German Towns (Besides Cologne) to Celebrate Carnival

Cologne (Köln) knows how to party where Karneval is concerned. The last big party before Lent is better known as Mardi Gras in the States and takes on the names of Fasching and Fastnacht depending on its geography in Germany.

The "fifth season" is a chance for pious Germans to get wild with plans starting on November 11 at 11:11 and the festivities really beginning 40 days before Easter. With a lead-up of elegant costumed balls, the celebration spills onto the streets with extravagant costumes, confetti and joyous drinking in its final days.

And the party isn't limited to Cologne. Many German cities host their own soirée with countless parades and millions of spectators at the events and watching on TV. Put on a costume and join in!

2017 calendar:

  • Women's Carnival Day (Weiberfastnacht): February 23rd
  • Rose Monday (Rosenmontag): February 27th
  • Shove Tuesday: February 28th
  • Ash Wednesday (Aschermittwoch): March 1st
  • 01 of 05
    Old Town of Dusseldorf
    ©Düsseldorf Marketing & Tourismus GmbH

    A rival with Cologne in all things, Düsseldorf's Karnival celebration is over-the-top. Locals make fun of their neighboring city in song during the myriad of events and massive parade, shouting “Helau” and hoisting a Mass of Alt beer in response to Cologne's calls of "Alaaf" and diminutive glasses of Kölsch.

    Original to Düsseldorf's festivities, the Hoppeditz (the fool) is awakened on November 11th and brings the fun. He gives an opening speech known as the Narrenschelte (Joker's Scolding) in the town square which transforms into “the longest bar in the world".

    Düsseldorfer Karneval Highlights:

    • Altweiberfastnacht (February 23rd, 2017 at 11:11 in Düsseldorf Old Town) - Ladies take over the City Hall and the street carnival begins in the Old Town.
    • Jugendumzug - The Youth Procession has carnival fans - both young and old - known as Jecken march through town.
    • Carnival Sunday - Street carnival on Königsallee.
    • Tonnenrennen - The Barrel Race is a traditional event where competitors run down the street with massive barrels.
    • Rosenmontagszug - The carnival parade is one of the largest in the country with decorated floats and people and is televised nationwide.
  • 02 of 05
    Foto: Oliver Werner

    This event has lightened up the atmosphere of stoic Münster since 1896. The highlight is on Rosenmontag when over 100 colorful floats enliven the downtown. Look for participants from the nearby Netherlands and catch the ceremonial speech of Prince.

    After the parade, the party continues in downtown bars and clubs.

  • 03 of 05
    Carnival in Germany
    Patrick Stollarz/ Getty Images

    Many of these traditions are rooted in commentary on the military. Though uniform switching and harsher ridicule has fallen out of favor, the Aachen's fool's greeting is a mockery of a salute.

    The Rosenmontagszug is accompanied by calls of "D'r Zoch kött"! More than 150 groups and 5,000 participants make their way through the downtown for a total length of 6 km.

  • 04 of 05

    Mainzer Fastnacht

    Mainz Cathedral
    Hans Peter Merten

    The Mainz Carnival (also known as Määnzer Fassenacht) is the third largest German city to celebrate Rhenish traditions.

    This event emphasizes political and literary humor as well as military critique. Guards protect Prince Carnival as well as the eleven members of the fool’s committee. The Reitercorps der Mainzer Ranzengarden arrive on horseback in replica Prussian and Austrian uniforms. Their band plays a version of the Narhalla March, a parody of Adolphe Adam's opera "Le Brasseur de Preston". 

    The Mainzer Rosenmontagszug holds the distinction of being recorded since 1910 and is usually broadcast live nationwide.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05
    Carnival in Germany
    Andreas Cappell

    For a celebration in the north, Braunschweig's Schoduvel (“scaring away the devil”) takes place on Carnival Sunday. This event dates back to 1293.