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 2018.
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!
Useful links: Toy Libraries in Geneva. Toy Libraries in Canton Vaud.
- 16th-19th February 2018: Payerne Carnival in Canton Fribourg. This is one of Switzerland’s oldest carnivals. Don’t miss the kids’ masked parade on Saturday 17th at 2.50pm and the free disco on Sunday 18th of February at 5.45pm. FREE ENTRY.
- Saturday 17th February 2018: Carnaval aux Bains, you don’t need to leave Geneva to celebrate carnival to the max with the 7th edition of the Carnaval aux Bains at the Bains des Pâquis. This year’s theme will be science-fiction, 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, and fireworks at 8pm! FREE ENTRY.
- 19th February 2018: 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.
- 23rd-25th February 2018: Carnaval Orbe. This year’s theme is “Beer Festival“, so beer festival dress-up costumes are de rigueur! There will be Guggenmusik, activities for children and a Bonhomme d’Hiver bonfire.
- 23rd-25th February 2018: 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.
- 1st-4th March 2018: Moudon Carnival, probably the wildest of them all as this year it will be an Irish Carnival. The kids parade takes place on Saturday 3rd of March at 3.30pm.
- Saturday 3rd March 2018: Carnaval de Genolier, this small but very well-known celebration in one of the smaller villages in Vaud (not far from Nyon) celebrates its 25th anniversary this year! The theme will be the circus, with a special show and performances by the Circus Coquino from Morges. Click here to see the full programme, a bit of advice: try to get there early, as later on the road from Nyon will be blocked for the duration of the Carnival.
- 9th-11th March 2018: Brandons in Yverdon-les-Bains, this year’s theme will be “Aotour du Monde” so make sure you dress the part! Don’t miss the Bal des enfants on Saturday 10th at 4.20pm and the night parade where they carry the Bonhomme d’Hiver (starts at 8.15pm).
- 9th-11th March 2018: 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.