When: 25h February to 5th March 2014.
Where: Sitges, 35 km south of Barcelona.
Who would enjoy it?: Party goers, the curious, Latin music lovers and the gay community.
Price: Completely free.
There are few towns as small as Sitges that can host a world-famous carnival. This Costa Dorada destination manages to pull it off with aplomb, hosting the annual Sitges Carnival – an extravaganza of colour and hedonism that can rival any city’s celebrations. Sitges is just a 40-minute train ride away from Barcelona, and a great option for a day trip out of the city.
From 25th February to 5th March Barcelona’s small neighbour comes alive with a series of events that together attract around 300,000 people. Throngs of pleasure-seekers come to this small seaside town to experience what many claim is the most decadent and wild event of its kind in Europe.
But this is only the half of it. Since becoming a countercultural haven of tolerance during the otherwise grim Franco era, Sitges is now a mecca for the gay community. The Sitges carnival has become a highpoint on the international gay calendar and adds a unique flavour and sense of fun to the festivities.
So what can you expect from the Sitges Carnival?
Fun days and crazy nights! The carnival boasts a number of colourful parades with scantily clad revellers, outrageous costumes, street music, and bands. The largest of these, the Rua de la Disbauxa (the Parade of Debauchery) takes place on the Sunday afternoon and contains over 40 floats. The events are also known for being safe, a fact that is attributed to the fun-loving, inclusive atmosphere on which Sitges prides itself.
Another parade not to be missed is the Rua de l’Extermini (the Parade of Extermination) which is usually packed with drag queens mourning the symbolic end of the fun. This one is usually a little more raucous and is less suitable for little children as the crowds can get very hectic.
Other highlights during the Sitges Carnival include a fireworks display after the election of the carnival King and Queen, the children’s parades and in a slightly surreal finale on Ash Wednesday, an effigy of a sardine being buried on the beach. (Apparently this originates from the practice of giving up sardines for lent).
Timetable of events at the Sitges Carnival 2014
Thursday 27th February
‘Fatty Thursday’ or Jueves Lardero marks the beginning of the festivities and also a huge celebration of local cuisine such as xatonada (a type of cod salad). The Arrival of His Majesty Carnestoltes and the Carnival Queen also takes place – they head to the Town Hall and read out the Predicot or ‘Proclamation’ to the residents of Sitges.
Friday 8 February
His Majesty Carnestoltes, the Queen and their entourage do a tour of the town’s schools and institutions.
Saturday 9 February
The visits continue during the morning and there’s usually music in the streets and activities put on for children during the afternoon.
Tuesday 4th March
15:00 – Rua Infantil (children’s parade)
19:30 – Rua de l’Extermini (the parade of extermination)
Starting point: Cap de la Vila
Wednesday 5th March
19:00 – The Kings Funeral Procession
Starting point: Plaça Ajuntament
20:30 – Burial of the King
– Passeig de la Ribera (les Barques beach/plage de les Barques).
How to get to Sitges
The best way to get to Sitges from Barcelona is by train. There are frequent services from Passeig de Gràcia and the Estació de Sants – for specific information on train times and fares visit the website of Spain’s national rail company RENFE. To find out more about the event visit the town’s Tourist Information website.
Even if you’re heading to Catalunya for the Sitges Festival, it would be a shame if you don’t spend time in Barcelona. Choose an apartment in the district of Sants within walking distance of the trains to Sitges.