It was back in 1996 that Berlin held
its first Karneval der
Kulturen (Carnival of Cultures). Inspired
by London’s and Rio de Janeiro’s famous
annual parties, the festival took place over the Whitsun weekend and has
been bringing the city’s streets to life in a four-day blaze of colour and
music every year since.
These days, more than a million
residents and visitors celebrate the free street festival and parade, which
features around 5,000 professional and amateur performers of all ages and
ethnicities, as well as bands and DJs.
Taking place from 17 to 20 May in the
Kreuzberg neighbourhood’s Blücherplatz, the festival consists of four stages,
each featuring music from a different part of the world. Head to Latinauta for samba, salsa, Caribbean beats and Latin rock; Bazaár
features neo-genres like turkpop and dönerrock; Eurasia covers everything from
Balkan to Indian ragas (melodic forms); and Farafina is Afro-focused with bands
from Ghana and Senegal. About 400 stands around the square will sell edible treats and handmade art.
The festival peaks on Whitsunday (19
May) with a street
parade, which features colourful dance groups from Korea and Japan, trucks
blaring music from Brazil and Angola, plus Irish folk, Jamaican dancehall, Caribbean
soca and more. The parade starts at Hermannplatz at noon (get there around 11 am
to grab a decent spot) and snakes 4km towards Yorkstraße where it ends in the
Of course for many, this is when the
real fun begins. As dusk descends on the city, the techno sound systems are
wheeled out and the whole
district parties on until the early hours.
Paul Sullivan is the Berlin Localite for BBC Travel.
He also runs/writes slowtravelberlin.com