The temperatures in Rio are soaring, and so too is the sense of anticipation as the frenzied partying of Carnival draws closer.
Falling later in the calendar this year than usual (Carnival is a moveable festa, based around the dates of lent), there has been plenty of time to recover from the excesses of New Year and prepare for even more excess as Carnival spirit takes hold of the city.
There is so much celebrating going on during this mother of all parties that it can be hard to know where to head for, but for colour, excitement and a real dose of samba spirit, the Rio de Janeiro Carnival Balls are good places to start.
These indoor themed parties have been an integral part of Rio Carnival celebrations for decades, and are great excuses to dress up and let your hair down.
While some of the balls are strictly for the rich, famous or well connected (such as the Magic Ball at Copacabana Palace), others are affordable for us mere mortals, and prices usually included unlimited drinks as well as buffet snacks to soak up all that alcohol.
The Scala venue in Leblon has been hosting fabulous Carnival Balls for almost 40 years, and has a differently themed party for each night of Carnival. Prices start at under R$100, making these some of the more affordable Carnival balls in the city.
This year’s calendar of Carnival balls at Scala kicks off on March 3 with the Mangueira samba school’s ball – expect spectacular drumming and dancing at this very traditional party.
The following day, March 4, is strictly for fans of the football team Flamengo, and takes the side’s red and black colours as its theme, while on March 5, the Cidade Maravilhosa Ball celebrates all that is Rio and promises to be a memorable night (even if those memories are slightly hazy…)
March 6 is themed around A Night in Ibiza, with electro music taking centre stage, and March 7 is the ‘Beer Ball’, where drinking takes priority.
However, the biggest of all the Scala parties is saved for last. The Gay Costume Ball is an explosion of colour and fantastic costumes, with flamboyant drag queens putting on the show to end all shows. Open to anyone with an open mind, this is one of the most popular Rio Carnival Parties.
For those who really want to celebrate in style, meanwhile, the Copacabana Palace Magic Ball is the place to be. With tickets starting at just under R$1000 and rising to a cool R$1500, they don’t come cheap, but this legendary gathering is not about attracting the hoi polloi.
The dress code for the March 5 event is ‘luxury costume’ or black tie/dinner gown, so if you do plan to go, be sure to make an effort. Copacabana Palace does offer Carnival packages with Magic Ball tickets thrown in.
Tickets to all Rio Carnival events are available at