Carnival In Barcelona

Rei Carnestoltes and his Seven Ambassadors

Carnival in Barcelona is a week-long fun family festival and an excuse for having fun prior to the fasting and restrictions of Lent that begin on Ash Wednesday.

The exact dates vary each year but are normally in February or early March - 40 days before the beginning of Easter on Palm Sunday.

In contrast to the English Pancake Day or the Gay Carnival Parade in Sitges, the Barcelona Carnival is based on tradition and fun for all the family.

The central character of the Carnival in Barcelona is the Rei Carnestoltes or the Rei de Poca-Soltes - the King of No Shame - who arrives in the city on Dijous Gras to announce El Regnat de Disbauxa i L'Imperi de Carnaval - The Kingdom of Debauchery and the Empire of Carnival - for the coming week.

As Carnival in Barcelona is a city-wide celebration, Rei Carnestoltes is accompanied by Seven Ambassadors from each of the old villages of Gràcia, Sant Martí, Sants, Horta, Sant Andreu, Sarrià and Sant-Gervasi.

All of these were separate towns until they were incorporated into the City of Barcelona at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.


The city centre events are led by Rei Carnestoltes and have normally taken place in La Ribera neighbourhood around Mercat de Santa Caterina, Passeig del Born, Passeig Picasso and Parc de la Ciutadella but in 2018 will be centred on Plaça de Sant Jaume in El Barri Gòtic.

The Ambassadors are responsible for leading the events and processions in the suburbs and the three main days for Carnival in Barcelona are Thursday, Sunday and Wednesday.

Thursday - Dijous Gras

Coca de Llardons

Dijous Gras or Dijous Llarder in Catalan is translated as Fat or Dirty Thursday in English and marks the beginning of Carnival.

As the traditional reason for Carnival is to eat as much as possible before the fasting of Lent begins, food-oriented events are organised throughout the day in most of the local markets.

The typical Catalan Carnival foods are botifarra d'ou, coca de llardons, truites and escudelles.


Barcelona Carnival 2013 Poster

L'Arribo or Arrival of Rei Carnestoltes marks the official beginning of Carnival Week in Barcelona.

At around 5 pm, he arrives at Mercat de Santa Caterina in a horse-drawn carriage accompanied by the Ambassadors and followed by a troop of musicians and jesters.

He announces the beginning of the week-long Kingdom of Discontrol and Empire of Carnival, is greeted by the Gegants of the Carnival - Rodanxó and Rodanxona - and the procession then makes its way down to Passeig del Born.

Sunday - The Processions

On the Saturday and Sunday following Dijous Gras, the seven towns celebrate their own ruas or processions presided over by their respective ambassador.

At around 5 pm on Sunday evening, Barcelona celebrates the Great Cavalcade of the King Carnestoltes and his Seven Ambassadors.

Each Ambassador travels on a horse-drawn carriage and is preceded by a troop of jesters and musicians but the star of the procession is definitely Rei Carnestoltes.

La Taronjada

When the main procession reaches Passeig Picasso, La Taronjada begins.

This was traditionally a massive fight using extremely ripe oranges and in Barcelona dates back to at least the 14th century.

In recent years, in order to maintain a semblance of control, the City Council has decided to replace the oranges with balloons and confetti so La Taronjada has lost a lot of its anarchic flavour.

The Masquerade Ball

Once the Processions and La Taronjada are over, the Masquerade Ball begins and now Rei Carnestoltes and the Seven Ambassadors are accompanied by the Esbarts - tradional dance groups - from each of the seven towns.

Everybody is required to wear a mask and most people don fancy dress for what is typically the most emblematic moment of the Barcelona Carnival.

Wednesday - L'Enterro de la Sardina

L'Enterro de la Sardina or Burial of the Sardine marks the close of Carnival on Ash Wednesday.

However, no actual sardines are involved but it is rather a symbolic way to announce the beginning of Lent.

Here in Barcelona, there are events and shows organised throughout the afternoon for kids in Parc de la Ciutadella.

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