Visit France, Spain, Italy, Germany or Switzerland in February and discover Carnival. Join the locals as they celebrate with special traditions you’ll see nowhere else. Stay with us and turn your trip into a unique experience.
This is the time Germany lets its hair down, under different names and in different ways, from ‘Fastnacht’ in Mainz to ‘Karneval’ in Cologne, perhaps the wildest. Celebrations can begin with ‘Women’s Carnival’ on Thursday before Ash Wednesday, when ladies can kiss any man they like after cutting off his tie. And on Rose Monday, thousands dress up to watch marching bands, dancers and floats parade with caricatures mocking politicians and other personalities. So be ready to catch confetti, sweets, and toys. Festivities peak on the final day, Shrove Tuesday, when costume balls are held all over Germany. Normality returns on Ash Wednesday when fish is almost certainly dish of the day.
Book your hotel now and stay between 10th and 22nd of February in one of the cities listed below to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of Carnival:
Mainz Cologne Dusseldorf Frankfurt
Berlin Baden-Baden Stuttgart
Nice boasts France’s largest carnival, with a colourful15 day programme. Their unique The Battle of the Flowers sees locally grown Mimosas, Lillies and Gerberas thrown from extravagant floral floats. After a fifty-year break Carnaval in Paris was revived in1997 and grows steadily each year, centred around a Sunday procession led by a live cow - the Promenade du Boeuf Gras (Fat Cow Parade). For an Alsace regional twist visit Strasbourg or Mulhouse, which holds a transvestite competition and two Chicken’s Friday evenings specially for women, to rival the traditional gentleman’s evening (Herre-nOwa).
The world-famous Venice Carnival is a 10-day feast for the eyes. The masks which allowed wearers to briefly cross social boundaries still play a crucial role, from simple facepainting to wonderful creations that outshine their costumes. No wild processions of floats here; just open-air music and the taste of ‘frittelle’ – doughnuts made only for this event. While Florence does not have a strong Carnival history, Verona’s dates back to 1531. The last Friday is called Gnocchi's Friday, when a big parade is led by Gnocchi's Dad, a mask representing an old king holding, instead of a sceptre, a huge fork topped by a giant gnocchi.
El Carnaval in Spain has all the drama and delights you might expect from the nation of bullfighters and flamenco. The first day in Barcelona is known as ‘Greasy Thursday’ with guilt-free enjoyment of enormous amounts of food. In the area of Cadiz – the oldest and best attended - the action lasts even beyond Ash Wednesday, with wild costumes, a dazzling musical tradition and plenty of satire. In Madrid and elsewhere you’ll see colourful costumes swapped for black, as the mournful and theatrical ‘Burial of the Sardine’ marks the beginning of fasting. The King of Carnival is laid to rest and the festivities die down.
At 4am precisely on the Monday after Ash Wednesday, the Fasnacht in Basel begins its 72-hour celebration with drums, flutes and costumed marchers. Streetlights are turned to leave only the atmospheric procession of large decorative lanterns which are then exhibited. Head for a café and you may also find locals spouting satirical verse for the occasion. Lucerne has its own traditions too. Two rival parades, one from folklore, the other more mischievously modern, take over the town on different days. Improvised brass and percussion bands of dubious quality play well-known tunes, and a huge concert rounds off the occasion