Forget Rio, forget New Orleans! The best places to celebrate the feast of costumes and confetti are in Southern Europe. Not just at the famous ‘Carnevale di Venezia’ but everywhere in the region, there’s no escaping the masks, the beer and the craziness. Yet, in whatever village you land, the shindigs will always look a tad different than in the next. So, why not Carnival hop this year?

Madeira. Photo © Visit Madeira

Dunkirk Carnival
Until 19 April, Dunkirk, France

Southern Europe’s most northern carnival is also one of its most peculiar. The festival runs for almost three months (from 25 January until mid-April) and was meant as a proper ‘adieu’ to the fishermen who would leave for sea on Ash Wednesday. To give them strength, there was herring for everyone as they threw the fish from the city hall’s balcony. In 2020, that tradition still stands. On Sunday 23 February, over 40,000 people gather in the centre, hoping to catch one of the delicious fish, which will rain down over the town square.

Madeira Carnival
19 February – 1 March, Funchal, Madeira, Portugal

To experience the Brazilian or Caribbean carnival vibes, you only have to travel as far as Madeira. Here, no feathers nor glitter are spared to cover the island with exotic beats and lush cavalcades. Traditionally, groups of people in disguise also ‘break into’ their friends’ houses to try to steal the festival’s most popular sweets: sonhos and malasadas.

The Walking Forest. Photo © Carnevale di Satriano, Francesca Zito

Cádiz Carnival
20 February – 1 March, Cádiz, Spain

The carnival of Cádiz is the oldest, funniest and one of the biggest ones on the Spanish mainland. They started celebrating in the 16th century, when they were trading with the carnival-crazy city of Venice. Yet, the festival looked nothing like the elegant and dignified Italian feast. Instead, it is one of absurd outfits, comical floats and a multitude of sketches, parodies and funny songs.

The walking forest
22-23 February, Satriano di Lucania, Italy

No extravagant masks or screaming colours in Satriano di Lucania, a small town in Italy. Here, carnival is all about concealing yourself. During the so-called ‘walk of the forest’, 131 people dress up like trees for a walk through the woods. The goal is to restore the relationship between mankind and the Earth, a relevant message to this day.

Careto of Podence. Photo © VisitPorto

Careto of Podence
22-25 February, Podence, Portugal

The Careto, a traditional carnival in the north of Portugal, is as traditional as they come. In many villages, young men dress up in colourful fringe, wool suits, leather or wooden masks, and run through the village, shouting, frightening the people and trying to catch the attention of young, single girls. The origins of the event are unclear, but it is thought that it started as a fertility ritual. The most popular one amongst visitors is the Podence one.

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