European Winter Festivals

Don’t miss out these European Winter Festivals

Winter festivals in Europe are extremely vibrant, lively, historic, and varied. In spite of the cold weather, people look forward to the celebrations and are little deterred by rain. Make the most of the cold season with these European winter festivals, which involve everything from skiing and snowboarding to music, comedy, ice sculptures, and dazzling carnival parades.

Venice Carnival, Italy

Every winter, Venice bursts into life with fanciful masked balls and extravagant parades. The city’s narrow, enigmatic backstreets and the beautiful Saint Mark’s Square are taken over by mysterious masked revelers, while elegant gondolas filled with fantasy characters glide up and down its beloved canals.vVenice during Il Carnevale is an explosion of color and fashion creativity, an experience you’ll never forget. Venice Carnival 2020 will be held between February 8 – 25.

Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival, Bruges

Winter in Bruges comes with charming Christmas Markets, festive decorations, and the wonderful Ice Sculpture Festival. Every year, artists from all over the world transform this postcard-perfect Belgian town into a winter wonderland, enchanting visitors with their fantastic ice and snow sculptures depicting scenes from various stories.

Cologne Carnival, Germany

Locally known as the “Fifth Season”, Cologne Carnival is undoubtedly the biggest, wildest, and craziest celebration in Germany. It usually kicks off on the 11th of November at 11:11, but it is temporarily suspended during the Advent and Christmas season. Events include everything from concerts and traditional shows to balls and flamboyant processions. The highlight is Rose Monday Parade (two days before Ash Wednesday), with over 140 floats and thousands of people marching the streets of Cologne.

Altitude Comedy Festival, Mayrhofen, Austria

Every winter, the lovely Tyrolean ski resort of Mayrhofen becomes home to Altitude Comedy Festival, a one-of-a-kind event that combines the adrenaline rush of the ski slopes with some of the biggest comedians in the world. Expect excellent skiing and snowboarding, along with fantastic stand-up and musical comedy, late night parties, and great atmosphere. The world’s No.1 alpine comedy festival, aka the “Funniest Show on Snow”, runs from March 30th to April 3rd, 2020.

Ljubljana Dragon Carnival, Slovenia

Each year on Shrove Saturday, the old center of Ljubljana comes alive with dance, puppet shows, and a colorful parade of masked characters. Also known as Shrovetide Carnival, Ljubljana Dragon Carnival is an excellent cultural experience, offering an insight into the country’s unique Shrovetide traditions.

Fête du Citron, Menton, France

Every February, Menton, a picturesque coastal town on the French Riviera, hosts the Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival). The delightful event includes a series of exhibitions and parades featuring fabulous citrus fruit creations. The 2020 Lemon Festival runs from February 15th to March 3rd, and some of the most spectacular displays can be seen in the Jardins Biovès.

Up Helly Aa, Lerwick, Scotland

One of Europe’s largest and most spectacular fire festivals, Up Helly Aa takes place on the last Tuesday of January every year, in Lerwick, the main port of Scotland’s Shetland Islands. The outstanding event celebrates the region’s Viking heritage with traditional music and a dramatic torch-lit procession. The spectacle culminates with over 1.000 costumed guizers throwing burning torches into a galley, a traditional Viking longship.

Nice Carnival, France

Bright blue skies, fabulous parades, and perfumed flower battles on the Promenade des Anglais make Nice Carnival one of the greatest events of its kind in the world, alongside the famous Carnevale di Venezia and Carnaval do Brasil. From February 15th to 29th, 2020, the glamorous capital of the Côte d’Azur becomes the backdrop for a series of theater performances, colorful stalls, firework displays, and striking parades featuring elaborately decorated floats and giant papier mâché figurines.

Vinterjazz, Denmark

Vinterjazz, Denmark’s Winter Jazz Festival, takes place each February and offers three weeks packed with events and concerts by Danish and international musicians. The nationwide festival features over 450 performances held in 100 venues across the country, from Copenhagen to Aarhus to Esbjerg. Vinterjazz 2020 is set to take place on February 6-29.

Sitges Carnival, Spain

Although modest in size, Sitges packs a punch when it comes to entertainment. A favorite destination among the gay community, the coastal Catalan town warms up in winter with a flamboyant week-long carnival featuring a variety of festivities, parades, and cultural events. Highlights include the family-oriented Parade of Debauchery (Rua de la Disbauxa) and the gay-friendly Parade of Extermination (Rua de l’Extermini). In 2019, Sitges Carnival will kick off on Thursday, February 18th and run until February 26th.

Carnival of Binche, Belgium

A UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, Carnival of Binche welcomes visitors with extraordinary street performances. During the three days leading up to Lent, over 1.000 Gilles (local men wearing bizarre masks and costumes) can be admired marching the charming medieval streets of Binche, dancing to the sound of drums and throwing oranges to the crowd for good luck.

Carnaval de Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain

February in the Canary Islands is synonymous with colorful dancing parades, merrymaking, and extravagant floats. Declared a “Fiesta of International Tourist Interest”, the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is about as close as you can get to the one in Rio de Janeiro in this part of the world. Traditional events include the Gala where the Carnival Queen is elected; the Burial of the Sardine; and the Coso (the grand finale parade).

Snow Bike Festival, Gstaad, Switzerland

Taking place in Gstaad, an upscale ski resort in the Swiss Alps, from January 17-19, 2020, the Snow Bike Festival promises to delight visitors and fatbiking enthusiasts alike with an exciting mix of rides, races, parties, and breathtaking mountain scenery.


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