Here comes the Nice Carnival 2024: Parades, masks and things to do!

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It's that time of year again when the French Riviera bursts into masquerades, gigantic floats, flowers, extravagant performers and parades! It’s time for the legendary Nice Carnival! If you thought that the Venice and Rio De Janeiro Carnivals were the only ones, hold your horses. There’s room for one more major Carnival to share the spotlight!

Fun fact: The Nice Carnival is older than the Venice Carnival, dating back to 1294!

This year, the celebration is like no other – with over a million visitors flocking into the French Riviera for 2 weeks of back-to-back festivities. But, what is the purpose of the celebration? The Nice Carnival is an important winter festival that has been celebrated for centuries now, to kickstart the fasting season of Lent!

When does the Nice Carnival begin?

This year, the carnival will be celebrated from 17 February 2024 - 3 March 2024. It’s celebrated for 2 weeks every year.

Nice Carnival history

The origin of the Nice Carnival can be traced back to 1294 when Charles of Anjou – Count of Provence and King of Sicily, first mentioned it during his stay in Nice! But back then, it wasn’t a full-blown organised carnival with parades until 1830. It was just a celebration occurring on the streets, for people to have a good time before the season of Lent began!

So, when did it all change?

It all started with the official royal visit of Charles-Felix, King of Sardinia & Queen Maria Cristina of Naples and Sicily during carnival time. The authorities of the city decided to throw a parade in honor of their royal visit and showcase people in splendid costumes, carried around in carriages. Initially, it began as some sort of a performance to keep the Royals entertained from the palace balcony and impress them.

Soon after, it became such a hit amongst the people that it was renewed every year since. But there was no royalty to preside over the carnival! So, the locals decided to make up for it by creating an effigy of the king, ensuring he participated in the parade too!

Nice Carnival 2024

Highlights of Nice Carnival 2024

1Theme of the Parade

Since a theme is chosen every year for the parade, 2024’s theme is ‘King of Pop Culture’! The Nice Carnival kickstarted the celebration starring “Star Wars” character Luke Skywalker as the king and Marilyn Monroe, as his queen, sporting a Superwoman costume.

Nice Carnival 2024

2Main Parades

The carnival features 2 main parades: The Carnival Parade (Corso Carnavalesque) and the Flower Parade (Bataille de Fleurs).

Nice Carnival 2024

3Carnival Parade

The Carnival Parade is held both during the day and night (Tuesday and Saturday nights). Spectators get to watch giant floats of the King, Queen and Carnivalon (their child) in the parade as they mark the beginning of the festivities!

Nice Carnival 2024

4Flower Parade

The Flower Parade on the other hand is slightly a newer tradition that began in the late 19th century, when the Nice Carnival became really popular and brought in visitors from all over the world! While the parade initially consisted of participants handing out flowers to the crowd, it has now evolved into floats. The floats are decked up in flowers carrying performers to shower the crowd with lilies, mimosas and many other varieties!

Nice Carnival 2024

Great! What else can you do in Nice while you’re there?

Nice Carnival 2024
  • Visit the Promenade des Anglais: Walk along the famous promenade that stretches along the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels). You can also rent a bike or rollerblades to explore the promenade at a leisurely pace.
  • Explore Old Town (Vieux Nice): Walk through the labyrinth of narrow streets in Old Town, filled with colorful buildings, local shops, and some really quaint cafes.
  • Check out the colorful Cours Saleya market: Experience the sights and smells of this bustling market, known for its fresh flowers, fruits, vegetables, and local delicacies.
  • Spend time at Castle Hill (Colline du Château) for panoramic views: Climb up or take the elevator to Castle Hill for breathtaking views of Nice and the surrounding coastline. It's a perfect spot for a picnic or to simply relax and soak in the scenery.
  • Take a stroll along the Quai des États-Unis: A walk along this gorgeous waterfront promenade lined with palm trees, cafes, and beautiful Belle Époque buildings is a must while you’re here.
  • Enjoy a day at the beach, such as Plage Beau Rivage: Relax on the sandy shores of one of Nice's many beaches. Plage Beau Rivage is a popular choice with its clear blue waters and amenities such as sunbeds and umbrellas!
  • Visit the Marc Chagall National Museum: The impressive collection of works by the Russian-French artist Marc Chagall, housed in a modern building surrounded by a peaceful garden, is a great stop on your city tour.
  • Try Socca, a local chickpea pancake, at Chez Pipo in Old Town: Try out the traditional Niçoise street food made from chickpea flour, olive oil, and seasoning. Chez Pipo is a loved local spot known for serving some of the best socca in town.
  • Take a day trip to nearby towns like Monaco or Cannes: Explore the glamorous neighboring towns of Monaco, known for its luxury casinos and yacht-filled harbor, or Cannes, famous for its film festival and beautiful sandy beaches.
Nice Carnival