To welcome Carnival to Barcelona, head to La Rambla in your finest costumes. Theatre group Comediants are once again in charge of 'l'Arribo' (The Arrival), as they perform for Their Majesties Belluga and Tòtil Tocatdelala – as well as for all of us. The Royal Court heads out from in front of Arts Santa Mònica, with the Rambla 'capgrossos' (bigheads), the grotesque emperors of the European courts of Comediants, the Carnival Royal Orchestra, the Gegants Vells from the Casa de la Caritat, and the musicians Ganxets. The parade heads up La Rambla, and, dancing and singing, they all arrive at the Palau de la Virreina, where the proclamation is read and the 'taronjada' battle of confetti and fireworks explodes.
Between the 16th and early 17th centuries, Barcelona's Carnival was one of the tops in all of Europe – more for its wild reputation than for its roots in tradition – but all that disappeared under Franco. When the city started celebrating again, it was with bits borrowed from Brazil, all leggy and sequinned, as if Barcelona had forgotten that Brazil initially imported Carnival from here, and not the other way round. Eight years ago, Barcelona decided to bring back its historical and traditional Carnival, with all its glorious satire, dancing and costumes, and especially encouraging the participation of all.
Fat Thursday (Feb 28), the first day of Carnival, sees a big party taking to the streets of the city. As the tradition dictates, Their Majesties Belluga and Tòtil Tocatdelala will make their triumphal entrance at sunset with the Arrival of Carnival at 6pm on La Rambla near Arts Santa Mònica. You'll also see the theatre troupe Comediants in charge of a collective show featuring a festive flavour, masks and plenty of colour. The parade gets underway and heads up to the Palau de la Virreina, from where the King and Queen's ambassadors (who represent the seven historical villas of the city) proclaim their reign for a week of rampant abandon. After the parade, it's time to prepare for the 'taronjada', an innocent 'battle' between the Carnival players and the public of orange balloons and confetti, recalling the actual oranges that were once thrown as far back as the 14th century, and then the first Carnival soirée kicks off!