Spain Snapshots: The Carnavales de Cádiz

If andaluces are considered Spain’s most affable folk, it’s believed that the gaditanos, those from Cádiz, are blessed with the gift of wit. At no time in the year is this trait so celebrated as during the Carnavales de Cádiz.

Based (very) loosely on Venice’s extravagant Carnivale, this pre-Lenten festival is a huge tourist draw in Andalucía in which choirs, called coros, entertain city dwellers from flatbed trucks around the historic center. There’s also a song competition between chirigotas, or small, satirical musical groups who compose their own verses about whatever happens to be controversial each year.

But because it’s before Lent, why not add a pagan element to the festivities? Cádiz’s city center fills with young people who dress in costumes and carry around bottles of booze on Saturday night.

My first Carnaval experience was insane – partying with my Erasmus friends from Seville and Huelva, dressed up as an Indian with a kid’s costume I bought for 8€, endless amounts of tinto de verano and strong mixed drinks. I even ripped my shoes up on the broken glass that littered the streets.

Returning home at 6am and pulling into Plaza de Cuba just before 8, I slept the entire day, waking only for feul and a groggy Skype date with my parents.

Carnaval, you kicked my culo (but I blame the cheap tinto de verano).

For the next few years, I happened to always be out-of-town for the festivities (though I did make it to Cologne for their classed-up Carnival). In 2011, I joined a few friends, this year dressed for the weather and better rested.

The serpentine streets that wrap around town hall, the port and the cathedral held even more people than I remembered, pre-crisis. Like the chirigotas, revelers dress in sarcastic guises, or something that pokes fun at politicians or current events.

In 2011, everyone was hasta el moño with the government limiting freedoms, like pirating music and driving too fast on the highway. My personal favorite? When costumes are scandalous and obnoxious. Case in point: 

Being smarter this time around, we spent the night making friends and reliving our college days. No broken glass, lost friends or cold limbs!

Interested in attending the Carnavales?

March 1st and 8th are the huge party nights in 2014. Be sure to reserve travel and accommodation as far ahead as possible, as the city of Cádiz is quite small and everything gets booked up quite quickly. It’s not advisable to go by car, as parking is limited. You could also get a ticket with a student travel company and stay up all night.

Bring enough cash, as ATMs will run out of small bills, and you’ll probably be tempted to buy something to snack on from a street vendor. Dress for the weather – the nights will get chilly along the coast.

You can also consider attending a less-chaotic carnival in other towns around Spain, like Sanlúcar de la Barrameda or Chipiona. Plus, the choirs and chirigotas are a treat, and there is plenty of ambiance during the daytime.

Love festivals? Check out my articles on other Spanish Fiestas:

Spain’s Best Parties (Part 1) // The Tomatina // The Feria de Sevilla

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. I really want to experience this! Too bad I know I just don´t have the funds for another weekend trip at the moment. I´m not sure if they do anything in Madrid though….I´ll have to look into it! I love a good dress-up party!
    Jessica Wray recently posted..What They Don’t Tell You About Living in MadridMy Profile

    • It’s one of those things that you really only have to do once, haha! The big parties are in Tenerife and Cádiz, and I think they do things in Alicante, too.

      It’s like Halloween on steroids!

  2. I’d rally like to go to this! I didn’t end up going when I studied abroad, so maybe next year? We’ll see how it all shakes out. I love the Ace Venture costume too!
    Mike recently posted..How to Apply to the North American Language & Culture Assistant ProgramMy Profile

  3. LOVE the sound of this. A friend of mine went last year and raved about it. I think I’ll have to stick to Carneval in Eindhoven instead (the south of the Netherlands is Catholic so they do all the celebrating). I’ve even got my elephant onesie :)
    Caitlyn recently posted..Parga, the Greek island on the mainlandMy Profile

  4. I have seen this on a travel program once and made a note that I must do this one day. It looks epic!
    Jen recently posted..Destination of the Week – BrugesMy Profile

  5. I LOVE Carnaval but I’ve only been in Sitges. The snarky costumes are the best. Last year my friend went as the Pope’s resumé.

    Actually, we already used it as an excuse to have costume parties this past weekend. I bought a blue wig from the ‘chino’ and dressed up as Katy Perry (from “California Gurls”, of course).

    Are you going to Cadiz this year?
    Jessica of HolaYessica recently posted..Why Football Really is a Religious Experience in BarcelonaMy Profile

    • I’m afraid I am past that point in my life! I’m not into stepping in broken glass or feeling like crap in the morning anymore. Plus, I’m saving up for Semana Santa, Lagos and Feria!

  6. Aaaah the Carnavales de Cadiz….what debauchery, [sigh]. I remember little of my first Carnaval but luckily have had the opportunity to go back and do it again. Having a cousin living there helps. I recommend going in the daytime festivities in Cadiz that are usually overlooked by tourists!

  7. Pedro Meca Garcia says:

    wait…wait! you have just said that the one of the big ones are in Tenerife? i hope deeply that none from Las Palmas read it! there is a strong and fierce rivalry between Tenerife and Las Palmas, both from the Canary Islands, over the Carnavales, so if you get a harsh comment from someone, you will know where he or she is from :)

  8. There’s nothing quite like Carnaval in Cádiz! I went all out for Carnaval when I lived there in 2010… but it was so strange to see my quiet beachy town turn into a balls-to-the-wall ragefest. A normal 10 minute walk from my piso took almost 30 minutes with all of the crowds! The fiestas were some of the most epic of my life, and the street food… oh, those gofres! I wish I could afford to go again this year, but hopefully I can find something fun to do around Madrid :)
    Courtney recently posted..My 4 Favorite Day Trips from ParisMy Profile

    • Balls-to-the-wall ragefest is perhaps the best way to call it! And save your pennies for a warmer festival – San Isidro is coming up!


  1. […] of the old city walls, there were few signs of debauchery and partygoers. I myself have been to the nighttime festivities of the Carnavales de Cádiz twice. Two booze-soaked nights where I stepped in puddles of urine and around broken […]

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