For one week in February every year, the streets of Sitges explode with dance, music, parades and parties for the Carnestoltes, known by most as the Sitges Carnival. The small beach town situated 35km away from Barcelona is filled with flamboyant feathers and colourful costumes, a tradition that has lasted for over 700 years to mark the start of Lent. Taking place this year from 28th-26th March, the Sitges Carnival will attract roughly 300,000 visitors, and is sure to give Rio a run for its money.
Legend has it that 700 years ago, a man named Carles de Can Torras died on Ash Wednesday. The people of Sitges have always remembered him, but somewhere along the line his name was misspelled, and over time he became known as Carnestoltes. The King of the Carnival is a fictional character based on this man, who opens the festival after his arrival into the town. After the wild behaviour and debauchery of the Carnival, he is tried and burnt on Tuesday, marking the end of the festival.
Sitges is well known for being a popular gay tourist destination and is famous for its open minded gay community. The Sitges Carnival offers a huge range of events, activities and nightlife for gay men and women. Check out the Gay Sitges Guide website and Facebook group for more information.
Over the week, look out for the Carnival’s most classic, tasty treat, the Catalan Xatonades. The dish combines a mouth watering mixture of frilly endive salad, anchovies, tuna and salted cod (bacallà) served with a xató sauce, made with almonds, hazelnuts and breadcrumbs.
Alternatively, branch out from the conventional Spanish paella and test your taste buds with the traditional Catalan Fideuà. The ingredients are predominantly the same as a paella, however in a fideuà, the rice is replaced by a stringy style pasta which is accompanied by a dollop of juicy aioli. For the ultimate fideuà restaurant experience look out for Abraxas ( meaning ‘hugs’ in Catalan!) on Paseo de la Ribera, but book your tables in advance!
|Thursday 28th Feb
(Lardy Thursday/ Mardis Gras!)
From La Fragata to town centre
|His Majesty Carnestoltes arrives in the town! He declares a week of unlimited fun and announces the beginning of the Carnival.|
|Sunday 3rd March||Rua Infantil
12:00Rua de la Debauxa
(Parade of Debauchery!) 19:30
both: Passeig de la Ribera
|The Parade of Debauchery welcomes around 150,000 visitors to watch the colourful procession of costumes, feathers, masks, floats, acrobats, dancers and other performers. The children’s parade is a tamer version of the evening event!|
|Rua de l’Extermini
Passeig de la Ribera
|Much the same as the Sunday Parade, expect an extravagant procession of loud music, wild performers and drag queens!|
|Wednesday 6th March||Enterrament de la Sardina
(Burial of the Sardine)
|In the final parade of the Carnival, the townspeople dress up and carry a huge Sardine in a funeral procession, symbolising a burial of the past and a new society to be reborn.|