Either you have some very excited friends who have visited Patras Carnival, and loved it, or… you ended up looking up for it because flights to Rio De Janeiro were a bit out of budget.
Whichever scenario brought you here, I guarantee, you will NOT be disappointed, as our carnival in Patras is not in any way less fun or exciting compared to its more famous “cousin”, Rio Carnival.
Patras Carnival has a history of almost 200 (!) years and is considered one of the most famous Greek attractions. People from all over Greece and neighboring countries visit the city during the Carnival days, and during those days, Patras is suffocating from young, energetic revelers, who are spreading fun vibes all around.
Because it’s an event – or more accurately a series of events – for which you will not find much information online, let me give you a thorough local-expert survival list, to make sure you will not omit anything important in your trip plan for Patras Carnival!
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Where to Stay in Patras
If you’re planning to spend some time in the wonderful area of Patras during the carnival, why not check these places to stay? Here are our top suggestions for where to stay in Patras. In most cases, budget means hotel stays for around $50 a night, mid-range is from about $60-80 per night, and luxury will cost over $100 per night.
8 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Patras Carnival
These are the key things you need to consider if you’re planning to visit Patras for Carnival. With these tips, you won’t miss any of the fun!
Choose Your Dates Wisely
Carnival is a pretty long celebration. As it is widely known, we Greeks don’t miss a chance to prolong celebrating!
And when I say long, I mean it starts every year on January the 17th and ends a day before Clean Monday. Clean Monday is a moveable feast, occurring on the 7th Monday before Easter.
Of course, you are more than welcome to spend almost a month in Patras, to attend the full program of Carnival; however, let’s go with the more probable scenario, of you visiting Patras for 4-5 days.
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The tourist attraction of the Carnival is the big parades, happening throughout the city streets, where you can also take part. And these parades happen on the weekend, right before the end of the Carnival.
More specifically, here’s the timeline:
- Parade of the Floats – Friday
- Walking (or Night) Parade – Saturday
- Grand Parade & Closing Ceremony – Sunday
- Awards & Clean Monday – Monday
So a perfect vacation stay would be from Friday, February 28, one day before the big parade, until Tuesday, one day after Clean Monday (March 3rd).
During this time, you will also have the chance to attend additionally the Closing Ceremony, the Parade of the Floats, and the awards of the best Carnival groups.
When visiting Patras it can be a great idea to take a few days and check the most beautiful spots of Classic Greece with an organized tour like this one!
Don’t Be a Last-Minuter When it Comes to Accommodation
When I said that Carnival is one of the biggest attractions of Patras, I seriously meant it. That’s why it’s a logical consequence, that accommodation options in a small city like Patras, are severely diminished already a month before the start.
We are going to explore your options for accommodation in ascending order when it comes to the price.
First of all, if you have friends here, know that locals are familiar with the concept of hosting hordes of visitors in their places. So don’t be ashamed and go ahead to ask them if they can spare a couch.
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This brings us to your second option, being Couchsurfing. If no friends are detected in Patras, why not make some? Send some requests on the famous app and if you are lucky enough, a local will accept to host you.
There are not many Airbnbs available during this period in Patras, and the ones that are, are usually overpriced. Sometimes a hotel is more budget-friendly, so keep this in mind before booking.
A very important tip before choosing your apartment or hotel is to relocate the map on the platform, as most apartments that appear are far from the actual center, even on the other side of the sea! So be very careful to book an apartment within walking distance from the center, unless you decide to bring a car and stay sober.
Byzantino, on the other hand, is an excellent choice if you want to be one step away from the feast.
Join a Carnival Group
Carnival groups are masses of people dressed in the same suit that storm around the city during the two Parades, the “Night Parade” and the “Grand Parade”.
Joining such a group is a must, otherwise, why would you come for the Carnival! This is also the big advantage of Patras’ Carnival compared to Rio’s, where mostly samba schools join the parade.
For these parades, you don’t need to know how to samba nor wear a costume like Victoria’s Secret’s latest feathered runway creation. (Although if you want to, you’re still more than welcome).
On the official Patras Carnival website, you can see a list with all the available groups, once they are announced. You don’t need to rush for this one, as… Greek people never rush! The list is announced about a month before the carnival. You can choose your favorite suit among them and send your inquiry to join.
