February is widely known as love month, but in the Spanish city of Cadiz, this month marks the biggest and most colorful event. The city transforms into one festive party place during Carnaval Cadiz as people from all over the country and abroad flock here to enjoy the fun activities. There are fancy costumes, musical competitions, street parties, comedy shows, and concerts. This string of events will happen from February 8 to 12, 2024. Learn more about Carnaval in Cadiz 2024, its history, and scheduled activities for the year in this complete guide.
1. Where is Cadiz?
Cadiz is the capital city of the Province of Cadiz, in Spain’s autonomous community of Andalucia. This city in the southwest of region of the Iberian peninsula is home to over 112,000 inhabitants. Interestingly, the last few decades have seen a steady decline in its population partly due to its peculiar geography. This narrow piece of land, which has a circumference of 9.5 to 11 kilometers, is bordered by the sea and has little vacant land for housing. Most of the buildings in its old quarter are also very old and are not eligible for urban development because of their historical significance.
1.1 History of Cadiz
Cadiz is one of Western Europe’s oldest cities that are still inhabited. The Phoenicians of Tyre founded it in 1100 BCE as a trading post for valuable metals like gold, silver, iron, and copper. The Carthaginians occupied it in 501 BCE. They went on to establish the city as a port in the seventh century BCE and enjoyed a monopoly of trade with America and served as the headquarters of Spain’s treasure fleets until 1778.
From 1797 to 1798, the British blockaded Cadiz, and this was followed by a French siege that ran from 1810 to 1812. During this time, the city served as the capital of Spain which was not under Napoleon’s rule. There, the Spanish parliament enacted the liberal constitution of March 1812. When America lost its Spanish colonies, the trade with Cadiz went downhill and deteriorated even more during the Spanish-American War of 1898. Construction for the quayside’s improvement only picked up after 1900, and it later became a key port of entry for Spanish Morocco from 1936 to 1939.
At present, Cadiz still exhibits minimal industrial development, but it has several important naval and commercial shipbuilding yards, factories, and tuna fisheries. It is still a mercantile port that exports figs, wine, salt, olives, cork, and salted fish. It also imports coal, coffee, cereals, iron and machinery, and timber. Moreover, it serves as a passageway for several shipping lines and travelers going to the Canary Islands.
The city of Cadiz boasts of several unique architectural and historical structures which are concentrated especially in an area called the Old Town. This area features narrow streets that connect plazas that bear landmark buildings. One of them is Plaza de Mina, which was named after War of independence hero General Francisco Espoz y Mina. Here, you can find several notable structures, such as the bust of amateur geologist Jose Macpherson, the Museum of Cadiz, and neo-classical architectural houses in front of it. Next to is the Plaza de San Francisco, where you can find the 15th-century San Francisco church and convent.
Plaza San Antonio (formerly Plaza de la Constitucion) was where the Spanish Constitution of 1812 was proclaimed. If you walk around this 19th-century landmark, you’ll be able to appreciate several neo-classical mansions that were once home to upper-class families. You can also find the San Antonio church, which was built in 1669. Any form of construction is not allowed on this historic site.
In the Plaza de Candelaria, you can find the statue of the first Spanish republican president Emilio Castelar, who was born in a house in front of the square. There’s also a plaque stating that former Chilean dictator Bernardo O’Higgins lived in the square a long time ago.
Another notable historic landmark in Cadiz is the Plaza de la Catedral, where the Baroque-style New Cathedral (Cathedral de Santa Cruz sobre las Aguas) is found. It has chapels that showcase paintings and relics from the old Cadiz cathedral as well as from various monasteries in Spain. Other famous landmarks include the Old Town Hall, Plaza de España, Plaza Frangela, and the Gran Teatro Falla (Falla Grand Theater).
The climate in Cadiz is hot-summer Mediterranean. Winters here are very mild and summers can range from warm to hot. Because of its position on this narrow peninsula, it has the warmest winters in Spain, which averages 16 °C (61 °F), and there has been no snowfall here since 1935. Summer temperatures average 22 °C (72 °F). However, it’s not as hot as its neighboring inland areas like Jerez and Andalucia.
1.4 Getting to Carnaval de Cadiz in 2024
You can easily reach Cadiz via European route E5 if you’re driving from Sevilla, Cordoba, Madrid, and Algeciras. It is also connected to the E15 along the Spanish Mediterranean coast. Travelers from Sevilla can travel to Cadiz via train for 1.5 hours and via bus for 1 hour and 45 minutes. From Malaga, a bus ride takes 4 hours, a train takes less than 5 hours, while a combination of bus and train transfers will take around 6 hours.
Those coming from Madrid can take a 5-hour journey via train or spend 8 hours traveling via bus. You can also fly in via Jerez city or fly to Sevilla and then take a train to Cadiz—both of which take 5 to 6 hours. If you’re coming from Barcelona, be prepared for a longer journey. You can either fly to Jerez or Sevilla for less than 6 hours or take a train via Seville, which takes more than 8 hours.
2. Carnaval de Cadiz 2024: Some facts
Each year, the quaint city of Cadiz hosts a colorful and extravagant event called Carnaval de Cadiz, which lasts for more than a week. This year, the festivity will run from Feb. 8 to 12. Find out how locals celebrate this event and what you can expect to see and experience.
2.1 History of Carnaval de Cadiz
Carnaval de Cadiz traces its roots back to the 16th century, when this place was still an important port for the Spanish Empire and had several maritime connections and influence. At some point, Italian traders and sailors brought the tradition of Venetian Carnival to the city. Through the years, the tradition evolved and started incorporating Spanish culture and satire.
