Pancake Day, Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras; whatever this holiday means to you, there are some fantastic celebrations happening all over Europe to mark the beginning of Lent. I'm a huge fan of pancakes (perfect with some lemon and sugar) so here's a list of some little-known pancake houses in Europe, and the festivals that make this time of year extra special.
Naturally, here in France you'll find some of the best crêperies around, and one of my favourites is Crêperie le Trimaran. This restaurant is hidden away in an alcove in Place St Francois, within Nice's Old Town, and serves up traditional crêpes with a great range of toppings.
One of the biggest annual celebrations in France is the Carnaval de Nice, the theme of which changes every year. This year the "King of Music" runs from February 13th to March 1st, so it's a little later than some of Europe's other celebrations. Carnaval de Nice can be seen on the Promenade des Anglais, with floats competing in "flower battles" to see who has made the boldest and most impressive display. Brightly dressed characters throw flowers into the crowds, and hundreds of dancers and musicians entertain the masses as they enjoy the festivities.
Battle of Flowers parade, Carneval de Nice
Swiss pancakes are light and fluffy, and often served sprinkled with nuts. They can be found in bistros and bakeries throughout the city of Basel, in places such as Zic Zac Basel and Sutter Begg, but a favourite of mine and of many locals is Bistrot Crescenda. You'll find it down a side street, not too far from Basel station, and it serves up delicious pancakes as well as the option of a full American-style brunch.
The Carnival of Basel (Basler Fasnacht) is held on the Monday after Ash Wednesday, and is 72-hours of non-stop celebrating. It's widely thought of as one of Europe's best festivals, and starts very early on the Monday morning, at 4am. To mark its beginning, all of Basel's lights are turned off, leaving only the lanterns of the parade to light up the streets. Throughout the festival, participants in varying costumes run through the Old Town of Basel, handing out sweets and confetti, and playing live music.
Carnival of Basel heads
Binche and Brussels, Belgium
For some of Belgium's best crêpes, you'll need to head to Brussels. There are countless small cafés here that will be serving traditional crêpes with lemon and sugar, however for some with a little more flair, I went to Au P'tit Breton, and found a selection of both sweet and savoury organic pancakes. Just an hour's drive from Brussels, Binche is known for its Orange-tossing celebrations, which leave the streets covered in juicy pulp; but don't worry, there are other ways of enjoying the festivities!
Gilles faces from the Carnival of Binche
Binche carnival has some of the oldest traditions of any in Europe. Local men are given the opportunity to dress up as Gilles and perform during the festival, and the Sunday before Ash Wednesday is usually celebrated by having everyone dress up in costume and march through the streets of Binche. Celebrations are in full swing during the 15th, 16th and 17th February, when there's live music, fireworks, crêpes and other street foods.
Brașov County, Romania
Romania's cuisine is varied, and if you're willing to make the trip, the pancakes here are world-famous. Romanian Clătites are light and thin, similar to French crêpes, but are often filled, rolled up and fried, to create a savoury dish. Wherever you go in Romania, you're likely to find pancakes, in one form or another, somewhere on the menu. The city of Brașov is home to the Casa Clătitelor restaurant, which serves up freshly made pancakes in a variety of styles, although my favourite filling is banana with whipped cream!
Just under 20 minutes in the car south-west of Brașov is Prejmer. It's here that you'll find the town's annual pancake festival, spanning three days and ending with the Pancake Caravan. The carnival boasts fanfare music, Saxon songs and dancing, as well as a whole host of different types of pancakes to gorge on. The Pancake Caravan, usually held on a Sunday, is marked by accordion players and drummers, people selling pancakes and a masked ball in the evening to round off the event.
Brașov Council Square
Stretch your legs this February and celebrate Pancake Day in Europe!
If your tummy is rumbling at the thought of some European pancakes, remember that the journey from Folkestone to Calais is just 35-minutes with
Eurotunnel Le Shuttle
- your gateway to all of Europe's culinary delights!
Traditional blueberry pancakes © Aurelian Săndulescu (:
Battle of Flowers parade, Carneval de Nice © Mark Fischer
Carnival of Basel heads © Ethan Gruber
Gilles faces from the Carnival of Binche © Véronique Mergaux
Brașov Council Square © Camil Ghircoias