Maybe there’s a carnival or amusement park in your childhood memories where horses turned as if by magic, illuminated in the dark of a summer night. Whether it was a traveling pop-up in a parking lot or a more elaborate affair, there’s something nostalgic about those carousels. These five examples from around the world let you return to that magic. 

Nantes, France

article-imagephotograph by Phool Proof

Created in 1999 from salvaged motorcycles and other discarded materials, wood, metal, and leather, Le Manège d’Andrea has traveled around Europe with its mechanical wonders, and returns this summer as part of les Machines de l’Île kinetic art project in Nantes, France. Each animal or fantastical machine invites riders to control part of the assemblage, whether it’s flapping the wings of a swan, nodding the head of a flying unicorn, or shooting steam from an engine. It’s joined in Nantes by the even more steampunk le Manège Magique, as well as a towering walking elephant

article-imagephotograph by Rafael Ibáñez Fernández

article-imagephotograph by Laurent Chicoineau


Efteling, Netherlands

article-imagephotograph by Tom & Katrien

Over in the Netherlands is a much older carousel that celebrates steam power — the Stoomcarrousel. This “steam carousel” was built in 1895 and traveled around until it was purchased for an amusement park in Efteling. Since 1956 it’s offered a surreal experience of walking through an illuminated arcade to a tent filled with the music of an original Gavioli organ as the carousel (now electric since the 1970s) turns round and round on a rail track with its menagerie of horses and pigs. 

article-imagevia Wikimedia


Brooklyn, New York

article-imagevia DumboNYC

As far as urban views go, Jane’s Carousel is hard to beat. Since 2011, the 1922 carousel has been housed in a glass box designed by architect Jean Nouvel. Wedged on the Brooklyn waterfront between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge, the New York City skyline looms up through the glass as the three rows of 48 carved horses and two chariots turn. The carousel has had its own highs and lows, starting its journey in Youngstown, Ohio, during a steel making boom, and then being saved through a restoration and donation by Jane and David Walentas. During Hurricane Sandy, the photograph of it swallowed by the rising waters, but still illuminated, was one of the more eerie images of the natural disaster. Yet it survived, and continues to enchant young and old riders alike.

photograph by Jim Henderson

photograph by Cathy Baird


Spring Green, Wisconsin

article-imagephotograph by Dalvenjah FoxFire 

It’s hard to pick a centerpiece of Wisconsin’s House on the Rock. The 200-foot whale? The giant hall filled with organs? The cooridor of coin operated machines? The infinity room that Frank Lloyd Wright considered an architectural abomination? However, the carousel may best capture the extreme scale of the curious complex of wonders. Considered the largest indoor carousel in the world, it includes 182 chandeliers, more than 20,000 lights, angels soaring on the ceiling, and 296 animals — but not a single horse.

article-imagephotograph by Vincent LaConte


Paris, France

article-imagephotograph by Allison Meier/Atlas Obscura

From your first steps into the Musée des Arts Forains at the Pavillons de Bercy in Paris, you are in a place of mysterious enchantment. Out of the darkness of the large spaces appear carved horses, a hot air balloon, and every vintage carnival ride you could imagine. Opened in 1996, the museum features the private collection of one Jean-Paul Favand, with carnival art from the 1850s to 1950s. Best of all, you’re invited to ride the rides, including the ”Manège vélocipédique” from 1897 — a merry-go-round of bicycles that’s sped along by the pedaling of its passengers — and a wooden carousel where the horses creak up and down. Check out Atlas Obscura’s visit to the museum for more photographs of the Musée des Arts Forains, where you can immerse in the otherworldly wonder of the carnival and its captivating carousels.

photograph by Allison Meier/Atlas Obscura

photograph by Allison Meier/Atlas Obscura

Discover more of the world’s most astounding rides on Atlas Obscura >