The Carnaval of Cádiz is one of the best-known carnavals in Spain. The whole city participates in what seems to be a 10-12 day fiesta. Cádiz stakes claim to being the oldest continuously inhabited city in Spain and one of the oldest in all southwestern Europe.
Cádiz is a small peninsula with a huge stone wall separating the new area and old town. Carnaval takes place all over Cádiz, but you will mainly find activities and packed plazas in the old town. Carnaval (Carnival), is a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent. Carnaval typically involves a public celebrations of parades, parties, events, humor, singing and plenty of socialization.
People often dress up in costumes during this time, which marks an overturning of daily life. We are told the entire duration of the fiesta, you will find people in costume day and night. We were only able to spend opening weekend there, but we have a good feel for the festivities and the energy of events. You can’t help but join in and be a part of it all. There is an extensive program of events that is publicized, but you will find that far more goes on than is put into print.
Just about everywhere you go, you will find people gathered and celebrating. We walked all over the city and every little neighborhood park was a gathering spot for friends and family. They would bring along food and drinks and enjoy the day. The kids would run around and play while both adults and kids would be adorned in their costumes. The old town area was my favorite part. A labyrinth of pedestrian-only cobblestone streets packed full of people. The buildings had so much character and charm. I loved making our way out of the little side streets into a large plaza to find thousands of people and activities.
Carnaval of Cádiz Recommendations:
- Go with a group of friends and wear costumes!
It was great seeing groups of people everywhere in themed costumes. Not only does a costume stand out more in mass quantity, it is also easier to spot the people in your groups. We saw M&M’s, Candy Canes, Flowers, Nuns, Furniture, Butterflies, Pirates and the list goes on. Great Fun!
- Wear good close-toed shoes or better yet, throw on the rubber boots.
With small streets full of people eat and drinking, all day and night, you are bound to have rubbish and broken glass along the streets. The city does a great job of hosing down and keeping clean each morning, but do keep this in mind for your safety. You will be doing plenty of walking, so be comfortable too.
- Be sure you get some rest (HA!).
This party doesn’t seem to stop. No matter what day or time, you will find a great deal of activity. Do try and fit in a little downtime somewhere.
- Book accommodations months in advance.
We tried to book our accommodations in December and it seemed the city was already sold out, well at least for our budget. There was a bit available for 300-400 Euros a night, but that wasn’t our budget. We have heard that the rates during carnival are double what they are during the high summer season. I am not sure how true that is, but I do know there are slim pickings. We stayed in nearby El Puerto de Santa Maria and found that to be a nice distance to Cádiz. I am sure we had a quieter nights sleep than we would have if we stayed in Cádiz.
- Arrive via public transit and be prepared to walk.
It is very difficult to find parking. There are trains, ferries and buses running all of the time. It was fun walking down the streets and seeing charter buses as well as city buses full of passengers in costume.
- Fun for families too.
The kids had a blast looking at everyone in their costumes and soaking up the culture. We did have to factor in plenty of “down time” for them. This was not a problem as there were parks everywhere and what kid doesn’t love going to the beach too. Just be careful as night falls, the party seems to ramp up ten fold and the drinking is far more active as well.
As much as we enjoyed all of the festivities, we would love to go back and explore Cádiz. It looks like a great city full of culture and life.