2.2 Pre Carnaval de Cadiz 2024
About a month before the 10-day Carnival, groups competing in the upcoming Falla Theatre contest start rehearsing their numbers. The carnival atmosphere starts to build up as various groups host open-air gastronomic events where people can listen to their humorous songs and taste local produce at the same time. The songs typically poke fun at recent events and incorporate a spectacular combination of music and color.
There are more than 100 groups from all over Andalusia taking part in this competition each year. The categories are Coros (45 members with tango repertoire), Comparsas (14 members with critical and protest songs), Chirigotas (12 members performing songs with satire and double meanings), and Cuartetos (3 to 5 members performing parodies). The Grand Finale takes place on the first Friday of the Carnival, and this event usually lasts until morning. On Sunday and Monday, the contestants perform the Carrusel de Coros on stage.
2.3 Carnival in the Street
When joining the Carvinal parades, make sure you’re decked out in your most colorful and extravagant costume, especially on the first Saturday of the Carnival. If you don’t have a fancy costume, you can simply buy one from any of the costume shops that exclusively sell them.
The Carrusel de Coros (Parade of the Groups) happens on the holidays during the Carnival and takes place around Abastos Square. Grab the chance to see the coros on the first Sunday of the Carnival before 1:00 p.m. On the last Sunday, the second parade known as the “Humour Parade” takes place. This route takes you through the city’s historic center and flaunts fancy costumes for the spectators.
A few years ago, informal groups called Ilegales rose to popularity as another form of Carnival street participation. These are musical bands made up of friends, colleagues, clubs, and families that were formed to rival the official groups in the competition. Instead of the Falla Theatre, the stage for these groups is the Flores Square.
3. Carnaval Cadiz 2024: Dates and Schedules
Still don’t know when, where, and how to start your Carnaval Cadiz 2024 adventure? Take a look at the dates and schedules for this year’s events and align your time with the ones you fancy.
Feb. 8: Lighting of extraordinary lights and Grand Finale of the Romanceros (solo performers)
Feb. 9: Grand finale of musical groups at the Gran Teatro Falla
Feb. 10: Kids’ activities and the Pregon at Plaza de San Antonio
Feb. 11: Grand Parade and gastronomic events
Feb 12: Local holiday for relaxation and various performances
Feb. 13 to 18: Various events, street performances, Quema Dios Momo, and the Carnival Humour parade
Feb. 25: Culmination of Carnaval Chiquito or “Carnival of the Persistent”
4. Other Things to do besides Carnaval Cadiz 2024
If you’re not the partygoer type of traveler, there are other ways to enjoy your stay in Cadiz. These are some of the most fun and unusual things to do when you’re in Cadiz.
4.1 Climb the Tavira Tower
The 45-meter Tavira Tower was built in 1778 and was once Cadiz’s most important tower. While is no longer needed to fend off enemies, it offers one of the best viewpoints in the city. You can enjoy drop-dead gorgeous views and Spain’s first old-school camera obscura. You can use this equipment to get a close-up view of faraway landscapes. Aside from that, you can get a decent amount of exercise by climbing the 170 steps up the tower and joining the guided show for the camera obscura.
4.2 Explore the Old Town
The Old Town of Cadiz allows you to glimpse into what the city once was before modern civilization took over. With so many picturesque scenes and historic landmarks, it is considered the city’s heart and soul. Plus, there’s a beautiful beach right around the corner. Stroll around the streets and sip sangria at a local tapas bar. The structures worth visiting here include the Cathedral of Cadiz, Castillo de Santa Catalina, the Roman Theatre of Cadiz, and the Iglesia de Santa Cruz church. Another nook work exploring is the 13th-century Barrio del Populo—the city’s oldest surviving neighborhood.
4.3 See the Lush Gardens of Parque Genoves
If you love plants and greenery, you’ll be delighted with the unusual design of the gardens at Parque Genoves. Cypress trees, artistically shaped bushes, and colorful flower beds line its pathways. From the park, you get a view of both the city and the ocean. There are also more than 150 types of exotic trees and shrubs thriving in this park. If you venture towards the center of the park, you’ll see a large man-made pond with a waterfall, cave, life-size dinosaur replicas, and a bridge over the waters. You can also find the Jose Maria Peman Summer Theatre inside this park.
4.4 Go on a Bike Tour
Instead of venturing around Cadiz on foot, why not try pedaling around with your friends or family? This is a great way to cover more ground and go from one attraction to the next. There are guided bike tours that last 2.5 hours and take you to the top landmarks. These include the Cadiz Cathedral, Parque Genoves, Puertas de Tierra, Gran Teatro Falla, and La Caleta Beach. For more vigorous bikers, you can try mountain biking tours outside of the city.
4.5 Watch the Sunset at Playa de la Caleta
After a long day of touring, head over to La Caleta Beach and chill out as you wait for the sun to set. There are 450 meters of soft sand here, and you can blend in with the locals as they eat sandwiches and drink beer on the beach. You can also explore nearby landmarks like the Castle of Santa Catalina and the Castle of San Sebastian. After a relaxing afternoon by the beach, simply go the the old town behind it called La Viña and order tapas and drinks.
Interested in joining another street party event similar to Carnaval Cadiz? Read about Malaga Carnival 2024 and find out how the locals celebrate it. Alternatively, you can check out our guide to the best cities in Andalucia and explore these other locations.