Events, Festivals and Exhibitions

Cologne Carnival (Fastelovend), 2024

8 February - 14 February

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The Cologne Carnival, Fastelovend or ‘Fasteleer’ in the local dialect is one of the biggest street carnivals in Europe. The Carnival will be from 8 to 14 February, 2024.

Officially, the Carnival officially commences on the 11th minute of the 11th day of the 11th month the previous year, when the Carnival’s triumvirate of rulers — the Prince, the Maiden and the Peasant present themselves to the public alongside performances by musicians at the Alter Markt before thousands of spectators.

It is then suspended until after Advent and Christmas, recommencing with Women’s Carnival Day.

Festivities abound throughout the Crazy Days – some official and some independently organised – in bars, restaurants and community centres throughout this stunning, medieval city, first formed in the fourteenth century. Masquerading locals, known as ‘Jecken’ take great pride in their outfits and endeavour to make them as bizarre as possible. Organisers and participants alike maintain that it more than equals the Oktoberfest.

Origins of the Cologne Carnival

Cologne Carnival
Red Nose Day at the Cologne Carnival, c. Dieter Jacobi / KölnTourismus GmbH

The Carnival is reported as starting in the Middle Ages, when the Winter Solstice was celebrated by German tribes getting together to pay tribute to their gods and to get rid of winter demons. This celebration was subsequently taken over by Christians.

The Cologne Carnival was founded in 1823 by the Cologne Carnival Celebration Committee. On 10 February, 1823 the idea of the carnival hero was devised and the enthroned prince was paraded on the first Rose Monday. Two other characters introduced were the maiden – traditionally a man dressed as a woman – and the peasant.

Cologne Carnival 2024 Schedule

On Thursday, 8 February, 2024, Weiberfastnacht (Woman’s Carnival Day) follows the official opening of the Carnival at 11.11am by the Mayor of Cologne. The following day, Carnival Friday is quieter in terms of parades but plenty of other events take place including balls and side shows.

On Saturday, 10 February there is a carnival lunch, followed by the Ghost Parade in the evening with various themes and ghostly images. On Carnival Sunday, the school children and some of the neighbourhoods parade in carnival attire, the idea being that the carnival is for all Cologne residents.

rose parade
Rose Monday parade, Cologne Carnival, c. Dieter Jacobi / KölnTourismus GmbH

Rose Monday is the highlight of the carnival with floats parading through the city from 10am, the participants blow kisses and throw flowers to the large, revelling crowds. The prince traditionally is in the last float.

On the Tuesday, a straw figure called the Nubbel is burned at midnight. The Carnival concludes on Ash Wednesday when churchgoers receive a cross of ashes on their foreheads before a traditional fish dinner.

Kolle Alaafi

Everything goes in this colourful and engaging carnival with people dressed in wigs, unusual costumes and masks, some with body paint. It is the tradition for the crowds to call out “Kolle Alaafi” which translates as “Cologne above all”.

Things to Do in Cologne

Cologne Cathedral
Interior of Cologne Cathedral, c. Andreas Möltgen / KölnTourismus GmbH

If you can drag yourself away from the plethora of activities, not to mention the street food and the beer and schnapps, try to look at some of the historic sites of Cologne, such as the Cologne Cathedral, the historic old town, the Chocolate Factory or take a leisurely cruise on the Rhine for Sunday Brunch. For more ideas on things to do in Cologne, click here.

When is the Cologne Carnival 2024

The Carnival will be from 8 to 14 February, although it is not clear whether it will go ahead. Further details can be found here.

Can’t make this carnival, then try our round-up of the best carnivals around the world.

german marching band
c. Dieter Jacobi / KölnTourismus GmbH
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Mark Bibby Jackson

Mark Bibby Jackson

Before setting up Travel Begins at 40, Mark was the publisher of AsiaLIFE Cambodia and a freelance travel writer. When he is not packing and unpacking his travelling bag, Mark writes novels, including To Cook A Spider and Peppered Justice. He loves walking, eating, tasting beer, isolation and arthouse movies, as well as talking to strangers on planes, buses and trains whenever possible. Most at home when not at home.

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