Rio de Janeiro New Year's Eve
Rio de Janeiro’s New Year’s Eve occurs during summer’s peak, the city’s second-highest season. The celebration along Copacabana Beach, with a spectacular fireworks festival, attracts as many as two million people. Visitors come from all parts of Brazil and abroad, including many LGBTQ+ travelers.
Where's the Party?
Brazil celebrates the New Year with more gusto than most other places. Rio de Janeiro is where the most prominent party happens. The fireworks festival starts at midnight and lasts for about fifteen minutes.
The horseshoe shape of the beach offers viewers a privileged perspective that is equally breathtaking from the beach, the buildings, or the cruise ships that arrive for the occasion.
At Posto 3, across from Copacabana Palace Hotel, there’s a main stage featuring an assortment of musical attractions, including favorite singers, groups, and possibly even the percussion band of a Samba School. Performances start after sunset and continue until very early the following day, stopping only during the fireworks.
New Year’s is a massive event. Although there are celebrations and fireworks in other parts of the city, Copacabana is the place to be. The sheer number of people sharing the moment is enough to guarantee unforgettable memories.
It takes a lot of strategic planning to put together this vast open party. Subway tickets are only available before the event and come with a time stamp to keep the stream of people somewhat negotiable.
Cardeal Arcoverde is the subway station closest to the main stage. Cantagalo Station is closer to Posto 6, near Arpoador. Siqueira Campos Station has a more central location, yet it is a bit farther from the beach.
Copacabana is closed to private cars, meaning Uber and other apps will not get you far. Yellow taxis can circulate on the main street, Av. Nossa Senhora de Copacabana. Buses are also available, yet they may be very crowded during the peak hours. If you’re counting on ground transportation, leave home early.
Another favorite way to go is on foot. This promenade from Leblon and Ipanema to Copacabana has been incorporated into the routine of countless Cariocas. You will see a procession of people in high spirits, dressed mostly in white, and many of them bring along flowers. To join them, choose a hotel within walking distance, of course.
A Quick History
The grand celebration you see today started spontaneously. It’s a classic example of how cultures can mix gracefully in Rio de Janeiro’s melting pot. Cariocas enjoy celebrating New Year’s Eve together with friends. People who practice the African-Brazilian religion of Candomblé offer gifts to Yemanjá, the Deity of the Seas.
Residents of beach neighborhoods such as Ipanema, Leblon, and Copacabana joined the celebration, offering white flowers to Yemanjá. Candomblé priestesses blessed and offered popcorn baths to residents, now following their tradition of wearing white for good luck. Beachside hotels noticed the trend and started celebrating with fireworks.
The stations were set across from luxury hotels along the beach. Copacabana has the most significant number of hotels, and their celebration started to outshine Leblon and Ipanema. The cherry on the cake was the simultaneous firework cascades at Forte de Copacabana and the towering Le Meridién Hotel in Leme.
Traditions & Etiquette
Let’s start with a basic. In Brazil, most people refer to New Year’s Eve using the French term ‘Reveillon.’ Check the pronunciation at Google Translate if this is a new word to you.
According to tradition, most people wear white and accessorize using other favorite colors. You can buy white flowers and throw them in the sea as a gift to Yemanjá for good luck. Make-up, jewelry, or bottles of perfume are also popular gifts.
For some reason, Cariocas avoid fowl and crustaceans on New Year’s Eve. Remember that all restaurants will be closed except those holding private parties for patrons who reserved and paid in advance. Luxury hotels along the beach usually have good restaurants, yet most tables are taken by guests.
The party scene happens before and after the main event. Arrive in town a few days early, enjoy the beach, make friends, and party until you drop. Save some energy to enjoy New Year’s Eve in a great mood in this magical place, and count on ‘Recovery Parties’ on the first days of January!