The ultimate guide to having a blast at Cologne Carnival

I have updated my Cologne Carnival post as it’s currently Carnival time again. It officially ends on Wednesday. I have added different photo’s of my experience at this fun Carnival. 

Cologne Carnival should not be missed. It is spectacular and tons of fun to be a part of. It is a time when Germans become carefree and there is a festive spirit in the air. Carnival is celebrated in Austria, Netherlands and Switzerland too. Before leaving for Germany I attended a going away Gala dinner hosted by Erasmus and I remember that I asked a German embassy official what she recommends I see in Germany. She said that I shouldn’t miss Cologne Carnival and told me that it would be held in the region where I was going to live. I followed her advice and I was thrilled. I decided to update this post to let you know why I had so much fun and how to provide tips if you plan on attending Cologne Carnival next year you will be prepared.


Cologne Carnival
Cologne Carnival where flowers and sweets are thrown to the crowds. Cologne Cathedral is in the background and in the foreground is someone getting ready to catch the treats.
Treats being thrown to the crowds at Cologne Carnival.
Treats being thrown to the crowds at Cologne Carnival.


In Germany, the Carnival session starts on the 11 of November at 11:11am. Celebrations are suspended during Christmas time and then begin again in January. But the main event of Cologne Carnival is Rosenmontag, which takes places two days before Ash Wednesday. During the Rosenmontag procession, you might spot the Dreigestirn the Prince, the Peasant and the Maiden these characters open up Cologne Carnival. The Prince is King of the Carnival. The Peasant represents the power of Cologne and the Maiden signifies Cologne’s beauty has a city. People pay handsomely to fill the role of Prince, Peasant and Maiden they dress up in the roles. I was surprised to hear that people pay to play these roles, from my Professor at the time. There are also different floats and marching bands at the festival. Roses are handed out and candy is thrown out to the crowd. People laugh, run and jump in order to catch the sweet treats. There’s a Women’s Carnival on Thursday to Violet Tuesday which marks the end of Carnival, at night there’s a cremation of Nubbles (Nubbelverbrennung). The Nubbel is a life-sized straw doll, which is outside of many pubs during the Cologne Carnival season. He must pay for all sins, during the wild days which was committed by the revelers and he is burnt.

Cologne Carnival is different because of the traditions and it’s where the biggest Carnival is held in the North-Rhine Westphalian Region of Germany. In fact, it’s one of the biggest Carnivals in Europe. People get very excited the trains going to Cologne are filled with people in costume. I was one of them dressed up as a cat. I spotted people in animal onesies and a few Frieda Khalo’s to name a few. Revellers drink gallons of beer even more than usual. Everyone dresses up and joins in. There’s nothing like it in Cape Town, Cape Town Carnival is great but, Cologne Carnival is even better. Cologne Carnival has a long and rich history which I did not know about.

Cologne Carnival Germany
Cologne Carnival Germany the upside down umbrella will be filled with candy soon.


History of Cologne Carnival

According to my online research, Cologne Carnival has existed for 2000 years. During the Roman Occupation of Cologne, the Carnival celebrated the wine God Dionysos. People ate, drank heavily and were able to freely critique the government during the festival. Mockery remains a part of the carnival traditions. In 2017 Donald Trump was mocked this year its Theresa Mays turn with anti-Brexitfloats. Floats are created which are satirical and some people dress up as figures which are mocked. Donald Trump costumes were highly popular in 2017. This culture of mockery and satire can be traced back to the time when Cologne was occupied by Prussia and France. Carnival goers dressed up as Prussian officers to mock them. And today the tradition has lived on. Carnival season is called the fifth season it’s a nickname for this crazy festive time.


Cologne Germany
Having just a sip of my friend’s Kolsch beer in a bar on Rose Monday
Cologne beer
Cologne’s Kolsch beer is well-known and unique to the city.

Cologne Carnival in modern times

Carnival has evolved from celebrating Dionysos and has become Christianized. It takes place 6 weeks before Easter before the period of Lent. Lent is a reflective time which is often observed by fasting and sacrificing specific luxuries. Carnival is a time for festival goers to have a blast before Lent. The closing times of bars and pubs in Cologne are suspended during carnival. The streets and squares become party hubs and people all dress-up in costume whilst partying. It does not matter how cold it is all kinds of costumes can be seen. So if you plan on attending do dress up. You will feel like a complete outsider without a costume. And if you do not have time to plan a costume grab a colourful wig or a crazy hat. These items are sold in the carnival cities or at the Hauptbahnhof (train station) shops. Try to get to the Carnival early to see the parade, I recommend attending Rosenmontag I had a blast seeing so many happy people is always a lovely thing. It is poor form to push and front rows are usually occupied by children. When you are at Cologne Carnival try out Cologne’s beer, Kölsch. It is shown in the photo below my friends had it on Rosenmontag I had a sip only. I’m a wine girl, not a beer girl.


