Top 10 places to celebrate carnivals

Learn English for worldwide experiences

Get ready for the carnival season!

[Last updated on 08/03/2023]

Carnivals are festive celebrations that take place all around the world, and are a unique opportunity for people to experience different cultures and traditions. It’s a time of joy, music, dance, costumes, and feasting that marks the end of the winter season and the start of spring. Because the carnival season is just around the corner, we’ll take a look at how it is celebrated in different countries, the history and traditions behind the festival, and what makes each celebration unique.

We’ve made a list of the 10 best places around the world that celebrate some of the most impressive carnivals. From the colourful and lively carnival in Rio de Janeiro or Notting Hill Carnival in London, to the vibrant and energetic carnival in New York and New Orleans, or the historical and traditional carnivals in Venice and Malta, each carnival has its own unique features that make it special.

Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Improve your English for real-life experiences

To fully experience and appreciate these international events, it’s better to see it with your own eyes and it can be an advantage to have a good grasp of the English language. That’s why in this blog post, we’ll also explore how improving your English can help you travel the world to experience carnivals, and explain why taking English lessons is a great idea for those looking to broaden their horizons.

What are the 10 most unique places to celebrate carnivals?

Here are our top 10 locations for the most impressive carnivals worldwide. So far, we’ve only been to number 4 and number 6 – the rest are on our to-do list! 

1. Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is famous for its spectacular carnival, which takes place in February and attracts over two million people every year. The celebrations in Rio de Janeiro are centred around the Samba Schools, which are organisations that prepare elaborate costumes, floats, and music for the parades. The Samba Schools compete against each other in a grand parade that takes place in the city’s Sambódromo stadium. The parade is a display of dancing, music, and extravagant costumes, and is considered to be one of the largest and most impressive carnivals in the world.

2. Venice

Venice’s Carnival is an annual celebration that dates back to the 12th century. It’s known for its ornate masks and costumes, which people wear to conceal their identities and enjoy a period of freedom and fun before the start of the Lent season on the Christian calendar. During the Carnival, the streets of Venice come alive with music, dance, and colourful parades, and visitors can take part in a range of events, from masked balls to gondola rides. One of the most famous traditions of the Venice Carnival is the flight of the Angel, where a person dressed in a white costume and wings jumps from the top of St. Mark’s Bell Tower and glides through the streets of the city.

3. New Orleans

The New Orleans Carnival, also known as Mardi Gras, is one of the largest and most famous carnivals in the United States. It takes place in February and is a celebration of music, food, and parades, with participants wearing masks, costumes, and feathers. The celebrations start on January 6th with the Krewe of Twelfth Night and continue until Fat Tuesday, which is the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. The highlight of the New Orleans Carnival is the Mardi Gras Parade, where people dressed in costumes and masks march through the streets of the city, throwing beads, coins, and other trinkets into the crowd.

4. Notting Hill, London
United Kingdom

Notting Hill Carnival, held annually in August, is the largest street festival in Europe. Originating from the Caribbean community in London, it has become a major cultural event that attracts over one million visitors each year. The festival features two days of parades, with steel pan bands, sound systems, and floats, accompanied by an array of food stalls and vendors selling traditional Caribbean cuisine. The event culminates in a lively street party, with live music and dance performances that go on into the night.

Carnival in Venice, Italy
5. New York

The New York Carnival takes place annually in February or March, celebrating the city’s diverse cultural heritage. The festival features a parade with colourful costumes, floats, and steel drum bands, along with live music and dance performances. One of the highlights of the event is the Brazilian Day Parade, which celebrates the rich culture and traditions of Brazil, with samba dancing, live music, and traditional food.

6. Valletta

Malta Carnival also known as Il-Karnival ta’ Malta is a centuries-old tradition in February or March before the start of Lent. Events take place across the Maltese Islands and the the largest festival takes place in the capital, Valletta. It features a parade of elaborate floats, with participants dressed in colourful costumes, masks, and wigs. The streets are filled with live music, dance performances, and food stalls selling traditional Maltese cuisine. One of the most notable aspects of Malta’s carnival is the use of satirical humour in the floats, often poking fun at current events and political figures.

