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Sydney Mardi Gras Parade
Photograph: Sydney Mardi Gras/Ann-Marie Calihanna

Sydney Mardi Gras has been named as one of the most popular carnivals in the entire world

Party at one of the biggest carnivals on earth when Sydney's annual pride festival returns

Melissa Woodley
Alannah Le Cross
Written by
Melissa Woodley
Written by
Alannah Le Cross

It’s time to roll out the rainbow carpet, because our very own Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has been crowned as one of the most popular carnivals on the entire planet. (Like, we already know Sydney's biggest party is hot stuff, but it's still nice to have the affirmation, ya know?) Of course, it’s not the first trophy on the shelf for this absolute extravaganza of pride, which steals the spotlight as Australia’s biggest celebration of LGBTQIA+ communities (and also NSW’s second-largest annual event, in terms of economic impact). 

The popularity of Sydney's annual pride festival helped the Harbour City to score hosting rights for WorldPride Festival in 2023, which teamed up with Sydney Mardi Gras for a bloody huge citywide takeover last year (and boy, we did make some iconic memories at Sydney WorldPride – remember Progress Shark?). Sydney became the first city outside of the Northern Hemisphere to host the biannual WordPride celebration, and the 45th Sydney Mardi Gras Parade was a landmark amongst more than 300 events. 

If you haven’t experienced the hype of Sydney Mardi Gras, then you’re in luck. The wild and wonderful festival is shimmying back into town from February 16 to March 3, 2024, with loads of glittery parties and events amongst the huge future-forward festival program in 2024

If you’ve experienced it, loved it, and you're hungry for more, then you’ll want to check out travel booking site Omio's rankings of the 15 absolute most popular carnivals around the world. Omio based its rankings on which carnivals scored the highest number of TikTok hashtag views as of August 2023. (Look, we're not sure how credible that data is, but heck, we'll take it!) 

Oxford street Mardi Gras 2018
Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan | Scenes from Oxford Street's Sydney Mardi Gras Parade in 2018

Brazil's Rio de Janeiro Carnival topped the list, which makes sense, as it is the biggest and most extravagant carnival in the entire world, drawing crowds of more than five-million people every year (okay, slay queen!). It tallied a whopping 204.8 million views on TikTok, smashing London’s very own Notting Hill Carnival, which claimed second place with 172.3 million views. Also making the top five were Colombia’s Barranquilla Carnival, New Orleans Mardi Gras, and Croatia’s Rijeka Carnival. The dark horse of the competition (yes, we've decided it's a competition) is Italy – the land of pasta and red sauce has three of its carnivals in the top 15, with The Carnival of Venice (6th)The Carnival of Viareggio (9th) and Ivrea Carnival (13th) making the list, all of which are celebrated in February.

Sydney Mardi Gras strutted its stuff into a commendable 12th place, racking up more than 61,4000 views, and was the only carnival from Oceania to make the cut (slay!). It also appears to be the only pride festival on the list (a celebration of acceptance and rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks, in addition to the other identities that make up the rainbow alphabet). We should never forget the history of Sydney Mardi Gras, which actually started as a riot in 1978, when a group of young queer Australians marched in order to protest the criminalisation of homosexuality in Australia and denial of equal rights to the LGBTQIA+ community. Matriarchal Sydney drag queen Miss 3D has barely missed a parade since the first one, and she told Time Out all about the meaningful local history (and the fabulous parties) over here.

Here is the full list of the top 15 most popular carnivals across the world, according to Omio:

  1. Rio de Janeiro Carnival, Brazil
  2. Notting Hill Carnival, England
  3. Barranquilla Carnival, Colombia
  4. New Orleans Mardi Gras, America
  5. Rijeka Carnival, Croatia
  6. The Carnival of Venice, Italy
  7. Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, Trinidad and Tobago
  8. Sitges Carnival, Spain
  9. The Carnival of Viareggio, Italy
  10. Berlin Carnival of Culture, Germany
  11. Oruro Carnival, Bolivia
  12. Sydney Mardis Gras, Australia
  13. Ivrea Carnival, Italy
  14. Crop Over, Barbados
  15. Nice Carnival, France


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