When I went to Rotterdam in the Netherlands two weeks ago, I went to experience the highlight of summer in Rotterdam: the Rotterdam Unlimited festival.
Battle of the Drums
Rotterdam Unlimited takes place every year in summer and spans several days full of music and food, yup, even more food hotspots than the city normally has! Part of the big street Coolsingel is made traffic-free to make room for an international food market and the festival’s main stage. In total, five stages welcome artists during Rotterdam Unlimited, but in truth, the whole city center turns into a party, especially in the evenings.
I arrived on Friday, when the festival had already been in full swing for two days. No worries, though, as I was right on time to attend one of the coolest events of the weekend: the Battle of the Drums.
During the Battle of the Drums, three brass bands followed a different route through the city. Each route ended at the main stage, where each band gave a performance in front of a jury and an enthusiastic audience. A local artist performed while the judges deliberated and in the end, Hopi SLR Brass Band won the title of Best Brass Band of the Netherlands.
My friend and I went to get takeaway tea at McDonald’s – as you do at 10 in the evening – before heading to concert hall De Doelen to catch part of De Likt’s performance. It was highly energetic and good fun. I didn’t get to check out the nightlife last time I visited Rotterdam, so I was glad to get a glimpse of it now.
Summer Carnival – Street Parade
On Saturday, the festival’s main event took place: the summer carnival or street parade. It started at 1 p.m. and lasted until after 6. It was crazy how many groups participated! There were over 30 trucks and more than 2,500 dancers. I told you: crazy! I had a great time checking out the many colorful costumes and grooving to Caribbean and Latin beats.
The festival itself isn’t comparable, but the costumed people made me think of the cosplay I saw at Japan Day in Düsseldorf. Always fun people watching at these kinds of events!
Dub Inc and Gentleman
I ended the festival with two big performances at the main stage. First up was Dub Inc from France, a band that plays a mix of styles like reggae, dub and ska. I loved their energy and was pretty surprised at how good they sounded live. Amazing singers, both of them! Hakim took us to a story of 1001 nights when singing a small piece in the Berber language Kabyle while Aurélien frequently made the ground vibrate with his heavy voice.
Next was the main act of the evening, the German reggae artist Gentleman. I’d seen him once before on the Summerjam festival in Cologne. Well, no, that’s no true. I’d heard him at Summerjam, because there were so many people at his concert and I was standing pretty far in the back, so I couldn’t see anything.
That was different this time, though, as I was allowed to stand in the press spot during his first three songs to take photos. So amazing! At one point, he told everybody to give someone a hug right then and there… and bent down to hug me. The girls behind me went a little crazy. It was so funny, especially as Boyfriend had said earlier that evening when I told him I could go stand in the press area: “Maybe he invites you on stage”.
Rotterdam Unlimited is mostly free. The only events you need tickets for, are the after-parties.
This year there were special trains going to the event from different Dutch cities, but Rotterdam is always easily accessible by train.
I stayed at the Inntel Hotels Rotterdam and had a room with a lovely view over the water, free wi-fi and breakfast included. It’s located right in front of a metro entrance and just a ten-minute walk from the famous Witte de Withstraat.
As this year’s festival is over, I’ll update this post when details about the 2017 edition are known.
Watch the video
(You can also watch this video directly on YouTube.)
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I was invited to Rotterdam by the Rotterdam Tourism Board to experience the city in summer so I could tell you guys all about it. As always, I write whatever I want on here. The links to Booking.com and TripAdvisor are affiliate links. If you book a stay through them, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting the site!