48 Stunden Neukölln
For two days in June, the working-class neighborhood of Neukölln, now home to boutiques and hipster hangouts, celebrates the district’s diversity and artsy-ness. An old brewery may host a concert, or an avant-garde opera performance may take over an art nouveau swimming pool; some venues are as intimate as someone’s living room. From a modest block party in 1999, the homespun festival has evolved into a major cultural happening that the city’s creative class looks forward to every year (www.48-stunden-neukoelln.de).
Berlinale: International Film Festival
February is synonymous with international cinema in Berlin. Unlike the other red carpet festivals around the world, all the showings in this 10-day celebration are open to the public, making Berlinale (www.berlinale.de) the largest public movie festival in the world. Queue up for premieres of films from around the world, or just party with an estimated 20,000 film professionals who brave the cold Berlin winter yearly.
Berlin is home to more than 60 Christmas markets, from the traditional kitsch fest to hipster flea markets full of handmade goodies. Most are open from late November to the end of December. At TrendMafia (www.trendmafia.de), Berlin's designers emerge from their workshops to show their one-of-a-kind products every weekend in December. The Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market is a classic cuckoo-clocks-and-wursts affair, with the opulent architecture providing the most Teutonic ambience.
Originally a political rally commemorating the 1969 Stonewall riots, this flamboyant parade has become one of the city's most popular street parties. The annual June celebration draws crowds from around the world, and culminates in a large open-air dance party at the Victory Column (www.csd-berlin.de).
International Berlin Beer Festival
One August weekend each year, the socialist style "workers’ paradise" apartments of Karl-Marx-Allee provide the backdrop for Berlin’s largest suds-theme party. Visitors sample 2,000 types of beer from around the world, including ales handcrafted by independent German brewers (www.bierfestival-berlin.de).
Karneval der Kulturen
A celebration of Berlin’s diversity, this multicultural street festival takes over bohemian Kreuzberg every Pentecost weekend (usually in May or June). From traditional ethnic arts to cutting-edge contemporary dance, the festival is a microcosm of present day Berlin culture. The weekend peaks with a parade of musicians, dancers, and other performers showing off their skills to an enthusiastic crowd (www.karneval-berlin.de).
Long Night of Museums
Taking place in spring and fall, the Long Night of Museums (www.lange-nacht-der-museen.de) is exactly what the name suggests: Almost 100 museums open their doors to the public from 6 pm to 2 am with exhibitions, guided tours, and special programs. Browsing classical art at late night while a DJ spins ambient music is a quintessential Berlin experience. Long Night of Operas and Theaters, a similar concept with performing arts, is slated to be revived in 2014 after a hiatus.