Carnival time is a strange celebration at the end of winter and just before Lent when the world dresses up in extravagant clothing and goes wild. Perhaps the most famous carnivals take place in Brazil, Venice and Spain, with outlandish costumes, colourful shows, exotic dancing and heaps of fun!
Everyone knows that in Spain, everyone loves to party and ‘carnaval' is no different. It's traditionally known to be at its best in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, and in Cadiz, and we’re going to tell you why and what to do at carnival time there. We’ll also present you with two more lesser-known Spanish carnivals that are equally fascinating in their own right. Get your party clothes on and start planning your carnival now as we look at the best places to celebrate in 2020!
Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the Canary Islands
While every town in Spain has its own special carnival celebrations, nowhere does it better than the capital city of Tenerife. In fact, this carnival is so famous that the main day, Mardi Gras Tuesday, is televised live every year on national TV. So what makes the carnival of Tenerife so special?
It is by far the biggest of all the Carnivals in Spain, with every day of the carnival week in the city of Santa Cruz being filled up with special events, activities, marching bands and other musicians in the streets. There are lots of parades with floats, dancers and costume competitions, while the neighbouring island of Gran Canaria is worth a visit for its world-famous Drag Queen competition.
The theme for this year’s 2020 carnival in Santa Cruz de Tenerife is ‘The 50s’, and the festivities are set to run from 19th February to 1st March. This year's theme was chosen by the public via an internet poll and won 25% of the votes.
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The province of Cadiz on Andalusia’s Costa de la Luz is famous for sunny beaches and excellent surfing where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea. The provincial capital, the city of Cadiz, has historical links with Italy, specifically Genoa, and a large Italian population, so its famous carnival mimics that of the Italians.
The whole town, children and adults alike, dresses up in fancy dress so if you visit Cadiz in carnival don’t be the only one left out who’s not wearing a costume. The Carnaval de Cadiz dates for 2020 are from 20th February to 1st March, with the festival being opened by Spain’s favourite musician, Joaquín Sabina. Expect music, comedy, street performances and parade floats galore.
The Galician people have their own culture, language and insular traditions, which make their carnivals different from the usual celebrations found in the rest of the world. In Galicia, the carnaval is known as an entroido and is most famous in cities like Verín, Ourense, Vigo, Pontevedra and A Coruña.
Mixing Christian traditions with pagan customs, the entroidos are characterised by groups of people running around in costumes, typically with hats depicting animal motifs and loud bells on their butts that jingle when they move. They proceed to hit people in the streets with sticks and/or vegetables if they don’t get out the way. It truly is a sight to behold before you move on to the more mainstream street processions and musical performances.
Last but by no means least, this town in Catalonia is a great option if you want to discover an alternative and lively sort of Spanish carnival in 2020. This small, picturesque town just south of Barcelona has fewer than 30,000 inhabitants, yet gets over 250,000 visitors each year for its Carnaval de Sitges.
The huge popularity of the Sitges Carnival is mainly due to its reputation as one of the best gay cities in Spain, with its many gay bars and discos being a huge tourist attraction. This LGBTQ+ atmosphere is at its best in the fancy dress parades around the city on Sunday 23rd February and on Mardi Gras on Tuesday 25th February 2020, with a children’s parade earlier in the day and one for the adults in the evening of both days.