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.
Six 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. With that in mind the Ajuntament (City Hall) brought back 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; the Fuegos Antiguos fireworks show, just after the Arrival of Carnival (Thu 23, 5.45pm), when His Majesty officially gets the party started; and the King's ambassadors, who represent the seven historical villas of the city: Magòria, Sol de Baix, Tres Torres, Camp d’en Grassot, the Horta laundries, Sant Genís dels Agudells, Fabra i Coats and Clot de la Mel.
'Fat Thursday' is the first day of the Carnival cycle, when the King of Carnival (Carnestoltes) makes his triumphant entrance into Barcelona with 'l'Arribo' (The Arrival), the central event of the Barcelona Carnival festivities. The big party involves the King and his Court: the Prime Minister, the Seven Ambassadors with their attachés, musicians, flag bearers, the Barcelona Carnival giants Rodanxó and Rodanxona and more revellers. The parade will be received in Plaça Sant Jaume, and at 5.45pm the party starts with Frank-i-fals, the King's prime minister, who gets things underway. At 6pm the parade of the Seven Ambassadors sets off from the Palau de la Virreina, and they're accompanied by their entourage and the Carnival giants. They head along through various spaces in the Barri Gòtic until they get to Plaça Sant Jaume, where the King proclaims his reign over the week of abandon.
More than 30 parades and processions will be winding through Barcelona's neighbourhoods on Saturday the 25th during Carnival. Huge floats, troupes of players and over-the-top costumes – all choreographed and starring locals of each neighbourhood, organisations and associations from around the city – transforming the streets into one big celebration.
The spirit of Carnival is felt around the world at least once a year. And the Joves Trans (Trans Youth) of Barcelona are organising Queernestoltes ('Carnestoltes' is the fictional king of Carnival) at the CSO La Vaina with vegetarian tapas, alcohol-free bar service, music with DJ Marikarmen Free, and contemporary dance from Eloi Martín. Everyone's invited to dress up in costume as well.
The Carnival parties put on by the ladies at Melon are always memorable, with loads of costumes and plenty of fun. If you go along in costume you can participate in the special contest where top prize gets you an all-expenses-paid weekend at La Melon Hotel. There's also a second prize and a group prize. On hand to play music all night are DJ Coco with a personal selection of hits from the past and the present, and DJ Noe Gy, who dedicates her session to electronic music.
Give free rein to all your most animal instincts at the Carnival party organised by the queerest and most intergalactic crew in town, La Ká. The dance floor will be all claws, howling, fur and feathers bubbling to the sound of the best tracks from DJs Pinderelle, Muerta Sánchez, Bazara Lemur and guest DJ Rajah. There will be a costume contest, and Dino Real will perform.
It might seem like Carnival all year round at La Federica, but they also do celebrate it when it rolls around on everyone else's calendar. Why say no to an extra party, after all? This Saturday the guys at La Federica soak up the spirit of the Village People's song 'In the Navy', hoping to draw in loads of sexy sailors, dominant captains and handsome cabin boys. DJs Scandaniel and Bitchy Catalán play the best current hits of nu-disco, early-21st-century house, and divas of the '90s.
The Panteres Grogues (Yellow Panthers) Carnival parties are known for their ace decorations, spectacular costumes and artists that they bring in. This year the theme is '2001: A Space Odyssey', so head over in your best galactic gear. The prize for best costume is a cruise in June! At the decks are Pam Poom, Chica B, B Jones and Onemore_DJ (Pedro Marin) in the big hall, and Gerard Serra in the smaller hall.
This Carnival's most exotic and spectacular party takes place in the sumptuous Tibidabo-adjacent Villa Hispanoárabe that dates back to 1895, and is the residence of antiques expert Celestino Dupont. Throughout the evening, which is inspired by the famous Eastern masquerade dance from Alexis de Redé in Paris, you'll see many surprises, including performances of Eastern dances from Madame Hiroshima, a dancer with the Bollywood school Club Masala; the muse of Kriminal Kabarett Lady Bon Bon; and Gustavo Corral of Dancing Ganesh.
This free costume party to celebrate Carnival invites you to dress up for the occasion however you like. Your host Vincent Valentine and Craft Barcelona bring you a special night of live music, games and prizes (including for best costume), and fun and dancing all night long, accompanied by Craft Barcelona's tasty beers and tapas, also available at the bar.
One Sunday a month, Apolo hosts the Barcelona Jazz Orquestra with its popular and lively Jazz & Swing evenings. This Sunday is no exception, but to coincide with the Carnival celebrations, head over in costume to do some non-stop lindy hop dancing to jazz, from standards from the likes of Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie to more popular tunes from Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder.
Here's a big Carnival party for fans of local music, backed by a favourite in these parts, Love of Lesbian. Last year Carnapop was in Madrid, and now the mini festival is in Barcelona. Opening the night is an enigmatic band making their first live appearance: Puto is an impossible mix between Def Con Dos and Los Ganglios. Up next are Los Niños Imantados – Love of Lesbian's Carnival alter ego – with some surprises you don't normally get in the band's usual repertoire. Rounding out the night are Ultraplayback and their wild dancing.
The Club Natació Barcelona swimming club celebrates Carnival in its own way, with an Open Doors day for members and non-members alike and a series of free masterclasses that start with Aquagym and line dancing at 11am, followed by more line dancing (6pm) and finishing up with a session of aerobics (7pm). And if you come along in costume, you get a free gift.
In the cultural centre La Armonía, which is part of Fabra i Coats, this year's Carnival is dedicated to remembering and re-creating the anti-repression era – not just the repression of instincts but also social repression, heteropatriarchal repression, the repression experienced by refugees, and all repressions that don't allow us to live free. The party starts with a speech to kick it off at 10.30pm, followed by María Vera's cabaret show 'It Girl Betty Show' at 11pm, and dancing with NuevoDjnuevo at the decks afterwards.
In 1919 the doors opened at Comercial Bolsera, Barcelona's go-to shop for party decorations, gifts, costumes and more, located in the Raval. In 2000 the name changed but the spirit stayed the same: party packs live alongside wrapping paper and bows, as do decorations and materials for crafts. It's hard to leave here empty-handed.
On both sides of C/Torrent de l'Olla there's a small emporium dedicated to the world of party decorations and costumes. But the beginnings of El Relámpago, established in the 1940s, had more to do with pyrotechnics (thus its name, which means Lightning). You'll find it all here, from table settings for Christmas to balloons and gift bags for birthdays, and Halloween/Carnaval costumes and accessories.
Since 2001, Atucom has dedicated itself to selling and renting costumes and accessories for theatre, cinema and TV, but it's also a place of great pilgrimage for big dates on the calendar that require fancy dress – Carnaval and Halloween. If you're looking for a made-to-order costume, ask for a measurement and an estimate.
At once enchanting and disturbing, El Ingenio's handcrafted toys, tricks and costumes are reminders of a pre-digital world where people made their own entertainment. Its cabinets are full of practical jokes and curious toys; its fascinating workshop produces the oversized heads and garish costumes used in Barcelona's traditional festivities.
This veteran costume shop sells party favours, Christmas decorations and fireworks. At E Carnaval, kids and adults alike will find costume and accessories perfect for any fancy dress parties or events they're going to, whether it's Carnaval, Halloween or a themed birthday party.
A place where you can find what you need to change a bathroom tap, buy a lamp for the living room, pick up a new shower curtain or a set of knives, and lose yourself among metres and metres of ready-made costumes and material to make your own. Servei Estació isn't just a dream space for those handy around the house, but also a shop where every member of the family can find what they need for whatever activity or hobby they're into.