Lou Queernaval in Nice, discover France’s first gay carnival

Stefan Arestis

Feather boas…glitter…cray cray make up…sexy topless men…

This is Lou Queernaval, France's first gay carnival and part of the famous Nice Carnival.

We spent 3 days dancing and partying through the streets of the city celebrating Lou Queernaval clad in our medieval outfits.

A bit of history

The carnival originated in the Middle Ages as a festival authorised by the church, allowing anyone wearing a mask to safely ridicule those in power.

Anyone without a mask got flogged with stockings filled with flour.

Celebrateing Queernaval France's first gay canrival
Which one of these Lou Queernaval boys should be flogged with bags of flour?

This is the time of year when Christians go crazy with overindulgence, eat loads of meat, fatty foods and party like mad before the 40 days of fasting for Lent begins.

Sebastien discovering Nice food during Queernaval France's first gay carnival
Sebastien's greedy pre Lent plans at the Acchiardo restaurant in Nice's Old Town

Nice's carnival is one of the most popular in the world, attracting millions to this side of the French Riviera to enjoy 2 weeks of parties, parades, incredible outfits, lively fun atmosphere and loads of fun.

Lou Queernaval in Nice part of Nice carnival
The iconic Apollo statue of the city proudly watching the Nice carnival processions as the King of the Carnival marvels back at his naked torso

In 2015, Lou Queernaval, started as one of the events during the Nice Carnival, making it the first and only carnival in France and one of the fewest in the world.

Lou translates to the in the local Niçois dialect.

Queernaval host Erwann leading France's first gay carnival
Erwann, the presenter and one of the organisers of Lou Queernaval standing proud with his Nomadic Princes, ready to take the stage and lead the processions

Who can join the Lou Queernaval?


Absolutely everyone is welcome at Lou Queernaval.

Families also join in the fun.

Many locals come out to celebrate and enjoy this unique cultural experience with their children dressed up.

Family friendly atmosphere of Queernaval gay carnival France
These 2 bundles of trouble joined Lou Queernaval dressed up as iPods

How much does the Lou Queernaval cost?

Most of the events during the Nice Carnival are paid and ticketed. However, Lou Queernaval is completely free, open to all and waiting for you, yes YOU, to grab your outfit and join in the fun!

Queernaval gay carnival France topless angel with Stef Seb
Join in the fun with the Lou Queernaval boys…which outfit tickles your fancy?

Best gay hotels in Nice to stay during the Lou Queernaval

We stayed at the jazzy Ellington Hotel, ideally located near the main shopping roads and walking distance to the beach, gay bars and the quaint Old Town of the city.

It's also conveniently located close to Place Massena where all the Lou Queernaval action happens, so you can pop back to change out of your outfit after the carnival before hitting the after parties in Nice's gay bars.

To find out more, check out our guide to the gay friendly hotels of Nice.

Nice Old Town Stef Seb
Change of costume and heading out to Nice's gay bars for the Lou Queernaval after parties

Best gay bars of Nice

There are a handful of popular hangouts throughout the city to suit all tastes and even sexual preferences. We love to go to gay bars to socialise, meet friends, get giddy with cocktails and laugh along with the drag queens. Here are a few of our favourites:

Red Kafe

LOVED hanging out here during the day. Look out for their daily happy hours from 6-9pm. On weekends they have drag stars like Miss Koka making an entrance.

La Cave Wilson

One of the most popular gay bars of Nice where a mix of locals and foreigners head to before hitting the clubs later. We loved the cabaret nights here – their famous in town! La Cave Wilson is open Thursday to Monday from 6pm until 12:30am.

Les Garçon

This is a restaurant not a bar, but worth mentioning because it's at the heart of the gay scene and is gay owned so attracts a largely LGBT crowd. It's the perfect place for dinner before painting the Old Town pink.

Eagle Bar

Popular cruising bar in Nice, particular with the leather fetish crowd. Lots of bear boys here (and their fans). Generally an older crowd here we found. Eagle is open daily until around 3am.

