Page ContentA Background to Carvival in Barcelona and Catalunya.
Throughout the world, Shrove Tuesday is a date known by Christians to fall forty days before Easter Sunday. It symbolises the start of Lent - a period of forty days in the run up to Easter in which Christians have traditionally shown abstinence from their vices, whatever they may be. Since I was a small girl Lent has always been the only forty days of the year when I have not consumed chocolate daily with an impressive dedication. Therefore, Shrove Tuesday is my last opportunity to munch down as many high quality cocoa solids as humanly possible before the fast begins!
This is the whole idea of Shrove Tuesday, Carnival, Mardi Gras or Carnestoltes - whatever you may choose to call it. It is one last blowout party before the period of suffering and will-power (or lack of it) begins. In the UK this is celebrated by clearing out the pantry of all things tasty and making pancakes. In Spain it is celebrated, of course, with a fiesta!
The fun begins on 'Fat Thursday' ('Jueves Ladero') 03 March and ends the following Wednesday with a traditional ceremony in which sardines are buried to symbolise the beginning of the fast.
Depending on the town or city, different places have their major party on different days (see below for more details). However, there is often a large street parade known as the Gran Rua de Carnaval on the Saturday of the celebrations.
It is worth noting that Carnival is a particularly exciting time in Catalunya as celebrations were banned under the rule of Franco. So, since the end of his dictatorship in 1980 people have been making up for all of those years without a carnival.
Carnival in Barcelona: Dates, Times and Locations
Barcelona's carnival is often said to be eclipsed by other fiestas during this period. Therefore, those who plan on really experiencing the fiesta may wish to make a train journey to somewhere out of town.
However, celebrations will still be taking place in Barcelona city centre. The exact plans for carnival have not yet been announced by Barcelona council.Last year the main event took place in Poble Nou. It involved floats, dancers, costumes and music in a procession through the street.
If you are in Barcelona during carnival period it is also worth keeping an eye out for more local celebrations. As is often the case with fiestas in Barcelona, events are organised locally by the barrios. Also, due to the fact that much of the celebrations surround food, many markets organise tortilla-making competitions. They also decorate the market areas.
Carnival in Sitges: Dates, Times and Locations
Sitges is often called the gay capital of Europe. Therefore, it is well qualified to throw one of the largest parties during a fiesta famed for sequins, feathers and fun. From 03 March - 09 March celebrations will be taking place in this seaside town. Despite the fact that it is often called the 'Gay Carnival', straights and gays alike will enjoy the debauchery and fun.
A character called the Carnival King often leads carnival celebrations. This character arrives on the Thursday (03 March) and marks the beginning of the festivities. On the following Wednesday (09 March) a large procession takes place in which the Carnival King is killed - symbolising the end to the fun. This is a particularly lavish spectacle in Sitges, where glamorous widows and drag queens dressed in black come to mourn the death of the party.
You can take a train from Barcelona to Sitges from both Estacio Sants and Passeig de Gràcia. Trains leave every 10 to 20 minutes, starting at 05:45 and ending with the last train at 00:06. It takes 30 to 45 minutes depending on which train you take. Please check timetables to be sure you don't miss your last train home.
Carnival in Tarragona: Dates, Times and Locations
Tarragona is a city to the South of Barcelona. It is renowned for having one of the most traditional and impressive Carnivals. The rituals include the building of a large barrel that is placed at the centre of the main square in the city. The carnival is officially over when the barrel is filled with effigies of the King and Queen of the Festival and set alight.
Trains to Tarragona leave from Estacio Sants. The trip takes close to one hour with trains starting at 05:48 until 22:20. The last train for your return journey to Barcelona leaves at 23:04 for those who want to return home the same day. Trains run roughly every 40 minutes to an hour and costs vary. Please check timetables to be sure you don't miss your last train home.
Carnival in Vilanova i la Geltru: Dates, Times and Locations
Vilanova i la Geltru is renowned for being one of the only areas where Franco's ban on carnival was defied. For this reason, the small town that is between Sitges and Tarragona is one of the most popular destinations for Carnival. This, and its famous sweet throwing wars! These involve children (and some brave adults) taking to the streets armed with sweets and meringues and taking part in a large street fight.
Vilanova i la Geltru is a small town to the south of Barcelona just down the coast from Sitges. You can take a train from Barcelona to Vilanova i la Geltru from both Estacio Sants and Passeig de Gràcia. Trains leave every 10 to 20 minutes starting at 05:45 and ending with the last train at 00:06. It takes 35 to 45 minutes depending on which train you take. Please check timetables to be sure you don't miss your last train home.
Carnival in Torello: Dates, Times and Locations
Torello is a small town in the North of Barcelona that is also very popular during the Carnival period. The big night here is on 'Fat Thursday' 03 March. The night is known as for its exciting costumes and air of mischief.
You can take a train to Torello leaving from Barcelona's Estacio Sants. The train takes approximately one and a half hours starting at 06:01 and leaving in quite sporadic intervals throughout the day (every 1 to 2 hours) with the last train leaving Barcelona at 20:12. Please check timetables to be sure you don't miss your last train home.