Which Cologne Carnival Parties, Parades and Events to attend

Choose which carnival parades and events to attend

First things first. Outline which of the typical carnival events you would like to see. After you have your skeletal framework done, you can then add in the parties, balls etc afterwards. Below is a list of the major events going on at Carnival.

Thursday – 02/27/2014

“Crazy Days” Kick off
Time: 11:11 am
Where: Alter Markt

The party officially kicks off on Alter Markt. Guess whose there? Our favorite band of loveable “Dreigestirn”, the prince, the virgin and the farmer (or peasant). Remember, even though the virgin is a man, it’s not creepy because he isn’t allowed to have facial hair. People sing, dance and mostly drink beer in costume. 

Jan un Griet” historical play
Time: 1:30 pm
Where: Servinstor

Legend has it that Jan, a simple farm laborer, was rebuffed by Griet, a housemaid, because she thought he would never amount to more than a poor farmer. After being rejected, Jan went on to glory during a war against Sweeden. He returns many, many years later as a successful general with much fanfare from the local population, only to see that time has not been so kind to Griet. She is unmarried and running a fruit stand to keep from starving… (I won’t spoil the end of the story for you theatre aficionados)

Friday – 02/28/2014

Time: 4:30 pm
Where: Altermarkt

A musical program with bands (Kasalla,  Papallapap, Bläck Fööss, Domstädter) and orchestra. Get there around 3:00 pm for a good spot.

The Dreigestirn (Thursday)

Saturday – 03/01/2014

When: 10:30 am
Where: Neumarkt

Many of the Carnival’s official clubs gather together in “troop uniforms” to dance and make a little show. Leading this little soiree are the “Rote Funken”, or the Red Sparks, who perform a dance called “Stippeföttche-Tanz”.

Geisterzug or the Ghost Parade
When: 7:00 pm
Where: begins on Nesselrodestr.

The Geisterzug is part of “Alternative Carnival” which was started by young people to buck the stiff traditionalism of the regular carnival. The ghost parade is more halloween than carnival. Costumes of choice usually run under a ghoulish theme as the name suggests. You don’t see a lot of clowns, which gives Geisterzug plus one in my book.

Sunday – 03/02/2014

School parade or as the Germans call it “Volkstuemliche schull-un veedelszoeg”
When: 10:30 am
Where: City Center

A smaller parade put on by local schools and the district of Cologne.

Floats ready for Rosenmontag (Monday)

Monday – 03/03/2014

“Rosemontag” parade
When: 10:30 am
Where: Throughout the City Center beginning at Severinstor

It’s the culmination of the Crazy Days man! I mean, that’s what the Festkomittee says, minus the man part. The parade lasts around 3 hours and during that time, parade participants shell out over 280,00o pounds of candy to the open arms of little tykes and also, yes, big tykes. The parade is over 6 km long and features 74 different floats. The theme of this year’s carnival is “Koeln hat etwas zu bieten” or “Cologne has something to offer”.

Tuesday – 03/04/2014

District parades
When: Mid-day(ish)
Where: Suburbs of Cologne.

Burning of the “Nubbel”
When: Midnight
Where: Aachener Strasse 5, Feldgaertenstr. 141, Subbelrather Strasse 154, Roonstrasse 33

The “Nubbel”, a human sized straw figure, is burned and along with it, all of your sins and dirty deeds from the week. This event is part of alternative carnival as well and is celebrated in at least four locations.

Wednesday – 03/05/2014

Fish for Dinner! 
When: 7(ish), I don’t know, when do you usually eat dinner?
Where: Where ever you can eat a fish

Say Carne valle or farewell to meat and eat a fish dinner like the devout christian you are. Although technically not a free event, you would have to eat dinner anyways, so its not costing you anything extra.

Choose which parties to attend

As large and as popular as carnival in Cologne is (over 1 Million people party hard during the festival every year), there is a serious lack of information in English on what are the best parties to attend. I spent the better half of a day researching “Cologne carnival parties”, and I still feel like I am just scratching the surface. After the event, I will make sure to update this post so it has all of that good first hand knowledge that is so much better than what you can find on tourist websites.

