Badajoz isn’t short of tourist attractions, from an Arab castle, to its colourful Plaza Alta square, a cathedral and several art museums. But, it’s often overlooked by more popular destinations, such as Mérida, Trujillo or Cáceres.
Yet, it can claim having the best Carnival in Extremadura and one of the best in Spain. And there’s no better reason than a massive 5-day party for a trip, don’t you think? Because that’s exactly what it is ― partying non-stop from Friday to Tuesday.
Badajoz is a city that lives for its Carnival, and preparations start early. That means local bars, restaurants and hotels make the most of it. Accommodation prices are more expensive than usual and hotels fill up quickly, so make sure you book as soon as the official Carnival dates are published.
Unlike other Carnival celebrations, where the visitor is a mere spectator, in Badajoz everyone can take part. It’s as easy as getting dressed (a must) and head to the bars. The streets in the city centre get absolutely packed every night, although the big nights for going out are usually Saturday and Monday.
The Carnival parade is the most expected and spectacular event, which takes place on Sunday. Around 50 comparsas (organised groups), some of them having more than 100 members, take part in the parade, as well as other groups. Many of them are local, but others come from all corners of the province, and even from Cáceres province. The total number of participants can exceed 6000, so expect a long, but entertaining show that can last up to 7-8 hours. It’s so long that when the first groups have already finished, the last ones haven’t even crossed the starting point yet.
Last Sunday I had the chance to visit Badajoz and watch the parade. I can’t even remember the last time I watched it, so it was quite exciting. We chose a spot near the starting point, and also near a few bars. Bars and coffee shops along the itinerary are open all day, so you can buy food and drinks anytime and without going too far.
People line up on both sides of the street, cheering the participants, who in many cases are relatives, friends or acquaintances. The lucky ones who live in the street where the parade takes place, can watch the whole thing from the comfort of their balconies. From where I was, I could spot a mum feeding a toddler in a balcony, a small family on a window and an excited Flash pointing at dancers every now and then.
Having several cousins actively involved in the parade, I know how much time, money and effort go into it. Group members start preparing for Carnival as early as late August/September. They attend weekly meetings to organise budget, costume ideas and materials, music… They sew their own costumes and hats, which are incredibly rich and detailed. They rehearse for months, and I can imagine how hard must be to make sure everyone follows the instructions and learn the steps of sometimes quite complex dances.
Whole families take part in the parade. Mums with children go first, prams and all, followed by dancing members and musicians.
Here’s a selection of pictures displaying some of the youngest participants.
Something I find particularly cool is the music. Each comparsa has its own group of some 20 musicians, who play drums, trumpets, xylophones and other instruments made of metal or PVC pipes. All those instruments are attached to a metal structure pulled by several members. Apart from Carnival-themed songs, each group plays a selection of tunes that are inspired by the theme chosen for their costumes. These two videos below can give you a good idea of what I’m talking about.
Carnival is such a visual and colourful event, images are the best way to show what it’s all about. I’ve made a selection of pictures with some of my favourite moments during the parade.
I hope you enjoy them!