20 of the World’s Best Carnivals!

Everyone knows Rio Carnival but here are some of the other best places around the world where you can celebrate carnival

Carnival is a global sensation that is celebrated in over 50 countries around the world. Every city has its own unique traditions and way of celebrating. Here is a list of some of the biggest and best carnivals from around the world.

1. Rio de Janeiro Carnival, Brazil

20 world carnivals

Where is Rio Carnival? Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

What is carnival in Rio? Rio de Janeiro Carnival is the mother of all carnivals! It is a pre-Lenten celebration that is attended by over five million people making it the biggest carnival in the world. The carnival is famous for its Samba Parades that feature 20-meter floats and thousands of performers.

Besides the samba parade Rio is famous for its crazy street parties. Over five hundred street parties take place across the city of Rio during carnival, some are attended by a few hundred and some are attending by millions.

2. New Orleans Mardi Gras, USA

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Where is the New Orleans Mardi Gras? New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

What is carnival in New Orleans? Well carnival in New Orleans goes under a different name which is Mardi Gras. What is Mardi Gras? Mardi Gras is Latin for Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday as some call it, this is the day before Lent. Mardi Gras in New Orleans is also a pre-Lenten celebration that dates to when Louisiana was a French colony.

New Orleans Mardi Gras features numerous parades, costumed revellers and lots of merrymaking. Mardi Gras is known for the float riders throwing gifts to the crowd’s colourful plastic beads which you will see everyone wear around their neck on Mardi Gras day.

Mardi Gras is more than one day of celebrating as in fact a whole carnival season that begins on the 6th January and continues to get bigger and bigger culminating in the big parades and parties on Mardi Gras day.

3. The Carnival of Venice, Italy

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Where is Venice Carnival? Venice, Italy

What is carnival in Venice? Nowhere celebrates carnival quite like Venice. This is the most extravagant and elegant carnival in the world. The carnival is famous for its revellers wearing traditional 18th century masks and costumes. Wearing masks which dates to the 13th century when people would disguise themselves to hide their social class and engage in some debauchery.

Venice provides the most majestic backdrop for the costumes and masks that fill the city’s streets and alleyways. Venice Carnival is also famous for its luxurious masquerade balls and parties that are held during carnivalVenice Carnival runs for 20 days but it is the last two weeks when most of the festivities occur. It is a must-see event that attracts millions every year.

4. Trinidad and Tobago Carnival

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Where is the Trinidad and Tobago held? Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

What is carnival in Trinidad and Tobago? Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago is a colourful, vibrant and lively celebration. It takes place the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. It is without a doubt the best Caribbean carnival in the world. Numerous carnivals around the world modelled their carnival celebrations after those seen at Trinidad and Tobago including Notting Hill.

Trinidad and Tobago Carnival are famous for its colourful costumed band parades, wild rum-soaked parties and Caribbean music. Soca, Calypso and steel bands are to Trinidad Carnival what Samba is to Rio Carnival. This is the most anticipated event of the year on the island and there is a Trinidadian saying that the locals never stop thinking about carnival.

5. Notting Hill Carnival, UK

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Where is the Notting Hill Carnival held? Notting Hill, West London, UK

What is carnival in London? The Notting Hill Carnival held annually in the end of summer in the trendy west London neighbourhood of Notting Hill. The Notting Hill Carnival is officially Europe’s biggest street party with an attendance by two million people. Notting Hill was created in the sixties to celebrate and represent London’s multicultural population.

For an entire weekend the Caribbean is transported to London. Modelled after the Trinidad Carnival, Notting Hill features colourful street parades and parties, stunning colourful costumes, large sound systems pumping out the calypso, soca, reggae and dance hall tunes. There is delicious mouth-watering Caribbean cuisine, the rum flows freely and people drink and dance the day away.

6. Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain

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Where is the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival held? Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

The Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is a pre-Lenten festival held in the Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the capital of the Canary Islands. It claims to be the second largest carnival after Rio and while this may be debatable it does attract hundreds of thousands every year.  The carnival is known for its crowded 24/7 street parties that fill all the streets and squares of the city.

It also has parades, free concerts, dances, competitions and fireworks. People hit the streets wearing extravagant colourful carnival costumes. There are performances from over 100 traditional musical groups which include murgas, comparsas, rondallas. Carnival closes with setting fire to a giant sardine.

