Sitges Carnival 2020
February 18 - February 26
Glittering parades march along the beachfront whilst happy crowds of up to 300,000 merrymakers cheer them on in fancy dress. No matter that this is in the chilly middle of February – everyone is here to have a great time. Welcome to Carnival!
Carnival (or ‘Carnaval’ in Spanish), is a week-long period to let off steam before the 40-day period of Lent begins, when best behaviour and discipline are expected. Spain’s Carnaval parties are decidedly the opposite of disciplined, and are essentially a 7-day celebration of excess – all done in fancy dress.
Carnaval week here is nothing short of exuberant – expect lots of feathers, glitter, and tiny outfits.
The biggest and best Carnaval party around Barcelona is actually in Sitges, a beachside town about a 40 minute train ride away from the Catalan capital. Sitges is famously tolerant, and is home to a large gay community, and Carnaval week here is nothing short of exuberant – expect lots of feathers, glitter, and tiny outfits.
Sunday and Tuesday are the two biggest parade days in Sitges, with the fun kicking off at 8pm. Trains and buses can get crowded, so plan ahead to get there for the start. If you miss the beginning, don’t fret – the party will go all night long, at the very least.
There are parties in Barcelona itself as well, though the city council focuses more on the traditional aspects of the celebration rather than the debauchery. Neighbourhoods put on local parades and activities, typically through the civic centre. There are lots of food-centred events, and traditional dishes like Spanish omelette, butifarra sausages, and grilled sardines are served.
Let’s take a more concrete look at what’s going to happen in 2020…
Sitges Carnival Schedule: Events & Parades
Every day of Carnaval is a non-stop party basically, with parades, costume contests and lots and lots of dancing (and drinking), but here are some of the highlights:
Fat Thursday (20th Feb)
The Carnaval King (or “Rei Carnestoltes” to the Catalans) makes his big arrival on Fat Thursday to mark the official start of the party. This day is all about eating, drinking, and dancing before Lent starts – so get ready to have a sinfully good time.
The Bed Race (22nd Feb)
At noon on the Saturday, the Cursa Llits Disfressats (Dressed-up Bed Race) takes place, in which participating teams in crazy costumes and roll their similarly dressed-up bed around the city streets. Their are trophies for both speed and entertainment, and overall it’s a fun spectacle.
Debauchery Parade (23rd Feb)
Sunday is marked by the somewhat self-explanatory Debauchery Parade (‘Rua de la Disbauxa’), which kicks off at 7:30pm with floats trawling along the beach promenade before heading into Sitges’ medieval streets. In terms of partying this is the second wildest night of the festival!
Extermination Parade (25th Feb)
Shrove Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras, and Fat Tuesday, is the biggest celebration of Carnival, and the final night before Lent officially begins – in others words the last chance for everyone to go crazy until Easter. In Sitges it is marked by the Extermination Parade (Rua de l’Extermini), with around 50 floats and 10,000s of revellers, ending on the beachfront. The parade starts at 9pm.
This is the best night to attend Carnival, and if you want to join from Barcelona, then you can either catch the train independently, or go with Stoke Travel and lots of other international party people.
Stoke organise a meet up beforehand with private bar (where you can also pimp your outfit with props and face paint), then take you via convenient coach transport to Sitges, where there’s yet more sangria and good times to be had. Book your space on their website. As you can see from the video, their team knows how to have fun…
Ash Wednesday (26th Feb)
Things come to a close when the King is “killed”, along with a large procession, on Ash Wednesday. Afterwards, “widows” dressed in black mourn the death of the festivities and bury the Carnaval sardine. At the Sitges celebrations, the widows are often very glamorous drag queens!
Do people really dress up (and by “people”, I mean grown-ups)?
Yes! It’s not only for kids, especially at the Sitges Carnaval, and all types of outfits are seen. Some choose to go in their regular clothing plus a mask; others go in hardly any clothing except the mask. You’ll see silly group costumes, sultry getups inspired by Brazilian Carnival and people dressed as celebrities or comic book characters.
Bear in mind it won’t be that warm, so Chewbacca might be a better outfit than Leia’s gold bikini.
Many students get together and dress the same, or along the same theme. So you might see a whole troop of Flintstones, superheroes or bankrobbers in Dali masks (from Spanish hit TV series, La Casa del Papel).
Think Halloween-style fancy dress, minus the gory bit. And do bear in mind it won’t be that warm, so Chewbacca might be a better outfit than Leia’s gold bikini.
Where can I stay in Sitges? How do I get there?
We have a handy article with a bit more info on visiting Sitges, including a couple of accommodation recommendations if you fancy staying during Carnival.
For those who are staying in Barcelona, there will be extra buses and trains running for the festivities. Check the latest schedule information on Monbus.cat (bus) and Renfe.com (train). Keep in mind that they’ll almost certainly be packed, particularly the first buses and trains heading back to back to Barcelona in the morning.
On the Mardi Gras itself (the 25th Feb, aka Fat Tuesday), you also have the option of taking a coach with Stoke Travel, as we mentioned, for the Extermination Parade. This takes the headache out of getting to and from the party, plus introduces you to a large group of insta-amigos! Read more here.
Barcelona Carnival: Schedule & Events
As we mentioned, Carnaval in Barcelona is a little tamer than down the road in Sitges, but here are a couple of fun events to attend…
Fat Thursday (20th Feb)
Dijous Gras, as its called in Catalonia is all about food, and that’s when local communities will share their communal meals.
Las Ruas (22nd Feb)
Saturday is parade day in the city, so keep your eye out for The Carnival King’s parade, as well as smaller processions in the local districts.
La Taronjada (23rd Feb)
La Taronjada, inspired by a battle where oranges were thrown, is gleefully celebrated in Barcelona on the Passeig de Picasso on the Sunday of Carnaval. Instead of actual oranges, revellers now fling orange-coloured balloons and confetti into the air. Much less painful!
Meanwhile, if you’d rather delve into the debauched side of Carnaval in Barcelona, lots of the city’s bars and clubs will be putting on Carnaval parties.