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Carnivals in France

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Nice Carnival - the biggest carnival in the south of France
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Nice Carnival at night

© Office du Tourisme & des Congrès de Nice

Nice Carnival is one of the world’s oldest, the earliest reference dating back to 1294. Today it’s a glorious 12-day party running from mid February to the end of the first week of March. The city of Nice erupts day and nigh with parades of floats culminating in Mardi Gras on the last day. Historically Nice Carnival was the last chance to indulge in rich foods and drink before the 40-day Lent fast, and the chance to disguise your identity behind fantastic masks and enjoy pleasures forbidden by the Catholic church during the rest of the year.

Nice Carnival begins with the arrival of the carnival king in his Corso Carnavalesque (Carnival Procession) in the Place Massena. Around 20 floats take the theme of the year with giant puppets (called grosses tetes or big heads), and 1,000 musicians, street artists and dancers from all around the world. The King takes the keys of the city and declares his brief reign of extravagance and excess.

There are spectacles during the Carnival as well as the world-famous Bataille de Fleurs (Battle of Flowers) which takes place on various dates throughout the Carnival. The streets are full with stalls selling gifts and food and a crowd of visitors there to have a good time. It feels feel that Spring is beginning.

On the last night, King Carnival is burnt. Then there’s a gigantic firework display to music over the Baie des Anges, the soaring fireworks reflected in the waters of the Mediterranean.

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