10 Amazing Places to Celebrate Carnival in Europe in 2024

Carnival season is approaching. Where will you go to admire the colorful masks, wigs and showers of confetti? Here are 10 places in Europe where the festival is in full swing. From legendary Venice to much more confidential cities, make your selection according to your point of departure! These carnivals can be reached by night train.

Best Carnavals in 2024, All Year Long

Venice – Italy

From 27 January to 13 February, 2024

Masks have been worn in Venice since 1094. It was worn 7 months a year, with some interceptions, from October to Ascension Day. Casanova recounts in his memoirs: “The time of masks being over, we did not know how in the future to procure ourselves amorous interviews.”But did you know that the carnival was brought to a halt by the French emperor Napoleon? Fearing for his safety, Bonaparte excluded carnival from the streets in 1797, confining it to the intimacy of a private dinner. It was only after the unification of Venice with Italy on October 18, 1866, that the exuberance of the festivities was once again accepted outdoors.


Every year, the Venetian pomp began anew. To experience this unique and unmistakable festive atmosphere, travel to Venice by night train.


How to get there

Stuttgart - Venice

Germany - Italy
NJ 237

Night train via Munich, Salzburg, Udine

Vienna - Venice​

Austria - Italy
NJ 40466

Night train via St.Pölten, Salzburg,  Treviso

Roma - Venice​

Austria - Italy
ICN 774

Night train via Firenze, Bologna, Padova

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Up Helly Aa – Scotland

30th January, 2024

Lerwick, in the Shetland Isles at the north-eastern tip of Scotland, celebrates Up Helly Aa on the last Tuesday of January, a festival inspired by the Scottish people’s Viking past. 

Here, winters are harsh and the sun capricious. This sun ceremony aims to bring it back faster. Prepared months in advance, the spectacle is grandiose. A real drakkar is built for the occasion, and Viking costumes in animal skins are proudly donned. The climax of the ceremony? The spectacular setting ablaze of the drakkar, with 800 torches thrown over it. 


You can reach Lerwick from London by night train (London – Inverness), then by ferry from the Highland town. This carnival is also celebrated elsewhere in Scotland… But it’s on this Shetland island that it’s most extraordinary. No pain, no gain…  

How to get there

London - Inverness

England - Scotland
CS 19431

Night train via Preston, Edinburgh, Aberdeen

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Ptuj – Slovenia

From February 3 to February 13, 2024

During the Ptuj Carnival, Slovenia is on fire. This major event in national folklore aims to scare off the demons of winter and bring abundance. Korent, frightening characters with red-rimmed eyes, dressed in sheep skins and wearing hats topped with ox horns, stroll through the town, jingling the bells on their belts. They parade for several days before the famous Sunday procession, which draws crowds from all over Europe. Theatrical and folk performances (dance, puppets) abound during this festive period. 

 Theatre and folklore performances (puppets, dances, etc.).


Ptuj is reached via Maribor, a large town nearby. It is connected by night train to Bratislava, Vienna, Zagreb and Split.

How to get there

Split - Maribor

Croatia - Slovenia
EN 1152

Night train via Perkovic, Zagreb, Celje

Stuttgart - Ljubljana​

Germany - Slovenia​
EN 40237

Night train via Munich, Salzburg, Villach

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Mohács – Hungary

8 February to 13 February, 2024

In southern Hungary, people are fed up with the cold! So they’re scaring the winter away with half-animal, half-monster masks during the festivities known as Busó. For six days, people dressed in wooden and woollen masks arrive on canals along the Danube or on fantastic horse-drawn carts. They also happily set fire to a coffin symbolising winter. Originally created by the Croatian community of Mohács, the festival is now a symbol of the entire city. 



Arrive by night train at Osijek, then complete the journey by bus or train.

How to get there

Split - Osijek

Croatia - Croatia
D 1881

Night train via Gospić, Zagreb, Čačinci

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Hlinecko – Czechia

February 9 to· February 13, 2024

In February, the Hlinecko region of the Czech Republic plays host to a whimsical theatrical extravaganza. This popular carnival, which precedes Christian Lent, is a joyous event during which people dress up and have a good time. “Masopust” refers to “giving up meat” and thus to the start of Lent. People, dressed up in colourful traditional masks, are accompanied by a brass band as they stop to perform a ritual dance. The aim of the dance is to ensure a fruitful harvest and prosperity for the family. The parade is so colourful that it has been classified as intangible heritage by UNESCO.

How to get there

Budapest - Pardubice

Hungary - Czechia
EN 476

Night train via Bratislava, Breclav, Brno

Košice - Pardubice

Slovakia - Czechia
R 800

Night train via Levice, Bratislava, Brno

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Nice – France

From 17 February to 3 March, 2024

France’s premier carnival, a not-to-be-missed winter event on the Côte d’Azur, has just celebrated its 150th anniversary in a dazzling display of floral splendour. And it’s not slowing down for 2024. You’ll see the famous colourful and international float parades of the Corso Carnavalesque, as well as the flower battles, during which flowers of all kinds are thrown at the delighted public. The festival is also home to Lou Queernaval, France’s first gay festival, which promotes values of sharing and inclusivity. This year’s theme is the King of Pop Culture. Will Freddy Mercury, David Bowie and Prince be back in the spotlight? 