Keep in mind that the suit is hardly ever important for the younger ones. The most complicated and impressive suits are those of the first groups in the line during the parade. These groups usually consist of older people, who enjoy carnival as it was in the old times.
On the other hand, younger people care more about night parties and wild entertainment. So they follow far behind during the parade, usually starting much later than the first groups and their suits are much less complex.
Groups also organize special parties for their members, before and after the parades. So it’s a great way to socialize with other people. Depending on what you want to experience during your stay, choose your group accordingly!
Don’t Miss the Parade of the Floats
Friday might be your arrival day in Patras, but you’re not allowed to miss this parade!
The floats are huge sculptures, made of polystyrene, which are paraded through the streets. They tend to have a particular artistic look and a satirical dimension. Most of the time, they are inspired by contemporary politics, but they also convey various other messages concerning nowadays.
The biggest and most magnificent float is the one of the Carnival King, whom you will read about again later.
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Following the Float of the Carnival King, the Float of the Carnival Queen is carrying a beautiful, young lady, sharing smiles with the attendees. Every year there is a call, during which ambitious Queens can apply for the position.
This parade is going to supply you with a good deal of Instagram stories, so be ready!
To avoid surprises when you read the seventh title, the Queen of the Carnival is a real person, while the King is just a… float!
Wear Your Suit and a Bottle of Mavrodafni (No Matter What!)
And when I say no-matter-what, I mean even if it’s raining cats and dogs.
It’s not unusual for the Carnival days to be rainy. Luckily, as the saying goes, we’re not made of sugar. We’re so used to parades with rain, that if we’re honest, it doesn’t feel like Carnival without a bit of rain. (No? Just me?)
However, the point is that you need to get out of the house and join the parade even if all the Plagues of Egypt strike Patras the same day. (Okay, that’s a bit too drama queen-ish – I guess then, and only then, you have a decent excuse to stay home!).
The next thing you need to do, while you’re on your way to the parade, is to find a store or a wandering seller that sells Mavrodafni.
Mavrodafni or Mavrodaphne is a local wine made of black grapes, for which we in Patras are very proud. It doesn’t matter if you buy it on the street or in a store; the bottle is secured anyway.
There’s just one last thing you need to pay attention to in order not to make a terrible mistake and locals start looking at you with repulsion.
Don’t use a glass!
Mavrodafni is supposed to be consumed right away from the bottle and there will be no exceptions. So grab a bottle, hold it throughout the parade, get a second one if this one is finished and last but not least, don’t even consider saying that you didn’t like the wine. We get emotional about this.
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Experience the Best of Patras Nightlife
Once the parade is finished, you might want to get a 1-2 hour rest or not. After that, it’s time to explore the Patras nightlife scene, which is without a doubt… active!
First of all, the best parties are happening on the streets, outside bars and cafeterias. Bars all along the main street, turn their music loud and people are gathering up right outside. You can stay, dance, drink something if you want, and then move along to the next one.
When you get tired of migrating from bar to bar, it is very important to choose the most suitable type of Carnival party for you.
The most famous and biggest clubs in Patras are “OMNIA downtown” and “Navona Club di Oggi”. They are a bit far away from each other, so if your friends are not supporters of walking drunk, make sure you choose the nearest. Expect mainstream music and unfortunately, a very big line. However, once you get in, you will be compensated with a good time!
Next, as mentioned previously, there are hundreds of small bars with their parties and if you’re a big group, chances are you will have much more fun in such a place. I’m just going to mention “Notos Jazz Bar” and “Bocas” as favorites, in case you are lost.
Last but not least, in case you hear very loud music from an apartment and see people going in and out (that’s my way of describing a house party by the way), give it a try and ask if you can join. Everybody is in a great mood and usually will welcome you in. That’s the most authentic night outing.
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Enjoy the Closing Ceremony and the Burning of the Carnival King
The closing ceremony has more fireworks than our taxes can afford, live music concerts with artists like Boney M, and of course, the burning of the Carnival King. Do I need to say more?
Let’s take it one by one. During the Grand Parade, a huge float representing the Carnival King is paraded through the streets. At the end of the parade, the King is directed towards the port, where it is set on fire symbolically.
The fire is said to burn along with the King’s evil spirits, passions, and hatred among the people. The lighting of the fire is also related to the transition from winter to spring.
