The crazy days of Carnival

The crazy days of Carnival

by Genevieve Northup
Stripes Europe

Crazy. This one word sums up the Carnival season in Europe. Elaborate costumes, intricate masks, fantastic parades and parties are synonymous with the “fifth season.” Before giving up vices for Lent, everyone takes one last chance to indulge. So get ready for a blur of partying and, quite possibly a killer hangover.

Venice, Italy

The ostentatious costumes and abstract masks of the Venetian Carnival often come to mind when thinking of the fifth season. Venice’s Carnival dates back to the Middle Ages and is worth a trip to the “City of Water.” Every year, a program of activities provides weeks of entertainment. The Grand Theatre in Piazza San Marco provides daily concerts, parades and dances during the celebration. Contests for the most beautiful mask also take place on most days during the celebrations.

The festivities culminate on Martedì Grasso (Fat Tuesday) when the Carnival’s “Mary” is crowned and the city’s symbol, St. Mark’s Winged Lion, is recognized at ceremonies in Piazza San Marco. Carnival in Venice ends serenely with the Rowing of Silence. Countless gondolas float quietly through the night on a route between the Rialto Bridge and the Bacino di San Marco Grand Canal. To find out more about Venice’s famous Carnival, visit

At Carnival, you’ll see hundreds of interesting masks, many of which have historical Venetian roots. Long-beaked masks are known as the Plague Doctor’s masks because during the plague, physicians wore similar face coverings, believed to protect them from exposure to the disease. The Moretta is a black, oval-shaped mask that was worn by Venetian ladies. Many other mask designs were taken from Commedia dell’Arte, the improvisational theatre popular between the 16th and 18th centuries. If you don’t already own a mask, you’ll find plenty to purchase in Venice, with prices from as low as a few euros for a beautiful and functional souvenir.

With mask in hand, explore the maze of tiny Venetian streets with a walking tour, or dance long into the night at a masquerade ball. Book these adventures and more at

Rijeka, Croatia

With historical roots from the Venetian Carnival and Austrian civil celebrations, the International Rijeka Carnival festivities have taken on a life of their own. The merriment begins with a pageant to crown the Carnival’s queen. Afterward, the mayor ceremoniously presents the city keys to the “Carnival Mayor.”

Another event during the Carnival season is an annual snowboarding championship. The Carnival Snowboard Session brings the white stuff to the coast. Watch competitors defy gravity with incredible stunts and unwind at the evening’s concerts.   

And, of course, there are parades. The Children’s Carnival Parade gives youth the opportunity to join in the fanfare with their own procession. The main event, the International Carnival Parade, turns the city upside down with color, music, dancing and cheer. You never know who you’ll see, from the Smurfs and Ghostbusters to insects, pirates and Vikings. Find out more at

There’s a saying that “Anyone who is not a fool at Carnival is foolish for the rest of the year.” It’s time for the crazy days — Carnival in Europe is one experience you don’t want to miss!

Subscribe to our Stripes Europe newsletter and receive amazing travel stories, great event info, helpful PCS tips, interesting lifestyle articles and more directly in your inbox!

Follow us on social media!

Facebook: Stars and Stripes Europe
Pinterest: Stars and Stripes Europe
Instagram: @StarsandStripeseurope

Related Content

Recommended Content

Around the Web