Recife & Olinda; Brazil's best carnival

Fabio Jardelino | Live the World

November 23, 2022

One thing I know for sure is that you've already heard about the Brazilian carnival. But do you really know its massive importance to a big continental country like Brazil? Brazil's carnival spreads across the 26 states and the federal district. Some of the most famous, though, is the Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, Bahia and Recife & Olinda - in this article, we'll talk about the last ones. 

Recife and Olinda are basically brother cities. During the first years of the Portuguese colonization, Olinda was the capital of Pernambuco; however, after a short battle, Recife became the capital and a land of power. Since that time, Recife and Olinda have a history of competition between them, to prove which is the best...As expected, this reflects on the carnival parties, too... which I guess is a good thing for the carnival lovers!

© Fábio Jardelino

Of course, they are two very similar cities, but the kind of carnival in each one of them is a little different. At this first picture, you can see the carnival party in Olinda, with the city of Recife in the background. In Recife, you can enjoy more multicultural activities, with concerts and private parties. Olinda, on the contrary, has a street carnival, where you can find Frevo orchestras walking around the historical center (the fun part is to follow them). And the best: despite some private concerts, everything is for free, so you just go there and enjoy. 

Carnival in Recife

Officially the carnival in Recife starts with the biggest carnival parade according to Guinness Book, the "Galo de Madrugada." Every year this attraction puts together in the center city more than a  million people with a parade that goes on for more than 12 hours and has more than 30 "electric trios." The floats are known to come equipped with powerful loudspeakers and platforms that carry entire orchestras. This starts on the first Saturday of the carnival period, and goes on until the next Wednesday - it is basically a marathon of parties. 

© iStock/ MesquitaFMS

After the big "Galo da Madrugada" (in English, Dawn's Rooster) the city of Recife hosts diverse concerts. They usually take place at the Ol[d Town zone](, mostly at the Marco Zero, Cais do Alfândega and Praça do Arsenal and keep going all night until the first sunlight. At Marco Zero,  Recife's symbolic square, the town hires famous bands of Brazil and even international, since it's a multicultural carnival. But at other spots, such as "Praça do Arsenal," "Cais da Alfândega" or "Rua da Moeda," where you can find smaller stages, you can enjoy cultural and folklore bands. Also, all around the city, you can find local parties in neighborhoods. 

Recife is also famous for its "preview carnival parties" - these start just after the New Years Eve, in the middle of January, but become bigger as the carnival approaches. Typically in Brazil, the Carnival month is in February, but can also occur in March, so take a look before you plan your trip. 

Carnival in Olinda

In Olinda, you have two critical attractions to see: the Giant Dolls parade and the Frevo orchestras. The Giant Dolls parade happens typically on Sunday morning, while Frevo orchestras can be found all over the carnival period. You have to check the annual schedule -you can find it in the official town website of Recife and Olinda- to make sure when and where the events are taking place. They usually have a pre-defined route, so you can be on the position to follow them, or simply wait for them to pass. 

© Robson Vasconcelos

Remember, if you want to stay in a hostel in Olinda during this period, you better check a year in advance, because the demand is very high and the hotel facilities tend to be fully booked even six months before carnival. Also, you could also use public transportation from Recife to Olinda. During the carnival period, the government adds special additional lines serving this purpose.

© Robson Vasconcelos

Keep in mind that during carnival, you have to choose wisely what kind of party you want to join. While Recife's celebrations keep going all night with parties and concerts (the only exception is the Galo da Madrugada), Olinda features its orchestras during the daylight. Of course, you can even join both of them, but I guarantee you after only one day you are going to feel tired. Of course, in addition to the hot and humid weather, you'll have to walk a lot ( while drinking alcohol, if you like) together with millions of people. By the way, it gets so crowded that sometimes you cannot even walk, you just let yourself go with the flow!

In the end, this side-by-side contact with people is what makes the carnival in Recife and Olinda a special and unique experience. Dive into our beautiful and rich culture!

Enjoy Brazil's best carnival!

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