Patras Carnival – Greece’s Biggest Carnival!

Patras Carnival is not only the biggest carnival in Greece it is also one of the biggest and best carnival celebrations in all of Europe.

Friday 17th January, 2020

Monday, 2nd March 2020

Days to start

▷ What is Patras?

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 trumpets parade street

Patras Carnival is a celebration filled with colour, music, dance, feasting, parting, 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.

▷ When is Patras Carnival 2020?

Patras Carnival always begin on 17th January and finish on Clean Monday. That makes the 2020 dates of Patras Carnival start on Thursday 17th January, 2020 and end on Monday, 2nd March 2020.

▷ Why does 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?

patras carnival float parade

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 of 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 towns 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 school, 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

patras carnival boy jumping

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!.

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▷ 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.

▷ Closing Ceremony

patras carnival confetti explosion 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 a all night street party attended by thousands who dance, drink and socialise the night away.

▷ Bourboulia

Bourboulia is a 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 so people were able to indulge in some debauchery.

▷ Burnt Thursday

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 your vegetarian than 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?

patras carnival girl red costume parade

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?

If you are flying from overseas you can catch a flight to Athens. From Athens there are plenty of buses or trains that connect between the two cities. It is even possible to rent a car and drive to Patras. 

▷ Where to stay for the Patras Carnival?

There are a large variety of accommodation options in Patras that cater for all budgets. We recommend staying near the city centre so you can easily get to the action. Book early because room availability becomes scarce the closer it gets to start of carnival.

Check accomodation options here.

For more information about tours, things to do, sightseeing tours, day trips and more click here.

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