Carnival is one of Madrid’s liveliest celebrations. During five days, the city’s parks and squares are populated by the most eye-catching and original fancy dresses, while children and adults have the time of their lives, engaged in the activities organised by the city authorities.
Carnival kicks off with a ceremony headed by a celebrity of Madrid’s social and cultural life. Next comes the parade, with a specific theme that sets the tone of the party, dictating the choice of costumes for all participants.
Setting out from El Retiro Park, the crowds pass by the Puerta de Alcalá gate and cruise along Calle Alcalá. The parade draws to an end with a spectacular party at Plaza de Cibeles. If you visit Madrid in the Carnival season, be sure not to miss this: there’s certainly no better way to become imbued with the spirit of Don Carnal, the personification of the pleasures of the flesh.
Dances and chirigotas
Carnival is also celebrated with a grand ball and a fancy dress competition, held in the ball room of the Círculo de Bellas Artes, where the brightest parade of flamboyant, charming, elegant and imaginative costumes is to be seen.
Plaza de la Villa becomes the epicentre of the Krewes Festival (a celebration with street musicians and groups performing satirical songs) organised by La Murga de Madrid. The best Carnival music bands, in colourful fancy dresses, make political, social and even family events the target of their tongue-in-cheek criticism, to the beat of cheerful tunes.
Concerts, themed parties in different venues and countless activities for children make great opportunities to live it up in Madrid’s Carnival.
The burial of the sardine
Carnival celebrations draw to a close with the burial of the sardine, a tradition captured by Goya in one of his paintings. Fancy dresses are put away, fanfares fall silent and the humble fish is buried with honours to indicate that the time has come to quit revelling and get ready for Lent.
The burial procession starts at Plaza de San Antonio de la Florida, goes along the bridge across the river Manzanares and winds its way along Paseo del Comandante Fortea, Calle Santa Comba, Calle del Doctor Casal and the M-30 underground passage.
Finally, the sardine is buried in the Pajaritos Fountain at Plaza de las Moreras, in Casa de Campo Park. An impressive bonfire closes the ceremony, as if clearing off all evils and negative thoughts, ashes representing the happiness, peace and harmony that set Madrileños apart.
This is Madrid: a cosmopolitan city with interesting traditions. Explore them and share in the spirit of Don Carnal.
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