Spain is a country that knows how to party and given the enormous influence that the Catholic Church has in Spain, carnival is celebrated nationwide! The most famous and hedonistic carnival celebrations in Spain are Cadiz, Sitges and the ones in the Canary Islands.
Every town and village in Spain has it’s own unique carnival celebrations but it doesn’t matter where you celebrate carnival because they are all devoted to ensuring you have the time of your life!
What is carnival in Spain?
Carnival festival in Spain is like most carnival celebrations around the world and closely tied to the Christian observance of Lent. Lent is a period of fasting and sacrifice for the 40 days prior to Easter.
When is Carnival in Spanish?
One thing that you must know about carnival is that it is unpredictable! Carnival usually is the few days or weeks prior to Ash Wednesday when you can let loose, drink and party a lot. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of forty days of Lent that ends on Easter.
Therefore, because carnival is tied to Easter, just like Easter the dates will vary and change from year to year. For sure carnival will take place during February or early March.
Have a look at some of the awesome places in Spain to celebrate carnival:
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
What is carnival in Tenerife?
The Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival is Europe’s biggest party! Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival is a month-long carnival celebration that takes place in Santa Cruz, the capital city of Tenerife, in the Spanish Canary Islands. Tenerife Carnival is attended by about 200,000 people.
Because Tenerife sits closer to Africa than Europe it has beautiful warm weather during carnival season. It is more like the carnival celebrations you will see in Brazil with beauty pageants, carnival royalty contests, colourful flamboyant street parades, incredible costumes, floats, free music shows, dances and wild 24/7 street parties.
Find out more: Read our essential guide to the Tenerife Carnival
What is carnival in Sitges?
Sitges is a small city that sits a quick half an hour train ride south of Barcelona. This city that sits on the Mediterranean Sea hosts one amazing carnival celebration that is attended by about 300,000 people every year. Sitges is also a LGBTQ hot spot who have made this carnival celebration one of the wildest parties in Spain.
That’s right, Sitges Carnival is not for the faint of heart and is full of wild street parties, a drag queen show, amazing parades, and so much more. Sitges Carnival is all about lack of inhibition and lots of merrymaking.
Read our Ultimate Guide to Sitges Carnival here.
What is carnival in Cadiz?
Cadiz is a coastal city in Andalusia, in southern Spain. Cadiz throws a unique carnival because here carnival is not about glittering costumes and elaborate floats. Cadiz Carnival is all about humour, wit, satire and criticism. Cadiz Carnival even features free sea urchin tasting. It is one of the most popular carnivals not just in Spain but in Europe.
Entertainment in Cadiz carnival is all about the music and the streets are flooded with unique singing groups in costume who compete for prizes with irony laced songs usually aimed at politicians, celebrities and well-known community members. There is also an incredible firework display and non-stop parties.
Find out more: Read our Essential Guide to Cadiz Carnival
What is carnival in Madrid?
Madrid, Spain’s capital city also hosts a carnival celebration every season. Each district of Madrid hosts their own events which include costumed parades with floats, street parties, live music shows, black tie masquerade balls and plenty of family friend events. Madrid’s gay neighbourhood the Chueca district is where most of the party action can be found.
Carnival Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
What is carnival in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria?
Las Palmas is another Canary Islands carnival, but it has a slightly different take on carnival. Las Palmas Carnival is actually one of the oldest and most traditional carnivals on the Canary Islands which dates back to the 15th century.
The carnival commemorates the ‘indianos’ which is the name for the locals who emigrated to the Americas and then returned home after becoming rich. The local residents wear white clothing and talcum powder. There is plenty of music, street parades, street parties, costumes, floats, dances and more.
The carnival is held right on the beach and with the beautiful warm weather it’s one of the best locations in Spain to celebrate carnival. The carnival closes with the traditional Burial of the Sardine.
Find out more: Read our Guide to the Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Carnival
What is carnival in Aguilas?
Aguila is a coastal town in the region of Murcia, in the southeast of Spain. It is the biggest in the area and is a time when the whole town comes out to celebrate.
It was even declared to be a festival of International Tourism Interest in 2015. The Aguilas Carnival features three main parades, shows and even a national drag queen contest. The carnival begins with the release of a half animal, half human called Mussona and some wild all-night street parties.
Find out more: Read our Guide to Aguilas Carnival
What is carnival in Barcelona?
Barcelona isn’t known for carnival and that is because the Catalan Capital celebrates it in its own way. Every district has its own carnival celebrations. The celebrations in El Born are usually the biggest and features a unique drag queen, horse and carriage parade and live concerts.
Another neighbourhood worth checking out is La Taronjada which hosts the Battle of the Oranges. Unlike the Battle of Oranges in Italy they don’t use real oranges and instead use orange balloons filled with confetti! Barcelona however does host one big parade each carnival year that is worth checking out. The venue changes every year, but it usually takes place on carnival Saturday.
What is carnival in Aviles?
Aviles is in north central Spain in the region of Asturias. The city’s carnival celebration is smaller compared to some of the others around Spain but it’s still a worthy competitor. It is filled with music, parties, floats, costumes and dance. They are known for their sidra tart and they also close their carnival celebration with a burial of the sardine.
El Carnaval del Toro, Ciudad Rodrigo (The Bull Carnival)
What is carnival in Ciudad Rodrigo?
Ciudad Rodrigo Carnival combines carnival with one of Spain’s traditions – bullfighting. Ciudad Rodrigo Carnival is different to any other carnival you will find in Spain. There are no parades and no colourful costumes instead there is a bullfight event that the whole public is invited to.
What is carnival in Mundaka?
This carnival which takes place in this Basque town is a little unique and filled with tradition and myth. Here the men and women participate in separate carnival traditions.
The men go out in the morning to parade, whilst wearing white and the women parade in the evening and wear black clothing. They are accompanied by violin players, accordions and tambourines while songs are sung about events that occurred in the village that year.
What is carnival in Vinaros?
This Valencian town in the Mediterranean coast celebrates one of Spain’s most famous carnivals. The carnival begins twelve days before Ash Wednesday. It hosts a famous flour battle, carnival queen competitions, lots of parades, cultural and sporting activities and it has a big gastronomic focus.
What is carnival in Bielsa?
The Bielsa Carnival which takes place in the heart of the Pyrenees hosts a very traditional carnival celebration that has been faithful to that tradition for centuries. What’s unique about this celebration is that instead of the focus being merrymaking it is actually the opposite and the focus is on provoking fear.
Locals dress up in their carnival characters which include the ‘tranags’ which are creatures that look like devils and carry long sticks to shake and shake their cowbells in search for ‘madamas’, who is another carnival character that wears dresses and colourful ribbons. Then there is the Amontato who is an elderly woman that gets ridden by a man. At the end of carnival, they sacrifice a giant puppet called Cornelio.