Festivals & Events

The Recife Carnaval is a hard-to-believe explosion of color, costume, crowds, alcohol, fabulous music and dancing, and infectious happiness that adds up to one of Brazil’s most euphoric and folkloric festivals. It has claims to being the best Carnaval in the country, despite attracting far fewer tourists than Salvador's or Rio's. While there are many hundreds of music and dance events held on stages around the city, Carnaval is essentially a participatory event: people don’t just sit and watch; they don elaborate costumes and dance for days to Brazilian rhythms, and especially to Recife’s very own, frenetic frevo.

Galo da Madrugada (Cock of the Morning), which is claimed, probably correctly, to be the largest Carnaval bloco (parade group) in the world, erects a giant rooster on the Ponte Duarte Coelho and pulls more than a million people into central Recife for its parade on Carnaval Saturday morning, starting around 8am. Carnaval activity focuses around a number of polos (poles) dotted about the city. Recife Antigo (especially Marco Zero, Praça do Arsenal and the Paço Alfândega) and the Pátio de São Pedro are among the best areas to head for.

Carnaval in Olinda is so close that you could participate in both on the same day, and there is a lot of crossover in the events. Accommodations in both cities hike prices mercilessly and may demand three- to five-night minimum stays; some get booked up months, even a year, in advance.