I'll be in Germany during the Carnival/Karneval time. Where would be the best place to go to experience Karneval in Germany, and what can I expect?


2 Answers 2


Basically, there are two different kind of carnival in Germany. The one in the Rhineland, called Rhenish Carnival and the one in the Southern part of Germany, that looks similar to the Carnival in parts of Switzerland and Austria.

The Rhenish Carnival is especially strong in Cologne, Mainz and Düsseldorf. In the Southern region of Germany, the Carnival is also called Fastnacht, Fasnet, or Fasnacht (and a lot of similar names).

In both regions, you can expect the highlight of the Carnival around the weekend before Ash Wednesday, including the days before and after the weekend. Basically in all regions, there are non-stop activities from early Thursday morning until Tuesday 23:59:59. Officially, Carnival start at 11:11 on November 11th, but before the weekend mentioned above, there aren't a lot of activities, expect for the weekends in the new year.

Generally, you can expect a lot of happy drunk people that are wearing funny, weird, humorous costumes. You can also expect so called Guggenmusik, a Carnival marching band. In the Rhenish Carneval they know how to play their instruments, while in the southern regions it is basically noise.

However, I personally prefer the southern version of the Carnival. For me it is more fun and not formal.


I was asked to elaborate on the difference between the Rhenish and the southern version on the carnival. I'm exaggerating a little bit, but that's my personal opinion:

In the Rhenish version, you experince typically things like "Karnevalssitzungen" and for instance Rosenmontagumzug:

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On the other hand, in the southern part and also especially in Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, you can attend Maskenbälle, Monsterkonzerte and Fasnachtsumzüge:

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Actually, I also found a video from 2009:


(bounty of 100 rep for everyone who finds my in the video)

  • Thanks - can you elaborate on the differences between the southern and Rhenish versions?
    – nibot
    Commented Feb 1, 2013 at 17:53
  • you can also espect that a lot of the streets become toilets and it's not so clean and pretty as you can espect from Germany
    – Dirty-flow
    Commented Feb 1, 2013 at 21:04
  • @nibot Added some information Commented Feb 1, 2013 at 21:44

Well, I am German and I know what Karneval is.

To tell the truth, if a foreign guest would suggest to visit "Karneval" in Cologne, I would flinch and my face would show a freezing grin.

I despise, detest, loathe Karneval in Cologne. Heartily.

Still tolerable for me is visiting carneval processions. But visiting a "standard carneval" session is like having toothache.

Imagine a bunch of people who are taking themselves very seriously meeting in a room who is constructed by people who know academically what "humor" is. The reason for meeting in this room is showing off your high position in the society. To show that you have "humor" you are wearing cap and bells. Remember Steven Hauk from "Good morning, Vietnam" ? You are now getting "carneval speeches" called "Büttenrede" spiked with dirty jokes which are one magnitude worse than Hauk. But it does not matter because most people are drunk. Drinking no alcohol this is no option for me, so I had to experience it fully alert. My memories of this event occur, if ever, only at at three o clock at night.

Alternative carneval sessions are called "Stunk", but after my traumatic experience I never visited one.

So if you have, ahem, mixed feelings after visiting carneval: You are not alone.

  • Doesn't really answer the question but is too long to migrate to a comment. Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 22:44
  • "How to experience Carnival (Karneval) in Germany?" Not at all. "Where would be the best place to go to experience Karneval in Germany," Nowhere. "and what can I expect?" See description. IMHO it does answer the question, the problem seems to be that the answer is not liked. Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 1:20
  • I don't think that the OP is asking about the carneval sessions, they are not for tourists
    – Dirty-flow
    Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 12:01
  • @Dirty-flow: Coming from North Rhine-Westphalia, I would like to know what is left if you exclude both carneval processions and carneval sessions (at least in Rhineland). I am not aware of special tourist events. Do you have other information ? Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 9:50
  • I have excluded only the sessions, not the procession(Rosenmontagumzug). The OP is asking about his options to experince the carnival as a tourist and IMO that's are the procession and some parties in discos and bars
    – Dirty-flow
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 9:56

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