The Carnival in Nice
If you’re looking for an excuse to come here, February is Carnival time.
It’s a wonderful opportunity to discover Nice’s mild climate, luminous skies and the art of luxury living on the French Riviera.
Floats of flowers
Stunning floats bedecked with flowers offer family-friendly fun, there are heaps of free activities for little ones.
Nice’s Carnaval welcomes its gay visitors just as warmly as it greets any romantic couple or group of singles seeking exuberant entertainment after winter gloom.
Although each year has its own unique elements, some traditional aspects have grown over more than a century: Carnaval Parades by day and by night; Flower Battles; fireworks and the burning of an enormous King.
Nice Carnival Events
Parades take place on three or four afternoons or evenings a week during the Carnival period.
Most are free, so you can save your cash for some luxury shopping or a good hotel.
There’s always an admission charge for the Bataille des Fleurs, but it’s well worth the money.
Last weekend of the Carnival in Nice includes a popular Bartenders Race and the Carnival King is burned in the sea on the last night.
All followed by a fantastic firework display.
The parade route changes slightly each year but usually follows part of the Promenade des Anglais.
Tickets for the stands are more expensive, but the cheapest allow you to watch along the roadside.
Buy from the Nice Tourist Office if you like to plan in advance, or purchase from the stalls set up on the Promenade.
Accommodation during the festival
View from the luxury Hotel Negresco
As mentioned at the Main page of Nice, here are many Hotels to choose from.
Even though hotels do still get booked up in advance, especially during the busier summer season.
The luxury Hotel Negresco (picture above) is an alternative if you want to stay in style.
There are several hundred other great hotels along with nearly 50 Bed & Breakfast to choose from if you prefer to stay in more intimate surroundings.
King and Queen of the Carnival in Nice
The Carnival King leads his Carnival Procession through the streets, with around twenty floats taking the theme of the year.
The King is accompanied by more than fifty giant-headed puppets, the Grosses Tetes.
Making the papier-mache figures uses centuries-old techniques, and the painting is done by specialist craftspeople.
Costumes are created to dress each character, the more flamboyant the better.
Just one puppet can weigh over two tons and tower over the watching crowds at twelve meters high.
A king must have a queen, and she is selected from a bevy of local beauties for the honour.
Her duties range from posing for Carnival photos to throwing posies of flowers from a float for the Flower Parade.
So she needs to be able to keep that lovely smile all day and into the night’s revelries.
History of the event
Masks and Mardi Gras-style carnavals have a long association, stemming from the Middle Ages when the celebrations allowed oppressed peasants to mock the aristocracy.
Masks and disguises protected them from what might be a beheading offense.
The modern Carnaval in Nice dates from 1873 and continued with only brief interruptions for the more serious events of wars.
Unlike the carnaval of Venice, there’s no real expectation that visitors should wear costume or masks.
Far from grey skies and full of excitement, Nice at Carnaval time is a riot of colour and commotion.