Here Is Your Essential Guide to Patras Carnival!
This is your essential guide to experiencing the best of Patras Carnival! From where to find the best parties, parades, dates, events, accommodation and more!
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When is Patras Carnival?
Patras Carnival always begins on 17th January and finishes on Clean Monday. That makes the 2023 dates of Patras Carnival start on Tuesday, January 17, 2023 and runs until Monday, February 27, 2023.
What is Patras Carnival?
Patras Carnival is the largest carnival event in Greece which celebrates Aporkies. What is Apokries? Apokries in Greece is the carnival season that begins around ten weeks prior to Greek Orthodox Easter and finishes on Clean Monday.
Not only is Patras Carnival the best carnival in Greece, it is also one of the best and biggest carnivals in Europe. The carnival dates back to ancient Greece.
How do they celebrate the Patras?
Patras Carnival is a celebration filled with colour, music, dance, feasting, partying, drinking and merrymaking. Patras Carnival is not just one event but is full of events and activities for the whole family.
There are parades, masquerade balls, street parties, a hidden treasure hunt, theatre and music performances and even a children’s carnival. The Grand Parade is the main event and highlight of the Patras Carnival, as is the Treasure Hunt Game that occurs across the city.
Why do Patras Carnivals dates differ from Mardi Gras?
In Greece, carnival is tied to the Greek Orthodox Easter which is different from the Catholic Church Easter. Every few years the calendars will sync up. Irrespective of when the dates are for the pre-Lenten period, Patras Carnival will always start on St. Anthony day which is the 17th January.
What is the history of Patras Carnival?
Did you know that many speculate that the ancient Greeks were the ones that invented carnival! What are the origins of Patras Carnival? Well the history of Carnival in Patras dates way back to ancient pagan rituals that were associated with celebrating Dionysus.
The ancient Pagan carnival celebrations occurred in winter and were held to chase away the winter and welcome spring. However, the modern version of Patras Carnival began back in 1829 because of the French troops stationed in the city. The first carnival floats appeared in the 1870s starting the tradition of parades.
Additionally Patras’s geographical location to Italy meant that Venice Carnival heavily influenced the grand festivities and traditions of modern Patras Carnival. Patras Carnival even began to develop quite the prestigious reputation as being a bit of a carnival king known for its masquerade balls and parties.
The Opening Ceremony
Regardless of when Lent occurs the Carnival of Patras always begins on the feast of St Anthony which is always the 17th January. The event begins with a town crier who strolls through the street inviting the locals to the Patras Opening Ceremony that evening in George Square.
The Patras Carnival programme is always kept a secret until the very last moment, when the town’s mayor declares carnival open. The event usually features dances, music, acrobats, fireworks and fun for the whole family. The event then turns into a huge dance street party with thousands partying all night until the early morning.
The Patras Children’s Carnival
The Patras Children Carnival takes place a week prior to the Grand Parade. It features over 12,000 kids from the age of zero and up. They parade through the streets of Patras with their mums and dads, dressed in bright costumes. The carnival groups are made up of different kindergartens, dance schools, nurseries, etc.
The Patras Children Carnival also features giant colourful floats. The themes are usually based on famous fairy tales or Disney movies. The point of Children’s Carnival is to get the next generation excited and involved in carnival.
The Treasure Hunt
There are two big highlights of Patras Carnival. The first is the Grand Parade and the second is the Treasure Hunt. The Patras Carnival Treasure Hunt is a scout game between carnival groups who have to crack all the clues hidden around town. The game sees them test their knowledge and deduction skills.
The carnival groups also get to show off their artistic merits and imagination in a series of artistic competitions that may require painting, theatre performances and whatever else the organisers dream up. Everything is evaluated and marked by the judges until a winning team emerges victorious!
The Saturday Night Parade
The Saturday Night Parade also known as the “Nihterini Podarati” is a small parade that occurs after dark the night before the grand parade. The carnival groups march through the dimly lit city without their floats, instead holding brightly lit torches. It is a majestic spectacle and worth checking out.
The Grand Parade
The highlight of Patras Carnival is the Grand Parade which is held the Sunday prior to Clean Monday. Grand Parade Day is just one big massive party, the whole city is caught up in carnival fever.
Around 40,000 people participate in the parade, who dance their hearts out while wearing stunning colourful, sequined and feathered outfits. It is an endless procession of amazing, colourful, artistic, floats and giant papier-mache puppets.
