Carnival in Europe: our top 7 holiday destinations for 2019

The new year has just begun, however it is again time for holidaysCarnival in Europe is already round the corner: it’s a time to dress up, drink up and get legitimately weird on the streets. Many Carnivals take place during Shrove Tuesday, when Roman Catholics traditionally feast and sing for the last time before the 40-days Lent’s abstinence begins.

Differently from all other travel blogs, which simply showcase a number of famous Carnivals, at Polo Marco Experience, we have hand-picked these 7 Carnivals keeping well in mind the specific expectations of your  guests, who are  coming all the way from India to enjoy Europe: thus in our choice we have privileged Carnival festivals with good accessibility, through well serviced international airports, and strategic location, close to other captivating and renowned European destinations.

Along with this we have structured our blog in such a way to make it a useful tool for you, meaning that you can really exploit our descriptions as a “hook” to start a profitable conversation with your clients!

Polo Marco Experience can craft memorable Carnival holidays in Europe for your clients

Just as an example of what we will NOT propose: the Carnival in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, on the Canary Island of Tenerife (Spain), is one of the most famous in Europe because it is very similar to the iconic Brazilian event in Rio, but unless your clients are on a cruise stop in Tenerife exactly in those dates, the event on its own would not be enough to attract a traveller coming from India to an island located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean!

Polo Marco Experience therefore presents you here below those Carnival celebrations which, for your clients, are not just a great colourful trigger, but also an added-value experience for their exclusive winter holiday in Europe!

For each Carnival destination in fact we give you the driving times to the closest most relevant cities and attractions, so that, while reading the article, you together with your client can already begin to paint the canvas of the travel itinerary … then for all the details (about specific services and logistics) Polo Marco Experience will be glad to come into the picture and give full insider support!

Winter holidays in Europe: Venice, where the real Carnival experience begins!

Venice Carnival

VENICE, Italy 16 February –         5 March 2019

The Venice Carnival is undoubtedly a must-see event once in a lifetime! Ten days will fill Venetian streets and canals with masks, costumes and tourists. For those who visit this Carnival, on Sunday, February 24th, the traditional “Volo dell’Angelo” will take place: a young Venetian woman disguised as an angel climbs down with a rope from the bell tower to the Piazza San Marco.

Despite of the crowd, Polo Marco Experience can make your guests’ experience memorable and personal: relaxing in an exclusive apartment with view on the Canal Grande, enjoying the lagoon in a private boat, wearing a historical Carnival costume, attending one of the exclusive balls or even hand-painting their own venetian mask…

2019 Carnival holidays in Europe go on: from Venice… HEADING WEST

Carnival Ivrea Italy

IVREA (Piedmont), Italy             2-5 March 2019

[by car less than 1 hour from Turin; 1,5 hrs from Milan; 1,5 hrs to Mont Blanc; 1,5 hrs to Lake Maggiore]

If you think that La Tomatina in Valencia is too crowded, too hot and staining, but your clients would be excited to live a similar experience and share it with their friends way before the summer… just send them to Italy for their Carnival holidays in Europe, but not to Venice…

Ivrea in Piedmont (North-West of Italy) is the scene for the spectacular Battles of the Oranges filling the city with colours and fragrance: a highly engaging moment of strong emotions commemorating the townspeople’s rebellion against tyranny in the Middle Ages.

The Battle of the Oranges is fought for three days, from Sunday to Shrove Tuesday, and involves over half a million kilos of oranges. It is played between the nine teams on foot, who represent the people who revolted, and the ‘Aranceri’ (orange-throwers) on horse-drawn carriages, who play the role of the feudal armies. Often criticized, due to its violence, the battle is a heady mix of enthusiasm and earnest dedication. Each of the nine teams have their own established location in some square of the city.

