In Madrid you can be who you want, whether that means being someone else, or letting your inner crazy out for all to see – at least during the Carnival season, which this year is on from February 14 to 18. Revellers in classic costumes, such as medieval ladies or bloodthirsty vampires, dance alongside fun-lovers dressed up as modern-day celebs to the music of the comic Carnival bands known as 'chirigotas'. For five days, Madrid is decked out to welcome the king and queen of the festival, Don Carnal and Doña Cuaresma, so don your most original costume and get out to take part in the big plans the city's got waiting for you.
The opening speech on the Plaza de la Villa gets the Carnival festivities going. A leading figure in the capital city declares a few words before a euphoric audience thirsting for fun. Later, from El Retiro to Cibeles, the great Carnival parade takes place with hundreds of participants dressed up as colourful characters. You'll find music, fun and good vibes in abundance for adults and kids of all ages throughout the streets of Madrid. This year, the parade pays tribute to 'Don Quixote', by Miguel de Cervantes, whose second part was published 400 years ago. So you'll be seeing characters such as the Knight of the White Moon, Sancho Panza and Dulcinea del Toboso strolling through the city. There will also be reproductions of chapters of the tome, such as the adventure of the Lions or the tableu of Maese Pedro. And don't miss out on activities in areas such as La Latina, Tetuán or Vallecas, where they're organising their own tributes to Don Carnal.
Head to the Círculo de Bellas Artes for this festival of masks that carries the slogan ‘Carnaval al desnudo’ ('Naked Carnival'), a dance that has already become a tradition during Madrid's Carnival period, along with the costume contest. You'll find Venetian masks and outrageous costumes dancing to the rhythms provided by artists like CF Grand Wizardo, DJ Floro, DJ Tito and DJ Bombín. There will also be a batucada, and live performances from Tomasito and the band Eskorzo. And the MC of the party this year is Spanish comedian Joaquín Reyes, so there will be plenty of laughter, even if you don't know what he's saying!
New York, cabaret and a really big show. That oughtta do the trick to get you to Platea Madrid this weekend, where, besides putting on a great spread, the place will be overflowing with live performances. On Friday it's the piano and voice of Kike Jambalaya takes you to the New Orleans of the Great Depression and its Mardi Gras (musically speaking, that is). Saturday brings the period band Desvariétés. Don't freak out if you see colourful characters from the Ale Hop company messing about around the venue. And on Sunday, the Suonne Ensemble brings order back to the Platea with their smooth and intimate chamber music. But keep on your toes because there will be many more surprises.
There's also room for the higher arts during this week of wild fun. Teatros del Canal take you on a journey to a Baroque-style Carnival in pure Venice style with popular music, dancing and 'commedia dell'arte'. Le Poème Harmonique with their vocal and instrumental musical expertise, will transport you right back to the 17th and 18th centuries, and you don't even have to move from your seat.
The club Lemon is going with the theme of the Carnival of Carnivals; that is, the Carnival of Brazil. Courtesy of the group Coco Malangāo, you'll feel as though you were in Rio de Janeiro (well, they can't do anything about the weather...). Percussion and Latin American rhythms will have you moving non-stop through a night full of samba, Afro-Brazilian melodies and a good time guaranteed.
Having a hard time choosing between celebrating Valentine's Day or Carnival? Never fear. The Società Italiana di Beneficenza is putting on a romantic costume party. The theme this year is 'Great love stories' and it's set up like Carnival in Venice. The room will be full of the most popular lovers in history, including some of the most magnetic couples from the pages of international literature. If you put a lot of work into it, you could even win the costume contest. In addition to having a great night, it's also a good chance to brush up on your Italian. The entrance fee includes two drinks, a tasting of typical Italian products and music with a DJ.
DJ Kabuto, Romántico and Flashman are in charge of the music you'll be moving your feet to at this Carnival party that's been going on for a decade. And it's not expensive to get in – just a tenner will get you in the door and a drink to boot. Come in costume, of course, and dance until dawn.
While it's true that Carnival is full of Brazilian beats and that percussion dominates the music during the festival, but that doesn't mean rockers have to give up the pleasure of a good electric guitar. Gruta 77 is putting on a special party with Juan Abarca and Los Petersellers.
The 'cultural canteen' Liber Arte is putting on a Carnival festival surrounded by a bohemian aura and with a touch of the Brazilian about it. Between its exposed brick walls you can have a nice cup of tea, a delicious Ribera del Duero while you dine on tasty toasts, and take part in the special activities. Saturday there's a show on for kids with Brazilian percussion, on Sunday there's a samba class, and Monday you can sing and dance with a choir. The show is suitable for adults and little ones.