The Grand Parade sees tens of thousands of spectators pack the city streets and is also broadcast live on TV.
Patras Carnival Parade Routes
- Blue Line – The Children’s Parade
- Yellow Line- The Night Parade
- The Red Line – The Grand Parade
The fun doesn’t end when the Grand Parade finishes! The closing of carnival sees the burning of the Carnival King in the Patras Harbour. The Carnival King is paraded through the streets to the chants and shouts of the onlookers before being thrown in the fire.
Along with the Burning of the King there is an epic firework display. The Mayor of Patras then expresses his gratitude for everyone’s participation in carnival . The Closing Ceremony is so big that it is even broadcast nationally on TV!
The Burning of the King finishes with an open-air music concert which turns into an all night street party attended by thousands who dance, drink and socialise the night away.
Where to stay for the Patras Carnival?
There are a large variety of accommodation options in Patras that cater for all budgets and levels of comfort. We recommend staying near the city centre so you can easily get to the action. Take a look at the Parade Map above and you can find plenty of good accommodation options that are in walking distance.
Book early because room availability becomes scarce the closer it gets to the start of carnival! Patras receives a huge number of visitors and it’s better to reserve a room and cancel later if your plans change, then try to find a good last minute deal!
Here are some accommodation options close to Patras Carnival:
Check out Booking.com to find some Patras accommodation deals.
Bourboulia is one of the oldest events of Patras Carnival, in fact its exact starting date is unknown. Bourboulia is a very formal dance where the men and women remain anonymous by wearing black masks.
This is done so everyone can hide their identity for the night. Wearing carnival masks is a very old carnival tradition that was done so that social classes could mix during carnival season. Also people were able to indulge in some debauchery.
Forget about Fat Tuesday and when you celebrate carnival in Patras you instead embrace Burnt Thursday also known as Tsiknopempti. This is a day that is all about grilling meats! If you are vegetarian then this isn’t the event for you, but if you love meat then you’re going to love this day.
This celebration is officially held eleven days before the start of Lent and all across the city of Patras are people hosting Barbeques. Kebabs, sausages, steaks and lamb are all consumed and the wine flows freely.
There are some folk orchestras and music troupes that perform on the streets reviving traditional folk customs and folk dances.
When should I go to Patras Carnival?
The most lively part of the Patras Carnival season occurs the weekend before Clean Monday, the official end of carnival. This is the weekend of the Grand Parade, and there are just loads of parties and celebrations all over Patras.
How to get to Patras Carnival?
- By Plane: Patras has a small airport located on the military base of Araxos that only receives a few charters and low-cost flights from abroad. Your best bet is to fly to Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport (ATH) which is the biggest airport in Greece and where most international flights land anyway, and then make your way to Patras by bus, train or car.
- By Ferry: Patras has one of the largest ports in Greece which is a large transportation hub between Italy and Greece and runs all year round. Mainly it services the ports of Venice, Bari, Brindisi, Ancona and Trieste in Italy.
- By Train: A train line runs through Patras westwards to Athens and the port of Piraeus, and southwards to Olympia. The train to Slow Train to Athens will take around 4.5 hours and costs about €5. During Carnival there is a significant increase in trains running between Athens and Patras.
- By Road: Suburban buses depart from Kifissos Station in Athens almost every hour. Bus trips take around 3 hours. You can also catch a bus from many other Greek towns. If you want to drive to Patra from Athens you would do so via Corinth on the 8a National Road. Calculate how much it will cost you to rent a car here!
Check out some of the transportation options in Patras
What to Do and See in Patras?
Patras is the third largest city in Greece, best known for its port that connects Greece with Italy. It is home to a gorgeous castle, sparkling harbor and more then 20,000 university students which have made Patras have an incredible nightlife!
Some of the do not miss attractions include visiting the gorgeous Cathedral of Agios Andreas which was built in the 20th century in the Byzantine architectural style. Or visit the Archaeological Museum of Patras that is home to some many collections that give insight into the history of Patras and the region.
Explore Patras’s medieval castle known as Kastro, which was built in the 6th century on the site on the ancient acropolis created by Byzantine emperor Justinian.
Or visit the Turkish Baths that were founded in the 15th century and are a tranquil place to relax. Or admire the Roman Odeon built in 160 A.D. discovered in 1889. Of course you must try the local cuisine at one of the many amazing restaurants, bars and cafes around the city!