During the key days of celebration, along with the historical parades and firework displays, there is also a gastronomy event: the traditional “Fagiolate” which also date back to the Middle Ages, when the beans were distributed to the poor by the local Brotherhoods. These days the so-called faseuj grass (fat beans) are served: over 7,000 kg of beans are cooked for 6 hours in large copper pots with pork rind, sausages, lard and onions.


MENTON (French Riviera), France

MENTON (French Riviera), France              16 February – 3 March 2019

[by car 1 hr from Nice; 30 minutes to Montecarlo (Monaco); 1 hr to Cannes;  1 hr to Sanremo, Italian Riviera]

Legend has it that the lemon tree first took root in Menton, when no less than Eve herself chose the beauty of the Bay of Garavan as a paradise in which to plant this golden fruit.

Thus, according to the story, Menton grew from a seed, to become the prime lemon-growing region in Europe. The Menton lemon has always been special: it’s a very bright yellow, elongated rather than round, and prized by chefs for its rich essential oil.

However, while Menton is proud of its internationally-famous product, it doesn’t take its festival too seriously though…  this is no longer a botanical show: La Fête du Citron® (Lemon Festival) has turned into to a joyful fruity jamboree, a unique event in the world!

At the heart of the festival, magnificent lemon-themed parades take place day and night, with stilt-walkers, fire-eaters, musicians and acrobats providing a spectacular performance. More than 300 professionals work on the project and 145 tons of citrus fruits are used.

This year’s theme is “Fantastic Worlds”: your guests  processions of floats, gardens of lights and the exhibition of giant designs, come and discover this fantasy world, and move to the rhythm of a simply unforgettable event.

In 2019 the guests who come to the French Riviera by the end of February, can experience other two events during their Carnival holidays in Europe: the Mimosa Festival in Mandelieu (just outside Cannes) and the Carnival of Nice!

CADIZ (Andalusia), Spain                  28 February – 10 March 2019

[by car 1,5 hrs from Seville;  1,5 hrs to Gibraltar (UK overseas Territory);  3 hrs from Faro (Portugal)]

Cadiz celebrates one of the most popular and characteristic Carnivals in Spain. The origins of the Cadiz Carnival date back to the 16th century, when it was one of the most important ports of the Spanish Empire, which meant the entry of a large flow of influences from around the world. In particular, Venice shared many commercial ties with Cadiz, among many others traditions.

Today, this tradition is considered as a ritual, and Cadiz people get prepare for this event with gastronomic specialities, “Chirigotas” singers’ contests, horse riding parades and a carnival queen.

The emphasis however is not so much on glamour as rather on wit and satire: in fact people of Cadiz are considered to be the wittiest in Spain, with a great sense of humour and a sharp tongue. That’s why during the Franco dictatorship, Carnival was banned for fear of revolt. But, Cadiz resisted and continued to this day.

Cadiz is also a cosmopolitan city, no foreign visitor will feel isolated as long as they dress up and join in. Visitors are not meant to be mere spectators, they are expected to join in, especially during the street parties. So this is the right place to be in Europe during Carnival holidays for your fun-loving clients, especially on Saturday, the day and night of the biggest street party! Singing, drinking and dancing goes on all over the city and it is also the day when the Carnival Queen is crowned.

On Sunday the main parade when the processions and floats are shown on which the various carnival groups have worked all year long. Then fireworks brighten up the sky all night! The best place to see both is La Caleta, the most popular beach in Cadiz, situated between the castles of San Sebastián and Santa Catalina.

Living 2019 Carnival in Europe to the fullest: from Venice… HEADING NORTH

BASEL, Switzerland              11-14 March 2019

[by car 2 hrs from Zurich; 1,5 hrs to Strasbourg (France) and in the same direction in 30 minutes more you reach Baden-Baden (Germany), historical Spa resort in the Black Forest]

The Basel Carnival is the largest popular festival in Switzerland. Interestingly, Basler Fasnacht starts a week later than the other Carnivals in Switzerland and rest of Europe. This works pretty well since if your clients are on Carnival holidays in this area of Europe, they get the chance to participate in local Carnival celebration more than once, and Polo Marco Experience can advise you how to enjoy fully different interpretations of this popular festival in an exclusive way!

