10 of the best street blocos:
Banda de Ipanema (9 Feb, 6pm; 12 Feb, 3pm)
Banda de Ipanema has heralded an unofficial (read three weeks early) start of Carnival since 1964 and always gets the hungry hoards mobilised. If you still have the juice, return for the big one on the Saturday of carnival itself.
Where: Starts Rua Gomes Carneiro, finishes General Osório, Ipanema
Cordão da Bola Preta (1 Feb, 8pm; 9 Feb 9.30am (Cinelândia only))
If you are feeling ambivalent about carnival this year, under no circumstances go to the Cordão da Bola Preta. This is nine-hours solid of pounding drums, frenetic dancing and sardine-like crowds in Rio's oldest and arguably biggest street bloco.
Where: Starts Rio Branco (corner with Presidente Vargas), finishes Cinelândia, Centro
Carmelitas (8 Feb, 3pm; 12 Feb 10am)
Every year, Santa Teresa's Carmelitas grows in popularity with an improbable number of people packing the narrow streets behind the colourful florats and bloco members dressed as nuns in a nod to the religious order that gave first gave the bloco its name. Keep an eye on the times as they are liable to change at the last minute, but this is the first Carnival fling for much of Friday's after-work crowd.
Where: Starts Rua Dias de Barros, finishes Largo do Guimarães, Santa Teresa
Orquestra Voadora (Tue 12 Feb, 2pm)
In just five years, the Flying Orchestra has become one of the most cherished carioca bands, and one of the most spectacular blocos. Their live shows, a veritable army of pop-friendly brass and drums, were always going to translate well to the street, but few could predict quite how well. Essential.
Where: Starts Avenida Infante Dom Henrique, finishes infront of MAM, Flamengo
Soul Carioca (11 Feb, 7pm)
This growing Zona Norte phenomenon claims to take its inspiration from the hugely popular Monobloco. Made up from percussion members of the Portela school, Madureira’s child-friendly bloco certainly has the pedigree.
Where: Starts Rua Carvalho de Souza, finishes Estrada do Portela on the corner of Dagmar de Fonseca, Madureira
Céu na Terra (9 Feb, 8am)
Céu na Terra’s (Heaven on Earth) trademark tram logo will be all the more poignant this year, since the much-loved Santa Teresa transport was taken off the tracks following a fatal accident. Likely to be all the more raucous as a result.
Where: Starts Rua Dias de Barros in front of Bar do Serginho, finishes Largo das Neves, Santa Teresa
Volta, Alice! (11 Feb, 9am)
The early start may be hard for some to stomach, but this is one bloco worth getting up for, even if only to see some of the most imaginative costumes you'll encounter. Make your best effort and head to Rua Alice before the rest of the city wakes up from its drunken slumber.
Where: Starts Rua Alice (corner of Rua das Laranjeiras), finishes at the corner of Rua Mario Portela, Laranjeiras
Afroreggae (11 Feb, noon)
The huge Afroreggae organisation has its fingers in many pies, but if anyone can be counted on to deliver a storming drum troupe to the masses they can. The location in front of Ipanema beach doesn't hurt either.
Where: Starts Avenida Viera Souto, opposite Vinícius de Morães, Ipanema
Monobloco (17 Feb, 8am)
It ain't over til it's over with Carnival, and the Monobloco on the following Sunday is quite simply a beast of a bloco. While many vary in musical merit despite being good fun, Monobloco has managed to incorporate various styles into their oeuvre, injecting the street party with some much-needed life in the process. Essential, for those who still have any stamina left.
Where: Starts Avenida Rio Branco (on the corner of Presidente Vargas), finishes Cinelândia, Centro
Banda de Meier (9 Feb 5pm; 12 Feb 5pm)
If the flocks of tourists in Zona Sul make it all seem a bit lacking in authenticity, head into the suburbs for the Banda do Meier, the biggest bloco in this historic neighbourhood.
Where: Rua Dias da Cruz, between Rua Magalhães Couto and Rua Manuela Barbosa, Meier