The very best places to celebrate carnival in the Netherlands

Carnival is well known in the Netherlands with color, frivolity, and reckless abandon. Join the Dutch because they revealed at the best carnival events across the nation.

Other ubiquitous Dutch carnaval icons include a Carnival Prince (Prins Carnaval), who's online resources ceremonies, a Raad van Elf, a number of 11 locals (typically men) who monitor the festivities, and a grand optocht (parade) that typically makes fun of politicians, celebrities and the year's past events. Further mocking can be heard through the 'barrel speaker' (onpraoter, sauwelaar, tonpraoter, buuttereedner or ouwoer depending around the city) in local dialect – just look for the local who is sitting on or in a beer barrel, encompassed by laughing Dutch carnival-goers.

Only during Dutch carnival are you going to hear the typical greeting, “Alaaf,” often along with a reversed salute using the top of the right-hand to the left temple.

Dutch carnival is overseen through the Prins Carnaval.

If you want to join the raucous fun, here are a few of the biggest Dutch carnival events you can find in the Netherlands.

Maastricht carnival (Mestreech): 9 -13 February 2020

Carnaval Maastrich is proven to be the largest celebration of all the southern cities. On Saturday 10 February, the town 'fetches' the Prince of Carnival in the central station at 1:11pm and he proceeds to guide a parade of floats, marching bands and costumed carousers to the town hall for a reception. The optocht (parade) officially begins at 2:11pm in front of the Minckelers statue and circles the city. Maastricht carnival, however, doesn't officially open until Sunday at 12.11pm when the Prince's flag is raised and 11 shots are fired, followed by a great parade leaving in the station at 1.33pm and passing with the city centre. Carnaval Maastricht continues with family events and a children's parade on Monday (leaving Wyck at 2:11pm), and culminates using the Zate Hermeniekesconcours (brass bands competition) that belts loose at Vrijthof Square at 2.11pm.

Maastricht carnival is mainly celebrated outdoors, like in the remainder of Limburg, and festivities centre around Vrijthof Square (see events in English). There are daily events held throughout the Maastricht carnival period, including a Cramignon dance on the Markt at 8.33pm every evening, where most people are invited to accompany the brass band and revel in the true spirit of Carnaval Maastricht.

Venlo carnaval (Jocus Riék)

The grand parade of Venlo Carnival happens on Saturday 10 February within the city centre and begins at 12:11pm. There are more than the usual dozen parades from 10 to 13 February in 2020 in the municipality alone, which makes it an ideal area to experience carnaval in Limburg. parade schedule and here for other events around Jocus Riék during Carnival.

Eindhoven carnaval (Lampegat)

There is plenty to find during Eindhoven carnaval, also known as Lampegat or 'light hole'. Eindhoven carnival begins with Froaje Vrijdag on 9 February with various performances and a party inside a huge tent located on the Market Square. The city's optocht begins the following day at 11:11am in the middle; you should check the parade route.

Popular carnival spots in Eindhoven include: the Stationsplein, Market Square, Hotel Pullman Cocagne, Wilheminaplein and also the famed Stratumseind. For an entire list of events Eindhoven carnaval, begin to see the city's agenda and website.

Tilburg carnaval (Kruikenstad)

The Opstoet, the annual parade of Tilburg's carnaval, starts on Sunday 11 February at 12:30pm. Prior to the grand parade, there are numerous events locked in the name of Tilburg carnaval, where revelers can attend a concert on Wednesday and Thursday along with a massive pub crawl on Friday, among other celebrations.

Breda carnaval (Kielegat)

The grand procession of Breda carnaval begins on Monday 12 February at 12:51pm at the Nieuwe Haagdijk and follows a route that ends at Boschstraat.

The optocht is preceded with a concert at the Chassé Theatre on Friday along with a street carnival on Saturday within the Grote Markt, featuring local and international acts. For that full agenda of the events for Breda carnaval, click here.

Den Bosch carnaval (Oeteldonk)

Den Bosch carnaval goes into full swing in on Sunday 11 February in 2020 with the city's grand paradewhich is cheekily named the Arrival of the Prince Amadeiro in 's-Hertogenbosch.

On your day of Den Bosch carnaval, HRH Prince Amadeiro Ricosto di Carnavallo, Lord and Master of Oeteldonk, and the helpers arrive at Oeteldonk Centraal (or Den Bosch station) at 11:11am. After several ceremonies, they march inside a procession towards the Market Square where they symbolically honour a farmer named Knillis, the alleged founding father of Oeteldonk, with a doll decked in traditional farmer costume. After that other parties and events occur all around the historic fortified city; many events will also be locked in the days before Den Bosch carnaval.

Nijmegen carnaval (Knotsenburg)

Although not in Noord-Brabant and Limburg, the people of Nijmegen – or Knotsenburg, as it's temporarily known – celebrate Dutch carnival with as much passion as their southern peers. Nijmegen carnaval officially kicks off on 10 February with a procession starting at 11.11am leading towards the Market Place, when the people hand over the city's secrets of the Carnival Prince and tap the first beer keg to celebrate at 1pm.

In the next times of Nijmegen carnaval, until 13 February, you are able to attend various events and visit the city's wide array of cafés.

Dutch carnival in other provinces

Since Dutch carnival is traditionally celebrated in the south, the majority of the throngs of people from the remainder of Holland – along with other countries for instance – descend upon Noord-Brabant and Limburg. However, some Dutch cities also stage smaller parades during that time. Click here for his or her schedule.

Wherever you are during carnival in the Netherlands, just be sure to put on your carnavalspakje, leave your manners at home and bring high spirits to the party!

Photo credit (CC-Licence): Indah Susanti (thumbnail), Hazelares via Wikimedia Commons (Carnival Prince), Jeroen Moes (photo 2), FaceMePLS (photo 3 and 4). 

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