IMG_2584Nice Carnaval 2024

The Nice Carnaval is the third biggest in the world after Rio and Venice!

From Friday February 17th to Sunday March 3, 2024, come take part in this 150-year-old tradition, and see a rollicking and irreverent Carnaval parade with gigantic floats you will never forget… The 2024 theme is King of Pop Culture, so it is guaranteed to be very wonderfully weird!

A lot of locals avoid Carnaval like the plague, but it can be fun, free, surprising, and worth the effort… IF you follow these Insider Carnaval Tips that will make all the difference for your Carnaval experience.

What’s FREE for 2024:

  • The FREE Carnaval Village on the Promenade du Paillon, featuring displays, floats, workshops, food, music and surprises.
  • FREE teaser on Opening Night.  Less crowded, much shorter, and completely free, the opening night festivities on Friday, February 11, feature three Carnaval floats (including the King and Queen floats), three Flower Parade floats, plus lots of music and pageantry.
  • The final night closing ceremony is also FREE, but there are no floats, just the troupes of Big Heads, dancers, local groups and musicians, who parade and dance from from Castel Plage down the Prom to Centenaire Plage from 4-6pm, where the King float awaits them… to be dramatically set on fire just before 7pm, followed by fireworks!
  • Wear a costume and get FREE entry to standing zones for the Corso (but not flower) parades!  The costume must be full-on (sorry, funny hat and face paint won’t cut it…) and in good taste… nothing off-putting.  And you still need a ticket, so just pass by the ticket booth for your free ticket on the way to the entry, and be sure to get there early as each section has a limit for free costume entries.
  • Kids under 12 are FREE to the Corso standing zones (but again, not flower parades), and people with disabilities are free in a dedicated section of the standing zones (even for the flower parades).  In both cases, tickets are still needed, so order free tickets in your online basket or just pass by the ticket office ahead of time.
  • The super-fun and totally FREE Queernaval is held at Place Massena the first Friday night February 23.  Its the only parade that is completely FREE for everybody, and definitely the most fun, flamboyant, exuberant and participative.  It’s the only gay Carnaval in France and features drag queens, dancers, and amazing costumes full of feathers and sequins.  Last year they hit 9000 spectators.
  • The Nice Opera is throwing a FREE Masked Ball called a Vegliones Ball, February 16 2024, on the actual stage of the Opera House!  Only requirement is a costume and a free ticket that you get from the Opera box office starting early February.  It starts off like a Viennese ball then as the night progresses the music style does too, to 20’s swing, musette, disco, pop and finally electro.  2024 date to be announced.

Okay, on to the Insider Tips:

1. First, pick up the free printed program – It’s worth popping in to the Tourist Office/Ticket Booths/Carnaval Village to pick up your free Official Program Guide with the drawings and a quick blurb from each float’s conception. This will give you the inside track on decoding the humor, satire, and ironic meanings of the more esoteric floats and you will notice details that otherwise might escape you.

2. Avoid the crowds and get your ticket online Ticket booths open 2 hours before each parade, so unless you want to spend your lunch or dinnertime hanging out in a queue, smart shoppers buy online (even for the free tickets)…

3. Don’t pay for a seat!  You’ll pay 28-32€ and be stuck for hours subjecting your ears to the painfully loud MC as the floats crawl past at a glacial pace, and the standing A Zone (14€) is just as bad.  Better to head straight for the standing B and C Zones, which are much more fun and lively, not to mention cheaper (7€ for adults and free for kids under 12), and covers 80% of the route.  I like the B-zone which runs along the seaside the best, and there are entrances on both sides.

4. Best Bang for the Buck – The first afternoon Grande Parade on Saturday  February 18th, is the most expensive ticket (17/10€ for standing, 32€ for sitting), but they mix up floats from Carnaval and the Bataille des Fleurs, so you get to see a bit of everything and only have to brave the crowds once!

5. Secret skyboxes – There are three spots where you can avoid the crowds, have a seat, and get a very civilized view of the action, all while sipping a frosty beverage:

  • The best is the vast rooftop restaurant/bar at the new elegant 5-star Ananatara Plaza Hotel, which looks directly down onto all the action at Place Massena (…and if you stay there and take a sea-view room, you really will have a Carnaval VIP box all to yourselves!)
  • Second best is the lobby bar on the second floor of the Hotel Le Meridien where you can sip pricey cocktails as the giant floats parade by right at eye-level.
  • The third option is not very glam but much more budget friendly: load up on Big Macs and score a window table on the second floor of the McDonalds next to the Hotel Le Meridien for the same eye-level view bt at a fraction of the bar bill.

6. Secret stealth way to see the floats but avoid the crowds – Approximately 2 hours before each parade (so between 6:30-7pm for the night parades Tuesdays and Saturdays), the floats drive in from the Carnaval workshop in the port.  Hang out on the city side of the Promenade du Paillon and wait for the Carnaval to come to you, as the impressive floats meander past with none of the muss or fuss.  Even better: 15 minutes after the end of the Carnaval the process happens in reverse… and for this direction you can hang out at one of the many bistros and bars on the Old Nice side of the Promenade du Paillon and get your mini-taste of the Carnival in sidewalk café-style comfort!

Poster with mischievous gnome with a tambourine7. Carnaval Populaire Independant –  If you are adventurous and not afraid of getting hit with eggs, flour, and what-have-you, try the Carnaval Populaire to experience the true spirit of this 2000-year-old tradition.

Carnaval was originally a day of church-sanctioned debauchery, when disguised locals were free to cut loose and mock the patriarchy, and anyone not in costume got the flour/egg treatment.  Rdv at Place Saint Roch (tramstop Saint Roch) at noon for a pot-luck lunch, or just show up at 2pm for the tipsy parade of hand-made floats through the neighborhood.  Check their Facebook page for the date.

8. Where to park –  The NiceEtoile shopping center (5 minutes walk) offers a parking deal on Carnival days of 5 hours for 5€.  But you can park for even less: take advantage of the ParcAzur park and ride lots where you can park all day for the price of a round-trip tram ticket (3.40€), and the tramway will deliver you right to the action.

9. Silver lining for Carnaval haters: The Prom is basically closed off all day Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays, plus late afternoon/evenings on Saturdays and Tuesdays, so these are the most wonderful times to go have lunch, dinner or drinks and one of the cafes/bars facing the sea, with no cars for once, and just the sound of the waves and birds… ahhh.

But in general, basically avoid downtown daytime Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays, and evenings/nights Saturdays and Tuesdays, as traffic is blocked and the tramway line 1 doesn’t go all the way through (line 2 is fine, though).

10. Don’t miss the Massena Museum’s permanent Carnaval exhibit on the 3rd floor, with fascinating historic photos, paintings, vintage Carnaval posters, floats and all kind of amazing artifacts from the Nice Carnaval.

Click here for the Official Nice Carnaval site in English

And if you didn’t get your fill of floats, fruit and flowers in Nice, there is also

See Related Pages:  

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