The Nantes Carnival takes place every year between the end of March and the start of April. For three days, the city streets come alive to the rhythm of parades, become full with people, and turn colourful with confetti.
The carnival tradition is not specific to Nantes, but its inhabitants are very attached to this custom and the Nantes Carnival is one of the largest in France in terms of spectators. To give you an idea, Nantes even has a Rue des Carnavaliers (Carnival Participant Street)!
The Nantes Carnival takes place in three stages spread out over a week:
- the day carnival, which kicks off the event on Sunday afternoon,
- the children’s carnival, which takes place the following Wednesday afternoon,
- the night carnival, which takes place at night and ends the festivities.
Rather traditionally, the entertainment revolves around a parade that passes through the city centre by the town’s iconic streets and squares (Cours Saint-André, Place Saint-Pierre, Rue de l’Hôtel de Ville, etc.). Throughout the parade, you can marvel at giant chariots, big heads, marching bands, dancers, costumes, treats, and many more. You can also see the carnival’s official representatives, the queens and kings who are elected every year in November. There is a festive atmosphere to which the spectators respond with confetti and streamers.
Each Carnival edition has its own theme: science fiction and fantasy, cinema, arts and crafts, travel, and others. Throughout the year, behind the scenes, teams of carnival participants and organisers pit their skills against one another in a friendly atmosphere to create the most impressive chariots they can relating to that year’s theme.
Curious enthusiasts who want to get a sneak peak at the chariots or simply see how the carnival participants and organisers work can come to the open doors weekend of the Nantes Carnival workshops that takes place once a year at the end of February. The event is imbued with a special atmosphere and a great camaraderie that I just love. Visiting the workshops also makes you realise the magnitude of the work involved for the carnival participants and organisers, who seek to outdo each other in imagination and technique.
In Nantes, it is the NEMO association that organises the carnival. To find out everything about the next edition, follow the association on either the Nantes Carnival website or the association’s Facebook page.