Make the most of the cold season with these European winter festivals, which involve everything from skiing and snowboarding to music, comedy, ice sculptures, and dazzling carnival parades.

Venice Carnival, Italy

Venice Carnival

Every winter, Venice bursts into life with fanciful masked balls and extravagant parades. The city’s narrow, enigmatic backstreets and the beautiful Saint Mark’s Square are taken over by mysterious masked revelers, while elegant gondolas filled with fantasy characters glide up and down its beloved canals.

Venice during Il Carnevale is an explosion of color and fashion creativity, an experience you’ll never forget. Venice Carnival 2018 will be held between January 27 – February 18.

Amsterdam Light Festival, The Netherlands

Linght Festival, Amsterdam

During the dark winter months, Amsterdam comes to life with a spectacular open-air exhibition called Amsterdam Light Festival. The 53-day event gathers the best national and international light artists to showcase their work throughout the city center and along its picturesque canals.

This year, the festival takes place from 30 November 2017 until 21 January 2018, and all the fabulous sculptures and art installations on display will gravitate around two different themes: Biomimicry and A view on Amsterdam.

Horizon Festival, Arinsal, Andorra

Horizon Festival, Bansko

Held in the ski resort of Arinsal, Andorra, Horizon Festival translates into 7 crazy days and nights, jam-packed with music and mountain fun. And with lots of powdery pistes, some of the hottest names in electronic music, and over 30 hedonistic parties taking place around the lively resort, this is clearly one of Europe’s greatest snow parties.

2018 dates to be announced.

Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival, Belgium

Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival, Bruges

Winter in Belgium comes with charming Christmas Markets, festive decorations, and the wonderful Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival. Every year, artists from all over the world transform one of the nation’s postcard-perfect towns (be it Bruges, Hasselt, or other) into a winter wonderland, enchanting visitors with their fantastic ice and snow sculptures depicting scenes from various stories.

Cologne Carnival, Germany

Kölner Karneval

Locally known as the “Fifth Season”, Cologne Carnival is undoubtedly the biggest, wildest, and craziest celebration in Germany. It usually kicks off on the 11th of November at 11:11, but it is temporarily suspended during the Advent and Christmas season.

Events include everything from concerts and traditional shows to balls and flamboyant processions. The highlight is Rose Monday Parade (two days before Ash Wednesday), with over 140 floats and thousands of people marching the streets of Cologne.

Momentum Ski Festival, Verbier, Switzerland

Momentum Ski Festival, Verbier
Photo via Facebook

One of the best Alpine events for business executives, Momentum Ski Festival comprises the City Ski Championships, the Alpine Business Forum, and a variety of après ski entertainment. Within the course of the event, between 1-4 February 2018, attendees will be treated to an exciting programme of comedy, live music, and club nights. The Momentum Ski Festival takes place in the famous ski resort of Verbier, Switzerland.

Altitude Comedy Festival, Mayrhofen, Austria

Alpine Comedy Festival, Austria

Every winter, the lovely Tyrolean ski resort of Mayrhofen becomes home to Altitude Comedy Festival, a one-of-a-kind event that combines the adrenaline rush of the ski slopes with some of the biggest comedians in the world. Expect excellent skiing and snowboarding, along with fantastic stand-up and musical comedy, late night parties, and great atmosphere.

2018 dates to be announced.

Ljubljana Dragon Carnival, Slovenia

Shrovetide Carnival Parade
Photo by Dunja Wedam

Each year on Shrove Saturday, the old center of Ljubljana comes alive with dance, puppet shows, and a colorful parade of masked characters. Ljubljana Dragon Carnival, also known as Shrovetide Carnival, is an excellent cultural experience, offering an insight into the country’s unique Shrovetide traditions.

New Year’s Dive, The Netherlands

New Year's Dive, The Netherlands
Photo: compuinfoto/Depositphotos.com

If you happen to be in the Netherlands on January 1st, don’t miss their annual New Year’s Dive. Dating back to 1960, the tradition of starting the year fresh with a plunge in the sea is celebrated in more than 60 locations throughout the country, but the greatest dive can be observed on the beach of Scheveningen, where over 10.000 brave Dutch swimmers jump together into the chilly waters of the North Sea. One hell of a spectacle!

