When is the Nice Carnival?
Nice Carnival is a pre-Lenten carnival that takes place over 15 days in the lead up to Mardi Gras, the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent.
When is the 2023 Nice Carnival? The 2023 Nice Carnival will take place from Friday 10 February until Sunday 26 February, 2023.
Where is the Nice Carnival?
Nice is located in the French Riviera, which is the capital of the Alpes-Maritimes, France. It sits on the pebbly shores of the Baie des Anges and is located about 30 kilometres from the border of France and Italy.
What is Nice Carnival?
Nice Carnival or Carnaval de Nice is one of the biggest carnivals and best carnivals in the world, rivalling Rio, Venice or New Orleans Mardi Gras. For a two-week period before the onset of Lent, the city of Nice transforms into an annual 12-day party that attracts well over a million visitors.
The city of Nice located in France is the ultimate destination to celebrate carnival with its moderate winter climate, beautiful Mediterranean beach vibes, sea views and historic architecture.
Day and night Nice erupts into a lively carnival atmosphere, with parades that feature featuring dozens of elaborately decorated floats, as well as over a 1000 musicians and dancers from all over the world, and of course the famous Flower Parade.
Street parties take over the city of Nice, and everywhere you look there are people singing, dancing, socialising and having fun. Street vendors are everywhere selling, gifts, flowers, coloured fabrics and food
What is the History of Nice Carnival
What is the history of carnival and what is the history of Nice Carnival? Nice Carnival is one of the longest running carnivals in the world, if not the oldest. It has been running for centuries, ever since the Middle-Ages.
It is one of the most important events in the French Riviera and dates back to ancient times when the pagans used to celebrate the winter solstice. They would hold debaucherous and wild celebrations to mark the end of winter and the arrival of spring and harvest.
The first documented account of Nice Carnival was by the King of Sicily in 1294 when he mentioned the ‘Joyful days of the Carnival’, in his writings. For many centuries, Nice Carnival Celebrations were private events, with exclusive parties and masquerade balls thrown in luxurious residences that were attended by rich aristocrats.
However, in 1830 when the King of Sardinia and Queen of Naples and Sicily came to Nice during the carnival period, the local authorities organised a public parade to be held in their honour, which was such a success that it continued. The famous Flower Parade was first held in 1876.
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Nice Carnival 2023 Carnival Theme
The theme for the 2023 Nice Carnival is “King of the world’s treasures”.
Nice Carnival Main Events
The Nice Carnival Opening Ceremony kicks off at Place Masséna, located in the heart of Nice. Everyone is invited to come and join in the fun. There will be lots of floats, dancers, musical troupes, flag bearers, costumed performers who all come out to enjoy the show!
The Belgian Carnival “Les Gilles de la Louvière
The Belgian Carnival which is officially called by locals as “Les Gilles de la Louvière” will have you buzzing with its amazing colourful costumes, giant hats, clogs, belts and cheerful music. These performances invite us to experience the “guindaille”!
Illuminated Carnival Parade – Corso Carnavalesque
The Parades have the most festive, colorful and incredible atmosphere. The 2022 Nice Carnival theme “The King of the Animals” will be brought to life through the music groups, street art troupes and performers, hailing from all over the world. Admire the 17 carnival floats that have been created by the world’s best craftsmen decorated according to theme.
Corso Carnavalesque – La Parada Nissarada
This parade is imbedded with local heritage! All the floats featured in this parade are designed and constructed by local Nice carnival associations, which illustrates how important this carnival is to each district. This parade proudly represents and showcases Nice. There is lots of interaction and immersion between the participants and spectators.
Battle of the Flowers
Every year this incredible flower parade takes place with flower floats and costumed performers, who throw flowers to the audience. The parade highlights the incredible flower diversity found in the region. Over 250,000 flowers and 21 tons of mimosa are thrown to the crowd. This year a gigantic green flower promenade will be in the middle of the Place Massena.
Farewell to the King
Today is the last day of Nice Carnival and when the Carnival King gets cremated. Carnival will end with a massive and highly popular, free street party.
Exhibition of the Corso
Each day during carnival the public can enjoy and admire the amazing corsos of the day (carnival floats).
The Théâtre de Verdure
Throughout carnival, the Théâtre de Verdure will be running entertainment for anyone to enjoy. They will also run ‘carnival masterclasses’ to give you some insight into the history of carnival and what goes on behind the scenes.
Throughout Nice Carnival there is a carnival village set up that has gourmet food stands, drink stands, arts, crafts, animations, shows, costumes, music and more.
Nice Carnival Parades
The Nice Carnival processions are incredibly modern, creative and high-quality performances that are renowned around the world. The two main events are the Carnival Parade and the Flower Parade.
The Carnival Parade goes both day and night and features 20 floats and over a thousand performers. The parade works its way through Nice led by three main floats – the Kings Float, the Queens Float and one for their son Carnivalon.
