Summer Festival: Kieler Woche

Windjammer parade Photo by Frederick Doerschem/

“I’m sailing away, set an open course for the virgin sea…” If you are now singing STYX’s ‘Come Sail Away,’ you’re welcome. And now you’re asking yourself, ‘how great would it be to actually be on a boat?’ If you’re now singing ‘I’m On a Boat’ by The Lonely Island, you’re welcome again. But really, how cool would that be?

You are in luck! There just so happens to be an entire week devoted to sailing and all things nautical right here in Germany. Dubbed as the greatest sailing event in the world, this nine-day festival includes more than 2,000 events. Millions of visitors arrive from all over the world just to celebrate Kieler Woche.

Celebrating its 143rd birthday on June 17, the city of Kiel turns into a utopia of yachts, regattas, and various sailing events, with more than 5000 yachtsmen and women. More commonly known as Kiel Sailing City, the traditional opening ceremonies kick off the week on Saturday June 17 by ringing a ship’s bell with three double rings and one single ring. All sailing events take place at the Kiel-Schilksee Olympic Center.

Marina at Kiel Photo by bluecrayola/

Starting with a single regatta in 1882, Kiel Week has turned into the largest sailing event in the world. Since then, participation has soared and sailors from more than 50 countries compete in 40 sailing classes. The culminating event of the week is the Windjammer Parade. Taking place on the inner fjord with a variety of large and traditional boats, this event is the highlight of the festival week for tens of thousands of spectators.

But this week is not just for sailors and maritime enthusiasts. The Kieler Woche Festival begins the following day, June 17, and lasts through June 25. More than three million visitors from all over the globe enjoy various activities including sailing, musical performances, unique culinary experiences, and presentations ranging on topics from politics to science.

Spiellinie (kids’ playground and festival area), Europe’s largest open-air cultural event for childrenPhoto by bluecrayola/

Simultaneously, the Spiellinie (kids’ playground and festival area) provides Europe’s largest open-air cultural event for children. The area offers a multitude of activities including painting, building, and children singer-songwriter concerts.

Those who are in the mood for more action can let off steam on the TAT-Team’s bouncy house or join in one of the daily children’s concerts at 3 p.m. on the open-air stage. In addition to Matthias und die Zappelbande, the choirs of the Kiel Opera and music school, the band Randale from Bielefeld will finally rock the stage again this year.

Kayaking at Kieler WochePhoto by Bjoern Deutschmann/

Music lovers can enjoy a unique open-air theater and a concert series with exceptional artists and can look forward to unforgettable evenings. Throughout the day, there are a variety of events including a culinary exhibition with around 30 nations presenting their culinary and cultural specialties. Visitors can see fireworks nearly every night and hot-air balloons take flight to light up the sky on the evenings near the end of the week.

The city of Kiel is about a six-hour car ride (depending on traffic) from the KMC area. However, there is plenty of time to make travel plans. Beyond Kieler Woche, surrounding towns join in on the festivities holding their own versions of Kieler Festivals. Despite the distance, this might be a great excuse to continue on to Denmark, just an hour north. Regardless of how you get there, be sure not to miss this fantastic event!