5 Must-visit Mardi Gras Celebrations Around The World

5 Must-visit Mardi Gras Celebrations Around The World

While it’s undeniable that the world’s most renowned Mardi Gras celebration unfolds in New Orleans, the festive spirit of Fat Tuesday extends to various corners of the globe. Here, we present five captivating Mardi Gras celebrations that deserve a spot on your must-visit list, going beyond the vibrant streets of New Orleans.

Masked revellers at Venice Carnival.
Masked revellers at Venice Carnival.

1. Venice, Italy

Since the 12th century, the annual Venice Carnival has mesmerized the world with its exquisite masks. This beloved tradition sees the northern Italian city come alive with a series of enchanting parties, mesmerizing performances, and glamorous balls leading up to the grand finale of Mardi Gras. Today, over three million visitors flock to Venice to immerse themselves in the festivities. Venetian masks showcase a range of styles, from the opulent and gilded “Bauta” mask, characterized by its pointed chin and absence of a nose, to the instantly recognizable “Volto” mask, with its striking white façade adorned with intricately painted eyes and lips. Alongside the vibrant masquerade, the carnival boasts ticketed soirées, captivating street performances, and, of course, the highly anticipated annual contest to crown the most beautiful mask.

Performers at Rio's Sambrodomo.
Performers at Rio’s Sambrodomo.

2. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

While New Orleans claims fame as the most renowned Mardi Gras destination, Rio de Janeiro takes the crown for being the largest (literally!). Each day, an estimated two million people flood the streets, including around 500,000 tourists and visitors. The vibrant sounds of live musicians fill the city’s main thoroughfares from sunrise till long after dusk. A major highlight is the world-famous Samba Parade, celebrated not only for its extravagant, colorful costumes but also for its captivating music. This grand spectacle lures hundreds of thousands of revelers to the Sambadrome, a purpose-built stadium designed specifically to host the parade, during the weekend preceding Mardi Gras. The pre-Lenten festivities culminate on Mardi Gras itself with the lively Gay Ball, an inclusive and LGBTQ-friendly party held at the iconic Rio Scala venue.

3. Binche, Belgium

Similar to Venice, the Mardi Gras festivities in Binche are renowned for their masked participants. However, in this charming Belgian town, all the masked figures share the same name: Gilles. On the Tuesday preceding Lent, these Gilles throng the streets, donning wooden clogs, whimsical masks adorned with green eyes and curly mustaches, and vibrant orange and red striped linen costumes, playfully stuffed with straw to create the illusion of a hunched back. As the day progresses, the Gilles don towering ostrich-plume hats and delight the gathered crowds by throwing oranges, a gesture believed to bring good luck (even if they occasionally miss their mark!). This wonderfully eccentric tradition, with origins dating back to the 14th century, remains shrouded in mystery—a fitting intrigue for such a captivating celebration.

4. Sydney, Australia

The vibrant city of Sydney hosts an annual weeklong extravaganza known as the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival, dedicated to celebrating and honoring the LGBTQ community. This spirited event reaches its crescendo on the Saturday nearest to the official Mardi Gras Tuesday, with a spectacular parade that winds through the heart of the city’s gay and lesbian district. The roots of this tradition can be traced back to a momentous night in 1978, when a courageous act of political protest took place in Sydney. Today, the festival remains a powerful symbol of both celebration and activism, drawing tens of thousands of enthusiastic participants, many adorned in striking, colorful costumes. The annual parade and the exuberant after-party have become iconic, marking a significant moment where joy, inclusivity, and social progress intertwine in a dazzling display.

Also read: Is Sydney The Best City To Start Your Australian Working Holiday?

5. Mobile, Alabama

The Mardi Gras parade in Mobile holds the distinction of being the very first of its kind in the United States, dating back to 1703, a remarkable 15 years before the establishment of the city of New Orleans. Rooted in the religious traditions of the French Catholic founders and residents of the region, early Mardi Gras celebrations in this Southern city had a strong spiritual foundation. However, in recent years, the festivities, revelry, and parades that span the carnival season, stretching from November until Fat Tuesday, have evolved to closely resemble the vibrant and indulgent parties that have become synonymous with New Orleans. The colorful and spirited celebrations now enchant Mobile, creating a lively atmosphere that echoes the jubilant traditions of Mardi Gras across the nation.

Also read: Top 10 Experiences on Australia’s East Coast

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