The Top 5 Must-See European Carnivals
There are plenty of carnivals conducted each year, all over the globe, celebrating a wide selection of causes. Most are held during the period before Lent, in the months of February and March, and are full of music, dancing and colourful costumes.
Here are five European carnivals that provide a unique spectacle. Watch as they pass by or take part in the celebrations – it’s up to you.
Cologne’s carnival season officially starts on the 11th of November at 11:11 am, however, the crazy costumes and parties in the squares and streets won’t begin until Shrove Thursday. The festivities will kick-off in earnest then and carry on for a further six days, known as the ‘Crazy Days’.
It all begins with a women’s parade in the Alter Markt, involving outrageous outfits, singing and dancing in and around the local pubs, halls and restaurants. The ‘Jan un Griet’ historical play is performed at the Severinstor in the afternoon, followed by masked balls and parties in the evening.
The climax is on the following Monday when the official parade is held. During this, colourful sweets and bouquets of flowers are thrown to the millions of spectators lined along the roads, dressed in fancy dress costumes. Why not go as a group and coordinate your crazy outfits?
Dusseldorf conducts one of the biggest carnivals in Germany and incorporates tremendous floats in the many parades and extravagant outfits in the costume balls. There are many live music performances in the market squares that echo down the streets.
As in Cologne, the party season starts on November 11th at 11:11 am in the Old Town, with a joker arising out of a giant pot of Mustard and giving a funny speech. Then, when Shrove Tuesday rolls around, the first parade involves women in colourful costumes entering the Town Hall and cutting off the Mayor’s tie, to symbolise power and control.
Many pubs and bars will blast out music for the locals and tourists who wish to sing and dance to celebrate. Themed parties are held throughout the carnival and fancy dress is promoted in schools, to get all of the children involved in the commotion as well.
The Nice Carnival is one of the most popular events along the French Riviera and is known worldwide. Each year, there is a different theme for the main parade, so make sure you look out for the announcement for 2020, as there are 17 extraordinary floats dedicated to this subject.
The festival lasts around two weeks and 11 events take place during this time, including six parades. One of these is the flower parade, which features outrageous costumes, floats covered in beautifully coloured flowers and blooms being tossed into the crowd. Make sure you catch one to take home as a souvenir.
Fancy witnessing an amazing illuminated parade? Watch the carnival of lights that's carried out in the evening, emphasising the bright, colourful glow on the floats and during the visual performances.
Live music is played from bands during both parades to get the crowd up and moving along with the 1,000 dancers and performers.
The Paris carnival starts in January and ends before Lent. It usually incorporates many feasts, dances and even marriages. During the festival, there are many parades that incorporate costumes of traditional characters, with distinctive characteristics and attributes that all Parisians will recognise from previous carnivals. The famous masked ball is organised in the Paris Opera during this time, so don’t forget to book your tickets.
It’s split up into two sections – the Walk of Masks and the Processions. The Walk of Masks involves a series of people in disguises, which intrigues curious tourists and locals. This colourful, noisy parade is comprised of drums, bells, whistles and, of course, loud costumes.
The Procession is yet another parade, however, this colourful march includes many entertainment shows that involve jugglers and acrobats, theatrical performances and live music. 50,000 spectators swam to the scene to witness all of these spectacular one-of-a-kind shows.
Venice Carnival is also held every year during the two weeks before Lent and encompasses a wide range of activities like competitions, parades and shows. It’s best known for its intricate masks like the Bauta and Columbina. Prizes are given for the best mask and costume, and there’s the tradition of the Flight of the Angel. This is where an acrobat, tied to a rope, descends down the San Marco Bell Tower to greet the Doge – a real spectacle.
The carnival starts with a two-day celebration during which food stalls sell local foods on the streets and a parade takes place along the Grand Canal. Festa delle Marie is held after and is led by 12 beautiful, young women from St. Peter's Castle to St. Mark's Square. The last part of the festival is Svolo Del Leon and includes the Flight of the Lion, a beautiful ritual where the Lion flag of Venice is raised to the top of the San Marco Bell Tower.
If you wish to see one of these carnivals in Europe then contact us via our website or call us on 0800 988 3369.