and waltz instead of samba. . The name of the event itself, “carnival”, comes from the words “carne” and “vale”, meaning farewell to meat.
The epicentre of Rio’s Carnival, with its extravagant and lively samba parade, is the Sambadrome. This large concrete structure is 700 metres long and can hold up to 90,000 people on its viewing platforms on both sides of Marquês de Sapucaí Avenue. The Sambadrome is a ticketed event and prices for 2024 range from $24 for general admission and standing room to $794 for VIP access, depending on the type of seat. Remember that tickets sell fastest for the Sunday and Monday events, which are attended by large numbers of Brazilians. There are plenty of attractions on the other days of Carnival week, but they tend to be quieter.
Brazilian Carnival – beyond the Sambadrome…
Without a doubt, the Rio Carnival is the largest, most colourful, loudest and most joyful spectacle on Earth, as well as the most important event in the Brazilian cultural calendar. Although its main attraction are the Sambadrome parades, “el carnaval” is not just about admiring dancing during the ticketed events. It is also an opportunity to have great fun and test your samba skills on the streets. During this time the city really doesn’t sleep! Head to the free street parties organised by dance schools and music bands – there are over 300 to choose from ! In the Cinelândia district, people dance to music from the 1940s-1960s, while Rio’s oldest street band, Cordao do Bola Preta, performs on Avenida Rio Branco.
Rio relaxation: from Carnival to the beach
In between the samba parades and street parties in Rio de Janeiro, you can regenerate on the beach. The most beautiful beaches in Rio are not only the famous and entertaining Copacabana and neighbouring Leme, but also Ipanema with great waves for windsurfing enthusiasts. A quieter but equally impressive beach is Barra da Tijuca or simply Barra, which stretches for almost 18 kilometres! You can get to this phenomenal lagoon by car, bus and subway. Find peace and quiet without the gusty winds typical to this part of Brazil on Vermelha, known as the red beach due to the pinkish shade of the sand.
Carnival in Tenerife
The Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the second largest in the world, after Rio de Janeiro. It is considered by many to be the best of its kind due to the friendly and safe atmosphere at the street parties and processions. It is also undoubtedly the longest. In 2024 the first attractions will start on 12 January and run all the way until 18 February! If you don’t want to take a long holiday and spend a fortune on a ticket to Brazil, Tenerife is the perfect choice for getting into the Carnival spirit. On the first day of Tenerife’s carnival, the opening gala takes place and this year’s Carnival Queen election will begin for three age categories. However, the main events take place a little later. On 9 February there is the opening parade and on 13 February the Coso de Carnival, the biggest carnival parade in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. This last date is so important that it has been declared a public holiday in Tenerife.
Tenerife’s carnival is the most “Brazilian” of all the carnivals celebrated in Spain. This means that it is loud, joyful, colourful and extremely danceable! Participants in the parades take their cue from those in Rio, dressing in feathers and bright, eye-catching costumes. The main theme of the 2024 Tenerife Carnival is the world of television. Another interesting event is the burial of the sardine, a masquerade before Lent, where participants dress in black to mourn the poor sardine.
Tenerife – more than carnival attractions
Tenerife is the perfect place to combine partying with relaxation in the sun – the perfect antidote to winter in mainland Europe! . You can relax actively by trekking through the Masca gorge or up the Teide volcano, the highest peak in Spain, or by surfing in Las Americas, including the beaches of Troya, Las Cuevitas, Del Bobo and Playa Honda. If you want some peace and quiet after a night of fun, lounge on one of the beaches in the Santa Cruz de Tenerife area, such as Las Teresitas, with its palm trees, Bollullo, with its black volcanic sand, or the secluded Las Gaviotas. You can also sample local flavours in the bars of the Plaza de España.
Carnival in Venice
The history of the Venetian Carnival is very long, dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries, and perhaps even earlier, although it reached its greatest popularity in the 17th century. Due to historic turmoil , masquerades were banned in Venice (it’s hard to imagine Venice without carnival masks) – until 1979, when this beautiful tradition was finally restored. This year, Venice’s carnival celebrations begin on 8 February and last until 13 February.
What distinguishes the pre-Lenten madness in the city on the Grand Canal is above all the extraordinary beauty of the masks, which are true works of art. It is worth buying one as a souvenir of your trip. With the right outfit (every year there is a different theme to adopt), you can blend in with the joyful crowd gathered in St Peter’s Square, the most important location for the events that take place during Carnival. The most famous tradition is the Flight of the Angel, which officially opens the carnival. During this time, balls, shows, street shows, theatrical performances, processions and festive gondola rides are organised.
During carnival, music becomes a universal language, a way to express yourself and connect with people without words. If Carnival has you craving even more musical experiences, go to a concert! Experience the electric atmosphere of a concert by a new-to-you artist. Immerse yourself in musical experiences and add an extra layer of excitement to your travels.