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.
Seven 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 Arrival of Carnival (Thu 8, 5.30pm), 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. This year the king is Tòtil Tocatdelala, and he arrives with theatre group Comediants, who have prepared a collective show based on colour, the festival and masks, and you can follow them throughout the afternoon and evening on February 8 in Plaça Sant Jaume and surrounding areas. At 5.30pm the King's Court sets out, including the Prime Minister, the Seven Ambassadors with their attachés, musicians, flag bearers, the Barcelona Carnival giants Rodanxó and Rodanxona and more revellers. At 6pm, you can don your colourful mask that they're giving out in the square, and at 6.30pm welcome the King and his Seven Ambassadors, each one representing a colour and one of the seven deadly sins.
Carnival does have its traditional and fundamental elements, and among them are the famous parades and processions that wind through Barcelona's neighbourhoods. 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 – transform the streets into one big celebration.
It's become tradition that the weekend after Carnival is the Ravalstoltada, the most emblematic costume party in the Old City that celebrates its 15th edition this year. Businesses, associations, collectives, and residents of the Raval neighbourhood take to the streets to show off the different cultures and faces of the neighbourhood with a big party. Things kick off at 1pm with a neighbourhood paella lunch. Then at 4pm, groups gather in the Plaça de Folch i Torres for a 4.30pm start to the parade, which heads along the Rambla del Raval, as well as the following streets: Hospital, La Rambla, Nou de la Rambla, Sant Oleguer, Sant Pau and Reina Amalia, ending up where it set off. In the same spot, from the end of the parade, the Ravalstoltada comes to an end with a big 'batucada' drum performance.
The most fattening party with the cheesiest fun in all of Barcelona, which has become a monthly can't-miss date on the calendar for the LGBTI community and friends, celebrates its own Carnival party in Sala Apolo. For the event Churros con Chocolate puts on its Carnival del Amor, with a lush line-up featuring Dolo in concert, Chico Malo (Jordi Cruz), Viaixa, HAL9000, Boytronique, and Dynamische. Because at Churros, as in life, there's no reason to cry, because life is a carnival!
POPair's Carnival party is back, and with it comes the POPair gang's favourite tradition: put a beard on the most diva-like divas on the face of the earth. This time the victims are slightly less diva but more traditional – the couple from the painting 'American Gothic'. The big fiesta features Astrud and Mr. K at the decks, with Albertoto as your Master of Ceremonies. And there will be a costume contest with juicy prizes of €100, €200 and €300 cash money for those who dare to show off their sexiest sides of their anatomy. Expect big beardy fun for Carnival at Metro!
The Panteres Grogues (Yellow Panthers) are back to liven up this Carnival season with their 'Game Over' theme, where LGBTI video games and fantasy work together to come up with the sexiest, most camp, wildest and most kitsch creations in the known universe. In Tango's Sala 1, you'll hear the most current hits courtesy of DJs Ari Korrales, Banana Laser, and The Florettes, while in Sala 2 you can dance to the best tracks from the '70s and '80s with DJ Pam Pool and the Dramas de Honor, and TvMnstr and Mr. K put the cherry on the top of the night with electro-pop and house. Get your costume ready, and go as Super Mario, Pac-Man, a Space Invader, Sonic, a Tetris piece... Plan it well because there are prizees for the best costumes in the categories of men, women and group.
Taste some local flavour with this double bill. The new album from Achilifunk, considered by many to be geniuses of 21st-century Catalan rumba, is called 'X Peteneras' and is a collaboration with Catalan rapper El Gordo del Puru. The present the album in an unusual format they call Carnaval Rap·ublican, and you'll also be treated to underground hip hop from the Homes Llúdriga.
Rachel Arieff's Anti-Karaoke nights are legendary in Barcelona, so just imagine what the Carnival edition will be like. Arieff kicked off the party 12 years ago in Sidecar, and it's since become one of the most fun and wild nights in town – a strange mix of rock concert, underground karaoke, Broadway show, and sometimes all at once. Welcome to the karaoke party where it doesn't matter what song it is, but who kills it. And this time... in costume!
