Spain is a country with a well known Catholic tradition. The carnival is, therefore, celebrated before the 40 days of Lent as a way to let loose before the prohibitions of the upcoming religious holidays. Most Andalucian towns stage a parade, and a dance and a "Carnival Queen" and other singing contests.
The Carnival traditionally centres around Shrove Tuesday, which is exactly 47 days before Easter Sunday.
- 2020 February 25th
When is the Carnival?
Most towns celebrate the carnival with processions either the weekend before or after shrove Tuesday. Cities and larger towns have festivities lasting all week and over two weekends. Some villages celibrate the carnival at the weekend two or even three weekend later. The most important is the Cadiz Carnival which lasts about ten days. Cadiz Carnival dates and info.
The carnival is a "fiesta of the people". It is a reaction against abstentions and prohibitions of all types. Just submerging yourself in the carnival celebrations is enough to make you feel the dramatic break with social order that carnival goers achieve. It is also an opportunity to let go of all inhibitions and to help out in this department, everyone is encouraged to wear masks and fancy dress.
Hardly surprisingly, during the Spanish Civil War, General Franco abolished the Carnival in rebel areas. And after the war, of course, there was still much opposition to the Carnival, so Franco abolished it once again from 1937.However, in true Spanish style, the celebrations continued in Cadiz and some other towns namely; Ayamonte, Isla Cristina, Fuentes de Andalucia, Trabujena, Benamahoma.
Where is the Carnival?
In the province of Cadiz; Cadiz city and the towns of Rota, San Fernando, Chiclana, Algeciras, Medina-Sidonia and Trebujena all have lavish carnivals. Isla Cristina and Ayamonte, are also famous for their elaborate costumes and excitement, drawing visitors from throughout the region and Portugual as well.
The town of Pedrera in Seville province is known for its carnival with the entire village dressing up on Ash Wednesday for the traditional "burial of the sardine". Other Seville province towns known for their carnival celebrations are: Alcalá de Guadaíra, Carmona, Coria del Rio, Dos Hermanas, Fuentes de Andalucía and Gines. Check with their town hall culture departments for information on the upcoming festivities.
Almost all towns and villages in Andalucia celebrate the carnival, but less so than in Cadiz and Sevilla provinces. More so in the cities than the villages
What to see
For more detailed information on what to see read our detailed Cadiz Carnival guide.
Carnival is the biggest event in Cadiz's calendar, and the most important of its type on mainland Spain, just as the Feria is for Seville. People flood in from all over Spain, and beyond, to enjoy… More →
The singing competition (COAC, Concurso Official de Agrupaciones Carnavalescas) is the central event of the pre-Carnaval, with four types of groups taking part - chirigotas, choros, cuartetos and… More →
There are several types of singing groups and songs at the Carnaval. They perform both at the theatre in the official competition, and also on the street. All wear fancy dress.
Obviously, the programme varies from year to year, but you can take this as a rough guide to what happens on which day of the Carnaval. Check local press and websites for up-to-date information.… More →
Carnival in the cities and towns
Read our outline about carnivals in the cities of Andalucia.
As one of Spain's major ports during the 16th century, Cadiz copied the carnival of Venice, a city with which it had much trade, and since then it has become the liveliest and most dazzling… More →
The city of Seville is known to dedicate February to carnival celebrations with all the usual song and dance performances. A well known savings bank always brings in the top performing Carnival… More →
The Huelva carnival is one of the biggest in Andalucia and is known as the Columbian Carnival, in honour of Christopher Columbus, who sailed from Huelva to discover the New World. The Huelva… More →
The City of Jaen organises a full calendar of carnival events. This is a carnival with six centuries of history behind it with a man named Condestable Iranzo credited with founding the events in… More →
The city of Córdoba has a recipe all its own when it comes to the carnival. Whereas it is common to elect a King and Queen of the carnival, in Córdoba history is honoured with the selection of a… More →
The Granada Carnival, along with those of the provincial towns, are among the least publicised, but they do take place. The festival usually lasts about a week in the provincial capital and starts… More →