First, you need to decide what type of party you are after, as there are many ways and levels of debauchery during carnival. Traditionally, there are “Vereins” or clubs, that put on events throughout the carnival season. There are over 100 of these clubs currently listed with the “Festkommittee”, or the unifying body of clubs. These clubs put on a number of different events, but the two most common are “Sitzungs” and Balls.

1) Sitzungs

Sitzungs are kind of like a more organized high school variety show. They include comedy acts, dancing, singing and occasionally audience participation. As the name suggests, you are sitting the majority of the time. Sitzungs cost around 30 to 50 euros with food and drink costing extra. Here are two examples (I will attend the second):

  1. Große Kostümsitzung – KKG Blomekörfge 1867 e.V
  2. Große Kostümsitzung – KG Fidele Burggrafen e.V. 1927 Köln

2) Costume Balls

Balls are generally more active events. As you would expect, they include dancing, either to live music or DJs, drinking and costumes. Some balls have restrictions on your costumes, outlawing anything lewd. These events cost on average around 30 to 40 euros.

  1. Karnevals-Samstag-Ball
  2. Mummenschatz
  3. Feste in Blau – We are partaking in the festivities at this particular event.

3) Non affiliated Parties

There are also plenty of parties not affiliated with clubs. These parties are more popular with the younger crowd and are less formal.

  1. Koelschfest
  2. Kölle AHOI
  3. lachende Kölnarena – This party was recommended by a local. It has live bands and fills up an entire arena. As an added bonus, you can bring your own food and drink, which is great for budget minded travelers. From 32 Euros up.
  4. Wolkenburg Schnee party – Another recommendation from a local. At 13 euros, it’s a bit cheaper than a lot of other parties out there.

4) Pub Crawl

The fourth option is to wing it. Almost all pubs will be throwing some type of carnival party and you can get in to many of them without a pre-bought ticket (don’t get too overjoyed – in most cases there will still be an entrance fee).

The area around the train station is good for an international crowd (however it can be a bit touristy.) On Thursday, Zülpicher Straße is supposed to be where all the action is, especially for locals.

My Personal Plan of Attack:

We will be attending two pre-planned events (and winging the rest of it):

  1. FEST IN BLAU: A costume party put on by the “Blaue Funken von 1870 e.V” on the 27th of February starting at 6 pm. 33 Euros a piece
  2. Große Kostümsitzung by the “KG Fidele Burggrafen e.V. 19” on the 2nd of March at 6:45 pm. 40 Euros a piece. (Plus 11.90 in fees paid to the booking company.)

You can find all events from the clubs listed on this website. http://shop.derticketservice.de/karnevalstickets

Choosing a costume:

If you don’t have a costume, you will be a social leper. I added this section to a) remind everyone you need a costume b) provide a couple of costume ideas c) remind everyone that you need a costume.

Now that I have sufficiently reminded you that you need a costume, a couple of words on choosing one. “Jecken”, or clown costumes, are the traditional dress of choice, however feel free to rub traditions face in the mud as many people do. Really, be creative as possible, but remember, if you are an American, US pop culture references might not get you as far on the streets of Cologne as they do in New Haven Connecticut. For a couple of more ideas, check out my Pinterest board (or any Pinterest board dedicated to creative Halloween costumes).

For me, it came down to a couple of ideas. In the end, we chose Downton Abbey (with a side of David Hasselhof). Hopefully, British pop culture references will not go unappreciated… In the end, it really doesn’t matter. As long as you are having fun, who cares.

Curling: It's so hot right now

The Hof... Don't hassle him

Downton Abbey: Everybody was so happy back then

About the Author: Andrew Delmenhorst

Originally a cheesehead from Wisconsin, Andrew has lived and worked in Europe for over 6 years. He came to Germany under the guise of obtaining a European MBA from the Mannheim Business School (he really wanted to satisfy his wanderlust). After the program, he worked five years for a large Multinational company, putting in the hours during the week so that he could travel on the weekend. He speaks English and German (Some people say he speaks more of a Denglish), has traveled to 28 countries and has lived in six of them.  One of his travel goals is to attend every World Cup until he dies. He currently writes full-time for Passport Chronicles and calls Brussels, Belgium his home when he is not on the road.

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