Prague Masopust (Mardi-Gras or Carnival) festival guide, including the best costumed processions, food, drink, traditions, locations and dates for 2024.
Masopust festival (also known as Mardi-Gras or Carnival in other countries) is a folk celebration of winter leaving the village and the start of the 40 days of Lent before Easter. It it’s traditionally also a time, when people celebrate weddings, as it was the last time, they could eat meat, rich food and drink alcohol before Easter.
The weekend before and after Shrove Tuesday, there are many celebrations in Prague and neighbouring villages with masked processions, folk music and traditional food such as filled cakes (kolace), yeasted sweet pancakes (livance), fried potato pancakes called bramboraky, smoked sausages and also plenty of Czech beer.
Masopust dates for 2024
Masopust is a slightly movable event, but it’s usually somewhere around the middle to the end of February. This year, the Masopust is on 13 February 2024 (Shrove Tuesday also known as Mardi Gras, which is also celebrated as Pancake Day in UK & USA).
The so-called Fat Thursday is on 8 February 2024, Shrove Sunday is 11 February 2024 and Shrove Monday is 12 February 2024.
As you will see most modern celebrations of Masopust are held at the weekend – either before or after Shrove Tuesday and that’s simply because people don’t have the time off and they are more likely to attend celebrations at the weekend than a weekday.
The traditional celebration of Masopust festival & customs
Masopust is a three-day folk festival that essentially has nothing to do with liturgy, yet it still makes it to the church calendar. It was celebrated in the days preceding Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the 40-day long fasting before Easter.
Because the date of Easter is movable, Masopust was also a movable holiday. Written reports of Masopust celebrations in Bohemia and Moravia date back to the 13th century, although the festival is obviously even older.
Preparation for Masopust used to take place on the Thursday before Masopust Sunday, called “fat Thursday.”. There was a belief that on this day, a person should eat and drink as much as possible to remain strong throughout the year.
The main Masopust fun began on “Masopust Sunday.” Lunch was also lavish on that day, but it did not last too long because everyone was getting ready for music and dancing, which often lasted until the morning. “Masopust Monday” was also marked by entertainment and dance. In many villages, a “men’s ball” was held, attended only by married men and women.
The main part of the Masopust celebrations was on Tuesday. On that day, processions of masks passed through the villages, Masopust theatrical performances were staged, usually rehearsed by students.
The mask processions didn’t have particular rules; it depended on the wit and agility of the “masqueraders” as to what pranks they would perform on passing people or how they would act out, sing, play instruments or recite folk rhymes.
The procession would walk around the village and stop at different houses and people would give them something to eat and drink brandy and beer.
Traditionally you would always see masks such as a bear, sometimes led on a chain by a bear leader, a horse made up of two people. There was also a mask with a rider on horseback, a Jew with a sack on his back, an old woman with a bundle, a chimney sweep with a ladder, a goat, and many others.
Almost everywhere, the Masopust fun ended precisely at midnight. Then the night watchman blew his horn and the bailiff urged everyone to go home quietly because Wednesday had arrived and with it, the pre-Easter fast.
In some places, the music ended at midnight with the “burial of the bass” (a symbol that musicians would not play during the fast). People believed that if they danced past midnight on Masopust, the devil would appear among them, often disguised as a stranger in a green coat.
The UNESCO World Heritage, which apart from the various towns and physical sites, also includes intangible – non-material heritage.
In 2010 the traditional carnival processions with masks, theatre and Masopust customs in the village Hlinecko was added to the list.
Where to see Masopust in Prague 2024
I’ve organised the list with the Masopust celebrations that are closest to the centre first and then the rest. If you want to experience an authentic Masopust then you often need to head away from the centre to the villages just outside Prague like Roztoky or Mokropsy, although the one at Letna is also very good, because it’s partly organised by the Farming museum, which follows the traditions quite closely.
I’ve included all the Masopust celebrations with published dates for 2024, although there are others (such as in Zizkov, Lesser Town & Kampa Island etc.) that might be confirmed at a later date.
