10 Carnivals Across The Globe
If your idea of a fun break is taking part in a carnival our guide will highlight the best carnivals around the world. Whether you want to get away to enjoy the delights of the Rio Carnival or head to the sophisticated canals of Venice to celebrate Carnevale there is a carnival to suit anyone.
1. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The king of carnivals draws visitors from all over the world for its four-day extravaganza based around Mardi Gras in February or March. The highlight for many is the Samba Parade when the samba schools compete in the specially built Sambadrome.
Rio Carnival also features street parties and parades and an amazing selection of carnival balls. Be sure to book accommodation ahead at this time.
2. New Orleans, United States
The Mardi Gras carnival in New Orleans goes back to 1837, and although pagan in origin, is now sanctioned by the Catholic Church as a good knees-up before Lent.
The Mardi Gras parades feature fantastic floats and costumes, marching bands and celebrities. More than 500,000 “king” cakes are sold, if you find a tiny plastic doll in yours, you are “king” and must buy the next cake or give the next party.
3. Venice, Italy
The stunning setting of Venice’s narrow streets, canals and bridges in winter provides the perfect backdrop to the Carnevale in February/March. It starts with a masked procession through the city, and features jousts and mock military battles, musical and theatrical events and the Grand Masked Ball in Piazza San Marco.
There’s also a procession of decorated boats and gondolas along the waterways and into the Grand Canal.
4. Trinidad, Trinidad and Tobago
Calypso, steel bands and parades are all part of Caribbean carnivals and Trinidad is arguably the best, with certainly some of the most elaborate costumes. The five-day celebrations start with the contest to find the carnival king and queen and end with the Parade of the Bands.
The capital, Port of Spain, is the heart of the celebrations that turn the town into one big street party.
5. Quebec, Canada
The Quebec Winter Carnival claims to be the biggest of its kind. It celebrates the magic of winter with a variety of sporting, artistic and cultural activities. It lasts an exhausting 17 days and attracts almost a million revellers.
At the heart of the celebrations is kiddies’ favourite Bonhomme, the snowman and symbol of the carnival. Festivities include ice sculptures, parades, music, dance and lots of eating and drinking.
6. Ivrea, Italy
More than 3,000 nutty folk indulge in this two-day fruity mock battle, where fellow revellers pelt each other with oranges. It can be rather painful if you score a direct hit. Fifty tons of Sicilian oranges are taken by horse-drawn cart to Ivrea’s five piazzas and war is declared on a given signal.
In the midst of all the pelting, there’s a colourful costume parade featuring folk in historic costume.
7. Hong Kong, China
Also known as the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year features lion dances, parades and a grand firework display over the harbour. Food is an important part of the celebrations; it’s symbolic as well as delicious; chicken and fish symbolising prosperity.
Go to Victoria Park to see the massive flower fairs where locals buy lucky peonies, narcissi and kumquat trees.
8. Notting Hill, London, England
On August Bank Holiday weekend the streets come alive with a Caribbean-style carnival featuring parades, floats, fancy dress and lots of live music and dancing in the street.
Plenty of streetside food stalls offer the chance to sample Caribbean food like jerk chicken and barbecued corn on the cob. The carnival used to have a reputation for attracting violence, but has had a much better press over recent years.
9. St. Paul, Minnesota, United States
Chase away the winter blues at the US’s biggest and oldest Winter Carnival, founded in 1886. With more than 75 events, this 10-day bash features ice and snow sculptures, a giant snow slide at Target Winter Carnival Park, skiing, dog sledding and curling to name but a few.
One of the highlights is the torchlight parade.
10. Santa Cruz, Tenerife, Canary Islands
Styled on the Rio carnival, this Canary Island event in February/March is the culmination of several weeks of fancy dress parades and revelling across Tenerife.
There are children’s parades, dancing to big band music, car shows, floats, music of all kinds and the undoubted highlight of the Burial of the Sardine (we’re not going to give anything away, you’ll have to go there to find out).