Summer Carnival Rotterdam

Summer Carnival Rotterdam

Jul 28, 2023Jul 29, 2023
Various locations

The Summer Carnival is the largest Caribbean street party in the Netherlands with more than 2.500 dancers, 25 carnival groups and 30 floats. An offshoot of the carnival in the Caribbean, this colourful procession sparks with the spirit of diversity in Rotterdam. Thousands of visitors come to admire the dazzling floats, the extravagant costumes and the catchy rhythms.

Come and party Caribbean-style summer festival in the streets of multi-cultural Rotterdam at the 2023 Summer Carnival!

Summer Carnival Rotterdam 2023 (Zomercarnaval Rotterdam)

Rotterdam Summer Carnival 2023 is set to be an amazing one! The prime unmissable highlights of Summer Carnival Rotterdam are:

Royalty Election

The Royalty Election is the festive kick-off of Summer Carnival Rotterdam and each year, audiences wait in suspense to find out who will become the new Queen of Summer Carnival. For the first time in the history of the event, there is now an elected King of Summer Carnival, too! 

The chosen winner is typically prominently featured during the Summer Carnival Street Parade. For one year they will carry the title and together act as ambassadors as the face of Summer Carnival Rotterdam and the festival's organisers, Stichting Zomercarnaval Nederland. They will represent the event and the organisation, both within and outside the Netherlands.

Photo: Salwa Afef via Shutterstock zomer-carnaval-rotterdam-summer-carnival.jpg


Kicking off the Summer Carnival is the Warming Up, which sees the streets surrounding the Hofplein filled with brass bands including drumming that is likely to give you the urge to dance!

Three ambitious Caribbean brass bands start at 6pm on July 28, from different points in the city and make their way towards the stage on the Hofplein to get the entire city of Rotterdam hyped up for the Summer Carnival! The best brass band will win the Golden Drum 2023. 

The locations where the drumming starts are:

  • Oude Haven (at the Witte Huis)
  • Oude Westen (on Tiendplein)
  • Mathenesserlaan (at Westerpaviljoen)

Lightning Parade

The Coolsingel is the location for the dazzling event known as the Lightning Parade. This spectacle follows on from the Warming Up, with all the brass bands and parade floats coming together and welcoming the crowds of revellers to enjoy the continuation of the music and dancing until 11pm, with not only the streets lit up, but also the costumes and vehicles illuminated.

Street Parade

The highlight of Summer Carnival is undoubtedly the street parade, which takes place on July 29. Get ready for 2.500 dancers, 25 carnival groups, 25 music groups and DJs, elaborate costumes, dances and hundreds of thousands of fellow pleasure-seekers, the streets of Rotterdam are arguably livelier during Summer Carnival than any other time of year! Later in the evening, the celebration continues with bands at the Hofplein. 


Refuel in between partying and watching performances at the Mercado, where a buzzing Festival Market sells traditional dishes and drinks such as Surinamese seasoned chicken from the barbecue, Antillean sateh ku batata, tropical crushed ice and much more. The Market doesn’t just sell food: check out the great merchandise like fashionable bags, accessories, fancy gadgets and vintage clothing!

Photo: Bas Rabeling via Shutterstock summer-carnival-rotterdam.jpg

Origins of Summer Carnival in Rotterdam

Taking place since 1984, the Summer Carnival Rotterdam, or Zomercarnaval Rotterdam in Dutch, zeroes in on the multicultural make-up of the city to activate the cherished Caribbean and Latin American tradition.

Unlike their counterparts across the Atlantic, the pre-Lent Carnivals in Northern Europe, unfortunately, take place at too cold a time to imitate this sort of celebration. Instead of missing out on this tradition, the organisers in Rotterdam simply decided to change the date while leaving the celebration unchanged.

With thousands of costumed dancers, massive floats, brass bands, drummers and its very own elected Queen, the street parade and side events of the Rotterdam Caribbean festival are now amongst the most popular events in the city. The Summer Carnival Rotterdam now takes place over the course of two days as part of the larger festival, Rotterdam Unlimited, which is the biggest free street festival in Europe.



Thumb photo: Anda Manea via Shutterstock