The Cruïlla festival joins in on the Carnival celebrations with its first Carnaval de Cruïlla mini music festival over two nights in the Hivernacle at Poble Espanyol, filling the space with fun, costumes, dancing, satire, masks, food, non-stop partying and loads of music. On Friday February 9 you can catch Los Mambo Jambo, a Catalan instrumental rock 'n' roll band whose live show always wows. They share the bill with the cultural sampling of German producer and musician Shantel, who, with his Bucovina Club Orkestar, plays musical treasures from the south-east of Europe, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean in a fresh context. The Ska Circus Brass Band surprises the audience with a fusion of brass band and circus as well as ska and reggae. And each night ends with a session from DJ Carnaval Rex.
Celebrate Carnival/Carnestoltes with Funk Fiesta's debut party at BlackLab Brewhouse & Kitchen in Barceloneta. In the city's first brewhouse, Funk Fiesta re-create the magical atmosphere of the wonderful '70s and '80s, the golden era of funk and disco. Get your best funky-sexy-disco costumes on and dance to the grooves and positive vibes that make us all feel as one. You'll get moving to the best funk and disco with a sexy touch, all played on vinyl by ZLAI + Rock Jazz & Feathers. Plus, the Funky Chicks are on hand to keep things lively on the dance floor, and the first 50 beers served are free! All that's needed is you, the tribe, the soul and spirit of the party.
Since this past autumn there's been a new happening in Barcelona called the Monumental Club, which has already brought in more than 20,000 fun-seekers. After the two events in October and November, the event is back on, making for family-friendly fun in the former bullring, and bringing together live music, DJs, a market selling local products, food trucks and activities for children. Today you'll be entertained by Sidonie DJs, Conttra, Jamaikids, and Machito Boogaloo.
Hendrick's Congress for Curious People and Kriminal Kabarett are putting on a Carnival gala with a baroque masquerade ball. The party takes place among the lush velvety surrounds of Palau Dalmases, and throughout the evening, inspired by 18th-century masquerade balls, all in attendance can visit various rooms featuring mentalist Pablo Raijenstein, international cabaret star Lady Bon Bon, stellar soprano Michelle Francis Cook and acclaimed DJ Xavi Quero from 'Cabaret de Medianoche'. Get ready for a night that's about as close as you'll come to a scene out of 'Eyes Wide Shut'.
One of the favourite parties at Razzmatazz is back, just in time for Carnival. The Back to the '80s soirée gets things going with an hour and a half dedicated to Alaska, with tunes by Alaska & Dinarama, Alaska & los Pegamoides, and Fangoria, and keeps going with the best '80s music from Spain and beyond with Albertcode and Robert Martex at the decks.
Running on the spirit of the legendary Stuidio 54, with a boost (thus, the 55...), this is the perfect excuse to dust off or create (or buy, if you must) your most glamorously tacky costumes. Get yourself ready for a costume contest and music brought to you by Atrapado en el Club (Trapped in the Club) DJs, who combine funk, pop, trap and soul to perfection, and survive to tell the tale.
The second night of the Carnaval del Cruïlla party in Poble Espanyol brings to the stage Italian group The Sweet Life Society, one of the big names on the electro swing world scene, who will get you dancing with their own brand of 1920s swing culture, invigorated by electronic elements and the high-energy live show from some of the best jazz musicians from the north of Italy. Also on the bill are Catalan band The Slingshots, ones to look to on the city's funk-soul scene, who mix soul's vocal melodies with the instrumental richness of jazz and the energy of rock as they present their second album, 'Spread the Mud!' (2017). As on the first day, you'll be treated to the Ska Circus Brass Band, who make a statement with a brass band that fuses circus with ska and reggae, plus a session with DJ Carnaval Rex.
The second day this weekend of the Monumental Club carries on bringing together live music, DJs, a market selling local products, food trucks and activities for children. Today you'll be entertained by Sidonie DJs, Conttra, Remembering Prince, Machito Boogaloo, Joan Colomo & La Radiofórmula, Her Little Donkey, DJ Pegatas, and DJ Shak.
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.
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.
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.
The Catalan tradition of building representative figures out of cardboard (giants, big-heads, puppets, and beastly creatures that take part in festivals) is the essence of this mask-making business, which covers masks from Greek tragedies to Comedia dell'Arte, French tradition to Catalan theatre, and even the Japanese 'Noh'. Their assests include some 300 models of masks that can be mass-produced without losing their artisanal character. Tourists, collectors, and those involved in the stage arts and festivals are the clientele of this shop on C/Princesa where, in addition to the masks you can also find many other cardboard and papier mâché objects.