Opening in February, 2018, the Casa do Carnaval (House of Carnaval) was long overdue in the city that has the largest carnaval in the world. Fittingly, it sits in the historic center of Salvador, in a lovingly-restored building between Praca da Se and the Pelourinho.

At $30 reais, it’s quite a bit more expensive than the other museums in the city, but the experience is also on another level. Consider me impressed.

Historical carnival masks
Historical carnaval masks, entrance of Casa do Carnaval

You’ll know you are in the right spot when you spot the statue shown in the photo. I am not a fan of the statue (I also don’t like clowns), and find it both scary and creepy. But as scary as I find the statue, the look is emblematic of the old, old costumes worn during carnaval. So, while I don’t have to like it, I do appreciate the historical aspect.

To enter, continue past the scary statue to the right and you’ll find the entrance. Pass through the orange sliding doors and you’ll enter into the gorgeous, air-conditioned space.

Expansive Lobby

Books on shelves in a lobby
Reading area at the entrance, Casa do Carnaval

Once you pay your admission fee, a museum employee will greet you and give you a brief overview of the space.

I was instantly drawn to rows of books surrounding a large table and benches — all there to be enjoyed by museum visitors. Book topics range from the history of carnival to the city of Salvador to jewelry to black history and more. Most of the books were in Portuguese, but there were also some English titles.

Interactive & Multi-Media Exhibits

As I left the expansive lobby, the same museum employee magically appeared by my side again and handed me a specially-encased iPod with headphones for my self-guided, hour-plus tour. I anticipated having to listen in Portuguese, so was pleasantly surprised when I could choose between English and Portuguese. Props to the city, as the Portuguese is narrated by current carnival stars, including Gerônimo, Alberto Pitta (Cortejo Afro), Márcio Vitor, Mariene de Castro, Daniela Mercury, Claudia Leitte, and more.

Carnival costumes
Historical carnaval costumes in the Casa do Carnaval

The two large exhibition rooms contain over a dozen mini-exhibits with timed video as well as numerous costumes and props from carnivals past and present. The themed audio-video segment topics ranged from the early history of carnaval to top female carnaval artists to the international influence of carnaval, and much more. Clearly, a lot of thought and research went into making it both visually appealing factually accurate.

After you finish visiting the two exhibition rooms and turn in your headphones, head upstairs for two interactive dance experiences where you can feel the vibe and listen to the music of carnaval. Each room has a playlist of music from the top bands of recent past and present-day carnaval — Daniela Mercury, Olodum, Cortejo Afro, Gerônimo, Timbalada, and more.

Rooftop Terrace

After you’ve worked up a sweat dancing, go up one more flight of stairs to the terrace cafe and viewpoint. If you can’t navigate stairs, there is also an elevator and the entire building is accessible, including the bathrooms. From the terrace you can take in the ocean views, enjoy the breeze, and sip on a tasty beverage.

What You Need to Know

  • Location: Praça Ramos de Queirós – Pelourinho, Salvador (Google maps link)
  • Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 11:00am – 7:00pm (11:00-19:00). Check holiday hours.
  • Price: $30 reais
  • Languages Supported: Portuguese and English
  • How Long to Stay: 2 hours
  • Who Should Go: Anyone who wants to learn about the origins of carnival, learn about the event’s musicians and social movements, and take a deep dive into how it’s evolved into the mega-event it is today. In the basement of the building there is even an academic archive!

New to Salvador Carnaval?

Check out my series of articles designed to help carnaval newbies.

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