Arriving around 22:00-23:00 could be a good idea, considering that this is the time when the atmosphere starts to peak.
If you hold a grandstand ticket with no assignment and are determined to sit through the 12-hour marathon, you can arrive early and try to sit as you please. The doors of the Sambadrome open at 18:00, however lots of people queue up already at that time to “fight” for the best seats. An average person generally watches 2-5 samba schools. Best to take it easy.

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