The most festive Carnival celebrations around the world

Mar 4 2019, 9:01 pm

Carnival is currently underway all around the world, celebrating spring and offering a splash of colour to kickstart your week (or a bad case of FOMO).

The annual festival typically takes place the week before lent in Roman Catholic countries around the world and involves parades, processions, street parties, and masquerades.

While festival origins are unique to each region, Carnival festivities have taken place since the middle ages and were originally rooted in religion.

Today’s celebrations have evolved to include a broad spectrum of events and participants — emphasis on ‘spectrum’ as Carnival tends to be colourful, vibrant, and extravagantly wild, wherever it unfolds.

Here are some of the most festive places to celebrate Carnival around the world.



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During the Carnival of Venice, the entire city dons Venetian masks. The elegant tradition of wearing Venetian masks dates back to the 12th century as a means of protesting their society’s rigid hierarchy. Masks remains a staple in today’s Carnival celebrations and are essential for the Gran Ballo delle Maschere, the ultimate masked ball.

While Venice gets most of the glory, many other festivities take place around Italy. The Tuscan Carnivale di Viareggio celebrates with giant paper maché floats that rise up to 20 meters high. By contrast, the Battle of the Oranges turns the Ivrea Carnival into one massive food fight.

2019 dates: February 16 to March 5. Visit the Venice Carnival website for more information.



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Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival lasts well over a month and locals remain committed to partying hard throughout the entire affair. This crazy event culminates with crowning the Queen of the Carnival, a 24-hour party, and setting fire to a giant paper maché sardine.

2019 dates: February 27 – March 10. Find event info here.

In Sitges, a sister town to Barcelona, the beloved Carnival King declares a city-wide street party. Festivities last for a week, until Ash Wednesday, when the King is burned at the stake and buried (but not for real).

Sitges is also one of Europe’s top LGBT destinations, a fact that Carnival-goers embrace. This article explains why you’re guaranteed to have the gayest of times celebrating there.

2019 dates: February 28 – March 6. Learn everything you need to know in the Sitges Tourist Guide and Gay Sitges Guide.



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During Binche Carnival, local masked men called Gilles descend upon the town and create all manner of chaos. Some shake sticks to scare away evil spirits while others throw fruit into crowds. UNESCO calls the event “a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity.”

2019 dates: March 3 – 5. Discover this folkloric event here.



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For those who didn’t catch the bouquet at their last wedding, head to Nice Carnival. In addition to the requisite parades and elaborate floats of various themes, Nice Carnival is best known for its epic flower parades and flower battles called Bataille de Fleurs.

2019 dates: February 16 – March 2. Visit the Carnaval de Nice official website for details.



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Cologne Carnival technically begins in November, but the main event takes place in February each year. The main weekend of the celebration involves parades, elaborate floats, costumes, masquerade balls, and wild parties for all.

2019 dates: February 28 – March 5. Find all event information here.



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Rather than waiting for a groundhog to poke its head out, Slovenians prefer to scare winter away. Kurentovanje in Ptuj, the country’s largest Carnival event, features a parade of traditional and mischievous characters. Watch out for Kurents, sheepskin-clad creatures strapped with cowbells who jump and jingle to chase winter away.

2019 dates: February 15 to March 5. Find Kurentovanje info here or discover Slovenia’s Carnival traditions here.



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Mardi Gras, or ‘Fat Tuesday’, means parades, floats, and king cakes. It means flashy costumes or donning purple, green, and gold. It may also involve a healthy dose of flashing as some participants show their stuff in exchange for everything from Mardi Gras beads to bonbons.

2019 dates: March 2 – 6. Discover all things Mardi Gras here.

Trinidad and Tobago


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This vibrant carnival takes place over the two days leading up to Ash Wednesday. Carnival Monday begins at 4:00 AM, where people parade through the streets covered in paint, grease, and mud. Later on, masqueraders and costumed revelers dance to soca, steelpan, and calypso music. Expect extravagant costume art and pulsing dance parties.

2019 dates: March 4 – 5. Find festival information here.



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Oruro Carnival is Mardi Gras on steroids. It is the biggest annual event in Bolivia and features a 20+ hour-long narrative parade that tells a traditional story of good trumping evil. Best of all, Oruro ends in an epic water fight.

2019 dates: March 1 – 5. Learn all about Oruro here.



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Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival is called Loucura Suburbana, meaning ‘Urban Madness’, and it delivers exactly what it promises! It is the mother of all carnivals, drawing an average of 2 million participants each day.

Music and samba are essential elements of Loucura Suburbana, which often boasts the flashiest costumes and sauciest dance moves of all Carnival celebrations worldwide.

2019 dates: March 1 – 9. Get tickets and information here. And don’t forget to check out our Rio Travel Guide!


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Don’t worry, Canada is home to its own Carnival celebrations too, although they won’t be happening this week.

Caribana returns to Toronto August 1 – 4, 2019.

Caribbean Days will take place in Vancouver on July 27 – 28, 2019.

Click for colourful photos of the Caribbean Carnival that took Toronto by storm last August!

Trixie PacisTrixie Pacis

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