The world's 10 greatest parties

From Venice and Rio to Bolivia's Oruro, some cities really know how to kick up their heels. Natalie Paris chooses the best

Witness a street festival or carnival and you are guaranteed a holiday to remember, be it a pre-Lenten celebration of hedonism and repentance, or something altogether more unusual. Aside from the photo opportunities, you can tap into your hosts' culture, make friends, and indulge in some serious partying.

Here is a selection of 10 of the world's best:

Venice Carnival

Venice, Italy, Feb 19-20 and Feb 26-March 8;

Italy's most exquisite carnival conjures up images of mystery and intrigue: revellers in baroque costumes running along canals; street performers at every corner. In its 18th-century heyday, young nobles wore masks to disguise their social status. The programme for 2011, which will be extended over an extra weekend to feature an earlier prologue weekend, is still under discussion. Typically, the festival includes masked processions, costume competitions and free music and theatre.
Join the party
by dancing a quadrille at the exclusive Doge's Ball, if you know the steps.

Rio Carnival

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 5-8

The samba parade is the climax of this riotous display of Brazilian bacchanal. Various balls are also held throughout the city, such as the hugely popular Gala Gay ball, a flamboyant affair, open to all. Street parties are found wherever there is a band or a sound system.


Join the party at the Sambadrome, a kilometre-long stadium where dancers strut their stuff to the beats of hundreds of drummers.

Cologne Carnival

Cologne, Germany, March 3-9;

Dating back to 1823, a jolly sort of anarchy prevails at this Rhineland carnival. During "the crazy days" the closing hours of the city's beer halls and bars are ignored. The main parade is on Rose Monday (March 7) and fancy dress is encouraged. Alternative carnival events include a "ghost parade" and the burning of a straw man.

Join the party and get kissed by a stranger. Intentions are pure though - as long as lips are pursed.

Nice Carnival

Nice, France, Feb 18-March 8;

Giant papier mache heads, often caricatures of politicians and celebrities, join floats for daily parades, which are accompanied by more than 1,000 musicians and dancers. The Nice Carnival was first mentioned in 1294 and next year's theme is the Mediterranean. The "king" effigy is burned on a bonfire on the last night, followed by fireworks.

Join the party by catching a bouquet. Cut flowers are tossed from passing floats.

Oruro Carnival

Oruro, Bolivia, March 4-8; and offer tours

In between the capital La Paz and the Bolivian salt flats lies Oruro, a high-altitude mining town. Its carnival showpiece is La Diablada, a "dance of the devils" played out in elaborate costume. The parade pays homage to the patron saint of miners and to Pachamama, the Earth mother. Featured are 20,000 dancers and 10,000 musicians, dressed as devils, Andean spirit animals, Inca characters and conquistadores. Dances depict battles between good and evil.

Join the party by throwing water bombs - but be wary: tourists make good targets.

St Patrick's Day

Dublin, Ireland, March 17-20;

Crowds in leprechaun hats watch the parade that starts proceedings and includes street theatre, pageantry and international marching bands. There will be plenty of green beer on tap and hundreds of thousands in attendance.

Join the party by trying your hand at some traditional Irish dancing in a large outdoor ceilidh.

Mardi Gras

New Orleans, USA, Feb 25-March 8;

Spend Mardi Gras in the city that spawned jazz and party to one of the world's best festival soundtracks. The carnival was revived in the mid-19th century by a secretive club known as a "krewe". Nowadays the krewes organise private parties and their own parades. Spectators are thrown trinkets from multi-tiered floats.

Join the party at one of the city's live-music clubs such as Tipitina's.

Carnaval de Binche

Binche, Belgium, March 6-8;

The Gilles are men dressed as identical courtiers with ginger whiskers, beady green eyes and brooms to shake at evil spirits. In medieval Binche they snake through town to the Grand Place to dance in a round. Other parades feature enormous ostrich-feather headdresses and oranges, which are thrown at the crowd.

Join the party by supping a Belgian beer in one of the outdoor tents.

Trinidad Carnival

Trinidad, March 7-8;

Trinidadians know how to party and build up to the carnival with a series of fetes in the weeks beforehand. "Jouvert" is a party in the early hours of carnival Monday for which participants smear themselves in mud and bodypaint, drink rum and dance to calypso and soca bands. There is also a children's parade and a kings and queens costume competition, with special effects.

Join the party by arriving early to catch the steel-band competition in full flow.

Saints days

Lisbon and Porto, Portugal, June 12-13, 23-24;

The popular saints days provide a great excuse for dancing in the streets of Lisbon and Porto. In Lisbon, a mass wedding takes place on the eve of Saint Anthony's day, followed by a parade down the Avenida da Liberdade and late-night street parties. Porto saves itself for the eve of St John's day, with eating, drinking and fireworks along the Douro river.

Join the party by clobbering other revellers with a plastic hammer.

The Telegraph, London

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