Carnival Day is one of the most significant celebration events in Slovenia, with thousands of tourists coming to discover the country’s inheritance and the Slovenian way to party. You can enjoy an impressive number of carnivals if you make it to Slovenia between Carnival Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, 40 days before the Easter celebrations.
The whole Slovenia comes alive at Carnival Time, with huge celebrations and parades celebrated everywhere throughout the country. According to your taste, you can find massive carnivals in Slovenia’s main cities as Ljubljana, but also in smaller towns. The largest festival is located in Ptuj, a very human-sized city.
Let’s take a trip through Slovenia to discover the best places to enjoy the Slovenian Carnival Tradition.
Carnivals in Slovenia’s Biggest Cities
If you are passing by one of the country’s largest cities at Carnival time, you will have the chance to enjoy various popular celebrations such as Shrovetide parades and admire the many Carnival masks.
Ljubljana Dragon Festival
The capital of Slovenia has its very own version of the carnival, which has no equal in the country. The main attraction is a Shrovetide parade that features the traditional carnival feature. Still, it is also accompanied by an extensive program of events based on a different theme every year.
Every year, this carnival becomes more and more renowned, mainly thanks to its unique and adorable mascot, the dragon that symbolizes the city of Ljubljana. You will then have the chance to admire the beautiful city center while adorned with numerous masks and a giant green dragon.
People from all around the country and even numerous tourists and foreign citizens make the trip to the capital each year to enjoy this familial event where your kids will be able to meet the traditional pagan figures, like the kurents Laufarji and Morostarji.
The Ljubljana Dragon Festival is probably your best opportunity if you are eager to discover the city’s ancient customs and heritage. You will notice how important they remain in the Slovene culture, especially when it comes to the Shrovetide celebrations.
The Carnival in Maribor
Each year at Carnival time, the central square of Maribor, Slovenia’s second-biggest city, hosts a massive celebration that is definitely worth the sight. Even if the town is overshadowed by the significant events organized in the neighboring city of Ptuj, there is still a lot going on in Maribor.
You will have the chance to assist in two main days of festivities. Saturday will be dedicated to a parade and dancing going from the Old Vine House to the Vitrijne Mansion. On Tuesday, the city usually hosts an award celebration in open-air, recompensing the best doughnuts and costumes.
The Cheerful Carnival of Kranj
The streets of Kranj, one of the major cities in Slovenia, located in the northwest of Ljubljana, radiates bright colors when Carnival Saturday arrives. The diverse places and streets are painted to the carnival colors and take the attractive smell of sweet doughnuts. The various events are meant to celebrate cheerfulness and mark the end of Winter.
Celebrations in Kranj can get very festive when the procession and the several dances take a disco rhythm with a masked ball atmosphere. However, it remains a perfect event for families since children will also be kept busy.
In fact, the Kranj’s events please children with the organization of their own carnival with both traditional and fictional characters represented, such as Pippi Longstocking. The conventional parade starts after that at the Town Library before following the path of the Prešeren Theatre.
The usual Kurentj will be honored in the parade: you will have the chance to admire about 150 of them. However, you will also discover more local figures and Slovenian folk art groups like the Mesopustari from Kraljevica.
Carnival on the Coast
The Istrian Carnaval is the best event of its kind if you are willing to spend a carnival on the Slovene coast. Every year, it takes place on the seaside resort of Koper, transforming the Slovene Istria in one of the best and most living areas to enjoy the carnival festivities.
The celebrations mostly include a parade and a living carnival. The Istrian parade showcases different interesting group masks that reflect at the same time creativity, innovativeness, and a reflection on current societal events. The show also marks a time for contests, with numerous awards attributed to the best carnival floats and ethnographic masks.
Elsewhere in Slovenia
However, Carnival time in Slovenia may be a great opportunity if you are eager to discover the folklore and the habits and customs of the populations of less touristic places of the country. Do not hesitate to book a trip to smaller cities and even villages that will show you their authentic carnival celebrations.
The Cerknica parade
The annual carnival celebrations in Cerknica attract thousands of tourists every time. There, the round party does not stop until Ash Wednesday. For a week each year, Cerknica’s city becomes the small, fictional village of “Butale”, and its inhabitants turn into massive carnival figures with large masks and as “Butalci”.
The central-local figures are the witch Ursula, the giant pike Fish, Jezrquo the lake man, and Butalci, which are all both really impressive and outrageously comical. The celebrations always begin with the traditional sawing of the witch and end with a symbolical burial of the representation of Winter.
I particularly advise you to visit the town on Sunday, when there is nearly too much to see. Cerknica is a great place to admire diverse kinds of floats and paper-mâché sculptures and to discover many satyrical costumes representing social events or politics.
The Laufarija festival in Cerkno
While visiting the famous festival of Cerkno, you will have the chance to discover the birthplace of one of Slovenia’s most famous traditional figures, Laufarji. It is a typical character that wears unique linden wood masks.
This popular carnival has been celebrated here for centuries and is deeply constitutive of the local’s identity. Their Laufarji have even been registered as a part of Slovenia’s Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2012, and later labeled as a living masterpiece of national importance.
One of the main attractions in Cerkno is then the parade and its groups of Laufarji. A group of Laufarjis gathers 25 characters symbolizing the weaknesses and features of different groups of people.
Do not miss the most significant characters: Pust, the central figure that wears moss and horns, but also other dressed as animals or in natural materials, like the Ivy Man. The Old Man and the Threaded Man are also of the best importance.
Škoromati in Small Villages
Surprisingly or not, the oldest Carnival masks in Slovenia are the Škoromati, organized in the area of the Brkini Hills and the Podgrajsko-Matarsko Plain, in the small villages of Podgrad, Javorje, and Hrušica. They are considered to be, at least, 700 years old.
The main particularity of this carnival is the Poberija, the custom to go door-to-door to collect gifts from people’s homes. The carnival is also represented by colorful hats made with paper flowers. These celebrations are the living proof that festivities in small villages can be indeed marking authentic experiences.
The Ptuj International Carnival, Kurentovanje
Last but not least, the carnival of Ptuj is the biggest and most important one in Slovenia. Located in a small city 30 minutes away from Maribor, these events are internationally renowned. In 2020, for the 60th edition of the carnival, Ptuj was named the European Capital of Carnivals.
Every year, about 100,000 participants from all around the world come to enjoy the fantastic carnival celebrations in Ptuj. It was even designated the 7th best festival in the world by Lonely Planet in 2016.
Named Kurentovanje, this festival is the original birthplace of the Kurenti, who is accompanied by many other traditional characters, like plowmen, spearsmen, whip-crackers, and log-haulers.
The figure of Kurent is the god of hedonism and unrestrained pleasures from early Slavic traditions. In the carnival context, the presence of Kurenti is meant to chase winter thanks to the noise made by their wooden clubs.
Kurentovanje is an essential part of Slovenia’s living heritage, and it deserves to be understood and preserved as it is an event of major ethnographic significance. Hasl, the man who created the carnival in 1960, always saw it as a way to conserve the disappearing traditional habits and customs.
It could also be a witness of modernization of ancient traditions: the creator already planned to expand the festival through the introduction of contemporary costumes.
You can go nearly everywhere in Slovenia if you are simply looking forward to spending a fantastic moment with friends and family while discovering the many cultural and traditional riches of the countries.
It is also very representative of the country. Every single town or area is worth visiting in Slovenia, and you should not hesitate to book a tour or to go on a road trip all around the country to enjoy it at its full!