Every summer the streets of Rotterdam are privy to a spectacle which has no equal anywhere else in The Netherlands: the Rotterdam Summer carnival and more specifically, the street parade.
What is Rotterdam Summer Carnival?
The Summer Carnival in Rotterdam is part of the intangible cultural heritage of the Netherlands. It is of great importance to the cultural identity and social cohesion of the country. The Rotterdam summer carnival street parade first took place in 1984.
Sure, there's carnival in other parts of the country. Such as the carnival celebrations in Brabant and Limburg. However, the Rotterdam summer carnival has a Caribbean flair. It includes many elements from Dutch-Caribbean carnival traditions and could best be compared to the Nottingham Carnival in Britain.
When is the next Rotterdam Summer Carnival?
Rotterdam Unlimited 2024 will very likely take place from July 23 to July 27 in different locations across the city. The festival is mostly free, with after-parties being the only events you need tickets for at the summer carnival.
The information below is from 2023. Check back soon for updates!
Friday: Warming Up Rotterdam
On Friday, July 28, from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM, a Warming Up event will take place in Rotterdam Centrum. Previously known as the Battle of Drums, the event has been modified, with the Battle of Drums portion removed. In its place, there will be an epic gathering of brass bands and sound systems, signifying the start of the event with a powerful auditory display.
At exactly 6:00 PM, three brass bands will depart from three different points in the city:
- Tiendplein (near Holy Smoke) with Iconic Brass,
- Nieuwe Binnenweg (near Café Ari) with Legendairs, and
- Binnerotte (near the Library) with Unicum Brass.
As they make their way to Coolsingel, many fans will join the brass band of their choice in a procession known as the Jump Up. Each brass band will join one of the three sound systems. At exactly 7:00 PM, there will be a 15-minute freestyle session by the brass bands and the sound systems, marking the opening of the carnival with a cacophony of happiness.
Friday: Lighting Parade
The Lighting Parade is set to return for its second edition on Friday, 28th July, following a highly successful trial run in 2022. The hour-long event, which promises to become even more spectacular in the coming years, will commence at 22:00 at Churchillplein. Participants, adorned in carnival costumes embedded with thousands of tiny lights, will then proceed towards Hofplein. The dramatic effect of these illuminated costumes is further enhanced by the impressive backdrop of the Coolsingel.
Saturday: Rotterdam summer carnival street parade
The highlight of the event, the parade, will be on Saturday, 29 July. The parade will commence at 13:00 at Blaak and will traverse a 5 km route through the centre of Rotterdam, concluding around 7:00 PM. The parade features over 30 trucks and more than 2,500 dancers from all over the world. Each carnival group brings its unique flair to the parade, with dancers dressed in spectacular costumes, DJs spinning the latest hits, and floats that are works of art in themselves.
Rotterdam Unlimited Concerts
One of the favourite things about Rotterdam Unlimited is perhaps the (free) concerts. Especially on Saturday, immediately after the street parade, the celebration will continue on the stages and sound systems of Coolsingel, allowing attendees to dance until 11:00 PM. Every year major artists show up and perform on a big stage near Hofplein or in other venues in the city. Past performers at Rotterdam Unlimited have included soca great Alison Hinds, Manu Chao among others.
Rotterdam summer carnival street parade route 2023
Still not sure if you should attend? Have a look at the Rotterdam Unlimited 2017 aftermovie: