Carnival season is right around the corner! You know what that means? It’s time to party! With vibrant costumes, elaborate masks, glistening beads and impressive parades, people around the world immerse themselves in the spectacle of it all. Originally regarded as a transition into the Catholic Lent, this tradition has evolved into extravagant displays of grandeur. Not everything is about Rio though! Other cities around the world paint the celebration with an entirely different brush, taking elements from their own cultures. Check out our top picks for the most memorable Carnival experiences around the globe!
Alaaf! If you’re looking for a wild time, then look no further than the Cologne Carnival. The Women’s Carnival Day sets this German city’s celebrations apart. It’s a time when the women of the city wear fancy-dress and attend masked balls and parties. However, men who don’t want to miss out on the fun are more than welcome…as long as they’re dressed the part! The festivities culminate with the parade on Rose Monday, a vibrant procession of colorful costumes and extravagant floats marching through Cologne’s Südstadt. In addition to the parades, chocolate boxes, sweets and knick-knacks rain from the floats onto the cheerful onlookers. After the parade, crowds of people flow from the streets to public squares and into pubs through the city!
Carnival of Venice
Ever dream of going to an elaborate masquerade? Then don your best costume at the Carnival in Venice! The Italian celebration dates all the way back to the 12th century and features intricate costumes with porcelain masks. These masks once symbolized an act of defiance against the city’s class hierarchy. In spite of this, today they represent a glimpse to the city’s elegant past. Some events, like the lavish costumed balls require invitations which come at hefty fees. But, don’t be discouraged! Many activities, such as the candlelit boat parades, outdoor concerts and street performances are open to the public, free of charge. You can really feel the flow of history as you stroll along the city’s winding canals and cobbled promenades. It’s an experience unlike any other.
Mardi Gras in New Orleans
Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler! One of America’s most colorful celebrations, Mardi Gras dazzles the historic French Quarter with a massive parade in an animated display. Purples, greens and golds are the traditional colors and revelers wear glistening beads amidst the street parties. Naturally, you’ll see just about every costume you can imagine at this city’s flagship celebration. In addition to the parades and parties, don’t forget to sample some of the Crescent City’s culinary treats. Stop by the Café Du Monde for some mouth-watering beignets or try some regional Cajun cuisine!
Carnival of Cádiz
Open-air parties, fireworks, and plenty of laughs to be had, the Cadiz Carnival is a spirited extravaganza! The main event consists of not one, but two massive parades. Festivities begin when the Gran Cabalgata (Great Parade) kicks off on the first Sunday at the city’s entrance. Conversely, the Cabalgata del Humor (Comedy Parade) takes place in the old town on the last weekend. Fancy costumes, known as tipos, are strongly encouraged! Musical groups compete at the Falla Theatre, often playing humorous songs. The Cadiz Carnival is all about having a good laugh! More than 100 groups typically take part. This includes the colorful chirigotas, which you won’t want to miss!
No list would be complete without the Rio Carnival! Arguably the most famous carnival event in the world, samba music dominates the celebrations. More than 200 samba schools and 300 neighborhood bands perform throughout the city. Parades march through the Sambodromo, where the top samba schools compete against one another. The festivities spread from the central parades to countless street parades, known as blocos. It’s all about free-spirited fun. The entire city becomes a massive party!
Enjoy the Parades in Nice
Parades galore! Set amongst the gorgeous French Riviera, the Nice Carnival is one of the largest of its kind. From the Flower Parade, which adorns the Place Masséna with a vibrant array of flora and colorful floats. After that, the Carnival Parade reflects a different theme each year and wows visitors with spectacular colors and designs. The parades are joined by street performers and theater groups from all around the world. Once the sun is down, the Carnival Parade of Lights illuminates the city with impressive floats displays and animations on screens all around! There’s something going on throughout the day.
Buenos Aires Carnival
Inspired by the Carnival in Cádiz, Spain, the streets of Buenos Aires are brought to life by over 100 murga, neighborhood music groups dressed in brightly colored costumes. The murgas perform a diverse range of music, which often includes commentary on life, current affairs and their local neighborhoods. Streets are animated by exuberant performances. For instance, acrobatic performers clad in shining sequinned costumes dazzle crowds to the rhythmic beating of snare drums and cymbals. Therefore, it’s all a real feast for the senses!