The Best Carnivals during February in Europe/Venice: 22 Feb – 4 March

You might think the festive season ended a long time ago. But, let me tell you, the party is definitely underway in Central and Southwestern Europe. 

And, you know us at TA-DAH.TV, if there’s a party going down in Europe – we gotta get there!

It’s Carnival Season across Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Spain – and that’s before we even mention Snowbombing in Austria! 

However, because the biggest European festivals in February all happen so close together, it’s nearly impossible to experience them all in one go.

But, don’t worry if you can’t be there to see it all, we’ve done it for you and brought all our findings back here! 

So, let’s unpack some of the best February festivals in Europe.

What Are The Best European Festivals in February?

Thinking of treating your significant other to a special European odyssey this February? Then there are some incredible festivals taking place that you need to know about. 

We’ve covered some of the best festivals in Europe on our Arts & Culture Channel. But nothing quite beats February in Europe for some good, old-fashioned, pagan pageantry. 

How’s that for a Valentine’s treat to remember?

Our journey takes us from sunny Cádiz in Spain. Then we travel over to cracking Cologne for a whole week of frolics before heading south, across Luxembourg, to Basel. And where better to end than one of the most romantic cities in the world – Venice. 

Cadiz Carnival

Ordinarily known for its golden beaches, stunning North Atlantic coastline and grand baroque cathedral, Cádiz is always a hit with tourists. But in February the city’s ancient streets are filled with crowds for a different reason. 

When you hear “Spanish festivals” you might be forgiven for thinking of tomato throwing or berzerk bulls barreling around the town. How about BIG Festival? Or even the elegant Starlite

Well, Carnaval de Cádiz is built different. 

What To Expect at Carnaval Cádiz

The festivities run for a whopping 10 days, so there’s plenty of opportunity to get out there and soak up the atmosphere. 

Visit in the week for a more reserved view of Carnaval when you’re more likely to spend the day sightseeing around the quaint cobbled streets before partying the night away to the sounds of live DJs

On the weekend it’s a different story. Throngs of people don their best costumes, dressing up as famous cartoon characters or in masquerade gear before lining the streets of the Andalucian centre. 

Like most catholic countries at this time of year, the Cádiz Carnaval is a celebration of Lent ending. So, naturally, after all that fasting everyone is ready for a little indulgence and silliness.

Is Carnival Cádiz Worth Visiting?

Also known as Carnaval, Cádiz en Carnaval or Carnaval de Cádiz, this passionate party is absolutely worth your time. 

During the festival, enjoy all the feasting you can handle. But there’s also a healthy amount of dancing – stomp along to the satirical sounds of the Carnaval Cadiz chirigotas, a type of Spanish choral folksong. 

7 Days of Fun at Cologne Carnival

Moving on from Cádiz and further into Central Europe, we arrive in Cologne for a continuation of Carnival season – also known as the “fifth season” of the year here. 

Running for seven days from The Women’s Carnival (or Weiberfastnacht) on Thursday to Ash Wednesday, this is a whole week of frivolity. 

  • Day 1: Weiberfastnacht: The Women’s Carnival
  • Day 2: Carnival Friday
  • Day 3: Carnival Saturday
  • Day 4: Carnival Sunday
  • Day 5: Rose Monday
  • Day 6: Veilchendienstag: Violet Tuesday
  • Day 7: Ash Wednesday

The first day of the Cologne Carnival sets the tone with many costumed revellers pouring into the streets (and the pubs) for parties in the Altstadt (Old Town). 

Our advice, go for it! But don’t wear a tie, as you might find a woman with scissors comes along and cuts it off! Such is the tradition. 

Through the rest of the days expect a whirlwind of colour, sounds, gorgeous food and great vibes. There’s even a ghost train (or geisterzug)

Aerial shot of Cologne city. Photo by Eric Weber on Unsplash

Carnival of Basel – Basler Fasnacht

Next up, it’s Basler Fasnacht and if you’re quick out of Cologne, and still have some party left in you, head out to Switzerland. 

The largest carnival in Switzerland swings into life on the Monday after Ash Wednesday – giving you ample time to shake off the German festivities before sampling some Swiss pleasures.

What Happens at Basler Fasnacht?

Held across 72 hours, Basler Fasnacht comprises two main parades (called a cortège) of 11,000 carnivalists. Sandwiched between those two main performances, Tuesday is reserved for children with exhibitions and performances to suit younger audiences. 

If you want the full experience, you need to be up with the lark on the first day. The festivities begin at 4 am when the Morgestraich lights up the square with colourful lanterns. Pipers and drummers set the pace of this gorgeous artistic procession

Also, watch out for Schnitzelbanks. These satirical tunes poetically and comically sum up the event of the previous year. Widely regarded as one of the best parts of the festival, the Schnitzelbanks singers are extremely talented.

Venice Carnival

Fans of all things theatrical and masquerade need to experience the Venice Carnival. Undoubtedly one of the best February festivals in Europe, this suitably elegant affair – which began in 1162 – feels like you’re watching one big performance piece. 

In contrast to the scenes we saw at Venice Biennale, if you want the optimal experience we recommend getting a good spot at the side of the Grand Canal for the opening ceremony. 

Running from the end of January through to Shrove Tuesday, you’ll want to catch the Festival of the 12 Marias. Recalling a 10th-century tale of the daring rescue of a woman from pirates. To celebrate, 12 young women are paraded through the city in a lavish procession. 

H3: What to wear at Venice Carnival?

This is the million-dollar question, right?! Truth is, you can go as bold or as understated as you like. A masquerade mask is a must. But, for your outfit, think Renaissance-style looks. Or just go as bold as you can with your colours. 

Performers are bedecked in gorgeous intricate costumes with stunning masks and headpieces. In truth, these outfits alone are probably worth the trip. 

Venice Carnival is one of the best February festivals in Europe. Photo by Graham Guenther on Unsplash

Discover More Incredible Carnival Action on Our Arts & Culture Channel

There’s no doubt that Europe is steeped in legends and ancient tales which all lend themselves terrifically to festival vibes.

But these four celebrations are just the tip of the Carnival iceberg. 

So, if you want to discover more incredible events like this across the continent, you need to be across our Art & Culture Channel

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