Right after, there is an epic firework display and an open-air concert. Everyone is simply there, enjoying the last Carnival day and having a good time, with the company of her/his Mavrodafni.
Have a Relaxing Day by the Beach on Clean Monday
Clean Monday is the First Day of the Great Lent, during which, according to the Orthodox Church, we’re not allowed to eat meat, eggs, or dairy products. However, shellfish is permitted and of course, being Greek, we’re taking advantage of this!
Clean Monday is traditionally celebrated with a small excursion, flying of kites, eating of shellfish, and other traditional fasting specialties, such as “Lagana”, a special type of bread, and “Halva”, a traditional sweet.
To fly your kite, you should choose a nice park, such as “Faros”, or simply the beach. You could also head to the mountain, Panachaiko if you’d like to change up the setting a bit.
As far as it concerns lunch or dinner options, there are many great options in Patras. In Istioploikos, you can enjoy seafood right next to the waves, while in En Plo, you can have a more authentic Greek taverna experience.
However, in case you have the energy needed, I strongly suggest that you visit a village nearby Patras called Psathopyrgos. If you’re returning to Athens, it is on your way and it offers an idyllic view to combine with your fasting food!
5 Things to Bring with You to Greece
If you’re planning a trip to Greece, you’ll want to pack all the normal essentials, but here are a few things we strongly recommend bringing that may not have crossed your mind. For more packing tips, check out our complete Greece packing list.
– A physical guidebook, on paper or Kindle. We love Lonely Planet Greece for this region and strongly recommend it to supplement blogs. Blogs are great, but a combination of a blog and a guidebook is key to having the best access to information easily at your fingertips.
– A water bottle with a filter. While generally, the tap water in most of Greece is drinkable, we generally recommend using a water bottle with a purifying filter to reduce your plastic consumption and ensure you won’t drink any funny-tasting water on your stomach that could make your trip unpleasant! There are places in Greece, especially on the island, where the water tastes like minerals.
We recommend the GRAYL water bottle – it filters water perfectly in an instant so that you can even drink from lakes, bad taps, etc.
– Motion sickness pills. Santorini roads are winding, especially around the coast. If you have a weak stomach as we do, save yourself and bring some non-drowsy motion sickness pills.
– Wet wipes, hand sanitizer, TP & other Balkan transit needs. Bathrooms in the Balkans tend to be… how can we say it?… not so well-stocked. Save yourself the disappointment and bring a mini-rescue pack of wet wipes & hand sanitizer.
– Travel safety items. We think Greece is safe to travel to, but at the same time, it never hurts to be prepared! Some people like to carry money belts, but neither Allison nor I use these. Instead, we both carry the same PacSafe anti-theft backpack.
It has locking zippers, slash-proof construction with metal mesh hidden in the fabric, and tons of other smart security features — all while being cute and stylish enough to be our everyday bag. We recommend it highly for both male and female travelers, as it’s neutral enough to be unisex. We also strongly recommend travel insurance! Our recommendation is at the bottom of the post.
More Greece Travel Resources
First read our guide to planning a trip to Greece, which covers visas, budgets, vaccines, and much more. We also have a separate guide to tipping in Greece so you know what to give to different servers and staff while you’re here.
Next, you’ll want to read our all-season Greece packing list.
If you know you’ll be spending time in Athens, check out our Athens Instagram guide, the best Athens day trips, and our complete Athens hotel guide. We also have a guide to the best things to do in Athens in winter.
We also have Athens safety tips so your trip can be hassle-free. We are currently working on our mega-post of things to do in Athens as well as our itineraries, so stay tuned!
We publish new content about the Balkans almost every day! For more information about traveling to Greece and the Balkans, bookmark our Greece and Balkan travel pages so you can find out what’s new before your trip.
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
I’m sure you’re aware that it’s a good idea to have travel insurance for traveling in Greece, the Balkans, or anywhere in the world!
Allison and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.
While Greece is safe, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel like theft or injury, so it’s better to play it safe. The saying goes “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel,” and we think it’s true!
Pin this Guide to Enjoy the Most in Patras for Carnival!
Ioanna is a Greek Medicine Student and a Professional Karaoke Singer. When she’s not slaving over really big books, she’s at the airport 4 hours before take-off, so she can drink a cup of coffee across from her gate and worry about missing her flight from there.