A look back to Carnaval in Maastricht

By Miruna on Tuesday 12 March 2024 at 20:45
A look back to Carnaval in Maastricht

Carnaval might be over for another year, but we’re still not over it 🙂

Here’s our guide to Carnaval for international students.

During Carnaval, every street in town is alive with energy, joy and celebration. Throughout the day, parades and music take over the city centre, showcasing the limitless creativity people have when it comes to costumes – even town officials, like the police, who had one of the most memorable Carnaval Floats of this year’s edition.

The tradition says that Carnaval represents the passage from darkness to light and every year I realise this is not just a metaphor. Daily life comes to a halt, and along with it, the stress of routine quietens down – at least for three days a year. Waking up on Friday, people are already ready to celebrate – brass bands replace the unhinged Samsung alarm I chose for myself ten years ago and even if you don’t feel like having fun, happiness will find its way to you; and so will your favourite old tracks, translated into Dutch, for an authentic experience.

Besides well-thought-out costumes, music is truly the centre of Carnaval. Although hearing Bon Jovi in Dutch may be unsettling at first, the culture behind this is fascinating to me as an international student. Carnaval songs are actually their own genre of music created by locals, celebrated within the “Limburg song festival” and even reaching the national audience. Do you keep up with our blogs? Then you’ve probably already heard about Limburgish. If you haven’t read our guest blog, we would recommend it, to learn more about the regional language that you’ve definitely encountered in Carnaval tracks! 

But besides enjoying the eye-catching parades and broadening your musical horizons, what does a student’s experience of Carnaval really look like? First things first, we need to talk about costumes. Whether it’s an individual choice or a group aesthetic, your Carnaval costume is the centre of this experience. Trust me, no matter how crazy you think you look, you’ll feel way more out of place if you go out in normal attire. Top tip: some clubs won’t even allow you to go in unless you’re wearing something fun!

If you’ve never been to Carnaval before, now might be a good time for a slight reality check – even though it’s fun to wear shorts or tube tops when you cosplay your favourite character, it can actually get quite cold on a February night. Festivities are almost entirely held outside, with the exception of club parties, so make sure to have layers on hand! Carnaval colds are a real thing, and we wouldn’t want you to go through that.

If you get hungry after a reasonable amount of Flugel shots and dancing, you can always find joy in a portion of warm fries or a snack from the typical fast food outlets, known to be “as Dutch as tulips”. I’ll let you in on an inside secret from me and my friends – snack walls serve surprisingly well as hand warmers after holding your cup in the cold for hours 🙂 

Everyone has their favourite things to do during Carnaval – mine might just have been exploring all the different scenes throughout the city. If you want the full experience, try a bit of everything: Vrijthof, Markt, Onze-Lieve-Vrouweplein, the under-bridge raves or spontaneous afterparties. At the end of the night, the Arriva Drink Buses will be there to get you home safely, functioning extra late throughout the three days of festivities. 

We hope to have informed you sufficiently for the next Carnaval! If you’ve already experienced it, tell us what your favourite part of Carnaval was and share your best tips with us!


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