Carnival celebrations are so popular across Switzerland and France that it would be a shame to miss out on all the fun, so here’s a quick run through of the main ones coming up during the months of February and March 2017.
During these street parties you can expect masked parades, Guggenmusiks (carnival marching bands), folk dances, confetti fights as well as street performances and many activities for children. It is also traditional to burn the Bonhomme d’Hiver as a rather harsh goodbye gesture to the winter season!
Practical Tips: dressing-up the children is great fun (if they feel like it, that is!) and it’s all part of the Carnival tradition. Dress-up costumes, hats, confetti & face-painting kits are usually available from the beginning of February in the largest COOP, Migros, Manor, Carrefour (in France), toy stores (King Jouet, Maxi Toys, Imaginarium in Switzerland; La Grande Récré and Carrefour in France), but you can also find some princess costumes in H&M.
However, our top tip would be to borrow the kids’ dress-up costumes from your local toy library (ludothèque in French – not all of them stock them but it’s always worth checking). The choice is great and your little buttons can try them on until they find the one they like. You can then borrow the Carnaval costume for a few weeks for a very reasonable price!
- 17th-19th February 2017: the Carnaval des Enfants in Bulle is a fantastic day out for the whole family, especially if your little ones love to dress-up. Bulle is located in Canton Fribourg, only 1 hour and a half from Geneva by car. The Carnaval de Bulle is famous for its kids parade on Saturday at 2pm but the weekend is filled with great activities the whole family will enjoy. Click here for full programme details. This year’s theme is “à plumes ou à poils”, so make sure you dress accordingly!
- 18th February-5th March 2017: Le Grand Carnaval de la Mère Noël, carnival celebrations for children at the Hameau du Père Noël in Andilly (France). There will be face-painting for the little ones, baby disco, story-times and yummy snacks in the company of Père Fouettard and la Mère Noël! Open from 2pm until 6pm, entry tickets are 10 euros for adults and 5 euros for kids. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
- 3rd-6th March 2017: Payerne Carnival in Canton Fribourg. This is one of Switzerland’s oldest carnivals. Don’t miss the kids’ masked parade on Saturday 4th at 2.40pm and the free disco on Sunday 5th of March at 5.45pm. FREE ENTRY.
- Saturday 4th March 2017: Carnaval de Genolier, a small but nice celebration in one of the smaller villages in Vaud (not far from Nyon). The carnival will begin at 2.30pm with a kids parade and Guggenmusik. The parade ends with the burning of the Bonhomme d’hiver and a party in the local “salle de gym” (Salle communale du Gossan, Chemin du Cimetière) where there will be music, shows for children and food stalls. Thank you Eva for sending in this recommendation. Her advice is to get there early, as later on the road from Nyon will be blocked for the duration of the Carnival.
- 6th March 2017: Basel Fasnacht, Switzerland’s most famous carnival celebration with its traditional “Gugge” bands, flamboyant dress-up costumes, kids parade and live music – this is the time a Swiss city truly goes wild! The Basel Fasnacht is the largest carnival celebration in Switzerland, with over 20,000 masks filling the streets of the city with their carnival lanterns. Find out more about it on their official website. FREE ENTRY.
- 10th-12th March 2017: Brandons in Yverdon-les-Bains, this year’s theme will be “Brandons Mangas” so make sure you dress up as your favourite Japanese manga character! Don’t miss the Bal des enfants on Saturday 11th at 3.15pm and the night parade where they carry the Bonhomme d’Hiver (starts at 8.15pm).
- 10th-12th March 2017: Venetian Carnival in Annecy (France), a lavish, spectacular parade of beautiful Venetian masks throughout the charming little alleys of one of France’s most beautiful cities, known as the venice of the Alps. You can read about a previous edition in our post here.
- Saturday 11th March 2017: Carnaval aux Bains, you don’t need to leave Geneva to celebrate carnival to the max with the 6th edition of the Carnaval aux Bains at the Bains des Pâquis. This year’s theme will be recycling, so dress accordingly. The party begins at 3pm at the Place de la Navigation with the big brass band parade through the Pâquis neighbourhood up to the Bains, where there will be activities for kids, a bonfire, a giant jacuzzi and partying until the wee hours! FREE ENTRY.
- 16th-19th March 2017: Moudon Carnival, probably the wildest of them all as this year’s theme will be….Brand’Atlantis! The kids parade takes place on Saturday 18th of March at 3.30pm.
- 17th-19th March 2017: Avenches Carnaval, the kids’ parade starts at 3.30pm on the Saturday and will be followed by many activities & street entertainment throughout town from 8pm.
- 24th-26th March 2017: Carnaval Orbe. This year’s theme is “Années 50-60“, so vintage dress-up costumes are de rigueur! There will be Guggenmusik, activities for children and a Bonhomme d’Hiver bonfire.
- 1st April 2017: Carnaval de Préverenges, between Morges and Lausanne (VD). This lovely village celebration will tick all the boxes with its kids parade, Guggenmusik and fun activities for all ages. FREE ENTRY.