7. Quebec Winter Carnival, Canada

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Where is the Quebec Winter Carnival held? Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

What is carnival in Quebec? The Quebec Winter Carnival is different to most because it happens smack bang in the middle of winter. It is one of the biggest carnivals in the world with over a million people attending every year. It features dog-sled racing, snow sculptures, snow baths, sleigh rides, balls, ice skating and night time winter parades.

This carnival gives the locals are reason to stop hibernating and just get outside and embrace the cold weather and drink a Caribou. A giant snowman is the mascot who lives in a five-story ice castle that gets remade every year for carnival.

8. Oruro Carnival, Bolivia

20 world carnivals

Where is the Oruro Carnival held? Oruro, Bolivia

What is carnival in Bolivia? Oruro Carnival is Bolivia’s biggest tourist attraction! This has also been recognised by UNESCO as ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’. This carnival is an indigenous celebration that is about honouring Pachamama (mother earth) and Tio Supay (the God of the underworld).

Carnival features a procession that lasts over 20 hours! Thousands of performers, dancers and musicians wearing gorgeous traditional folkloric costumes put on a massive theatrical parade. The parade tells the story of good triumphing over evil. It features the ritual La Diablada or the famous dance of the devils.

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9. Nice Carnival, France

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 Where is Nice Carnival held? Nice, France

What is carnival in Nice? Nice Carnival is a pre-Lenten festival that runs for two weeks prior to Ash Wednesday. Nice Carnival is the largest carnival in France and attracts millions from all over the world.

Nice Carnival features 11 different parades with thousands of dancers and musicians. Nice Carnival is famous for its Flower Parade that sees over 100,000 flowers thrown from the floats to the crowds.

10. Fasnacht in Basel, Switzerland

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Where is Basel Fasnacht held? Basel, Switzerland

What is carnival in Switzerland? Carnival in Switzerland is known as Fasnacht which is celebrated all over the country. However, the largest and most popular celebration occurs in the city of Basel. Basel Fasnacht has been recognised by UNESCO as being a ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’.

This carnival lasts exactly 72 hours in what the locals call the three best days of the year. Basel Fasnacht will transport you to another world. It features many traditions and customs that are centuries old. You will hear traditional music, see 20,000 traditional folkloric masked costumers parading around the town. There is also a beautiful lantern festival that lights up the city streets.

11. Barranquilla Carnival, Colombia

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Where is the Barranquilla Carnival held? Barranquilla, Colombia

What is carnival in Colombia? While not too many people have heard of Barranquilla Carnival it is in fact Colombia’s most import carnival celebration. It is also one of the largest carnivals in the world, attended by millions.

It is a pre-Lenten carnival that runs for four days prior to Ash Wednesday considered a must-see event. Carnival features amazing costumed parades, streets parties and a mix of Caribbean and Latin music.

12. The Carnival of Viareggio, Italy

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Where is the carnival of Viareggio? Viareggio, Italy

What is carnival in Italy? This carnival celebration held in the Tuscan city of Viareggio is one of the most renowned carnivals in both Italy and Europe. Held annually for a month before the onset of lent. Carnevale di Viareggio attracts millions of spectators who come to view its amazing parades that feature incredible floats.

13. Sitges Carnival, Spain

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Where is the Sitges Carnival held? Sitges, Spain

What is carnival in Spain? The Sitges Carnival is one of the biggest carnivals in Europe with more than 300,000 people visiting every year. It is known for its wild street parties as well as being one of the most gay friendly carnivals in the world.

Sitges Carnival is the last change before the onset of Lent to give in to all temptations, you can let your hair down, dress up and get your freak on. Sitges truly is one of the most perfect places to get wild, gluttonous and join the party.

Sitges is famous for its tolerance so everyone is welcome to join the party. Four days prior to the official Sitges Carnival Celebrations there is even a Gay Pride Parade where the streets are filled with colour, music and dance.

14. Berlin Carnival of Cultures, Germany

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Where is the Berlin Carnival of Cultures? Berlin, German

What is carnival in Berlin? Carnival of Cultures held every summer in Berlin, Germany is all about celebrating diversity and unity. It originally started to protest xenophobia in 1996 and continued to grow every year. Today around one million people come out to celebrate.

Carnival of Cultures features thousands of participants from all over the world showing of their cultures in a huge procession. There is also over 100 live music shows from DJs, bands and artists. There is also many street vendors and market stalls selling delicious food, arts and crafts.