Karlin Square Masopust – 27 January 2024 – Saturday
- Location: Karlin Square – a few stops from the centre by tram or walk from Florenc underground or bus station
- Time: 12 p.m – midday to 7 p.m – refreshments and stalls, 1 pm procession starts from Kaizl Gardens, 2 pm theatre entertainment at Karlin Square
- Entrance: Free – some workshops have a small fee
The Karlin Masopust also has a long tradition as this year it’s the 21 anniversary. There will be children’s workshops, firework show, refreshments stalls and a professional band playing traditional music.
Letna Masopust – 20 January 2024 – Saturday
- Location: Letna Park and surrounding streets, Museum of Agriculture
- Time: 10.00 a.m. – 6 p.m, from 1 pm at the Museum of Agriculture
- Entrance: outside free, museum 100 CKZ (50 CZK concessions) or arrive in a Masopust costume and you get in for free!
The Letná Masopust carnival procession will arrive at the museum after 1 p.m. and bring with it music, theatre performances, dance shows, and, above all, traditional carnival masks.
There will be traditional carnival refreshments such as kolace (sweet cakes with poppy seeds or cheese curd filling), fried pastries, Czech doughnuts, roasted pork, sausages or bacon.
You will be able to see food demonstrations of the production of pork sausages, a cooking workshop or take part in a carnival quiz. For children, there will be art and craft workshops as well as theatre play.
Letnany Masopust – 27 January 2024
- Location: Old Square Letnany – close to Letnany underground station
- Time: 10.30 am – late afternoon,
- Entrance: Free
The carnival procession will start from the front of the Letnany town hall at 10. 30 am and then walk through Letnany town to the Old Square, where the main program takes place.
The program will include music, theatre play for children, fun competitions for children, and the most beautiful mask competition. You can also look forward to a traditional feast, refreshments, and even a pony ride for the children.
Horní Počernice Masopust – 10 February 2024 – Saturday
- Location: Horni Pocernice (10 min local bus from Cerny Most underground station)
- Time: 2 – 5 pm
- Entrance: Free
The Masopust procession will start from the theatre in Horní Počernice at 2 pm and walk through the town. There will be a traditional roasted pig, sausages, music and of course dancing.
Mokropsy Masopust – 10 February 2024 – Saturday
- Location: Mokropsy – 20 min by train from Smichovske Nadrazi towards Beroun – train stop is called Cernosice – Mokropsy
- Time: 2 pm Theatre at the Mokropsy square, from 3.30 pm procession through the village with 15 min stops for refreshments and music, from 7 pm evening music in the pub/restaurant in Jedlickovy Lazne
- Entrance: Free
My favourite Masopust is just outside Prague in Mokropsy, because it’s my local Masopust and one that I helped with regularly from 1989 until I moved to London a few years later.
I used to take part in the procession and help with the costumes, mainly making hundreds of colourfully crepe paper roses that decorated hats and dresses of most of the people who took part in the costume procession.
You can see a few of the roses on my and my friend’s hat (I’m the taller one…), but I only have a black and white photo from that time. My friend told me that they kept re-using the roses long after I left, partly because they were so well made, but probably also because they are quite tricky to make!
The Mokropsy Masopust is one of the oldest ones in the region and has been going strong since 1989 and each year is bigger, better and more elaborate. Most of the original people who started it as still there and help out each year, so I always make sure I’m around to see them.
Roztoky u Prahy Masopust Celebrations – 10 February 2024 – Saturday
- Location: Roztoky u Prahy – 15 min by train from Masarykovo Nadrazi – Train Station or Holesovice Train Station or 13 min bus from Dejvicka Underground Station
- Time: 12 pm noon – beginning of celebrations, 2.30 pm the Queen coronation, 3 pm procession through the village, 6 pm evening music
- Entrance: Free
This is another ‘true’ Masopust festival based on the original traditions, mask designs and entertainment. It was founded in 1997 and over the years has grown into one of the largest festivals in the area. The masks look amazing and there are a lot of volunteers each year that prepare and organise everything.
This blog post was originally written on 4 January 2024 and last updated on 4 January 2024