ACT News

2016 National Multicultural Festival guide: what to see, do, eat and drink

Canberra's 2016 National Multicultural Festival is so close, you can almost hear the hiss of the ubiquitous meat-on-sticks on the hotplate.

People rest in the shade at a past Multicultural Festival.
People rest in the shade at a past Multicultural Festival. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Between 4pm on February 12 and 6pm on February 14, more than a quarter of a million people are expected to be drawn to Civic for Australia's grandest celebration of cultural diversity - and for the belly dancers, African drumming, French crepes and plate smashing too.

This year, get ready to open your minds and your mouths for a taste of the best Canberra has to offer.

What to do

Greek Community of Canberra prepare Loukoumades (honey puffs)

Greek Community of Canberra prepare Loukoumades (honey puffs) Photo: Elesa Kurtz



Make sure you're sporting an elasticised waistband - more than 40 tonnes of food is expected to be served up at this feast for the senses.

Whether it's chips on a stick, sauerkraut, crispy waffles, sticky Greek doughnuts, Peruvian street food, Italian gingerbread and nougat or Ethiopian fare, you're guaranteed to walk away with a full belly and a smile on your face.

Garema Place will come alive on Saturday, with more than 300 food stalls across the three days of the festival.

You can enjoy Polish pierogis, Thai green curry, Spanish paella and Dutch pancakes just to name a slice of the tasty chow available.

While most parts of the festival are free, the food and beverages are not so make sure you have cash on you.


What's a good curry without a delicious brew to wash it down?

There are stalls where you can to wet your whistle scattered all around the festival. Kingfisher Indian beers, Mayman fine spirits, Rekorderlig, Asahi, Canberra Brewers and Plonk are just a couple. You'll find plenty of new beers to try at stands throughout the festival.


Esther Khakula and Emily Joehnk Escobar, 6, dance together at the festival.

Esther Khakula and Emily Joehnk Escobar, 6, dance together at the festival. Photo: Matt Bedford

Entertainment will be coming at you across eight stages from 4pm on Friday until 6pm on Sunday.

Get ready to twist and shout to some old time rock and roll at the American Experience stage on Saturday and Sunday.

Carnevale di Veneia will also be a flurry of fun and you can get your groove on at the Bellydance Spectacular Showcase too.

Rumour has it the dancing from the African Village and the Pacific Islands showcase has been so fierce in previous years, management has had to reinforce the stage this time around.

If you'd rather watch the dancing rather than participate in it, the Jumptown Jammers will be performing to raise money for the Refugee Council of Australia.


Australian band The Black Sorrows will headline the National Multicultural Festival

Australian blues rock legends The Black Sorrows are heading this year's festival with a free concert on opening night but the incredible lineup doesn't end there.

Popular singer Paulini is also joining forces with Canberra's own Kulture Break for the opening concert.

Across the festival, French-language duo Baby et Lulu are set to seduce you with their sultry tunes while Sol Nation will get you dancing with their vibrant blend of reggae, Latin dance, Brazilian Samba, afro beats and funk.

Canberra's own The Old 45s will take you back to the '60s and '70s with their rollicking rock and roll and marichi band The Three Amigos Roving Plus One will make you shimmy and shake.

If you're after something a little more offbeat, the Canberra Multicultural Fringe Festival is hosting Canberra's first multilingual poetry event on Saturday afternoon.


For those looking to find their inner peace among the chaos, Sahaja Yoga Meditation will hold sessions at the festival.

There'll also be more than 3000 chairs for punters to take a load off.

You can also bring your own chairs, umbrellas or picnic rugs.

How to get there

By bus

The best way to get to the festival will be by bus and there'll be extra services operating to help keep people moving smoothly.

On Friday, take a blue or red Rapid from the town centres into the city.

On Saturday and Sunday additional 900 and 950 services are scheduled to run although the extra southbound 900 services may terminate at Woden. Passengers may need to interchange to continue to Tuggeranong. Regular fares will apply.

If you're having a late one, keep in mind ACTION will also be providing a special Multicultural Festival Nightrider service on the Friday and Saturday night.

It's $5 per person and you'll need to pay cash. Services depart from Platform 10 at 11pm. View the timetable here.

By car

If you're planning on taking your own wheels, be warned - there will be temporary road closures across Canberra's centre until Monday, February 15.

  • Tocumwal Lane is now closed at the intersection with Bunda Street until 6am Monday.
  • East Row will be closed between London Circuit and Alinga Street from 12.01am Friday, February 12 to 6am Monday.
  • Mort Street will be closed between Alinga Street and Bunda Street from 12.01am Friday to 6am Monday.
  • Alinga Street will be closed between Northbourne Avenue and East Row from 12.01am Friday to 6am Monday.
  • The car park at the corner of London Circuit and Commonwealth Avenue will be closed from 12.01am Friday to 6am Monday.
  • Verity Lane will be closed at the intersection with London Circuit from 6am Friday to 6am Monday.
  • The car park at the rear of Baileys Corner will be closed from 6am Friday to 6am Monday.
  • Hillside Lane will be closed at the intersection with Akuna Street from 6am Friday to 6am Monday.
  • Ainslie Place will be closed at the intersection with London Circuit from 6am Friday to 11.59pm Sunday.
  • London Circuit will be closed to all traffic, excluding ACTION and Qctiy buses, between Akuna Street and Northbourne Avenue from 10am Friday to 11.59pm Sunday.

Your best bet to secure a park is to park in one of the town centres and ride in on an ACTION bus. You can see a list of all of the park and ride stops here. There'll also be a service operating from Exhibition park in Canberra.

There will be some parking, but expect it to fill quickly.


The Bureau of Meteorology says there's a chance of showers on Friday, with it clearing on Saturday and mostly sunny on Sunday. It's also going to be pretty warm.

Friday: Max of 31°C, with a 60 per cent chance of some rain.

Saturday: Sunny with a maximum of 34°C.

Sunday: Max of 25, with a 30 per cent chance of a shower.

For a full program, click or touch here.

For a map and key to all of the stall, click or touch here.