A carnival in Rotterdam? It's totally a thing! In fact, it’s one of the highlights of summer in that city. I'm talking about Rotterdam Unlimited, a festival filled with music, food, and dancing.
A few years ago, I had the chance to experience this amazing festival, and I want to tell you all about it to help you plan your own visit.
Enjoy the carnival in Rotterdam at Rotterdam Unlimited
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 the 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 on 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 at the Summerjam festival in Cologne. Well, no, that's not 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 my ex-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 Carnival 2022 – Practical information
Rotterdam Carnival 2022 dates and prices
Rotterdam Unlimited 2022 will take place from 26 to 30 July in different locations across the city.
The festival is mostly free. The only events you need tickets for are the after-parties.
How to get to Rotterdam
You can easily reach Rotterdam by train and usually, extra trains run specifically for Rotterdam Unlimited on the Saturday of the event. If you're coming from abroad, you can fly into Amsterdam Schiphol and take a direct train to Rotterdam. Alternatively, you can also travel by train directly to Rotterdam from many different cities. Thalys has the fastest train options, especially when coming from Belgium.
Where to stay in Rotterdam
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.
Don't forget travel insurance
Plan for the best, prepare for the worst. Travel insurance has you covered in case (part of) your trip gets canceled, you get sick or hurt abroad, and sometimes even when your electronics break or get stolen. I always make sure I'm covered on every trip I go on.
Don't have travel insurance yet? Check out SafetyWing. They offer super flexible plans that you can even sign up for while you're already on your trip. On top of that, they were the first travel insurance to cover COVID, and when I got COVID, they reimbursed all of my expenses without making a fuss. Their customer support team is great and I can personally recommend them.
PIN FOR LATER
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.