Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Wed January 27 2016

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  • Worldwide Scott | January 27, 2016 11:00 PM ET

    Mardi Gras Old World-Style: 5 of the Best Carnivals in Europe

    Mardi Gras Old World-Style: 5 of the Best Carnivals in Europe

    PHOTO: Carnival parade in Puerto de La Cruz, Tenerife. (photo courtesy of Thinkstock)

    Whether you call it Mardi Gras or Carnival, this winter festival makes February or March one of the most fun times to be in Europe. People from all over the continent end their home hibernation spells to party in the streets and throw caution and inhibitions to the wind.

    It is a time for debauchery in its finest and most elegant form and for letting go before you buckle down for the Lenten season. Here are five of the best — and often some of the quirkiest — Carnivals in Europe to build into your trip this year. Just don't forget to pack your craziest costume.

    READ MORE: 7 Things to Know When Traveling to Mardi Gras

    1. Maastricht, Netherlands

    While Amsterdam may take the crown of Best Dutch Party Town most of the year, during Carnival, Maastricht and other locales in the Southern Netherlands reign supreme.

    Each year, the mayor hands over the keys of the city to Prince Carnival, who then proceeds to rule over town with his wacky-dressed subjects in their new Kingdom of Fools during the three day Carnival.

    Costumes are on the silly side in Maastricht, and regular life in the area comes to an absolute halt during Carnival, with nearly all businesses except pubs closing and everyone taking the business of having fun very seriously.

    2. Tenerife, Spain

    The closest thing you'll find to the flamboyance of Rio de Janiero in Europe, the island of Tenerife sizzles with parades and parties around and passed Ash Wednesday. The highlight of this Carnival is hands-down the elaborate headdresses included in the costumes of paraders, with some get-ups being so complex, they require a machine to help move them.

    Tenerife is always known as an island that knows how to have a good time, but during Carnival even that is taken up a degree or two as the parades are often followed by parties that last all the way until the next morning.

    3.  Patras, Greece

    Long a trading partner with Italian ports, Patras imported Carnival from Italy and hasn't look back since, becoming the largest Carnival in all of Greece. Like most Carnivals, there is costumed revelry, but a children's parade and hidden treasure hunt as well. Carnival in Patras concludes on the Sunday before Shrove (Fat) Tuesday with the burning of the Carnival King after a massive meandering parade.

    4. Cologne, Germany

    In the shadow of its world famous Cathedral, the normally buttoned-up city of Cologne throws the biggest Carnival party in Germany. The party kicks into high gear on the Thursday before Shrove Tuesday during the so-called Women's Carnival — when the ladies lead the revelry — and proceeds to Rose Monday's massive parade featuring jesters and hundreds of other assorted clowning revelers.

    READ MORE: Authorities Increase Security at Venice Carnival

    5. Viareggio, Italy

    This coastal Tuscan town turns into a Carnival center each year, as folks flock from all around Italy to gaze upon the massive papier-mache displays paraded through the city. The parades and floats roll on the four Sundays leading up to Lent, in addition to Fat Tuesday, and are often thought-provoking with a tendency to make fun of celebrities, politicians or global popular culture. The floats compete against each other for prizes, but the spectators are the real winners.

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Worldwide Scott The Adventures of Worldwide Scott

Worldwide Scott Born in the U.S.A like Springsteen but trying to see the world like Pitbull, Worldwide Scott is the voice behind the hard-hitting travel site of the same name. Employing a groundbreaking strategy of visiting destinations, coming home, and then writing things about them on the internet, Worldwide Scott only tackles the tough questions that other writers wouldn't dare touch: Is travelling fun? Are there pretty places in the world? Do people in other countries wear clothes? Does Europe really exist? And if so, what's the beer like there? Stick around, he's going places.
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