The carnival is thought to have originated in the sixteenth century (although some claim it dates back even earlier to the fifteeth century), when Italian traders stopped at the Spanish port and began to tell tales of the Venetian and Genoese Carnivals. Historians point to the use of streamers and confetti to prove its Italian origin; wherever the idea for the carnival first came from, one thing is for sure – the people of Cádiz have made it very much their own.
Cádiz is well-known throughout Spain for its wit and humour and it has put these traits at the very centre of its famous carnival. Satire and parody show themselves through every element of the celebrations from the outlandish costumes, worn by everyone throughout, to the song lyrics performed by the many street artists.
Let Your Hair Down
While there is plenty of culture to enjoy during the 10-day festival, it is also about having fun. Traditionally the carnival was a time when the Catholic population could dress up, party, and eat and drink as much as they liked before the rigours of Lent began on Ash Wednesday.
Anyone who’s ever been to Spain will know how much the Spanish enjoy a fiesta. The carnival is the perfect excuse to party, so expect to see whole generations of families (from grandmas down to infants) dressing up in costumes and enjoying the festivities. And they’ll want you to enjoy it too, so don’t be afraid to get involved. You may not want to wear one of the wigs on sale on every street corner but you should be prepared to let your hair down a little.
A Rich Musical Treat
As well as humour and costumes, music is the other element at the heart of the Cádiz Carnival. There is a hotly-contested competition each year between the musical acts performing at the carnival, with a grand final held at the Gran Teatro Falla just before the festivities begin. The traditional musical acts you’re likely to encounter fall into several categories.
The Humorous Chirigotas
The residents of Cádiz spend a year working on these humorous musical acts, creating songs which satirise everything from religion and politics to popular culture. They perform at venues and on the streets around the city.
The Travelling Choirs
These can be serious musicians or comedic acts with a large group of singers – they travel the city roads in carts or floats performing as they go! Their costumes are often flamboyant to say the least and crowds follow their path in appreciation of their music.
The Serious Comparsas
Of course the carnival isn’t all about humour; the Comparsas tend to be the more serious-minded musicians playing a repertoire of classical music and songs. Again, you are as likely to find them performing on a street corner during the festival as in one of the city’s bars or music venues.
The Romantic Romanceros
These are individual singers who walk among the crowd entertaining carnival-goers with their songs.
The Illegales tend to be hopeful amateurs who want to join in the celebrations but haven’t registered. Of course there’s nothing to stop anyone from roaming the streets singing and, unsurprisingly, the number of Illegales increases towards the end of the night as revellers decide to have a go.
The Burial of the Sardine
At the end of 10 days of carnival, the celebrations finish with the traditional Burial of the Sardine procession. The whole town dresses up in costume and follows the procession of a papier-mâché sardine through the town to a spot where it is ritually buried. This marks the end of the carnival and the mock-mourning for the fish becomes the very genuine sorrow of the people of Cádiz at the end of their carnival.
Although no one is quite sure where the tradition comes from, it is thought that the death of the fish marks the end of a period of feasting and the beginning of the depravations of Lent. It is also said to symbolise the burying of the past in the hope of a better future, which always seems to me a nice way to end a party.
How to Get to Cádiz
The nearest airport to Cádiz is Jerez Airport which has regular flights from the UK by Ryanair. Other options include using Seville Airport, which is served by a number of airlines and which is just over an hour’s drive from Cádiz. Whichever airport you choose, book a Shuttle Direct transfer online and a driver will meet you at arrivals to drive you directly to your accommodation anywhere in Cádiz.
Where to Stay
El Armador Casa Palacio – Having your very own Cádiz apartment during the carnival is a great idea as it gives you your own space to relax in when you’re not out with the crowds. The modern, elegant apartments at El Armador Casa Palacio come with their own kitchenettes and seating areas, while some also have balconies or private terraces.
Senator Cádiz Spa Hotel – This bright, modern four-star hotel is located in Cádiz’s old town, close to the beach. If all that partying and culture gets too much the Senator Cádiz Spa Hotel has its own spa, although you’ll have to pay extra to use the facilities.
Hotel Monte Puertatierra – If you want to combine your carnival stay with taking in some of the sights and culture of Cádiz then the contemporary Hotel Monte Puertatierra is a great option. Set just a short walk from Santa María del Mar Beach, there are some lovely areas to explore close to the hotel.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct has been offering ground transfers since 2002 and is one of the leading airport transfer companies in Europe and North Africa. Whether you prefer a group transfer or the luxury and comfort of a private vehicle, a Shuttle Direct driver will meet you when you arrive and take you directly to your preferred destination. Use the easy online booking system and then relax knowing that you’re trip from the airport will be comfortable and hassle-free.