According to a recent survey, the city of Salvador, the Bahian state capital, was considered the favorite Carnival destination among Brazilians, having been chosen as the best Carnival host city by 37 percent of respondents. In 2018, Salvador’s hotel occupancy rates reached 98.6 percent, the highest in the country during these festivities. Approximately 800,000 visitors were expected to visit Salvador during the 2019 Carnival, of which more than 80 percent would be Brazilian visitors. National tourists from other states were, in fact, the ones expected to spend the most for Carnival in Salvador, with an average expenditure of 5,000 Brazilian reals (around 1,300 U.S. dollars) per person.
Rio de Janeiro is also one of the most popular destinations for Carnival. However, in the same survey mentioned above, it ranked below the top three city destinations, after the Bahian capital and two other state capital cities, Belo Horizonte and São Paulo. In any case, Carnival parades in the ‘marvelous city’, as Rio is widely known, are still the largest in Brazil and the most famous worldwide. In 2019, more than one million tourist arrivals were expected for Carnival in Rio, in addition to the 5.5 million city locals who would also join in the celebrations. A year earlier, the six million Carnival attendees that Rio hosted were able to choose from more than 470 street parade blocks.
Carnival blocks, also known as blocos de rua, are formed by performing artists and bands, who parade along the streets while dancing and playing music, usually disguised in colorful costumes and representing different characters of a story or a theme. For example, in 2018, nearly 1.5 million people were estimated to have attended the parade of Cordão da Bola Preta, one of the most traditional blocos in Rio.
The most important Carnival samba parade in the country takes place every year in Rio’s Sambadrome. This event has always been the landmark of the Brazilian Carnival. Broadcasted live by TV networks all over the country, it is one of the main reasons why these celebrations became globally known. In 2018, foreign attendees outnumbered Brazilians in the parade’s audience, accounting for more than half of tickets sold. Tourists from neighboring South American countries like Chile and Argentina represented over one fifth of the total number of attendees.
Belo Horizonte, the capital of the state of Minas Gerais, once a destination for those attempting to escape Carnival in the overcrowded Rio and Salvador, has experienced a rise in popularity over the past few years. This city’s hotel occupancy rates reached 53 percent during the 2018 Carnival season, an increase of seven percentage points when compared to the previous year. This is believed to be associated with the high number of street parade blocks set to perform, a quantity comparable to those in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, considering Belo Horizonte’s significantly lower population.