Event date: 24 February - 02 March
Each year in the run up to Lent, Sitges comes alive with its most famous yearly celebrations - Carnival. The event is celebrated throughout Spain and indeed, the world. It marks the last chance to let your hair down and get up to mischief before the forty days of Lent begin. For a full explanation of the history and meanings behind the event, see our Guide to Carnival ('Carnestoltes').
Largely due to Sitges' reputation as one of the gay capitals of Europe, the town takes pride in throwing one of the largest and most spectacular parties in Spain - one that lasts a whole week. Each year the dates vary, as the festivities must always begin on a Fat Thursday. The largest parades traditionally take place on the Sunday and the Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday) of the festival however the exact dates for these parades are only finalized a few weeks before the event.
On this page I will cover the usual events that take place throughout the fiesta and what you can expect.
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This is the opening of festivities. King Carnestoltes - the King of the Carnival arrives in a flourish of colour and activity. This signals the beginning of the week of fun.
As its name suggests, this is a risqué and no-holds-barred parade. It has been known to include up to forty floats carrying over 2,000 participants.
This is the parade to mark and mourn the end of the celebrations. It is often jam-packed with drag queens dressed all in black to mourn the end of the party and the death of the King of the Carnival.
This is the event that truly symbolises the end of the good times and the beginning of a period of abstinence. A large effigy of a sardine is carried to the beach and buried - there will be no consumption of delicious fish during the forty days of Lent. But don't fear, if you're lucky, you'll find large barbecues on the beach where you will get your last chance to try a few of the little treats.
If you are planning to attend Carnestoltes 2023 it is worth remembering that this is one of Sitges' busiest periods. For that reason, it is essential that you book your accommodation as quickly as possible. This will ensure that you don't pay too much, as well as ensuring that you have a place to rest your weary head during the celebrations.
Mardi Gras is one of the most exciting times to be in Sitges. An opportunity to see the town exuding some of its most characteristic qualities - flamboyance, creativity and fun. If you are going with family or children, be warned that some of the goings on can be somewhat risqué. However, as long as you are not too easily offended, there should be something for everyone at this party by the sea.