After a year off due to covid, Nice Carnaval is back, Baby! From Friday February 11th to Sunday February 27, 2022, the wild things will rule, with the ‘King of Animals’ theme bringing out the beast in the best of us!
A lot of locals avoid Carnaval, but it can be fun, surprising, and worth the effort… IF you follow these Insider Carnaval Tips that will make all the difference for your Carnaval experience.
Here’s what’s new for 2022:
- For the first time, there is a free Carnaval Village on the Promenade du Paillon, with displays, floats, workshops, food, music and surprises.
- The first Parade of Lights on Saturday February 12, will be the first and only time that floats from the Corso and Flower Parades will be mixed together, so you can get it all in one shot!
- Attendance will be limited for the first half due to covid crowd restrictions, but these get lifted nation-wide on February 16th, so if they sell out the first week, you will have a better chance the second week.
- The super-fun Queernaval is postponed until 2023, but they will have a large drag-queen delegation on the free opening night, Friday, February 11.
Okay, on to the tips:
1. First, pick up the 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 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.
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 (12€) 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 (5-8€ 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. 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 super short: it’s only the King float, which they set on fire at the end!
5. Best Bang for the Buck: The first night light parade on Saturday, February 12, is the most expensive ticket (8€ for standing, 32€ for sitting), but for the first time they are mixing 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!
6. Secret skybox. It’s not very glam, but the best view without diving into the crowds is the second floor of the McDonalds at the Hotel Le Meridien. For more of a bird’s eye view (plus cocktails!), the roof terrace of the B4 Plaza Hotel is a nice option (Update: closed for renovation this year, but back open in 2023…)
7. Secret way to beat the crowds. Approximately 1 hour before each parade, 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 Carnival 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 Carnival 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!
8. Where to park. The NiceEtoile shopping center (5 minutes walk) is offering a deal on Carnival days of 5 hours parking for 5€. But you can park for even less: take advantage of the 5 ParcAzur park and ride lots where you can park all day for the price of a tram ticket, 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, so these are the most wonderful times to go have lunch or a drink and one of the cafes/bars facing the sea, with no cars and just the sound of the waves and birds… ahhh.
10. 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) Sunday February 27 at noon for a pot-luck lunch, or just show up at 2pm for the tipsy parade of hand-made floats through the neighborhood.
Here is the schedule for attending the events (or avoiding downtown, depending on your preference! Basically avoid downtown daytime Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays, and evenings/nights Saturdays and Tuesdays)
- First Friday only: Free Opening Ceremony at 6:30pm on Feburary 11
- Saturdays: February 12th grand combo of corso and flowers at 8:30pm. Then Saturdays February 19&26 Bataille de Fleurs at 2:30pm, followed by Corso Illuminée/Light Parade at 8:30pm
- Tuesdays: 8:30pm Corso Illuminée/Light Parade
- Wednesdays: 2:30pm Bataille de Fleurs/Flower Parade
- Sundays: February 13 Bataille de Fleurs/Flower Parade at 2:30pm; February 20, the only daytime Corso parade at 2:30pm; February 27 at 6pm the free final Closing Ceremony where the King float is set on fire!
Click here for the Official Nice Carnival site in English
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