Barcelona Carnival

Barcelona Carnival is one of the most fun and entertaining festivals during the year and the same is true in other cities in Spain and other countries around the world that celebrate it. Even though many things about these celebrations are common in different places, there are important differences and characteristics that make Carnival in each country and even city, unique. In most cases, as is the case in Barcelona, Carnival starts with the popular Fat Thursday (in Catalan, “Dijous Llarder” or “Dijous Gras”) and finishes on Ash Wednesday. Lasting a week it is one of the longest celebrations in the year. In Barcelona, over these seven days that make up the Carnival festivities, and as the long tradition dictates there are many activities and events. Among which are the processions (“ruas”), masked dances and fancy dress parties, tasting traditional cuisine and, above all, a lot of fun.

But… When is Carnival each year?

As it is a festival that indirectly follows the lunar calendar, the dates for carnival change each year. So, it can range between the start of the month of February and the first week of March. In order to work it out, you need to know when Easter starts. This directly depends on the lunar calendar, go back 40 days, which corresponds to the period of Lent, and go back another 7 days, which corresponds to how long Carnival is.

The dates of the next Carnivals

Carnival 2019: 28 February – 6 March.

Carnival 2020: 20 – 26 February.

Carnival 2021: 11 – 17 February.

Carnival 2022: 24 February – 2 March.

Carnival 2023: 16 – 22 February.

Carnival 2023: 8 – 14 February.

Carnival 2019: Dates, events and programme

As has happened for several years now, the epicentre of the Carnival 2019 festivities will be in the area of El Born and also other points in the centre of Barcelona. Even so, and largely due to the organisations that work in the different areas of the city, you can enjoy many activities in each area of the city. Here you will find more detailed information about the most important events of the official programme of Barcelona’s Carnival, including a description and the date and place where it is held.


2019 Edition: Dates, official programme and other details

Start: 28th February.
End: 6th March.
Where: Various places around Barcelona.
Price: free activities.
2019 programme: Take a look at the official website (not yet published).

L’Arribo (“The Arrival”)

L’Arribo which means “The Arrival”, is Carnival’s opening event and the moment when the Rei Carnestoltes (the Carnival King) is presented to the waiting crowds. The King is the main character of the festival across the whole of Catalonia and the figure that represents the spirit of joy and letting yourself go during these days. Aided by his seven ambassadors (one for each historic village of Barcelona: Gràcia, Horta, Les Corts, Sant Andreu, Sant Martí and Sarrià), his purpose is nothing more than to spread his Carnival spirit to the whole population and what better time to start than during “L’Arribo”.

When: Fat Thursday (in Catalan “Dijous Gras” or “Dijous Llarder”).
Where: Passeig del Born.
+info 2019: view the programme’s link (above).

Carnival processions and parades

Saturday afternoon is usually the day when the Carnival’s procession is held, or rather, the Carnival’s processions. Thanks to people’s initiative, some areas of Barcelona organise many of these colourful and festive parades. Each of them is usually joined by one of the 7 ambassadors for the Carnival King, and they are responsible for livening up the atmosphere and getting everyone to join in and have fun.

When: Carnival Saturday (2 March 2019).
Where: different areas of the city.
+info 2019: view the programme’s link (above).

The Carnival King (Rei Carnestoltes)

This is one of the most important events in the festival and definitely one that attracts the most people. As well as being a lively procession, the Rei Carnestoltes reads out a satirical announcement where he comments on the most important events over the last year.

When: Carnival Sunday (To be confirmed: In the last two years, the City Council has not organised it).
Where: Passeig Picasso and on various streets in El Born.
+info 2019: view the programme’s link (above).

L’Enterro (“The Burial”)

After several days of the least reprehensible behaviour that has taken over the population, the Rei Carnestoltes is judged and condemned to be burned to death on Carnival Tuesday. After his death, on Ash Wednesday is the final event of Barcelona’s Carnival, “L’Enterro” or the Burial, which is also known as the Burial of the Sardine. The event includes a type of funeral procession with jokey and satirical notes that serve as a farewell to the Rei Carnestoltes and also as the start of Lent, the period of religious devotion that serves as preparation for the celebration of Easter. It is common for some areas of the city, several associations or organisations to organise communal meals where, of course, there are plenty of the traditional sardines throughout the day.

When: Ash Wednesday (6 March 2019).
Where: to be confirmed.
+info 2019: view the programme’s link (above).

Sitges Carnival

Despite the importance of the city of Barcelona, where the number of Carnival activities and events are many and great, Sitges Carnival definitely has an even greater reputation than the Carnival held in Barcelona. As well as the official events, among which without a doubt the gran rua de Carnaval (the big procession) stands out above all, many bars and night-time venues organise their own parties and fancy dress or offer themed activities. All of this makes Sitges the perfect place for a getaway to enjoy the best party and fun atmosphere of Carnival for a day.

