If you are a party animal, fancy dress, music and candy lover at home, you will love the Carnival of Vilanova i la Geltrú. It is one of the most reputable in the whole of the Peninsula and very prominent in Catalonia. Yes, there are many places that speak proudly of their Carnival, so in order not to hurt sensibilities we will avoid saying that it is the best Carnival in the world, but the truth is that in any top Carnival list it should appear in the first places.
The Vilanova i la Geltrú Carnival is a perfect excuse to visit this small Catalan coastal town, capital of the Garraf region, very close to Barcelona. It is always worthwhile to travel there, but if you can make your trip or escape coincide with the dates of the Carnival do not hesitate for a second. It’s a fun and perfect family plan.
In Vilanova i la Geltrú, these festivities are lived with unbridled enthusiasm and a truly contagious joy. This is not the case now, because in previous times and also during the dictatorship, they managed to continue celebrating Carnival year after year. Now with no restrictions of any kind the partying and revelry knows no bounds and overflows the streets.
Over time in Vilanova they have added more characters and acts to the party, so if you read the programme of the Vilanova i la Geltrú Carnival you need a good time to be aware of all the events and when they happen. You’ll find several days of celebration chained full of events to satisfy all tastes and also to entertain all ages. Take a look at the official website of the Vilanova i la Geltrú Carnival to find out in detail about the timetable, sites and programme of the Carnival and to get even more information about its history, its peculiarities and the succession of events. I’m telling you, you have to read the index a couple of times to find out everything!
This is the Carnival of Vilanova i la Geltrú
We visit the town on a Sunday, and the canons mark it as the day of the comparsas and candy wars. It was to arrive, park the car and enjoy a memorable day with the children.
Early in the morning there was already a very cordial and lively atmosphere, with groups of comparsas marching through the main streets and the surrounding area, each accompanied by a charanga to breathe rhythm and movement into the group. Music and commotion anticipate at every corner that a troupe is approaching.
The candies were flying around non-stop, upholstering the colored floor. Children’s paradise! It has to be said that at the end of the day there were streets where you could almost get stuck to the ground, just like a spider’s prey, from so much candy crushed on the sidewalks.
The comparsas invade the centre of the city with their joy and their colourful costumes. The men with armbands, sash and the typical Catalan beret. They are dressed in dresses, a shawl and their hair is adorned with a flower. Each group has its own favourite colours and a large flag is flown in front of them to identify the corresponding entity. Belonging to a comparsa is to understand us similar to military in a football club, something that is carried with pride and “forever”.
The highlight of Carnival Sunday in Vilanova i la Geltrú is the candy battle between groups that takes place in front of the Town Hall. In turns, all the entities arrive at the Plaça de la Vila and at first the flag bearers of each participating group make an exhibition of the banners. Then, to the sound of the music, all the members of each group enter the square to dance with great joy.
It is very exciting to see the couples holding each other’s arms dance towards the main square of the city with great joy, and after a few moments, a real battle of candies begins. You have to see it, it looks like World War III has broken out. The sweetest of wars, of course.
The bundle that the boys carry on their shoulders holds the sweetest ammunition, which at the right moment, is fired in all directions, almost covering the sky by the great quantity of projectiles that come and go. It’s the end, the climax of the contest. The women stand with their shawls pulled over their heads but no one leaves the square unscathed and without a smile.
At the end of each batch of comparsas and of each battle, tons of candy are accumulated, which a diligent municipal cleaning brigade is in charge of setting aside as much as possible to enable the next participants to run.
Our video of the comparsas and the Carnival of Vilanova i la Geltrú
See here how the comparsas enter the Plaça de la Vila in a one-minute video that summarizes what happens on Carnival Sunday in Vilanova i la Geltrú. That’s the way we live it with the kids.
Where to eat in Vilanova i la Geltrú
On Carnival Sunday in Vilanova you will find many bars and restaurants open in the streets of the city centre. Some groups go to agreed places, with a closed menu in advance, and there they eat and continue later the party dancing and singing in the same place until late in the afternoon.
We chose to eat at La Cucanya restaurant, which is a little far from the centre but has an unbeatable location in front of the sea. There, we took the typical menu of the comparsas and that is what most of the establishments have prepared. These are days when restaurants are not in a position to water down and put together a menu with the three B’s (i.e. good, nice and cheap) in accordance with the holiday.
What to see in Vilanova i la Geltrú
The town of Vilanova i la Geltrú is one of the towns that belongs to the Costa Barcelona brand and is a Family Tourism Destination. This proves a good number of establishments and services adapted and focused on those of us who travel with small children. So first of all, it’s friendly territory for traveling with children.
Vilanova i la Geltrú is appealing all year round, not just during the crazy days of Carnival. During the hottest months its excellent beaches are very crowded, and the local port is always full of life. The Catalan Railway Museum is also a powerful magnet that attracts many families because inside it there is a collection of locomotives that will make more than one creature happy. Are you a train fan at home? Follow the link with tips and our experience visiting the Railway Museum of Vilanova.
A walk along La Rambla, the port and the maritime quarter is also highly recommended at any time of the year.
And we cannot fail to mention or recommend a visit to the Geltrú Castle; a true Gothic jewel of the 12th and 15th centuries that is a marvel.
There is still much more to see and enjoy in Vilanova i la Geltrú. To recapitulate and without wanting to take the spotlight off Carnival, which is what this entry in Travels is all about, here is a list by way of a reminder of the key points.
Carnival of Vilanova i la Geltrú
Railway Museum of Catalonia
Excellent beaches with very good services
Can Papiol Romantic Museum
The famous Rambla
The Sant Cristòfol Lighthouse
Garraf Natural Park
Photo gallery of the Carnival of Vilanova i la Geltrú
More photos and images of the Carnival of Vilanova i la Geltrú
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