Nice carnival is one of the biggest carnival events in the world, it is held in the middle of February for 2 weeks. The exact start date and theme changes every year, in 2019 the theme was ‘King of Cinema’.
Parade of lights (Corso Carnavalesque Illuminé)
Seated €26 (day carnival is €21), Standing zone A €12, Standing zone B €5 (Free if you are in full costume)
The day and night parade are the same. I decided to see the parade at night because after watching clips from both I thought the atmosphere seemed better and the floats looked even more impressive when they were lit up. It is also easier to get tickets to because it runs more often.
The night parade is on Thursdays and Saturdays, starting at 21:00 and lasts for about 2 hours. We booked seated tickets and sat in the front row of Phoceens in zone A (seating map below). The parade starts in zone A next to the Verdun and F.Faure stands and this is probably the best place to sit. We couldn’t get front row seats in those stands so opted for Phoceens.
There are people standing all throughout zone A which meant at times it was difficult to see the dancers from the stands, but many performers move around the different sections interacting with all the seated carnival goers. There aren’t any barriers in the standing section so it did seem quite hectic and busy with people trying to get right to the front. The floats are giant (some literally the size of buildings) so your view of those will be good from anywhere, and probably better from the seated sections. There are also big screens showing everything that is going on. The atmosphere of the parade is amazing and lively with constant music and floats (many of which are political) passing through.
The flower parade (Bataille de Fleurs)
Seated tickets €26, Standing tickets zone B €12
This takes place along the same route as the main parade and loosely follows the same theme. However the big difference is that the floats are much smaller and covered with flowers. It takes place on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons at 14:30. The parade goes around twice, the first time they throw lots of yellow mimosa flowers into the crowd. Everyone is cheering and scrambles to catch them which is why the name translates into battle of flowers. By the second time round the flowers are taken from the actual floats and thrown into the crowd, which results in a lot more variety. By the end of the parade everyone leaves with a small bouquet of flowers.
For this parade I would definitely recommend standing tickets because it makes the interaction with the parade more fun especially if you are at the front. We started to que an hour and a half before the start of the parade. They don’t start letting anyone in until an hour before the parade but it meant we were towards the front. When we eventually got through we walked until there was a space and stood right at the front. Dancers and lively music accompany the floats making the whole thing a fun, interactive and memorable afternoon.
Other things to do in Nice
As well as the carnival, there are plenty of things to see in Nice. I have written a list of the top 8 things that we enjoyed doing: A complete guide to stunning Nice
We stayed in an Airbnb in the centre of nice to save money so we made most of our own food. I think France has the best bakeries in the world so we opted for lots of fresh croissants for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch instead of going out to eat very often. But we did go to one restaurant called Big Fernand which was a burger place. The meat was great quality, the service was very friendly and the employees spoke amazing English.
The only downside to staying in an Airbnb instead over a hotel is that we had no where to leave our luggage and security are very strict about not allowing big bags into the parades (not that we would want the inconvenience of having our cases with us). Luckily we found a storage company near nice train station that was very inexpensive and very easy to use. You just book in advance, let them know the times you need them to look after your bags and they charge you by the hour.
Visiting Nice carnival slots together well with: The Lemon Festival of Menton (Fête du Citron)
Our itinerary (14th-20th February 2019)
- Thursday 14th- arrived in Nice
- Friday 15th- spent the day in Nice
- Saturday 16th- flower parade at 14:30 (1 hour 30) then took the train to Menton and at 20:30 went to the night time exhibit of the sculptures
- Sunday 17th- Lemon parade during the day
- Monday 18th- walked along the coast and then went to see the sculptures at 16:00
- Tuesday 19th- Train back to Nice, Carnival parade of lights at 9pm (lasts 2 hours)
- Wednesday 20th- Flight home