How to get there

Paris - Nice

France - France
ICN 5771

Night train via Marseille, Toulon, Cannes

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Basel – Switzerland

From 19 to 21 February, 2024

Have you ever heard of the famous lantern parade at Basel Carnival? Every year, the festivities kick off at precisely 4.00 am on the Monday following Ash Wednesday, in total darkness. During the famous “Morgenstreich”, hundreds of hand-painted lanterns light up the town centre.  Eccentrically dressed fife and drum players accompany their lanterns to music. They don’t stop until “Endstreich” on Thursday morning at precisely 4am.


In fact, this exuberant tradition has earned the city a place on UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list! It has to be said that the cultural programme associated with the event makes it a first-rate carnival, one that you need to have experienced in your life. 


You can reach Basel by night train from Hamburg, Amsterdam, Berlin and Prague.

How to get there

Berlin - Basel

Germany - Switzerland
NJ 408

Night train via Leipzig, Mannheim, Freiburg (Breisgau)

Amsterdam - Basel

Germany - Switzerland
NJ 403

Night train via Utrecht, Düsseldorf, Freiburg (Breisgau)

Prague - Basel

Czechia - Switzerland
EN 40458

Night train via Dresden, Frankfurt, Freiburg (Breisgau)

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Cologne – Germany

From 8 to 14 February, 2024​

Did you rather know Cologne for its breathtaking Christmas market? Well, its carnival has nothing to be ashamed of when compared with the best in Europe. The Germans start preparing for it on 11 November at 11.11am (because they think 11 is the number for fools). This carnival celebrates the mad, the eccentric, the original and other oddballs, leaving plenty of room for colour, fantasy and the bizarre. Once there, you’ll follow impressive processions in a jubilant atmosphere. 

How to get there

Zurich - Cologne

Switzerland - Germany
NJ 402

Night train via Basel, Freiburg (Breisgau), Offenburg

Innsbrück - Cologne

Austria - Germany
NJ 420

Night train via Munich, Frankfurt (Main), Bonn

Vienna - Cologne

Austria - Germany
NJ 40490

Night train via St.Pölten, Nürnberg, Frankfurt (Main)

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Bonus : Striking and Interesting Festivals rather than Carnivals

As an added bonus, we also wanted to highlight two events that are not carnivals but are well worth a visit. What carnivals have in common is that they’re all about dressing up and parading around. Here, in two slightly different ways and for very original reasons! Come on, we’ll take you to the Italian Arbuzes and central Poland.

Cucullo – Italy

The first Thursday in May, i.e. 2 May, 2024

A later carnival, the Cucullo snake festival in the Arbuzas is a curiosity that attracts many reptile lovers every year. 

It celebrates Saint-Dominico, the patron saint of snakebites, with a statue of him adorned with jewels, banknotes and live snakes. During the procession, the snakes wrap themselves around the statue. After a mass in the market square, the reptiles are released into the forest, leaving the villagers safe from snakebites for another year. The festival has pagan origins dating back to an ancient celebration to honor Angitia, the serpent deity, seen as a symbol of the cyclical nature of the seasons, infinity and rebirth.

So if you’re intrigued by this curious festival, head for Cucullo by night train via Rome or Pescara.

How to get there

Turin - Pescara

Italy - Italy
ICN 757

Night train via Bologna, Rimini, Ancona

Milan - Pescara

Italy - Italy
ICN 755

Night train via Parma, Bologna, Ancona

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Krakow – Poland

The first Thursday following the feast of the Blessed Sacrament, i.e. 6 June, 2024

The latest is a later festival. It takes place on the Thursday after Corpus Christi (Feast of the Blessed Sacrament, 6 June in 2024), in the suburb of Zwierzyniec in Krakow. It is a folkloric commemoration of a glorious feat of arms. While the city had been in the hands of the Tatars since the 13th century, in the 18th century the chief of the Krakow boatmen defeated their leader, the Khan. So he put on his clothes and rode through the town. Since then, the “Lajkonik” procession, named after the defeated chief, has commemorated this victory. The first rider in the procession, decked out in feathers and shimmering fabrics, twirls, dances on horseback and strikes spectators with his mace for good luck.


You can reach Krakow by night train fromGraz, Warsaw, Budapest or Bratislava.

How to get there

Graz - Krakow

Austria - Poland
EN 40456

Night train via Vienna, Ostrava, Katowice

Budapest - Krakow

Hungary - Poland
EN 476

Night train via Bratislava, Ostrava, Katowice

Gdynia - Krakow

Poland - Poland

Night train via Gdańsk, Warsaw, Częstochowa

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