Carnevale, also known as carnival or mardi gras, is celebrated in Europe and many places around the world during the 40 days before Easter, and a final party before Ash Wednesday and Lent. Carnevale is one of Europe’s biggest winter festivals and events often last for two to three weeks before the actual carnival day. Many european towns celebrate Carnevale the weekend before the last day of carnival.
1. Cologne, Germany
Speak to any German about Carnival, and they’ll likely tell you to hop on the train to Cologne. Few German cities take Carnival as seriously as this place. The “crazy days” festivities kick off on Weiberfastnacht, six days before Ash Wednesday. Bars and restaurants stay open all hours of the day and night, people don their best costumes and masks, and traditional parades and celebrations take over the streets for the whole week.
2. Venice, Italy
The Carnival celebration in Venice is perhaps one of the most famous in the world. It also has history on its side, dating back to the 15th century. Many say that the tradition of wearing masks over Carnival began here as a way for the city’s noble participants to protect their identities as they mixed freely with the commoners. The days building up to Carnival in Venice are packed full of street performances, balls, parades, costumes, and masks. You’ll find celebrations taking place throughout most of the city, but the epicentre of the action is in St Mark’s Square.
3. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona isn’t one to be left out of any major celebration. You can expect traditional Spanish flare to dominate the city’s Carnival events. Expect several food-based events including tortillas and spicy sausages, as well as more traditional parades and celebrations. If possible, time your visit around Gran Rua de Carnaval, which takes place on the Saturday before Fat Tuesday. This climax of Carnival in Barcelona features hundreds of participants on foot and in wooden carriages making their way through the city streets.
4. Nice, France
There are records that indicate the French city of Nice celebrated Carnival as far back as the late 13th century, making it one of the oldest iterations of the event on the continent. Carnival in Nice runs for 10 days and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors. Much of the focus is on flowers, and there are daily flower parades and impressively decorated floats. Participants on the floats also throw out an estimated 100,000 flowers to spectators, so be sure to grab a place close to the front. The 10 days of celebrations end with the Grande Parade, where fireworks and a bonfire light up the night sky.
5. Binche, Belgium
The town of Binche, just a short trip away from Brussels, may just hold the record for kicking off the Carnival celebrations earlier than most. The event officially begins 49 days before Lent. But if you’re looking to immerse yourself in the real action, plan to get there in the final three days. Men and boys dressed in red and black, with masks and ostrich feather hats, walk the streets throughout the season, lending the town an air of the surreal. Fat Sunday’s parade brings with it a popular confetti battle. The festival draws to a close on Fat Tuesday after more street parades and an epic fireworks display.
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