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In just over two weeks time the ever popular carnival celebrations begin with gusto in the Netherlands. And, as not all Dutch people celebrate carnival, you’ll need to know which are the best Dutch towns and cities to visit if you plan to make the most of the festivities.
If you really want to experience a traditional Dutch carnival (known as carnaval in Dutch) then, according to those in the know, you need to head for the Dutch city of Maastricht. The official carnival celebrations in Maastricht start on Saturday, 9th February, with the arrival of the ‘Prins Carnaval’ (Carnival Prince). This is followed by a colourful parade, which begins at Central Station at precisely 13.33 on Sunday, 10th February and winds its way via Wyck to the centre of Maastricht. If you fancy celebrating carnival with the kids, then you shouldn’t miss the special Maastricht ‘familiedag’ (family day) on Monday, 11th February, when the entire family can enjoy a variety of fun carnival performances spread over six venues around the city.
Most of the Maastricht carnival action takes place on the streets and dressing up for the occasion is a must! So make sure you wear something highly original to attract plenty of attention (and definitely not a farmers smock – read more about the Rijnlandse carnival in the article “Festival and events in the Netherlands”).
The Brabant city of Eindhoven is renamed Lampegat for the duration of carnival and it is here that you can enjoy two lively parades on Saturday, 9th February – the special children’s parade and the grand parade, better known as the ‘Lampegatse optocht’ (Lampegat parade). The children’s parade starts at 12.41 and runs through Dommelstraat and Stationsplein to Ten Hagestraat and Vestdijk. The Lampegatse parade also begins at 12.41 and makes it way via Fuutlaan, Stationsplein and Vestdijk to the Stadhuisplein and Gelderopseweg. The carnival festivities in Eindhoven last until the evening of Tuesday, 12th February.
Den Bosch also temporarily swaps its name during carnival, this time for Oeteldonk. The arrival of the Prins ‘Carnaval van Den Bosch’ (Carnival Prince of Den Bosch) on Sunday, 10th February marks the official opening of carnival in Den Bosch, yet the real highlight is on Monday, 11th February when the ‘Grote Optocht’ (Grand Parade) is held. The Grand Parade, which every attracts an ever increasing number of visitors each year, starts at 12.33 and runs via Graafseweg, Parade, Verwersstraat and Vughterstraat to the Market and Tolbrugstraat. In addition to the animated procession, there are a number of other exciting events held in Den Bosch throughout the carnival period such as festivals, carnival concerts, the opportunity to sample typical Dutch delicacies and plenty of games for the kids.
Small towns and cities
If you prefer to celebrate carnival in a more intimate setting, then there are many small towns and villages throughout Limburg and Brabant that put on their own unique parade and carnival festivities. There are even some towns ‘above the great rivers’ that celebrate carnival too. Just check the council website of the town that you plan to visit, in order to view their carnival programme of events.
In most Dutch towns and cities carnival traditionally runs from Sunday, 9th February to Tuesday, 12th February. However in some places the party begins as early as the Saturday, Friday or even the Thursday before.
Prefer to read this article in Dutch? Then why not visit to our sister blog, heimwee.info, specifically intended for Dutch emigrants abroad?