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Carnival in Barcelona

Carnival in Barcelona is a colorful and lively celebration that is held annually. Although Barcelona is not as well-known for its Carnival as some other Spanish cities like Sitges or Tenerife, it is still a fantastic experience for both locals and tourists. On this page, I’ll tell you how Carnival in Barcelona is celebrated and where to go for the most enjoyable Carnival parties.

Carnival the Spanish Way

Carnival (Carnestoltes in Catalan) is a festival to celebrate the beginning of Lent. The word “carnival” comes from the Latin “carne vale,” meaning “farewell to meat.” This marks the day before Ash Wednesday, which signals the start of Lent leading up to Easter.

The festivities usually begin around late February or early March, depending on the date of Easter. Traditionally, the Carnival celebration in Barcelona starts on Thursday, known as Dijous Gras (or Jueves Ladero in Spanish), and ends the following Wednesday, during Dimecres de Cendra (or Miércoles de Ceniza, Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of the fasting period).

How Carnival is celebrated in Barcelona

Carnival has a long tradition in Barcelona. Even in medieval times, Carnival was celebrated in Barcelona. Back then, Carnival was a time to let loose. For example, the tradition of throwing oranges (La Taronjada) originated in the 14th century.

Because the Carnival celebration in Barcelona has its own traditions, I’ve gathered the most important ones below.

Eating Rich Foods

Dijous Gras or Dijous Llarder (Fat Thursday) marks the beginning of a week that was formerly meant for eating a lot, and mainly, those things that would later be forbidden during Lent.

For this reason, during Carnival, people used to eat dishes high in animal fat such as botifarra d’ou (egg sausage), coca de llardons (a flat pastry cake made from eggs, sugar, pork cracklings – the llardons – and pine nuts) and truita de Dijous Gras (a well-filled omelette with beans and both white and black sausage).

You can find these products nowadays at the market and butcher shops.

Eating Sausage at Carnival
Eating Sausage at Carnival

Carnival Parades

One of the most striking traditions during Carnival in Barcelona is the Rúa de Carnaval, a colorful parade that winds through the city streets. During this parade, you’ll see people in the most extravagant and creative costumes, ranging from traditional Carnival attire to modern and humorous outfits. The parade is often accompanied by music, dance, and street performers, creating a festive atmosphere.

Fun fact: Carnival in Barcelona has a more family-friendly tone. For example, Carnival is celebrated in schools, and children dress up and go to school.

The Market in Barcelona During Carnival
The Market in Barcelona During Carnival

Carnival Parties

In addition to the parade, there are numerous other activities and events taking place during Carnival. From outdoor concerts and dance parties to Carnival markets and kid-friendly activities, there’s something for everyone.

Many bars and clubs also host special Carnival parties, where visitors can dance until the early hours of the morning. Don’t miss, for example, the Carnival party held annually at Monumental Club.

Barcelonians themselves enjoy celebrating Carnival in Sitges. In this small town near Barcelona, located by the beach and known for its gay scene, Carnival is a massive event.

Celebrating Carnival in Barcelona 2024

This year, Carnival will be celebrated in Barcelona from February 8th to February 14th, 2024. So if you’re in Barcelona, don’t forget to enjoy this festival! The main events during Carnival or Carnestoltes in Barcelona can be found below.

Thursday: Opening Ceremony

As tradition dictates, the start of the Carnival celebration is celebrated on Thursday in the center of Barcelona.

A parade will start at 6:30 PM from Rambla de Santa Mònica to Palau de la Virreina. Here, the arrival of the King Carnival, Rei Carnestoltes, and the Queen Carnival, Reina Belluga, will be celebrated, including the dance of the giants and the so-called “taronjada.” Finally, there is a masked dance, the “sarau de carnaval.”

It’s also a tradition to eat botifarra d’ou (egg sausage) during Dijous Gras (Fat Thursday). This is available at all markets and many butcher shops in the city.

In addition, various cooking competitions around the truita de Dijous Gras are organized in many community centers during Dijous Gras, alongside all kinds of tastings and feasts.

Truita de Dijous Gras
Truita de Dijous Gras

La Taronjada

La Taronjada is one of the most special moments of the carnival festival: a battle is held with orange balloons and confetti.

This year the Taronjada takes place in front of the Palau de la Virreina, after the opening ceremony.

Friday and Saturday: Carnival Parades

In Barcelona, various Carnival parades are held. Often, a large Carnival parade for the whole family is organized in each neighborhood. Children usually come dressed up, but adults do not.

Carnival Parades in Barcelona
Carnival Parades in Barcelona

Wednesday: Closing Ceremony

The end of the Carnival festivities is celebrated with the symbolic burial of sardines, the enterro de la Sardina, which signifies the beginning of the Lenten period.

On Dimecres de Cendra (Ash Wednesday), various parades are organized in the city to bury the sardine.

The symbolic burial of sardines can be seen, for example, at Plaça de la Barceloneta (at 5:00 PM) or at the Auditori de les Cotxeres de Sants (at 7:00 PM).

My tip: Consult the official website of the Barcelona City Council for the current program of the Carnival festivities and all parades.

These were my tips for celebrating Carnival in Barcelona. Have you ever celebrated this festival in Barcelona, and what did you think of it? Leave your comment below!

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Hello! My name is Marta, and I am a born and raised Barcelonian. I love introducing people to Barcelona, especially the Barcelona known to locals. In Barcelona, I am always looking for fun places and tips that I can then share with you, with the goal of helping you experience Barcelona like a local.

Marta Rubio

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