Bar Butch Bitch gay bars Nice
Sebastien deciding if he's more Bar Bitch or Bar Butch

Gay clubs in Nice

As well as Lou Queernaval, Nice has a thriving gay scene. There are plenty of bars and clubs to keep the gay boys happy here. 

  • Le Glam: a very popular gay club where most people will end up. It has themed nights, drag shows and cabarets. This year it was the venue for the Lou Queernaval after party.
  • Le Six: set in a slightly smaller venue and has popular nights from Tuesday to Saturday running through the night and sometimes featuring famous DJs.
Discovering gay carnival in Nice at Le Glam afterparty
Exchanging make up tips with our new friends at the Le Glam Lou Queernaval after party

Other not-to-miss events during the Nice Carnival

Lou Queernaval is one of many party parades during Nice Carnival.

The Parade of Lights are famous ticketed evening events at Place Massena, repeated several times during the fortnight, where the King and Queen figurines of the Carnival lead a procession of vibrant floats.

Light Show Parade one of events of Nice Carnival
The evening Light Show during the Nice Carnival

Another Nice Carnival must see gem are the colourful Flower Parades, which take place during the daytime at the Promenade des Anglais.

The floats go around with costumed models throwing around 100,000 flowers to an enthusiastic crowd. But some of those outfits, absolutely stunning!

Flower Parade during Queernaval first gay carnival
Dramatic outfits and flower showers during the famous Flower Parade

You really can't help being awed by some of the outfits during the Flower Parades.

Especially the more tighter fitting ones…

Performer during Queernaval first gay carnival France
Another Nice Carnival reveller preparing for an evening of fun at Le Glam

Watch our video of the Lou Queernaval

We came to Nice, dressed up and partied hard with thousands of other revellers during this very pink Queer festivity.

Watch our video and re-live our Lou Queernaval memories right here and also read why we think France ranks as one of the most gay friendly countries in the world. Also see more from our travels in France with our Lyon gay guide.


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The Nomadic Boys at Nice Carnival's Lou Queernaval

Happy travels are safe travels

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Stefan Arestis

Stefan is the co-founder, editor and author the gay travel blog nomadicboys.com. As a travel nerd, he has explored more than 80 countries across 5 continents. What he loves the most about travelling is discovering the local gay scene, making new friends and learning new cultures. His advice about LGBTQ travel has been featured in Gay Times, Gaycities, Pink News, Gay Star News, Attitude and Towleroad. He has also written about gay travel for other non-gay specific publications including Lonely Planet, The New York Times, The Guardian and The Huffington Post. Stefan is also a qualified lawyer, having practised as a commercial property litigator in London for over 10 years. He left his lawyer days behind to work full time on Nomadic Boys with his husband Sebastien. Find out more about Nomadic Boys.

32 thoughts on “Lou Queernaval in Nice, discover France’s first gay carnival”

  1. “Sébastien” is a French name, are you French. Sébastien and Stéphane sounds very French. Who is monsieur de la vache, is it Sébastien de la Vache? Nice name, holly cow!

  2. Just read this. Great to see you were with my friends ‘Betty’ and ‘Holly White’ at Bar Bitch in Nice. Wish I would have known you were in town. Would have loved to meet you guys. Safe travels and have lovely holidays.

  3. Sounds amazing!! You had me at cray cray make up, glitter and sexy topless men 😀 Very cool that it’s a family friendly event, I had actually heard that Mardi Gras in the States was also very family friendly too. It’s not something I would have instantly expected, because I would have thought it was more an adult party, but thinking about it it does make a lot of sense, and I’m sure kids would LOVE the floats and the costumes and the atmosphere. Very cool, hope to get to Nice soon!

  4. Guys, this looked fantastic!! Looks like a good time could be had by all. Thanks for sharing! You never stop putting a smile on my face!! Thanks.


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