Carnaval de Nice

The Nice Carnaval alone justifies a stay in Nice. Every February, the city of Nice celebrates with this glitzy event.

Nice’s carnival is world-famous and attracts nearly one million visitors of all nationalities every year. It’s the largest winter event on the Riviera and a must-see.

The Carnival draws its inspiration from traditional themes and political and social events, as well as local satire. It is the universe of the fantastic which dominates, with mythical and symbolic characters. For 2020, the theme is “The King of Fashion”.

An emblematic carnival venue, the place Masséna, will be the starting point for the carnival parades which will turn around the Albert 1er gardens in a loop. On the square, visual entertainment will be relayed on giant screens for the delight of young and old spectators.

Nice Carnaval’s HIstory

The earliest record of the Nice Carnaval goes back to the Middle Ages. The year 1294, to be exact, where the Count of Provence created the “joyous days of carnival,” making the Nice Carnival the very-first carnival celebration.

Old advertisements for the nice carnaval

Originally a pagan festival, “Carne levare, levamen” (“remove the flesh”) – the most common definition of Carnival – takes place before the Lent period, during the fat days (Mardi-gras). It is the last party before a period of abstinence and lean cooking, which therefore justifies all the excesses. 

A committee was created in 1873, and in 1876 the first flower parade took place on Promenade des Anglais. Alphonse Karr came up with the concept for the first battle of flowers in 1876. This French writer of German origin, passionate about flowers and living in Nice, wanted a show where people could throw scent bouquets on their faces. 

In 1876, Alphonse Karr and Andriot Saëtone created the first battle of flowers on the Promenade des Anglais. The masquerades, satire floats, and competitions followed.

It was during the Belle-Epoque that the Nice Carnival reached its peak: it was then the biggest carnival in the world.

Best-of Nice CarnAval videos

Parade of Lights:

Flower Parade:

Nice Carnaval: 2020 Program

THe Big Carnival Parade: ‘Parada Nissarda’

Roughly 20 floats and 50 giant puppets, decorated on a new theme each year, parade to the rhythm of street art and musical bands from all around the world in a colorful and festive atmosphere.

On Place Masséna and around the Promenade du Paillon, floats and burlesques parade accompanied by elements of animation, street art, and international musical groups.

  • Schedule: Sunday, February 23 at 2:30pm

The Carnival’s Battle-Of-Flowers Parades

Come to see models lavishly made up and dressed in gleaming costumes of feathers, sequins and rhinestones, throw bouquets of flowers (around 100,000 flowers, to be exact) to the public. The float decorations are made by hand, using petals of thousands of flowers, glued one by one, in the night and the morning before each “battle”.

The battles (Bataille de Fleurs) began in 1856, specifically aimed to entertain the foreign visitors who were beginning to flock to the south of France. The parade gives tribute to the local flower producers. It highlights the diversity of flowers in the French Riviera as over 80% of the flowers are locally produced.

A carnival queen (elected by the festival committee) and her runners-up open each flower battle on her chariot. French and foreign musical groups join the parade and create the musical atmosphere.

The floats make their way along the Promenade des Anglais beside the azure blue sea of the Mediterranean. Finally, the floats arrive in Massena Square.

  • 2020 Schedules:
    • Saturday, February 15 at 2:30pm
    • Wednesday, February 19 at 2:30pm
    • Saturday, February 22 at 2:30pm
    • Wednesday, February 26 at 2:30pm
    • Saturday, February 29 at 2:30pm

The Carnival’S lIGHTS pARADES

The Nice Carnival Parade of Lights event is an unparalleled visual display. All floats light-up in the evening and cast incredible moving lights in the heart of the City of Nice.

  • 2020 Schedules:
    • Saturday, February 15 at 9pm
    • Tuesday, February 18 at 9pm
    • Saturday, February 22 at 9pm
    • Tuesday, February 25 at 9pm
    • Saturday, February 29 at 9pm (‘Incineration of the King’ / grand finale, with visual animations broadcast on large screens)

Colorful Stalls and Fireworks

The streets are full day and night with stalls selling gifts: Provencal items, lavender, brightly colored fabrics, and food. Carnival is designed to make you feel that winter is behind you and the spring season is beginning on the French Riviera.

Burning King Carnival & Fireworks

On the last night (February 29) at 9pm, tens of thousands of revelers gather in Place Massena to escort the Carnival King to the sea. Loud music plays and there is dancing in the streets. Silly String and confetti fly everywhere.

The giant King Carnival puppet is then set on fire, followed by an impressive fireworks display set to music over the Baie des Anges. Legend has it that by burning the King, he will then rise again next year from the ashes to reign once again during the Carnival.

2020 Nice Carnival Event Details

Event Type: Carnival / Festival
Frequency: Annual
Date: February 15 to 29, 2020
Time: Shows at 2:30pm and 9pm, see schedules above.
Cost: Parades cost between €5 and €40 (children under 5 are free). See rates and get tickets here. Many of the events are free, but there are charges for the parades. For the best view of this perfume-filled, colorful extravaganza, buy a ticket for a seat in the stands or for the designated standing area along the road.
Website: Official Carnival Website
Social Media: #nicecarnaval FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube
Location: Place Masséna, will be the starting point for the Carnival parades which will turn around the Albert 1er gardens in a loop. The Flower Parades will make their way along the Promenade des Anglais until they get to Massena Square.
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