Carnival in Lucerne

The fifth season of the year

The Lucerne Carnival is unique in its historical development and its wild variety of expression. Colourful costumes cross the bridges from all directions and on the Kornmarkt, old and young alike jump around, clap and dance to the various rhythms of the "Guggenmusigen". There will be no rest until Ash Wednesday and the end of the carnival!


Colourful spectacle

The fifth season begins in Lucerne even before the big bang at 5 a.m. on «Schmutzigen Donnerstag»: the carnival. The colourful spectacle delights thousands of people across the generations. With creative costumes and rousing Guggenmusik, people celebrate in the streets of the city and banish the winter.

Carnival calendar

Carnival begins with a loud explosion (the Urknall) on Schmutzig Thursday and ends late on Güdis (Shrove) Tuesday. All is quiet again on Ash Wednesday. The highlights of Lucerne Carnival are the Urknall, the Fritschi parade on Schmutzig Thursday, the Wey parade on Güdis Monday and the Monstercorso parade on Güdis Tuesday.



Parades and carnival in the streets

Two in the afternoon of Schmotzige Donnschtig sees the setting off of the Fritschi parade, while the Wey Guild's parade is on the following Monday (Güdismontag). The grand final parade, the Monstercorso of the united guilds, takes place at 7.30 p.m. the day after (Güdisdienstag – Güdis Tuesday). Aside from these major parades, stages located here and there showcase the various ensembles of Guggen musicians. Sway to the rhythmical sounds and admire the creative costumes and floats. A good place to see some open-air theatre is on Sternenplatz in front of the Stadtkeller restaurant.


Timber bridges with carnival art

During those few wild days, Lucerne's bridge paintings are covered with plywood panels featuring carnival art. The carnival art displayed in the gable of the Chapel and Spreuer Bridges is created by the various carnival groups; the plywood serves to protect the historical paintings underneath.


History of Carnival

The origins of Carnival go back a long way. The Catholic Church used the fasting period of Lent in the Middle Ages to show the faithful how Jesus suffered. The carnival days helped people use up stocks of perishable food and consume high-energy, fatty foods such as sausages. In addition, the Celtic custom of driving away the winter spirits with terrifying masks, shaggy costumes and loud music is continued, while welcoming in fertile spring.

Urknall («Big Bang»)

The Lucerne carnival traditionally starts on a Thursday (Schmotzige Donnschtig) at five in the morning. You need to get to the lakeside promenade at around 4 a.m. At five o'clock on the dot you hear a loud explosion (the Urknall – Big Bang) on the lake, shortly followed by the arrival in a boat of Bruder Fritschi (Brother Fritschi) and his family. They make their way to the Fritschi Fountain in Kapellplatz. Next comes the "Fötzeli rain" (Fötzeliregen), consisting of millions of pieces of shredded paper raining down on the assembled throng, having been hurled into the air by a firework-like installation. This marks the start of the musical cacophony (Guggenmusig) played by the Guggen musicians. The revellers dance and the alleys vibrate to the rhythms.

Carnival in restaurants

Evenings find small ensembles of musicians entertaining diners with their playing. Amongst the best-known musical eateries are the Restaurant Ente, Bistro du Théatre and Doorzögli. The legendary Wilder Mann restaurant receives a completely fresh makeover for carnival, while the Nix in der Laterne is redecorated after the revellers have gone home.


Do's and don'ts during carnival

Carnival is loud, uninhibited and highly informal in the way it's celebrated. Costumed revellers like having their photos taken and it's easy to start conversations with the people you meet. Go out there and make new friends! And travel around by public transport, not car. There are some unwritten rules to watch out for. If, for instance, you see a street band coming towards you in one of the city's alleyways, keep out of its way and don't mingle with the musicians: the masks they wear restrict their field of vision, so for safety's sake they have the right of way. It means you won't be hit by instruments – nor will you trip anyone up. Another thing: don't pick up and throw confetti once it's been on the ground: amongst other things, wet confetti leaves unsightly marks on clothes and masks.

Getting ready for carnival for beginners

The Lucerne carnival is brought to life by countless colourful and creative costumes and masks. Be creative, rummage around in your wardrobe and combine the items of clothing you find. Or why not make your own costume from scratch? Carnival's most fun when you're dressed up. If you'd rather buy something off-the-peg, try the "Fasnachts-Bazar" and "Vonarburg" in Lucerne. Small accessories, wigs and make-up are available everywhere in Lucerne in the run-up to carnival and during it. Remember to check the weather forecast and dress accordingly. Wearing layers that you can take off and put on makes sense!