Europe needs celebrations now more than ever and there is no greater celebration of diversity and inclusiveness than the Carnival of Cultures. This urban street festival is held every year in late spring and attracts almost 1.5 million people to the Kreuzberg area in the city’s south west. The weather is more often than not spectacular and Berliners of every age, colour and creed take to the streets to rejoice that summer is just around the corner and that at this event, everyone from everywhere is welcome.
The carnival – Karneval der Kulturen (KdK) in German – was launched 21 years ago and has become the largest community event of it’s kind in Berlin’s annual calendar of events. The entire event runs for 4 days with the street festival opening on Friday June the 2nd until the 5th and the parade almost totally consuming the Kreuzberg district on Sunday 4th June. As the name suggests, the carnival celebrates cultures and as such it is open to all forms of cultural celebration and expression – from dance to costumes to food to cocktails (and there are plenty of cocktails).
The street festival is held in and around Kreuzberg’s Blücherplatz, starting at 4pm until midnight Friday night, then running from 11am to midnight across the weekend and from 11am to 7pm on the closing day (Monday). Over 100 bands and DJs will perform across 4 different themed stages – Bazaár Berlin, Eurasia, Farafina & Latinauta and entry to the whole event is absolutely free. There are also street food stalls, delicious and budget friendly cocktails (did I mention the cocktails), 350 or more market stalls and spontaneous dance parties on almost every corner. If that seems like not quite enough to keep you entertained, there are always the essential stiltwalkers, jugglers, acrobats and magicians wandering around if you need.
The parade follows a specific route (see map below) starting in Hermannplatz and ending at Yorckstrasse/Möckernstrasse. It can be fun to join at the start but be warned – it’s slow moving and takes around 9 hours to reach its destination, just a few kilometres away. Parades move slowly when you’re dancing instead of walking!
If you decide to meet up with it later, found yourself a good position and stay there – 2nd floors or above are excellent vantage points and will save your feet. There are considerable traffic restrictions in and around the precinct on the day of the parade and attendees are encouraged to take public transport.
Take care with personal belongings and if arranging to meet people, be very clear because the high volume of people often means mobile reception becomes unavailable. But otherwise, wear comfortable shoes and your brightest clothes, take water with you and sunscreen and enjoy one of Europe’s most inspiring street party events.