There's nothing quite like the Karneval Koln (Cologne Carnival). Almost as old as Cologne itself, Carnival is often referred to as the "fifth season" or "crazy days," bringing a time of singing, masquerades, drinking (Kölsch, of course), and all round fun.
A city unto its own, Cologne inspires an all-encompassing spirit of Carnival throughout the streets, public squares, offices and even in citizens' homes. A resilient city, centered on camaraderie, Carnival has been around for nearly 2000 years, with the organized parade dating back to the 19th century.
What happens during Carnival?
Each year, the Carnival starts on the Thursday before the beginning of Lent and ends six days later on Ash Wednesday. For these six days, people sing, drink, and dress up in colourful costumes and masks, enjoying this time of merriment. A highlight of the Carnival takes place on the Monday when the Rose Monday Parade happens. A spectacle of a parade, there are nearly 12,000 participants walking in the parade, wearing colourful costumes and masks, throwing giveaways to onlookers - themselves in their own Carnival outfits - and providing dancing, music, and entertainment.
Carnival sees the streets, pubs and Früh Beer Hall filled with over 1 million visitors, performers, and locals, celebrating and greeting one another with "Kölle Alaaf," a Kölsch phrase translated to "Cologne above all!" With the pubs staying open until the early hours of the morning, there is lots of dancing...and drinking taking place, all in the name of fun and spirit of Cologne.
As one of the most celebrated street parties in this region of Germany, each day has its own special theme, with the Thursday best known as "Women's Carnival Day" and the Sunday giving way to many a party and masked ball.
It's a time of joy, colour, lightheartedness, and optimism of life! To learn more about Cologne and the Karneval Koln, visit www.cologne.de/events/cologne-carnival.