🇫🇷 Limoux Carnival

Limoux Carnival is a traditional folkloric carnival that is over 400 years old. It runs from January until April making it one of the longest carnivals in France!

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    When is Limoux Carnival 2023?

    The Limoux Carnival is known for being one of the longest carnivals in the world because it runs for three months, every weekend between January and March. The carnival always begins on the third Sunday in January and ends in March, after 11 weeks of celebrating. The 2023 Limoux Carnival dates are from 15 January until 26 March, 2023. Every Saturday, Sunday and Mardi Gras Day see the carnival bands parade through the town. It is also one of the oldest carnivals in the world, dating back to the 16th century.

    What is carnival in Limoux?

    There are not many carnival seasons that run for three months!! But the annual Limoux Carnival or Carnaval de Limoux in French does. Limoux Carnival declares itself the longest carnival in the world and begins at the start of January and continues right until the start of Lent. Carnival in Limoux has been officially celebrated ever since 1694!

    Every year the beautiful medieval city of Limoux comes alive with the sights and sounds of Carnival. This celebration brightens up the winter months and is an important part of Limoux’s cultural identity and heritage. Limoux Carnival is celebrated in the town’s traditional language, Occitan.

    limoux carnival

    How do they celebrate carnival in Limoux?

    Well the French love a party and the Limoux Carnival is no exception, it is one heck of a party! For over 400 years, thousands of people from all over, fill the square in the centre of Limoux for parades, parties, exhibitions and all sorts of events. It is tradition to drink the towns famous white sparkling wine known as “Blanquette de Limoux”.

    Every Saturday, Sunday and on Mardi Gras day, carnival bands will march through the town with the masked performers, musicians and dances. There is a whirlwind of celebrations surrounding the parades. After three months of celebrating the carnival ends with the judgment day of the Carnival King.

    Each parade is led by leaders who are called ‘meneurs’. They are required to engage with the public and ensure that the parade goes according to plan. They have to be sure that the parade sticks to its set route and maintains a certain pace as is law in the Carnival’s ‘commandments’. In the main square in town, a life-size figure of ‘Sa Majesté Carnaval’, who is a Carnival King puppet, must await his inescapable fate. On the final night of carnival, there is a mock court proceeding which was conducted in ancient Occitan, and the Carnival King will be sentenced to burn at the stake. This closing ceremony is called Blanquette de Limoux. The puppet of the Carnival King is burnt on a big bonfire, while traditional songs are played around him. This is than followed by a large feast.

    limoux carnival

    Carnival Bands – Guilds

    Limoux Carnival is full of local folklore. Carnival groups called Guilds, who are locals hidden by masks to disguise their identity, walk around the town accompanied by musicians, entertaining and annoying people. Essentially Guilds go around making a big spectacle around the city’s main square. Everything is conducted in the ancient Occitan language.

    There are about 30 carnival bands or Guilds that take part in Limoux Carnival and each band has around 20 people from different backgrounds, some are entertainers, some are musicians or dancers. Each Guild represents either a local district, neighbourhood or company, etc. The ‘guilds’ go around playing music and singing songs. The songs are usually satirical by nature to entertain, criticise or annoy. They also play traditional music on trumpets, basses, bass drums and clarinets. There are strict carnival rules that the bands have to follow.

    All the bands have recognizable costumes and maskse cities gates that identify them. For example the band Les Limouxins always wears long beak-like nosed masks, similar to those plague doctor masks seen in Venice. The Band Las Coudenos wear black robes, black hats and white masks. The Band Le Paradou can be recognised by their white and black Pierrot costumes.

    Every weekend for three months, the groups entertain people by playing traditional local music, and putting on performances. The Limoux Carnival music features over 100 historic pieces that have been created by local composers, and musicians. The melodies are often inspired by operas.

    limoux carnival

    Limoux Carnival Parade Schedule & Events 2023

    • Sunday, 15 Jan: Les Meuniers
    • Saturday, 21 Jan: Les Pichoun’s – Les Taps
    • Sunday, 22 Jan: Les Arcadiens
    • Saturday, 28 Jan: Las coudénos – Les Estabousits
    • ​​Sunday, 29 Jan: Le Pont Vieux
    • Saturday, 4 Feb: Les Manatches – Les copin’s
    • Sunday, 5 Feb: Le Tivoli
    • Saturday, 11 Feb: Les Rémenils – Les Infialurs d’achille
    • Sunday, 12 Feb: Monté Christo
    • Saturday, 18 Feb: Les Piotes – Les funny
    • Sunday, 19 Feb: Les Aissables
    • Mardi Gras Day 21 February: Les Anciens
    • Friday, Feb 24: Les Estella – Les canailloux
    • Saturday, 25 Feb: Les Encantados _ Les Poupinetos
    • Sunday, 26 Feb: Les Blanquetiers
    • Saturday, 4 Mar: Carnival of the world – Les Afogats
    • Sunday, 5 Mar: Exit of all gangs
    • Monday, 6 Mar: School exit
    • Tuesday, 7 Mar: School exit
    • Wednesday, 8 Mar: Children’s Carnival
    • Thursday, 9 Mar: Out of school
    • Friday 10, Mar: Retirees
    • Saturday, 11 Mar: Les Brounzinaires – Les Rambaiurs
    • Sunday, 12 Mar: Le Paradou
    • Saturday, 18 Mar: Les Pébradous – Les Sieurs d’Arques
    • Sunday, 19 Mar: Las Fennos
    • Saturday, 25 Mar: Les Jouves – Les Limouxins
    • Sunday, 26 Mar: L’Aragou “night of the blanquette cremation”

