O Sambodromo (the Sambodrome) is the magnificent stadium located in downtown Rio which becomes the most important stage on earth during Rio Carnival, when over 30,000 samba performers show off to the hordes of spectators. It was designed in 1984 by the architect Oscar Niemeyer, who wanted to create a runway for the samba schools to parade down at this special time of year, and took just two and a half months to build.

O Sambodromo: The world's greatest stage / source

The Sambadrome During Rio Carnival

During Rio Carnival, a six samba schools perform in the Sambadrome each night, over four nights, with each taking approximately eighty minutes to parade through it, performing their school’s anthem and doing their best to impress the crowds with their music, dancing and floats. In total, the spectacle lasts for approximately ten hours.

In preparation for the 2016 Olympics, the Sambadrome has undergone drastic renovations, which began just after Rio Carnival in 2011. New sections have been added, taking the capacity up to 80,000, and yet to come are four large buildings that will house 'frisas' (front boxes), luxury suites, grandstands and more seats, each of which is expected to hold another sixty people.

On the last day of Rio Carnival 2012, the official opening of the ‘new Sambadrome’ was held, which was attended by Oscar Niemeyer amongst hundreds of others, and whereby a 5km costume race took place, beginning and ending in the Sambadrome. The full renovated Sambadrome is expected to be ready by January 7th 2014, right after the New Year and Niemeyer’s birthday, to honour the fact he created all the plans for its new design.

The Sambadrome After Rio Carnival

Once Rio Carnival has been and gone, the Sambadrome plays host to occasional music concerts where legendary acts such as The Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam, Eric Clapton and Coldplay have taken to the stage and performed. Once the Olympics comes round, the venue will also host archery and the athletics marathon event.

The Sambadrome in Rio during the day The Sambadrome after Carnival / Photo by Daytours4u

However, even when there’s nothing taking place in the giant stadium, it’s still well worth a visit, for it’s an important and interesting piece of Rio’s culture. Moreover, there is the Museu do Samba, a small museum located within the Sambadrome which showcases its history and enables you to dig into the past with real life exhibits featuring costumes and photos from the Samba parades over the years.

Useful information

How to get there:

By taxi
Several taxi companies offer fixed rates to and from the Sambadrome. You can also be able to hail a standard street cab, as the driver will be able to get you fairly close to the entrance.

By metro
Another alternative is to use the subway and get off at “Praça Onze” station, which is just a 15 minute walk from the stadium, or get off at “Central” station.

You can drive to the Sambadrome, but be aware that there is no parking available, so you may have to walk a fairly lengthy distance.

As part of a city tour
Tours to the Sambadrome are recommended, as this alleviates all the stress and hassle of getting there yourself. Both the Rio Full Day City Tour and the Rio Express Day Tour take you to the Sambadrome, as does the Christ the Redeemer City Tour.

With such a fascinating background, it’s no wonder so many people choose to visit this iconic stadium.

For more information about Carnival in Rio and other tourist activities in Rio de Janeiro, visit Rdj4u.

By: Camilla Day