The Carnival season is a great time to visit Dusseldorf, as the city comes alive with parades and costumes from November through to March.
Read on to find out just how much fun you can have during carnival season in Dusseldorf.
Carnival Season: A brief history
Every year, the Rhineland region of Germany plays host to the Rhenish Carnival season. The first modern Rhineland Carnivals can be traced back to 1823, when Cologne founded The Carnival Club. It was initially a way of expressing opposition to the ruling powers through mockery and parody. Humour and costumes remain a key feature of the modern day festivities, with light hearted parody still very much at the heart of the parades and shows.
The start of the Dusseldorf carnival (karneval) season is signalled by the awakening of the Hoppeditz, the carnival figurehead, at 11 minutes past the 11th hour on the 11th of November. Events run for several months up until the culmination of the season on Rose Monday (Rosemontag), which this year takes place on March 3rd.
February and March is when the celebrations truly step up a gear. The largest parade in the region takes place in Cologne, where up to 1.5 million people line the route. Dusseldorf, however, is the place to be if you want to sample the complete carnival experience.
Cologne and Dusseldorf: The rivalry
Cologne and Dusseldorf are two cities separated by just 40 km, and they have built up a considerable rivalry over the years. Cologne lays claim to having the biggest Carnival, but ask any local in Dusseldorf and they’ll tell you Dusseldorf is the only place to be. Despite their close proximity, the two cities have always been very different.
The modern day rivalry tends to focus on sport and beer, with the latter being of particular importance to Dusseldorf, which has a long and proud brewing tradition. The brew of choice is the local Altbier, a dark, hoppy ale. Cologne’s Kolsch, meanwhile, is a lighter, more refreshing variety. Both are served in small, narrow glasses in order to best preserve their flavour. Be warned, however, as ordering a Kolsch in Dusseldorf can attract some bewildered looks from locals.
Why not head down to the city’s historic Old Town to sample Altbier? The area is known as ‘the longest bar in the world’ due to its 260 bars, cafes and restaurants. Having been almost completely destroyed during the Second World War, the Old Town was restored by the people of Dusseldorf and is now a much loved, charming area of the city.
Dusseldorf’s locals will tell you it’s the Old Town which helps make their carnival even more special, as the area turns into one giant fun-filled party zone.
The rivalry between the two cities also extends to the football pitch. Although their respective clubs both currently play in the second tier of the German league system, the games between FC Koln (Cologne) and Fortuna Dusseldorf are highly anticipated and serve as a reminder of the rivalry between the two cities.
Carnival – what to see
Starting in February and continuing up to Ash Wednesday in March, Dusseldorf plays host to several carnival events filled with fantastic costumes, floats and a party atmosphere to match. Here’s some of the best events to check out:
- Women’s Carnival Day: You won’t want to miss this day, as Dusseldorf’s women storm the city hall armed with scissors, cutting off the ties of any men who dare cross their path. Women rule the city this day, but as is the case with all the carnival events, it’s very much a day to be enjoyed by all.
- Carnival Sunday: Hundreds of thousands gather on the picturesque shopping street Konigsallee to let their hair down, complete with crazy costumes and dancing. It truly is a party you won’t want to miss out on.
- Rose Monday Parade: Carnival Sunday is followed by Rose Monday, which marks the culmination of the season as over one million costumed clad people line the parade route along the streets of Dusseldorf to take in the fabulous Rose Monday parade featuring more than 60 floats, full of characters in fancy dress costumes who throw sweets and small gifts to the spectators. You’ll soon find yourself swept away with the fun-filled atmosphere, whilst shouting ‘helau’ (the carnival greeting) as the procession makes its way through the crowds.
- Ash Wednesday: On Ash Wednesday the season officially ends as The Hoppeditz can be heard howling as he is carried to his ‘grave’ where he is laid to rest until next season. Dusseldorf then slowly returns to normal. But fear not, the madness will resume again 11 minutes past the 11th hour on the 11th of November..
Stay close to the festivities
Embrace the Carnival atmosphere by staying at our well-placed Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel, featuring 314 spacious rooms, 24-hour room service and an on-site restaurant.