    Where is Limoux?

    Limoux is an Occitan town that lies in the beautiful Aude department of sunny Languedoc-Roussillon. It is in the heart of the Cathar Country, in southwestern France. The Michelin Guide described the town as one of the “most beautiful detours in France”.

    History of Limoux Carnival

    limoux carnival

    Limoux Carnival dates back to the 16th century and apparently started when some local millers had finally completed their tax payments to the local monks. They were so excited that they paraded out the city’s gates dancing and were accompanied by musicians. They handed out flour and treats to the local townsfolk as they went along. This celebration has been kept alive ever since. The celebration took its current form after World War 2.

    Limoux Carnival Parades

    Every Saturday and Sunday from the start to finish of Limoux Carnival there are three parades a day each held at different hours of the day; 11am, 16:00 and 22:30pm. The parades are held in the middle of Limoux’s medieval centre. The main character is the masked, flour millers, who are dressed head-to-toe in spotless white.

    Everyone participates in Limoux’s carnival. The parade is made up of the guilds, goudil’s which are clown like characters, dancers, musicians and ordinary people The dancers are all masked in colourful Pierrot costumes and wear fine gloves and pretty shoes.

    Large crowds of people all congregate in the Place de la République, which is the centre of Limoux, a pretty area filled with stone arcades and timber-framed houses. They all sing, dance and perform throughout the city’s main square and streets. Traditional folk music accompanies the parade as they weave their way through medieval archways.

    The night parade is statelier. It is a magical procession that features lots of torchlights, it looks like ghosts are passing by you.

    limoux carnival

    Burning of the Carnival King – Blanquette de Limoux

    On the balcony in the main square is a straw dummy who represents the carnival king. He overlooks the procession. On the last night of carnival is judgement day, and a court procession is held. It is a judgement of the carnival king, called the Blanquette, after the town’s famous wine.  They find the carnival king guilty of sinning during carnival and he tossed it into a large bonfire.

    Carnival participants also gather in Limoux’s main square and also toss their masks into large bonfires showing ‘Adieu paure Carnaval’ (‘Farewell to the Carnival’). The participants then enjoy a delicious feast and eat a local delicacy, the Limoux Cake, which is washed down with sparkling wine.

    limoux carnival

    Where to Stay in Limoux

    Limoux has a few accommodation options, but we recommend the Hôtel Le Monastère which is actually a former medieval monastery!! The Moderne et Pigeon is also another really unique 18th century building.

    Top accommodation options close to Limoux Carnival are:

    Check out other great accommodation options in Limoux on Booking.com here.

    limoux carnival

    What to do and see in Limoux

    Limoux is a gorgeous town and you must explore its historic centre. Around the Place de la Republique are many attractive 15th-16th century houses and other monuments. Also in the historic centre is many gorgeous small shops and cafes. Also explore the covered market in Place de la Republique.

    You will also discover many fortified gateways in the town and renaissance and medieval houses. There is also the Saint-Martin Church built in the 12th century. The Aude river sits behind the church and from there you can see the old bridge which dates back to the 14th century with its six stone arches.

    Limoux is famous for its sparkling wine, Blanquette de Limoux which is the oldest sparkling wine in France, dating back to 1531 when Saint Hilaire Abbey discovered that some wine had fermented and formed bubbles. The locals say the process was stolen by Dom Perignon who went on to create champagne. However the Limoux Sparkling Wine is a high quality champagne and you must try it while in town!

    On the edge of Limoux is the Jardin au Plantes Parfumees de la Bouichere which has thousands of fragrant plants in the garden. North of the town centre is the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Marcsielle an incredible 14th century gothic style church. And the fortified town of Carcassonne is worth visiting which is close to the region of Limoux. 

    Check out the Top Tours on Viator in France

    How to get to Limoux?

    The closest airport to Limoux is Carcassonne airport which is about a 20-minute drive away. Limoux train station is also a hub in the French transportation network. 

    limoux carnival

    Book your Hotel and Flight for the Limoux Carnival

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