Popular events of the Sitges Carnival

Els Encants de Carnaval
Jardins Sociedad Recreativa El Retiro
Fancy dress second-hand market
To be confirmed

Arrossada popular
c/ (street) Àngel Vidal, 17-23
Tasting of different rice dishes
To be confirmed

Presentation of the Carnival Queen
Teatre Casino Prado
Free
To be confirmed

Children’s marks party
Palau del Rei Moro
Masks workshop and performancess
To be confirmed

Arribo de Carnestoltes
procession through various streets
Party to welcome the Carnestoltes
To be confirmed

Xatonades
various locations
Communal meals and dinners
Various days

Carnival bed races
Jardins Casino Prado Suburense
Crazy and fun bed race
To be confirmed

Rua de la Disbauxa (Debauchery Parade)
various streets in the centre of Sitges
Procession of floats and costumes
To be confirmed

Rúa del Exterminio (Destruction Parade)
various streets in the centre of Sitges
The craziest and most fun parade
To be confirmed

Closing Dinner
Hall Teatre Casino Prado Suburense
The Carnival’s closing event
Wednesday 6 March

+info: sitges.cat/carnaval/.

Most important Carnival traditions

In each of the following sections we will talk about the most important and representative traditions of Barcelona Carnival. Some, obviously, are common to Carnival in other cities in Catalonia and Spain as well as other places around the world. Whereas, some of them and especially the food traditions, are exclusive to Barcelona and/or Catalonia.

Fancy dress

Dressing up in fancy dress is one of the most fun activities in Carnival. And it’s for both kids, who usually even go in fancy dress for the day at school, as well as adults, who over recent years it has become more and more popular to dress up as all types of public and fictional figures. For adults, it is most common to go to one of the masked balls and fancy dress parties that are organised, both privately among friends and at clubs. On the other hand, children usually prefer to dress up all the time, so it is common to see them in the streets of Barcelona dressed up as superheroes, cowboys and indians, princes and princesses, dragons and other animals, cartoon characters, etc.

Maks and costume shops in Barcelona

If you are looking for masks and costumes for Carnival, we recommend you to visit some of the specialised costume shops in Barcelona. In these shops you can buy and/or rent all kinds of costumes, from the most common and popular (nurse, pirate, clown) to others that are much more original and fun. You can also buy Carnival costumes online on Amazon, although irBarcelona always recommends you to buy from the stores in Barcelona. The choice is yours :)

Party Fiesta
various shops
+info

La Bolsera
various shops
+info

El Relámpago
c/ (street) del Torrent de l’Olla, 130
+info

El Carnaval
various shops
+info

Menkes
Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 642
+info

Autucom Barcelona
various shops
+info

Servei Estació
various shops
+info

Arlequí Màscares
c/ (street) de la Princesa, 7
+info

Egg Butifarra Sausage

In Catalonia, Fat Thursday (in Catalan Dijous Gras) is also known as the Day of the Tortilla (Dia de la Truiita) as, especially in the olden days, it was common to make dishes with egg as the main ingredient, the tortilla being one of the most popular specialities. Out of all these foods, the most traditional and characteristic is the Butifarra d’Ou (the Egg Sausage). One of these specialities that, although it is possible to find in some butchers and food stores during the whole year, is mainly eaten on this day.

Typical Carnival Sweets: Buñols and Coca de Llardons

In Barcelona and the rest of Catalonia, the two most popular traditional sweets during Carnival are “bunyols de vent o de crema” (in catalan) or “buñuelos de viento o de crema” (in Spanish) and “coca de llardons”.

Bunyols: speciality made from a mix of dough with water, yeast and flour where different ingredients can be added which are then fried in plenty of oil. During this period the typical buñuelos are cream and, especially buñuelos de viento (wind buñuelos) or buñuelos de Cuaresma (Lent buñuelos), named as such as the pastry shops start to make them during Carnival and continue to do so from the Wednesday and Friday during Lent (until the start of Easter).

Coca de llardons: llardons are small pieces of animal fat (it tastes a lot better than it sounds) which go hard and crunchy when fried. The other ingredients in this coca pastry are eggs, sugar, flour and pine nuts.

Events in clubs

Although this isn’t a long tradition, for many years now masked balls or fancy dress and themed parties organised by various venues and clubs, both in Barcelona and other cities in Spain, have become an important part of Carnival events. These parties are usually very popular and are an excellent option to enjoy Carnival not only during the daytime but also throughout the whole night.

Origin and reasons for celebrating Carnival in Barcelona

It is actually not known when exactly this pagan festival was first celebrated in Barcelona. What is known however, by an order in the year 1333 from the Consell de Cent (a government institution represented by 100 citizens of Barcelona) is that in this year the use of masks in certain places and situations started to be limited and everyone was prohibited from participating in the customary throwing of the oranges (origin of the traditional “Taronjada”) during the festivities.

During Carnival, which lasted several weeks, it was common for there to be a lot of wild and unrestrained incidents, which the authorities did not like. So around the 16th century Carnival started to be more regulated, with a series of fixed events that made up the official programme and were controlled by the institutions. This can be seen as the origin of the modern Carnival that is celebrated in Barcelona today. During the 19th century, largely due to the Industrial Revolution and as a result of the greater production and variety of textiles, the tradition of dressing up gained a new momentum, including more eye-catching and elaborate costumes and allowing more people to enjoy dressing up.

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