The city of Aalborg is home to the largest carnival party in Northern Europe – Aalborg Carnival. It takes place in the last week of May and it is a tremendously fun event. Arguably, it also makes May the best month of the year to visit Aalborg.
It is considered to be the second largest yearly cultural event in Denmark: Aalborg Carnival has been a steady (and popular) tradition since 1983. The event always attracts large crowds – often accompanied by some of Denmark’s most famous musicians performing there.
Facts about Aalborg Carnival
No event in Northern Denmark is as popular as Aalborg Carnival. Hundreds of thousands of visitors come each year to be a part of it – some dress up and are fully ready to party, while others just want to see what it’s like.
Aalborg Carnival might take place in Aalborg, which is the main city in the north of the country. But people from all over Denmark are attending. In recent years, the carnival has also been well-frequented by foreigners.
2018 saw over 80,000 participants in the Star Parade, which is the final show of the week-long carnival. However, aside from those 80,000, an additional 150,000 spectators showed up. Many of those had been a part of previous parades during the week. In 2019, there was once again a huge crowd, and the same is expected for the upcoming years.
The whole tradition started in 1983. While it has been a huge success every year, it is now bigger than ever – and also attracting more international attention than ever before.
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As mentioned in the introduction, Aalborg Carnival takes place in the final week of May every year. So it is not actually related to the Christian tradition of carnival. Rather, it’s a Nordic take on the Brazilian carnival celebrations – but scheduled for late May since this is when good weather finally reaches Denmark.
The most important parts of the carnival take place in Kildeparken – Aalborg’s main public park.
However, the parades and celebrations usually stretch out to most parts of central Aalborg. People of all ages are part of it. One parade is specifically arranged for children. While the main parades are just for adults. Aalborg Carnival is particularly popular among university students and young professionals.
It is free to show up and watch the parades around the city. But to participate in the large afterparty in Kildeparken, you’ll need to buy a ticket, the so-called Carnival Bracelet. The final party is huge – it’s the biggest part of the year in Aalborg – and usually popular Danish musicians will come to perform. So we’d say it’s worth it.
The regional buses and trains in the Northern Danish region are completely free to ride from Friday to Sunday of the Carnival week.
The International Parade
Part of the carnival is an international event – and it usually gets very competitive!
“The International Parade” is the name of a show where carnival groups from all around the world come to perform.
Based on their parades through the city, and their performance on the stage in Kildeparken, they will be rated against each other, and ultimately, one international group will win the title.
It’s a fun event, and it has become one of the major attractions of the carnival. It’s a good example of how the carnival is very inclusive to foreigners – and how it isn’t only Danish culture that you can experience there. If you show up to the carnival as a foreigner, you will certainly be accepted with kindness and easily able to socialize with locals. Something that can otherwise be difficult in Denmark.
New themes every year
Every year has its own theme. That makes every carnival special. The overall theme will set the mood of the carnival, while still leaving a lot to the imagination.
In 2019, the carnival theme was “the four seasons”. In 2018 it was “land, sea, air”. In 2017 it was more open: The theme was “The world is full of …” which led to several different interpretations.
So the themes often allow an opportunity to get creative. For groups of people going together, several costumes and ideas can be implemented to match the theme and to be among the best participants.
The best time to visit Aalborg
You can easily argue that the week of the Aalborg Carnival – always in May – is the best time to visit the city.
No other week of the year is quite like it. And since it is the largest carnival in Northern Europe, it is one of the few major things that Aalborg has to offer the international crowd.
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Aalborg is full of nice attractions and things to do, so a trip there will never be boring. But while the city is enjoyable throughout the year, the carnival is the absolute peak. If you want to visit Aalborg, try to aim for the final week of May. It will be way more crowded, and it will be a bit more expensive – but it’s all worth it! We highly recommend that you experience the vibe of the carnival in Aalborg!