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Berlin Festivals: A Cheapo guide to Berlin’s best events

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Wander around the Berlinale for free. Photo by Maharepa.
Wander around the Berlinale for free. Photo by Maharepa.

Keep pouring the champagne (or, even better, the Sekt), because we’re in a celebratory mood. The festivities surrounding the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall were such a blast, that we’re already looking forward to the city’s next mega-event.

Though Germany’s capital no longer hosts the bacchanalian, techno-obsessed Love Parade, Berlin still reigns as Europe’s party central with its diverse and jam-packed events calendar. The best of the fests, listed below, are ideal for Cheapos because they’re free, inexpensive, or value-packed. So sharpen your elbows and get ready to join the crowds!

Internationale Grüne Woche (International Green Week)
January 15-24, 2010
Official website

We’re crazy about this food-centric fair, which is devoted to nutrition, agriculture and horticulture. The Green Week event fills the city’s massive, space-age exhibition hall with the moo of cows, the pungent scent of Swiss cheese, and the bouquet of German wine.

Regular admission is €12, but once you’re inside, you can stroll past food stands galore shelling out snacks from Germany and around the world. Free samples abound. Cheapos should show up after 2 PM, when tickets go for €7.

Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin (Berlin International Film Festival)
February 11-21
Official website

Tickets to Berlin’s film festival, referred to as the “Berlinale”, aren’t cheap (they go for €8), but you don’t have to shell out anything to take part in this major cinematic event. Our favorite activity is milling around Potsdamer Platz, the epicenter of the festival, which draws thousands of film professionals and film lovers from around the world.

A must? Celeb-spotting (is that George Clooney?) at the red carpet leading into the Berlinale Palast (Am Marlene-Dietrich-Platz 1), the theater where the most anticipated films—from Hollywood and around the world—premiere. At the very least, be sure to grab a free program to read about the latest in international filmmaking.

Carnival of Cultures. Photo: CpILL

Carnival of Cultures. Photo: CpILL

Karneval der Kulturen (Carnival of Cultures)
May 21-24, 2010
Official website

As Germany’s most multicultural metropolis, Berlin celebrates its 450,000 international residents during the colorful, four-day “Carnival of Cultures” festival in Kreuzberg. A party atmosphere pervades the event’s highlight: an endless street parade of ethnic-themed floats.

But the multicultural festival, which includes a riot of bands, food stalls, and theme parties, is lots of fun, too. Celebrated since 1996, the festival is bigger and better every year.

Fête de la Musique
June 21, 2010
Official website

The “Fete de la Musique,” a one-day, music-making event, celebrates the summer solstice with a bang, a drum roll, and a techno beat. Live, open-air concerts—all of which are free–fill the city with music, from reggae to electronica. Expect to discover some new talent, because most of the musical acts are upstart bands and DJs doing their thing for the first time. In 2009, 700 bands and DJs performed on 83 stages; 150,000 showed up to watch. Now that’s what we call a party.

Silvester (New Year’s Eve)
December 31

When the clock strikes twelve, laser shows and fireworks displays shower the Brandenburg Gate with light. A major event since 1995, Berlin’s New Year’s Eve festivities have become the spectacle to see in Europe. Before the explosion of lights, dozens of bands entertain the throng of spectators gathered on the Strasse 17. Juni, a wide avenue that’s bookended by two of the city’s most iconic landmarks: the Brandenburg Gate and the angel-capped Siegesäule (Victory Column).

About the author

Susan Buzzelli

About the author: A Pittsburgh native, Susan Buzzelli has been a sworn Germanophile since she spent a high school summer as an exchange student in Buxtehude. After stints in Dresden, Munich, and Hamburg she settled (possibly for good) in Europe’s most dynamic city: Berlin. When she isn't exploring Berlin, she's traveling throughout Germany (with an occasional hop over the border). Her comprehensive guidebook to Germany, Zeitguide Germany, will be published soon. Look for updates on her website, www.susanbuzzelli.com.

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