Top 10 Best Carnivals, Festivals and Street Parties

Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good party? And what better than an exotic party in a far flung corner of the globe – a great way to indulge yourself in local culture, meet happy smiling people and probably enjoy more than a few of the local specialities (we’re thinking booze here). So if you have the party spirit and you want to go and let your hair down, here are the best global options.

Mardi Gras, Brazil

mardi gras 1

When is it? Beginning of lent (varies annually).

Rio’s mardi gras is famous as the most sexy, hedonistic and downright crazy street party you can find on the planet – and this is a reputation that is well earned. Tickets to the actual Sambadrome in Rio are highly coveted, but don’t worry if you miss out. For a whole week this city, in fact the whole country, parties hard to infectious beats fuelled by cachaca (a sugar cane spirit) and heaps of enthusiasm. An essential experience for any party animal.

Mardi Gras can also be experienced with similar fervour in New Orleans, USA and Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago – both of which are excellent in their own right.

Songkran, Thailand

Songkran water festival

When is it? April 13th -15th annually.

The Thai new year is marked by Songran, a festival that takes to the street normally in the form of a big waterfight. If you’re on the streets anywhere in Thailand around this time expect to get soaked by anyone…! Yes even that sly looking old lady is packing a water pistol (best let her shoot first though). Traditionally Songran marks the start of fasting and lots of prayers and new years resolutions and the waterfight is a way to let the hair down. The best place to see Songkran is Chaing Mai in the north of Thailand.

Holi, India

Holi

When is it? Spring in India – varies annually (February or March).

Known worldwide as the festival of colour, Holi is a riotous street party that takes over the whole of the subcontinent from Nepal to Sri Lanka. There are also celebrations in places such as Fiji and Bali. The format is simple, buy some coloured powder and get some water and throw them at everyone you see. Whatever clothes you’re wearing on Holi are probably going to be ruined so bear that in mind.

Notting Hill Carnival, London

Nottinghill carnival

When is it? August bank holiday weekend (last weekend in August).

Originally a celebration of Caribbean culture in London, this annual event has evolved into one of the biggest street carnivals in Europe. The main procession sees floats and dancers parade around Notting Hill, although there are small stages set up all around the area playing heavy bass music and surrounded by revellers drinking a lot of Red Stripe, eating jerk chicken and smoking a lot of pungent ‘Jamaican tobacco’. A great excuse to party hard all day in the streets in the middle of London – this is one of those bucket list events.

La Tomatina, Bunol, Spain

La Tomatina, Bunol

When is it? Last Wednesday in August.

Probably the world’s biggest food fight, thousands of people head to this town near Valencia to throw tomatoes at strangers. Expect to be picking tomato seeds out of your hair and ears for days after…

St Patrick’s Day, Ireland

St Patricks Day

When is it? March 17th.

A celebration of being Irish, but even if you don’t have an Irish bone in your body you can still head to Dublin and indulge in copious amounts of the black stuff (thats Guinness by the way, don’t say you don’t like it!) and watch the numerous parades and street performers. Dublin is by far the best place to experience the party but pretty much anywhere in the world with an Irish population – from Singapore to New York – throws a big St Paddy’s day celebration .

Chinese New Year. Worldwide

Chinese New Year Cropped

When is it? January or February – changes annually.

Wherever there is a Chinese community there will be extravagant new year celebrations. Expect fireworks, dancing dragons and tasty street food. Anywhere in China is a good spot to take in the action – particularly Hong Kong and Shanghai – although cities as diverse as San Francisco, Kuala Lumpur or Penang in Malaysia, Sydney in Australia and even London have excellent Chinese New Year street parties.

Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany

Oktoberfest

 

When is it? 16 days from the end of September, finishing early October.

Held every year in a vast festival site in the heart of Munich, Oktoberfest is a celebration of good beer, good friends and good times. There is also plentiful musical and theatrical entertainment and stacks of hearty German food of course. You may not know anyone if Germany or even speak a word of German but after a trip to Oktoberfest you can be guaranteed you’ll have stacks of friends and probably know a bit of German (probably ‘prost’ – cheers).

Venice Carnival (Carnevale de Venezia), Italy

Venice Carnival

When is it? The two weeks leading up to Mardi Gras (end of January, early February).

Historically the Venice Carnival would have been a huge citywide masked ball, and people do still wear the Masquerade masks. There are lots of events including street parties and a series of spectacular processions down the canals of Venice. Probably one of the most stunning and romantic carnivals you could attend.

The Running of the Bulls, Pamplona, Spain

running of the bulls

When is it? Mid July.

There are running of the bulls events across Spain, southern France and parts of Portugal, but the most famous is at San Fermin, Pamplona. The 7 day festival includes several runnings around the narrow streets of this old city, ideally suited to the event. Beware though, people do get gorged and it is dangerous -but then that’s part of the fun!

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