Somewhere in Cologne Germany
Somewhere in a bar on Rose Monday, Cologne Germany. My friends and I dressed up for the Carnival.


Cologne Carnival Tips

If you plan on attending Cologne Carnival these tips might help you out.

Take care of your belongings, it’s easy to lose your phone or to misplace a coat. With all the festivities going on. The music is loud and people are loud. Adding alcohol to the mix is a recipe for losing stuff. Keep your things safe and be alert. Pick pocketers love these kinds of events because distracted people are easy targets.

I will repeat again get there early. You don’t want to be standing right at the back. How will you catch the candy and sweets being thrown from the floats? Instead get there earlier and you might even get a rose or two my friend did.

Cologne Carnival Germany
Clowns playing music at Cologne Carnival

Dress-up I’m repeating myself I know. It’s just this tip matters. I only saw one guy without a costume. I saw an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair who had streamers attached to his wheelchair smiling broadly and waving to the crowd. Babies are wearing costumes. There’s no excuse dress up even if you just get a mask like my one friend did.

Buses and trains will be jam-packed be aware of that and have patience.

Rosenmontag is the main event of Cologne Carnival. It attracts the biggest crowds and has the most floats and participants. Again don’t miss it.

Plan your route spots close to Neumarkt, the Rhine and the Dom will attract massive crowds. Avoid these places. Rather go to the beginning of the parade procession. You can also go to tinier roads such as those between Neumarkt and Rudolfplatz. The map for the Sunday and Rosenmontag Parade is similar click here to get it:

Eat a big hearty breakfast in the morning before leaving. Drinking starts in the morning during Cologne Carnival. So eat up and drink water to prevent feeling like a train crashed into your head the night before. I choose to have a good breakfast and cakes for lunch. But, I skipped the beer one sip was enough for me.

Epi cafe' in Cologne a Macaroon with raspberries inside, find out more:
Epi cafe’ in Cologne a Macaroon with raspberries inside, find out more:
Epi cafe' in Cologne with chocolate fondant, find out more:
Epi cafe’ in Cologne with chocolate fondant, find out more:

And talking about trains Cologne is located in West Germany. It’s not too far from Netherlands and Belguim, Luxembourg and France are also not too far, just a bit further. Take the train if you are travelling from other parts of Europe. If you fly you will have to cough up your cash. Carnival times is high season and this means your plane tickets will be ultra costly.

Eat the local street food like bratwurst, currywurst etc. there will be stalls all over. It’s also much more convenient and cheaper.

If you aren’t keen on struggling to catch candy pick it up from the streets. Everything is wrapped up and it’s totally fine to pick up sweet treats which weren’t caught.

More information on Cologne Carnival

Click here to find out more about Cologne Carnival There are stands where you can book a seat. The site discusses the history and resources used to make carnival possible. It is the official site of Cologne so it also lists where to stay in Cologne. I didn’t stay over in Cologne because I lived in nearby Essen. I have read that Hostel Köln is affordable, clean and that you can sleep in peace during Carnival session at the hostel. However, I never tried it myself so I can’t guarantee that you will love it. If you want to visit some tourist attractions after or before your Carnival partying activities then click this link will provide you with up to date tourist information: tips on how to enjoy Cologne Carnival like a native click here:



Thank you for reading my blog. Have you ever been to a carnival and did you have a great time. I’d love to hear from you. Did you like this post? Please feel free to comment and let me know. I’m open to suggestions on how to improve my posts. And if you just want to chat or collaborate let me know. I will be writing on Cologne and will probably post a photo essay on my pics of Cologne Carnival sometime so if you are interested keep following my blog.
Happy travels through the journey of life!

xxx Nikki xxx


  1. floatinggold says:

    I’m not sure why Dionysus was so special, but I always remember hearing how so many celebrations and parties were attributed to him. I guess any reason for joy is a good reason? What a fun looking parade. Thanks for sharing the back story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and for your feedback. A God of wine would be celebrated I guess. People like wine😂.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. MabelSM says:

    Hi Nikki, I still remember that I could not go with you to Köln, but it is nice to read all what happened that day.. Besos y Abrazos 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there thanks for reading and yes I wish you could have joined. We will have to make up for it one day Mabel maybe we can go do the Rio Carnival when Zena is in Brazil 😊🤗


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