The 'Entierro de la Sardina' (Burial of the Sardine) puts the final point on the Carnival celebrations on Wednesday 18, when the city dresses in mourning clothes to bid a final farewell to one of its favourite holidays. The Burial of the Sardine (accompanied by mourners, gravediggers and all kinds of funeral ornaments) marks the return of the costumes to the closets for another year. Besides the transporting of the symbolic deceased fish, there will also be one last parade. You'll never see a funeral procession so full of joy and colour. The route starts at the Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida at 6pm and ends at the Fuente de los Pajaritos in Plaza de las Moreras.
Costume shops in Madrid
This has got to be one of the oldest costume shops in Madrid. In the city centre, Maty was established in 1943 and carries on to this day with two well-defined specialities: one is dressmaking and the sale of dance and flamenco clothing and accessories, and the other is the sale of costumes and accessories for events that require fancy dress, such as Halloween, Carnaval, and even Christmas. They have an enormous variety of costumes, so you can be sure to get something original for your party or event, for both kids and adults. Their online sales are also quick and comfortable.
With more than 50 years of experience, this family shop founded by Marcos Mekes is widely known in Madrid. Its success here has helped it expand to cities like Barcelona, Paris and New York. Their wide range of products includes suits for VIP events, flamenco dresses, a great selection of footwear and all you need for dance and rhythmic gymnastics attire. You'll also be wowed by the variety in their catalogue of costumes and accessories for any event, including Halloween, Carnaval and Christmas. They've got their own tailors who can make anything to order.
In Madrid's city centre, this shop for costumes and accessories is increasingly making its mark in the sector, despite its youth. With two locations, in Plaza de Celenque and in the nearby C/Tetuán, Fantástica is dedicated primarily to female clientele looking for that special something when it comes to themed parties or events. If you're looking for something sexy, it's not difficult to find among the clothes, costumes, corsets and wigs in this space full of sensuality and a bit of sinfulness. When Halloween comes around, everyone is invited to find scary masks and costumes on the shelves and racks. You can't go wrong on the night!
About to celebrate its 20th anniversary, Los Caprichos de Goy is alreadya go-to shop when it's time for a party in Madrid. Fiesta success is practically guaranteed with their inventory that doesn't miss a thing: baked goods, decorations, jokes, gifts, balloons, accessories and, of course, costumes. Halloween is practically a national holiday within the walls of Los Caprichos de Goya, with plenty to offer kids and adults alike for the most sinister night of the year. They also offer online sales with a 24-hour guaranteed delivery service that's free with any purchase of €50 or more. Quality, comfort and variety, all rolled into one.
Chindasvinto opened in 1967 with no intention of going anywhere. With more than 1,500 costumes, wigs and accessorites, this shop in the Prosperidad neighbourhood is a huge help if you're looking for what to wear to a Halloween, Carnaval or Christmas party. It's impossible not to find the outfit to bring out your inner witch, vampire, zombie or demon, and they've got a big selection of costumes for adults, kids, and even babies. There are also loads of accessories, masks, hairpieces and decorations. With a speciality in toys, Chindasvinto offers a comfortable online sales service that will ship to anywhere in Europe.
It's impossible not to find the perfect costume at Barullo Company. Kids and adults can easily transform themselves into a witch, a skeleton, a zombie or a vampire in this shop in the Río Rosas district, thanks to their huge variety of products. If you want something simple for Halloween or any other fancy dress event, here you'll find, for example, fun wigs, scary masks and original hats, as well as all times of accessories. They also offer a great range of decorations, including balloons, piñatas, plasticware and more. If you're looking for even more, ask about their catering service, and availability of magicians, clowns or bouncy castles. They'll provide the whole experience.
This shop in C/Bravo Murillo is dedicated to 'selling illusions', as their owners put it. Toys and costumes are their speciality, and while making kids smile is their main objective, they definitely don't leave out the grown-ups when it comes to their inventory. You can find costumes for the whole family for any event. When it's Halloween or Carnaval, you'll find a load of fancy dress options, frightening masks, capes, wigs and all the decorations and accessories you need to throw a party – and everything at a great price. You can also order via their online store if you'd rather shop from home.
Quality, tradition and modernity, all in one. Vestuario Izquierdo is one of Madrid's oldest shops in the market, and it's one to look for when it comes to style and dressmaking for theatre, cinema, TV and events. In addition to the creation and sale of all kinds of outfits for professionals, Izquierdo also has rents and sells period dress, fantasy costumes, and clothes and accessories for all other kinds of themes. Halloween and Christmas also figure in to their catalogue, with all kinds of costumes, accessories and decorations for the occasions. Be sure to ask for estimates for any professional event, and about tailor-made costumes.
Here's another example of an iconic shop in Madrid dedicated to fancy dress and costumes. Founded in 1920, it's an international benchmark in the sector. Their focus is on the professional – especially cinema, theatre and TV – but Sastrería Cornejo doesn't leave out individuals in search of costumes for theme parties or Halloween, Carnaval and Christmas. They bring their special caché to their work so you can never go wrong. It's advisable to book an appointment before you go.