Mardi Gras: World's greatest carnivalsHit the road for the planet's wildest parties
HomeAway travel expert
The rapturous Mardi Gras is a captivating and sensory feast of colour and noise wherever in the world you choose to experience it. Originating from a Christian festival marking the last meal before the fasting of Lent, Mardi Gras – Fat Tuesday and Shrove Tuesday, as it is known in France and the UK respectively - has always been a cause for momentous celebration. Although religious connotations have all but dissipated, the jubilant elements of the festival, the feasting and exuberance, have continued to grow by the year across America, South America and much of Europe.
Today, Mardi Gras parties around the world vary hugely. The most famous, including the Rio de Janeiro, Venice and New Orleans events, are marked with elaborate masked balls, engrossing carnivals and vast street parades where the colourful costumes are almost as loud as the music. By contrast, more traditional celebrations can be found in certain corners of Europe including Spain, France and Italy. With such a wealth of options to choose from, you are guaranteed the experience of a lifetime regardless of destination. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best to help you decide. When your mind is set, take a look on HomeAway to find your ideal rental accommodation from a plentiful selection.
Top five Mardi Gras holiday destinations
New Orleans Mardi Gras
The swinging southern port of New Orleans has over time become synonymous with the festivities of Mardi Gras. The parades here are the largest of them all, with thousands upon thousands of visitors flocking each year to witness the staggering number of floats weaving their way through the streets of the famed French Quarter, from Uptown to Slidell. Purple, green and gold are the traditional colours of the carnival, but the city explodes with every shade imaginable for the duration. Be sure to sample the famous King Cakes, even more famous live music, and the utter lunacy of the recently added Colour Run.
Venice Mardi Gras
The Mardi Gras celebration of Venice, unsurprisingly better known as the Venice Carnival, is the spiritual home of the famous masks that have become an integral part of the worldwide events. This is perhaps the most grandiose of all the global events that mark the occasion, with masquerade balls and feasts featuring most prominently. For the duration of the Carnival the streets and waterways of the famous old city take a step back in time as everyone enters the spirit, donning the aforementioned masks and costumes from a bygone era.
Binche Mardi Gras
Belgium is scarcely credited as party capital of the world, but when it comes to Mardi Gras, the town of Binche more than holds its own. Situated in the Wallonia region, the town is home to the UNESCO accredited Carnival of Binche, an exuberant Mardi Gras celebration that sees over a thousand dancers fill the streets from 4am until well into the evening. Anyone who suffers from coulrophobia (a fear of clowns, who knew?) may want to give this one a wide berth; the unsettling wax-masked “Gilles” provide the centrepiece for the celebrations. Otherwise, you can enjoy the outlandish parades and the oddity of the controversial orange-throwing event.
View townhouses in Binche
Rio de Janeiro Mardi Gras
The most vibrant city in South America is rightly hailed as one of the world’s party hotspots, but in the build up to Easter Rio de Janeiro, it’s more effervescent than ever. Aside from New Orleans, this is the most renowned Mardi Gras celebration, fusing a dazzling array of colourful floats and performers with the samba style that is so extrusively affiliated with Brazil. Even for those watching from the sidelines it is impossible not to find yourself dancing along to the contagious rhythm of the relentless drums.
View apartments in Brazil
Nice Mardi Gras
The Nice Mardi Gras is revered as one of the most spectacular events in the annual calendar of France. The flower strewn parades and evening light shows are a joy to behold, whilst the fantastic range of street theatre, concerts and parades are enough to keep anyone entertained over the course of the ten-day schedule. The origins of the Nice Carnival can be traced as far back as the 13th century, making it amongst the oldest and most established celebrations of its kind in the world. When all is said and done, you can also spend some time in one of the most picturesque settings on the Mediterranean.
View villas in Nice