When is Carnaval?
The main event takes place the weekend before Pancake Day and Ash Wednesday. In the run-up to this weekend, there’s a singing competition in the local theatre in which groups of varying sizes sing satirical songs about current events. There are different categories in the competition – comparsas, chirigotas and coros – depending on the size of the group. They were incredible costumes and everyone wants to get a seat to see the grand final which takes places on the Friday before Ash Wednesday. It’s a long event, which often finishes around 5am and is televised as well, so many people stay up with family and friends to watch it at home.
Following the final of COAC (the Carnaval competition) there’s a weekend of partying in Cádiz. Hundreds of people come from around Spain to dress up and spend the night on the streets, drinking and listening to groups singing around the town. Everything happens on the narrrow streets of the city: there’s a parade for the younger gaditanos, singing groups are tugged around the town by tractors and in many of the smaller squares you can find a group singing and a crowd gathered to hear them.
And there’s more…
The following weekend is equally as busy, with numerous groups on the streets and a wonderful variety of costumes to look at if you sit and people-watch. Then we also have Carnaval Chico, the ‘little Carnvaval’, which is a more local festival happening the weekend after. But the groups who performed in COAC certainly won’t disappear until the next year and many of them will perform during the summer at various events.
Tips to make the most of Carnaval
Dress up – although you can get away with a sparkly wig, you won’t regret going along in costume and it’s a great conversation starter
Wrap up – unfortunately, Carnval often brings rain and there’s nothing worse than being cold when you’re out for a night on the town
Get walking – there are lots of great spots around the old town to enjoy the Carnaval atmosphere, particularly La Viña and around Plaza Mina
Stay safe – although there is a very jovial atmosphere, it’s also incredibly busy so keep an eye on your belongings as there are people who’ll make the most of the crowds to swipe something