7. Cologne

Cologne’s Carnival, also known as the “Crazy Days”, is one of the largest and most famous Carnivals in Germany. It takes place in February and is a celebration of music, dance, and costume, with participants wearing masks, costumes, and hats. The celebrations start on Weiberfastnacht, which is the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, and continues until Ash Wednesday. The highlight of the Cologne Carnival is the Rose Monday Parade, which is a colourful procession of floats, bands, and costumed revellers who march through the streets of the city.

Carnival in Valletta, Malta
8. Port Of Spain
Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival is one of the largest and most famous Carnivals in the Caribbean, and is known for its energetic music, colourful costumes, and lively parades. The Carnival takes place in February and is a celebration of African and Creole culture, with a focus on the steel pan, a musical instrument that was invented in Trinidad and Tobago. The Carnival is a time for revellers to dance, sing, and enjoy themselves, and is famous for its masquerade bands, which are groups of people dressed in elaborate costumes who dance through the streets to the beat of the music.

9. Barranquilla

Barranquilla’s Carnival is one of the largest and most famous carnivals in South America and is known for its vibrant music, dance, and costumes. It takes place in February and is a celebration of Afro-Colombian culture, with a focus on traditional drums, such as the tambor alegre and the caja vallenata. The carnival is a time for revellers to dance, sing, and enjoy themselves, and is famous for its colourful parades, which feature costumes made from a range of materials, from feathers to fruits. The highlight of the Barranquilla Carnival is the Grand Parade, which is a procession of float, bands, and costumed revellers who march through the streets of the city.

10. Barcelona

Barcelona’s Carnival is a celebration of music, dance, and traditional Spanish culture. The festival, held annually in February or March, is an opportunity for locals and visitors alike to come together and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of the city. The Carnival of Barcelona is a lively event, with parades featuring colourful costumes, traditional music, and dance performances. The streets are filled with vendors selling traditional Spanish food and drink, such as paella, churros, and sangria. In addition to the parades, there are also masquerade balls, live music performances, and other festivities throughout the city. One of the highlights of the Carnival of Barcelona is the “Correfoc,” a fire run that involves participants dressed as devils, tossing sparks and fire into the crowds. The event is a symbol of the city’s cultural heritage, and it attracts thousands of visitors each year.

Why is it beneficial to learn the English language to fully appreciate carnivals around the world?

English is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world and these carnivals have become international events. By improving your English, you will be able to engage with the locals and interact with other international visitors. For example, if you attend the Notting Hill Carnival in London, you can speak with vendors, performers, and other attendees, and you will be able to understand the history and cultural background of the event.

If you want to fully experience and appreciate the carnivals around the world, taking English lessons is a great way to improve your language skills, and will give you the confidence to interact with others and fully immerse yourself in the carnival experience.

At EnglishRadar, we offer English course packages where you can learn English online with a professional trainer to develop the vocabulary and phrases that you need to communicate effectively. You receive valuable feedback to improve your grammar and pronunciation, and taking English lessons can develop your overall language skills.

This can be useful when travelling to other countries and experiencing other cultural events. With a good grasp of English, you will be able to travel the world with confidence and make the most of every experience.

To get started, try our free online English test to find our your CEFR English level!

English expressions for carnivals and celebrations

Develop your English with our list of expressions that are used to describe carnivals, celebrations and having a good time.

  1. To masquerade – To wear a disguise
  2. To go all out – To put in a lot of effort
  3. To be in costume – To wear a disguise or special outfit
  4. To dress up – To wear a special outfit
  5. To join the parade – To participate in a carnival procession
  6. To have a blast – To have a great time
  7. To celebrate in style – To celebrate in a grand and fashionable manner
  8. To be the life of the party – To be the most entertaining person at the party
  9. To let loose – To relax and have fun
  10. To have a ball – To have a lot of fun
  11. To live it up – To enjoy oneself to the fullest
  12. To be in high spirits – To be very happy and enthusiastic
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