Its highlight is the “Morgestraich” (on the Monday after Ash Wednesday) when the clock of the tower of St. Martin touches the 4 of the dawn and the lights of the city are extinguished completely. It is then when the lights of the flashlights and the resounding crowd of drummers and flute players fill the void of the night.

During the 72 hours of this carnival, the streets, bars and shops of the city center resonate with songs and fun local characters. Two large processions with more than 10,000 masked people: masks are common but should only be donned by members of the performing Cliques – groups that march through the streets playing pipes and drums and other instruments, and prepare for this event all year long.

They walk down the streets on foot or stay in a float from which they throw confetti and distribute oranges, declaiming popular verses in their particular dialect.

BINCHE, Belgium               3 -6 March 2019

[by car 1 hour from Brussels;  from the capital city in 1 hr you are in Gent, and continuing in the same direction in less than 1 hour you reach Bruges, UNESCO World Heritage, medieval city of canals, chocolate and beer]

Dating back to the 14th century, the carnival in the town of Binche was recognized in 2008 by UNESCO as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”.

The highlight is on Shrove Tuesday, when people get up at 4 am to prepare for the day’s events: up to 1,000 men dressed in spooky wax masks parade through the town while children dress as Pierrots or Harlequins.

The Gilles, as the costumed adults are known, dance around with wooden sticks to ward off evil spirits.

The dressing-up in the middle of the night is a family moment, then the first Gill of each society going door to door gathers all the other group members; then around 7 am all the groups meet to have oysters and champagne together.

Later, in the afternoon, during the parade, the Gilles don ostrich-feather hats and throw oranges at the crowds.

A word of warning: it’s considered a colossal gaffe to throw back the oranges that the Gilles toss into the watching crowds.

Finally, around 9 pm, the Grand-Place (main square) sets ablaze with fireworks which ends up the Carnival The societies will continue to dance all night long by the rhythm of the drums, but everyone has to be home before dawn.

But the zest for your guests, especially for your European gourmet addicted, is not over yet… Brussels and the other close-by cities are expecting them with chocolate, beer and oysters, and Polo Marco Experience can craft unforgettable exclusive experiences around Belgium for their best Carnival holiday in Europe!

COLOGNE, Germany              28 February – 5 March 2019

[2 hrs to Brussels and 3 hrs to Amsterdam, by direct trains]

Anyone who has visited Cologne outside of Carnival time would find the city hard to recognize with the metamorphosis that takes place at this crazy time of year, known as its “fifth season” of the year!

Though officially it begins on 11 November at 11:11, the main Cologne Carnival events, don’t begin until the Thursday before Ash Wednesday. The climax is the parade through the city center on Rose Monday: it begins at 10:30, travels a route of 6 km, has over 70 decorated floats and takes over 3 hours.

The float participants throw flowers, sweets, and other small gifts to the crowds.

Carnival has been celebrated in Cologne for centuries and today there are over 160 carnival societies, which all organize carnival festivities. There are parties everywhere – in the streets, pubs and publics squares – with everyone dressed in bright costumes.

Closing times for bars and pubs don’t exist during the festival, meaning that a whole lot of fun takes place over these five days. So this is the perfect Carnival in Europe for your younger guests who are looking forward to join the locals who, in spite of the intense cold, quietly drink the “kölsch” beer in the streets… And when raising a glass, forget about Prost, the carnival greeting is Alaaf!

Carnival in Europe: a great trigger for your MICE proposals

By the way, Carnival festivals across Europe, offer a unique atmosphere, a mixture of ancient traditions and modern entertainment, perfect for great incentive trips to amaze your most discerning corporate clients.

We, at Polo Marco Experience, are your “expert arm” and “passionate heart” here in Europe, to craft your ideal “Made-for-India” MICE itineraries… have a look!

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