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I remember first visiting the Notting Hill Carnival some years ago and being simply blown away by the vibrancy and celebration of Black and West Indian Culture. It is one of the largest street festivals in the world with over a million attendees and I came away with the thought that we really do like a good street party!

The roots of Carnival run much older than Notting Hill (which first started in 1966) and we at TakeMeAway discovered that it remains a bit of an unknown quantity in the UK. So here we are doing are duty and giving give you the lowdown with our 5 easy pointers. The bottom line? There are some awesome parties out there….

The elaborate floats as seen at Mardi Gras

1. What is it all about?

Carnival is the festival season within Christian tradition that takes place before Lent. We’re basically talking about street parties! Expect lots of entertainments, parades and circuses. Most involve costumes and masks and being the precursor to Lent, people tend to indulge in food and drink. Any excuse is welcome!

2. When does it take place…..now!

If you’re not brushed up with your Christian calendar, Lent officially begins on 6th March in 2019. A lot of cities around the world are gearing up for some epic parties that will take place over the coming weeks!

The Rio de Janeiro Carnival is the world’s biggest.

3. Some fun facts!

Though Carnival is associated with Christianity, it likely has evolved from Medieval local traditions that the Church merged with religious customs. The first Carnival parade in the world took place in Cologne, Germany in 1823. However the biggest Carnival takes place in Rio de Janeiro with 2 million visitors per day over the week. The Rio traditions date back to 1723. 

4. It is extremely popular in Europe

All the big parties coincide with 5th March (Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day). However expect a lot of events to happen on the weekend just preceding – especially in Europe where Carnival is super popular. So there is no need to travel to Rio or New Orleans for Mardi Gras – a quick hop to mainland Europe for a weekend break will give you the full flavour of Carnival!

5. We pick out our favourites!

Dance the night away in Cologne beneath this beautiful backdrop

Cologne – Germany’s tradition dates back to the 1200s and Carnival is celebrated up and down the country with each region having their own uniqueness. Cologne is the biggest and we think the most accessible as well. You have all the street parties and parades that make Carnival what it is so there is no risk on missing any exciting stuff. The Carnival kicks off properly on the Thursday before Shrove Tuesday (28th February) with ‘Altweiber’ where women cut the ties of men before the revelry start and continues until Monday night. The ‘Rosenmontag’ parade takes place on the Monday which is also a holiday for the city. The timings are perfect for a weekend away!  

The Patra bridge is not exactly the worst backdrop for Carnival….

Patras – Greece’s primary event is also one of the biggest Carnival’s in Europe. The parties hit their peak on the weekend before Shrove Tuesday with epic floats taking centre stage during the parades. The weekend ends with the burning of the ‘Carnival King’ by the harbour which extends throughout the night on Sunday with some amazing fireworks. Prepared to be dazzled!

Make sure your mask is as cool as this!

Venice – Italy’s most famous is iconic due to the Venetian Masks which are donned through the festive period. If you decide to go, getting an elaborate mask is a must. Ensure it is decorated with gold leaf, feathers and gemstones to stand out from the crowd!

You can thank us later for our Valletta recommendation…

Valletta – fancy some nicer weather for the festivities? Then Malta is your answer! It helps that the country has a Carnival tradition that dates back to the 16th Century, so expect to dress up, wear your masks and partake in street parties and balls. A great weekend away awaits!

Hopefully this guide has given you a few inspirations for a getaway this February. Best get booking that weekend break with our app! 

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