15. Mazatlán Carnival, Mexico

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Where is the Mazatlán Carnival? Mazatlán, Mexico

Mazatlán Carnival in Mexico claims to be the 3rd largest carnival in the world. It is a pre-Lenten carnival that occurs for the 5-days prior to lent and attracts millions from all over Mexico. An old saying is that “in Mazatlán, time is measured by Carnival” which highlights how carnival is the most anticipated event of the year in Mazatlán.

There is no other carnival in the world that celebrates like Mazatlán. Their carnival celebrations are incredibly unique. The carnival is famous for featuring an abundance of brass bands that line the Mazatlán oceanfront boardwalk. The carnival also features lots of colourful parades and an incredible firework display.

16. Salvador Carnival, Brazil

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Where is carnival in Salvador? Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

 What is carnival in Salvador? Salvador Carnival is the second biggest carnival in Brazil. It is different to Rio Carnival because there are no samba parades. Instead Salvador Carnival is all about the blocos. Salvador Carnival is officially in the Guinness Book of Record for officially being the worlds largest party. Over 2 million people flock to Salvador de Bahia for one week of partying.

Salvador de Bahia is also the heart of Brazil’s Afro-Brazilian community. Nowhere else in the world has the African culture brought over by the slaves, been as preserved as it has been in Salvador. Afro-Brazilian music, food, dance, religion and martial arts traditions are still alive and well.

Often people call Salvador Carnival the “real carnival.” The reason people say this is because Salvador de Bahia’s large Afro-Brazilian community with their strong roots to African culture and traditions, gives Salvador Carnival a more authentic African flavour. Afro-Brazilian music, dance and folklore are on display during carnival.

 17. Aalborg Carnival, Denmark

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Where is the Aalborg Carnival held? Aalborg, Denmark

What is carnival in Aalborg? Aalborg Carnival is the biggest carnival celebration in Northern Europe. It features 25,000 performers and musicians in their Grand Parade. After the parade there is also a massive party held in the city park Kildeparken. The Aalborg Carnival runs for a week and consists of three main carnival events; The Battle of the Carnival Bands, Children’s Carnival and the Grand Parade.

The parade is closer to the ones you will see in South America then the more folkloric parades in Europe. It is a unique carnival that occurs in Denmark’s fourth largest city. Why do they celebrate carnival in Aalborg? They decided to celebrate the coming of spring which is an ancient tradition that dates back to pagan roots.

18. Rijeka Carnival, Croatia

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Where is Rijeka Carnival held? Rijeka, Croatia

What is carnival in Croatia? Rijeka Carnival is Croatia’s biggest carnival. Carnival season here runs for about a month filled with lots of parades, parties, music concerts. The carnival culminates in a Grand Parade that occurs on the Sunday preceding Ash Wednesday. The Grand Parade usually attracts around 100,000 spectators and is a colourful and lively procession.

It is the biggest carnival celebration in Croatia, and for centuries, carnival in Rijeka was famous for throughout Europe more than any other Croatian City, and its celebrations were attended by royalty and socialites from all over Europe including Russian Royalty, Austrian and Hungarian aristocrats and numerous earls and countesses.

19. Ivrea Carnival, Italy

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Where is Ivrea Carnival? Ivrea, Italy

 What is carnival in Ivrea? Ivrea Carnival is also known as the Battle of the Oranges. This is Italy’s biggest food fight that sees the town people divide into nine teams consisting of 4000 people. For three days these participants throw 500,000 kilos of oranges at each other, as hard as one possible can.

The Ivrea Carnival re-enacts the towns freedom from an evil tyrant who was murdered back in the 12th century. Around 100,000 tourists come to celebrate carnival in this medieval town. Carnival occurs for the three days prior to Ash Wednesday.

20.Recife and Olinda, Brazil

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Where is carnival in Recife and Olinda held? Recife and Olinda, Brazil

 What is carnival in Brazil? While Recife and Olinda are two separate carnivals in Brazil, they are often lumped together because the two towns only sit 7kms away from each other. Most people will switch back and forward between the two carnivals.

These two carnivals combined become the third largest in Brazil attracting millions. It is said to be one of the most authentic Brazilian carnivals because they feature many folkloric traditions that were influence from the Native Brazilian Indians. Recife is also famous for hosting the largest carnival parade in the world, with over 2 million participants joining in.

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