All the floats are elaborate and incredible pieces of art that are meticulously designed. The floats are designed to represent the current year’s theme and are accompanied by around 50 giant puppets. These giant papier-Mache puppets are large satirical figures that wear flamboyant costumes that use centuries-old techniques created by specialist craftspeople.
Nice Carnival’s second parade is called the Parade of Lights and doesn’t start until the sun goes down. When it’s all dark the floats lights switch on to reveal the most incredibly beautiful lights decorations adorning the floats. The floats parade well into the night with a variety of musicians, entertainers and fireworks.
Nice Carnival – The Battle of Flowers
The Battle of the Flowers, also called the Parade of Flowers, is the most famous event at the Nice Carnival and takes place beside the sea on the famous Promenade des Anglais.
The Battle of Flowers showcases a wild array of beautiful flowers that are produced in the Nice regions and it pays tribute to those who grow them. Flower-decked out floats in the parade are ridden by costumed performers who throw out flowers to the audience. 80% of the flowers thrown during the parade are grown in the area.
Around 100000 fresh-cut flowers are thrown during the parade. There are sixteen flower-floats, that are 7m long and each hold about 3,000 stems of flowers. Two people on each float throw about 20kg of flowers to the crowd and in total about 100,000 fresh cut flowers are thrown during the parade.
The Battle of the Flowers started in 1876 and took place around Place Massena during the day. The floats throw flowers to the people in the audience and are decked out with thousands of flowers.
The Parade of Flowers started when the Andriot Saetone who founded the modern version of Nice Carnival gave flowers to the audience as a token of thanks and the tradition stuck and grew bigger and bigger.
Nice Carnival is an intoxicating festival designed to make you believe that winter is over, and spring is beginning!
Where to Stay for Nice Carnival?
Because Nice has such a great bus and tram system you can pretty much stay anywhere in and around the city because you can easily reach the carnival action. Of course, if you want to be walking distance to everything then stay around the waterfront and close to the promenade.
We suggest booking in advance because of how many tourists Nice Carnival attracts. To get the best deals and availability research and book early, you can always cancel later if your plans change. Many hotels offer carnival packages that provide you tickets to some of the shows.
Here are hotels close to Nice Carnival:
- Ajoupa Apart’hotel Nice, un hotel AMMI
- Best Western Plus Hotel Massena Nice
- Hotel Albert 1er
- Hotel Beau Rivage
- Palais Saleya
Where to View the Nice Carnival Parades?
The Parades of Lights and Carnival Parades take place around Place Masséna. While the Battle of the Flowers occurs on the Promenade des Anglais. Both of these locations are in the city centre close to Old Town. It’s very easy to find the locations you only have to spot the bleachers. Also, the tourism office provides maps of parade locations.
While the parade weaves its way through the Nice, there are gated security measures in place throughout the city. Therefore, you should plan to get to the most convenient gate for you around an hour before the parade starts to ensure you get a great spot.
It is possible to purchase reserved seating which is recommended especially for the popular Battle of the Flowers and the Carnival Parade of Lights.
Nice Carnival Map of Place Masséna and Parade Route
Nice Carnival Tickets
You can purchase tickets online from the official website here. Or you can purchase tickets in Nice. There are several ticket offices/kiosks around the town that sell tickets. The main tourist office in Nice sells tickets and it’s located on the Promenade des Anglais.
Ticket discounts are offered to children and to those who purchase seated tickets for both the Carnival Parade and the Flower Parade. Also, children under 6 are free but they will have to sit on their parent’s laps.
There are plenty of free events during carnival including the opening ceremony, burning of the Carnival King and firework displays. Check out the carnival programme for all of them. You can watch the parades for free along the side streets, but you will have to arrive early to get a good spot.
Top Things to Do and See in Nice
Nice is famous for being a picturesque stylish city on the French Riviera. You must explore Promenade des Anglais which is the best way to experience the gorgeous blue of the Mediterranean. Visit Castle de Nice, or marvel at the Gothic architecture of Notre Dame de Nice.
Visit the Matisse Museum which has hundreds of works by the famous artist Henri Matisse.
View the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Nice which was donated by Tsar Nicolas II. To the east of Promenade de Anglais you can visit Parc Phoenix, an enormous park containing an incredible range of exotic plants and flowers. There are also plenty of Roman ruins for you to explore.
Simply wander through the colourful cobblestone streets of old town. While you are there visit Cours Saleya, the main pedestrian area famous for an enormous flower market and filled with quaint shops and cafes. You must try some delicious French cuisine or sip some cocktails in one of the many glamourous waterfront bars.
- Nice: 1 or 2-Day Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour (purchase here)
- From Nice: French Riviera in One Day (purchase here)
- Nice: Provence Village Tour with Wine and Produce Tasting (purchase here)
- Nice: Gorges of Verdon and Fields of Lavender Tour (purchase here)
- Nice Food Tour (purchase here)
If you are in Nice for Carnival then we highly recommend visiting the Menton Lemon Festival which is a nearby carnival that is quite unique and unlike any other carnival celebrations in the world. Around 300,000 people visit this carnival which also features incredible parades, shows and events.
