Looking to celebrate Carnival without a pricey ticket to Rio?
Then know that 300,000 people will gather half an hour away from Barcelona for one of the biggest Carnival events in the world: Sitges Carnival 2023.
Here you’ll find out programming information, how to get there, and where to find the best parties. And if you’re still not convinced I’ll show you how to soak it all up without leaving Barcelona.
Sitges Carnival 2023 Events Calendar
First off just to gain a little ‘street cred’ I’ve got a few notches on my Carnival belt: 2 in Cadiz, one in Venice, and another in Viareggio. If we don’t count Rio, which is a given, I have to say Sitges is the best.
With 100 years of Carnival history and the anything goes attitude of modern times you’ve got a bomb. A show, the eccentric spectacle where inhibitions fade like a breath of air in the cold Barcelona winter wind. The costumes, dances, and parades are can’t miss material.
On the official Sitges city website you’ll find the complete Carnival schedule.
In 2023 Sitges Carnival dates run Saturday, February 15th to Wednesday, February 22nd.
If you’re visiting for Mobile World Congress this year you can do both! What a contrast 🙂
The best days to party down are Saturday night and Tuesday night. If you’re just looking for a day trip from Barcelona to see the parades you’ll be better off visiting Sitges on Sunday.
What to See
Carnival in Sitges officially opens on Fat Thursday at 7:20 pm.
It’s signified with the arrival of the Rei Carnestoltes (the ‘King of No Shame‘) with his rag-tag bunch of musicians and jesters.
The goal from here on out? Consume as much as possible before the fasting period.
Events include chowing down on local foods like xatonadas (a salad with cod and a garlicky almond sauce called romesco), coca de llardons (a flat pastry with eggs, sugar, and pork crackling), and botifarra d’ou (a lean local sausage with egg).
The most important events are the Sunday (Rúa de la Disbauxa) at 7:30 pm and Tuesday (Rúa del Extermini) at 9:00 pm parades where more than 50 floats with 2000 participants pass by while a crowd drinks, dances, and mingles.
Carnival concludes on Ash Wednesday at 6:50 pm with the burial of the sardine.
Every night it won’t be hard to find things to do: people from Barcelona invade the streets of Sitges and bars crank out music at high volumes with beer and cocktails at bargain basement prices.
My best piece of advice is to get central and go with the flow.
How to Get to Sitges
The best way to get to Sitges for Carnival is using the official buses but to be honest it’s really hard to find spots… so I’m going to suggest taking the train.
For the train you can depart from Sants Estaciò or Passeig de Gracia and get off at the Sitges stop. Tickets cost €9.20 for a return ticket (€4.60 one way) and it’ll take about 35 minutes.
Once you’re there just follow the crowds to get to the party.
If you’ve got a car and are looking to drive it’s about a 45 minute drive taking the Ronda Litoral from Barcelona and then the C32 highway south. Looking for the best car rental prices? I always choose Rentalcars.com.
Just make sure you’re dressed up or you’ll be a fish out of water.
Had too much to drink and don’t wanna brave the train back? Check out the list of the top lodging in Sitges.
My Experience at Carnival Sitges
First off a disclaimer to anyone stuck a bit back in time: Sitges is arguably Spain’s gay party hotspot so don’t be shocked if you see Superman and Batman kissing! Again, not a problem for me but be warned.
My experience at Sitges took place in 2015 – back then I was short on costume ideas and a Spanish friend suggested I dress up as a galleta maria (‘Marie biscuit’). These legendary tea biscuits are super-famous in Spain, as I soon found out.
I met up with a group of friends at Barcelona transport hub Sants Estacio on the Saturday night and took the train. Another warning: the trains will be completely packed! In fact, the trains turn into a virtual bar with people cracking cans, pouring drinks, and making friends.
If you don’t want to feel like cattle take an early train out (before 8 pm).
At Sitges we got off and followed the crowds into the centre. Here there’s a never-ending string of packed bars and rowdy crowds spilling into the streets. Remember the bars are only suggestions and you should bring your own alcohol. Me? I was pouring myself gin and tonics until late.
In general we found people playing music, smoking, and refilling their drinks along the beach. Then you go back up into the city to explore. If you want electronic music clubs, cool bars, and kebab shops they’re all there.
If you’re looking to make friends or even lovers this is the place to be! I can’t count the amount of times people stopped me with comments on my costume, and I soon found myself hanging out with a group of Catalans and Jamaicans.
By 2 am I had lost all of my friends and replaced them with new ones!
The rest of the story I’ll leave up to your imagination 😉 In the meantime for those looking for a great party I recommend checking out a sneak preview of the festivities on Youtube.
Still not convinced? Make sure you check out my article on Sitges for more city selling points.
Carnival in Barcelona
If you’re short on time and can’t make the trip out to Sitges for Carnival in 2020 you’ll still be able to ‘get down’ in Barcelona. The dates are identical running from February 15th to 26th.
Though the official party schedule hasn’t been released you can check out the city’s official Carnival page for more information. In general the parades run on Saturday. Again, Fat Thursday (February 28th) is reserved for pigging out on snacks at Barcelona’s best restaurants.
Keep in mind that Carnival in Barcelona is a bit of a spontaneous thing, with neighbourhoods like the Gothic Quarter and El Born hosting events like the taronjada (‘orange fight’, 6:30 pm Sunday at Plaça Comercial del Born) and the sarau (‘masked ball’).
In all there should be a ton of activities for both adults and children.
Another important Carnival near Barcelona is the famous Carnival of Vilanova i la Geltrú. This town near Sitges is famous for bringing the energy with an original twist: from the Merengue Battle to the street theater there’s always something to see.
Carnival Party in Barcelona
This year famous party organizers Cruilla have come together with the Hivernacle del Poble Espanyol to bring you two nights of music and fun.
The 2020 dates are still TBA but usually there are all sorts of traditional Barcelona carnival events like la charanga (a type of drum concert), costume competitions, and la taronjada (a type of orange balloon and confetti party).
The party starts at 8:00 pm and a one day tickets costed €20.00 buying online (€25.00 at ticket windows) for 2018. Two day tickets cost €35.00.
For more information you can consult the official Cruilla website.
Looking to Visit Sitges for Carnival 2023?
If I haven’t given you quite enough information on Sitges Carnival 2018 or you need any other kind of help in relation to your Barcelona trip please write me a message below.
Also, got any crazy Carnival stories? Go ahead and share them and I swear I won’t judge you 😉