Fête du Citron, Menton, France

Lemon Festival, Menton

Every February, Menton, a picturesque coastal town on the French Riviera, hosts the Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival). The delightful event includes a series of exhibitions and parades featuring fabulous citrus fruit creations. The 2018 Lemon Festival runs from February 17th to March 4th, and some of the most spectacular displays can be seen in the Jardins Biovès.

Up Helly Aa, Lerwick, Scotland

Up Helly Aa Procession, Scotland
Photo by Millgaet Media

One of Europe’s largest and most spectacular fire festivals, Up Helly Aa takes place on the last Tuesday in January every year, in Lerwick, the main port of Scotland’s Shetland Islands. The outstanding event celebrates the region’s Viking heritage with traditional music and a dramatic torch-lit procession. The spectacle culminates with over 1,000 costumed guizers throwing burning torches into a galley, a traditional Viking longship.

Nice Carnival, France

Flower Battle, Nice Carnival

Bright blue skies, fabulous parades, and perfumed flower battles on the Promenade des Anglais make Nice Carnival one of the greatest events of its kind in the world, alongside the famous Carnevale di Venezia and Carnaval do Brasil.

From February 17th to March 3rd 2018, the glamorous capital of the Côte d’Azur becomes the backdrop for a series of theater performances, colorful stalls, firework displays, and parades of elaborately decorated floats and giant papier mâché figurines.

Where’s The Music, Norrköping, Sweden

Music Festival, Sweden

Taking place in various clubs and venues in the center of Norrköping, Sweden, Where’s The Music is part music festival, part music conference. The three-day event brings together the best in new Swedish music, from established professionals to emerging young artists, and runs February 9-10, 2018.

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, Scotland

New Year Festival, Edinburgh

One of the world’s most famous New Year festivals, Hogmanay sees over 140,000 revelers from all corners of the globe joining the vibrant street parties, concerts, and celebrations held each year on 31 December in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Don’t miss the astounding Torchlight Procession through the city center, the traditional Concert in the Gardens, or the New Year firework display, which is often regarded as one of the biggest on Earth.

Vinterjazz, Danmark

Winter Jazz Festival, Denmark

Vinterjazz, Denmark’s Winter Jazz Festival, takes place each February and offers three weeks packed with events and concerts by Danish and international musicians. The nationwide festival features over 450 performances held in 100 venues across the country, from Copenhagen to Aarhus to Esbjerg. Vinterjazz 2018 is set to take place on February 2-25.

Sitges Carnival, Spain

Sitges Carnival
Photo: AnibalTrejo/Depositphotos.com

Although modest in size, Sitges packs a punch when it comes to entertainment. A favorite destination among the gay community, the coastal Catalan town warms up in winter with a flamboyant week-long carnival featuring a variety of festivities, parades, and cultural events. Highlights include the family-oriented Parade of Debauchery (Rua de la Disbauxa) and the gay-friendly Parade of Extermination (Rua de l’Extermini). In 2018, Sitges Carnival will take place between 8-14 February.

Carnival of Binche, Belgium

Binche Carnival
Photo via Facebook

A UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, Carnival of Binche welcomes visitors with extraordinary street performances. During the three days leading up to Lent, over 1,000 Gilles (local men wearing bizarre masks and costumes) can be admired marching the charming medieval streets of Binche, dancing to the sound of drums, and throwing oranges to the crowd for good luck.

Carnaval de Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain

Tenerife Carnival

February in the Canary Islands is synonymous with colorful dancing parades, merrymaking, and extravagant floats. Declared a “Fiesta of International Tourist Interest”, the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is about as close as you can get to the one in Rio de Janeiro in this part of the world.

Traditional events include the Gala where the Carnival Queen is elected; the Burial of the Sardine; and the Coso (the grand finale parade).

Snow Bike Festival, Gstaad, Switzerland

Snow Bike Festival, Gstaad

Taking place in Gstaad, an upscale ski resort in the Swiss Alps, from January 18-21, 2018, the Snow Bike Festival promises to delight visitors and fatbiking enthusiasts with an exciting mix of rides, races, and parties.

Rise Festival

Rise Festival

An independent ski & snowboard music festival held in Les Deux Alps, Rise combines exciting snow sports with the hottest in electronic music. Epic parties and wellbeing, along with 222 km of pistes and the largest skiable glacier in Europe, await revelers between December 16th and 23rd, 2017 in this lively French resort, 3,000 meters above sea level. Tickets include a lift pass and access to all night and daytime soirées.




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