Nice Carnival King
Nice Carnival is always presided over by a gigantic, kingly character. This tradition dates back to 1882 when the locals would construct a giant straw King and position him on the palace balcony.
The Nice Carnival King’s arrival on the royal float will always signal the start of the carnival celebrations, and each year a new king will set the theme for the whole event. For over two weeks the King will oversee parades day and night. The king is surrounded by floats, bands and costumed characters. While the King’s helpers throw confetti and candies into the crowd.
On the last night of Nice Carnival, the King’s reign comes to an end and he is sent out to sea in a little boat and burnt, while the carnival-goers celebrate with a spectacular fireworks display.
Nice Carnival Tips
A carnival attended by more than a million people can be a pretty hectic affair, so here are the top things to know to enjoy Nice Carnival without any hassle:
- Get in free if you wear a full costume – If you are wearing a costume then you are able to get in for free. It has to be a full costume, not just a mask or a silly hat. The rule is that if you are dressed head-to-toe in full costume you gain free entry into the standing B Zone.
- Reserve your seats early – If you want good seats then you need to book in advance to claim your spot. Particularly with the flower parades.
- Catching Flowers – For the Flower Parade, if you want to be able to catch flowers then you need to be seated in the first five rows. But be warned that everyone tries to catch the flowers so your personal space can be invaded, so if you are bringing little ones then sit back a few rows
- Book in advance – By pre-purchasing your tickets, you can avoid the long lines at the ticket booth on the day. But the advantage of purchasing when you’re in Nice is that you can check the weather forecast and ensure that the parade will go ahead.
- Check where you’re lining up – Take note of signs for which line you need to be in before entering the enclosures. At Promenade des Anglais, you will see that one line is for the standing area and the other is for the seated ticket holders. Don’t waste your time in the wrong line.
- Security checks – You will have to go through security checkpoints upon entering the enclosures so prepare to have your bags and backpacks unzipped and inspected. Also don’t bring in any restricted items like glass bottles or alcohol.
- Arrive Early: If you arrive around an hour before each parade, you will see the floats being driven in from the carnival workshop port. If you hang out on the city side of the Promenade du Paillon, then you can enjoy the floats whizzing by. It is a good opportunity to get some pictures.
- Stay back after the parade – Don’t rush out when you think the parade is over as the procession of floats will make their way around a second time as they leave, so you might catch something you missed the first time. You can even hang out in one of the many bars and cafes on the Old Nice Side of the Promenade du Paillon to watch a mini-carnival in style.
- Where to park -It might be best to actually drive to a nearby town and catch a bus or train into carnival. Alternatively, the Nice Etoile shopping center is only a 5-minute walk to carnival and offers a deal on carnival days.
- Watch the parade for free – If you stand along Avenue du Verdun, near McDonald’s you can easily watch the parade for free. Also, the second floor of McDonalds at the Hotel Le Meridien will give you a good view. For a bird’s eye view check out the roof terrace of the B4 Plaza Hotel.
- Watch your valuables – In big crowds there can be pickpocketing so be aware of your surroundings.
How to Get to Nice Carnival?
- By Plane: The easiest way to get to Nice is to arrive at the Nice-Côte d’Azur Airport (NCE). Sitting just 7km outside the city it has many international and domestic flights landing every day. From the airport you can either take a taxi or a 20-minute bus to the centre of town.
- By Train: Trains run all the way up and down the coast from Italy to Marseille and are reasonably priced and reliable, so it is a good option if you are nearby. There are several train stations in Nice, but the main station and the busiest is the Central Train Station (Gare de Nice Ville), which also happens to be located close to the city centre.
- By Road: There are numerous bus companies that connect between Nice and other French cities, as well as several other international destinations. If you were thinking of driving here, then just be aware that the city is jammed packed during carnival and many main streets are closed, so you may have a difficult time getting around.
- By Boat: Port de Nice is one of the most developed and busiest ports on the French Riviera, being used both for commercial and tourist purposes. SNCM is one ferry company that links Nice to other destinations on the Mediterranean Sea.
How to Get Around Nice?
Once you reach Nice, the local bus and tram networks make it super easy to get around the city. The tram system is very efficient and costs around €1.50 per ride. There are two routes through the centre of town.
The best way and most enjoyable way to get around during Nice Carnival is on foot! You can wander around the city along the waterfront promenades through all the squares and parks taking in everything the city has to offer.
Is Nice Carnival Safe?
Yes, Nice Carnival is very safe! There is plenty of security at the gates to enter carnival. In fact, there are 54 security checkpoints and thousands of police and security personnel. There are also bag checks and random security searches undertaken at the entrance to carnival