Just one mention of the word 'Sambadrome' and your feet should already be tapping. Rio may be the home of samba dancing but Sambadrome is home of samba performance. Purpose-built for Rio Carnival, come festival time Sambadrome is where all of the action takes place. Working as a runway for the over 30,000 samba performers who show off their dancing skills, pulsating rhythms and eyebrow raising costumes, it's not just the thousands in the crowd that revel in the festivities but the millions watching on television too.
Designed in 1984 by architect Oscar Niemeyer, even the builders must have been excited because the stadium took a lightning fast 110 days to build. Within each section are separate bars, food courts and restaurants and parades take place every night of carnival week. It’s not as cheap as a bowl of granola acai though and tickets for the big event days at can cost upwards of US$2000 if you want to mingle with the celebrities in the mezzanine boxes.
Popular with tourists are the runway boxes, which can still sell for over US$1000 but are much less if you book well in advance. It's still not cheap for your average Cariocan but demand is suitably high for the best seats to the show of the year, or show of a lifetime, depending on if you'll ever get a chance to get back to Rio during Carnival again! An affordable alternative for those that don't need a close up is to purchase one of the unnumbered seats, which are great if you want to dance the night away. Nobody does much sitting down at Rio Carnival anyway!
You needn't agonise if you've missed festival time all together. Rio Carnival takes months, if not the whole year of planning so there are many opportunities to get a free preview at one of the rehearsal nights. The following Saturday after Rio Carnival is when the cheaper ticketed winners parade takes place. Still there's nothing quite like the original party so for the true samba experience you can't miss the full marathon that is Rio Carnival at Sambadrome on the Sunday and Monday evenings of the festival.