You don’t have to go to as far as New Orleans or Rio de Janeiro to celebrate Mardi Gras. A number of European cities offer you a choice of colourful and fun events. We have has selected 5 of the best European Carnivals to discover with your children for 2020.

So have a look and let’s have some fun!

1. Cologne, Germany​

Koln Carnival - european carnivals
Source: Koln Tourismus / Dieter Jacob

The carnival season in Germany (also called the “Fifth Season”) officially begins months before the party, on the 11th day of the 11th month at precisely 11:11 am.

But after that one day in November you don’t notice carnival festivities until the actual “6 crazy days” begin, 40 days before Easter.

At first, you have Women’s Carnivals Day, mostly a women’s day and ends on Ash Wednesday . During that time, kids and grown-ups will dress up, have fun, go to balls, parades…

Your kids will particularly enjoy “Rose Monday, probably the most popular day of the week.

Schools are closed for the occasion and kids dress up of course. Participants in the parade throw candies and flowers to the audience. In fact, an estimated 140,000 tonnes of sweets and chocolates will be flying to parade spectators on Rosenmontag! Are you ready to catch some?

2020 Dates:  20- 28 February

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2. Nice, France

“Carnaval” is a big thing in Nice and the greatest time of the year for kids to dress up.
Le Carnaval de Nice is surely one of the most popular carnival in the world attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

Every year 17 floats are created with giant satirical characters called the “big heads” (grosses têtes). The theme of 2020 is “King of Fashion”.

Flower parades are also extremely popular, with their own 20 floats covered in flowers. Performers on the floats are dressed in exquisite costumes, dancing and throwing flowers to the public.

The King burns out at sea in the Baie des Anges at the end of the festivities with a spectacular firework display.

Finally, you can buy tickets to view the parades from the stands. You will also have a lot of fun to stand by the roadside and embrace the atmosphere.

2020 Dates: 15th February to 29th February

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3. Basel, Switzerland

Basel - european carnivals

Basel Fasnacht is the most famous and biggest Carnivals in Switzerland. It starts every year at 4am the Monday after Ash Wednesday and goes on for three days. Shorter and later than most other Carnivals but just as fun and colourful.

The second day is dedicated to children, with hundreds of them take over the streets in a light-hearted parade with their family. The city centre is overall a hive of spontaneous activities with “Binggis” wearing whatever costumes they like, usually home-made, distribute candies and throw confettis. The lantern exhibition on the Münsterplatz is the main event featuring over 200 beautiful lanterns. Definitely the best day to attend with your little one(s).

2020 Dates: 2nd to 4th March

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4. Binche, Belgium


Binche is a small Belgian city located about an hour South from Brussels. Their famous street carnival is very popular and attracts thousands of locals and tourists. It is so ancient that it has been recognised as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO in 2003.

The Binche Carnival’s main characters are the ‘Gilles’ which are clown-like performers. Traditionally, the Gilles belong to different societies and can only be played by boys and men. But rest assured: girls and women dress up too!

First, celebrations begin on Shrove Sunday and lasts three days.
Monday is dedicated to children with a confetti street party, dancing and oranges throwing. Yes, that’s right, children throw the fruits as presents to the crowd.

Secondly, Shrove Tuesday hosts the main and final event of this carnival starting as early as 4am for some families. After lunch a “rondeau” and procession will animate the streets, accompanied by drummers and musicians.

Lastly, oranges will be thrown again on the last day. And try to grab one for good luck and do not throw it back! It is considered to be an insult apparently. Binche Carnival is definitely among European Carnivals off the beaten track.

2020 Dates: TBB

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5. Venice, Italy


And of course, let’s not forget about Venice, known to be the mother of all  European carnivals.

Did you know that the Venice Carnival is a tradition which goes back to the 13th century.

Your kids will love to wander the streets and enjoy the street performances and admire people walking in exquisite masks and costumes.

Also, some specific days are dedicated to children with parades and masks competitions. Imagine your little ones parading on stage showing off their colourful feathers and eccentric wigs!

2020 Dates: 15th to 25th February

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So now the question is the following: which European Carnivals will you participate in 2020 with your children?

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