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2017 National Multicultural Festival guide: everything you need to know

For many, National Multicultural Festival weekend is one of the most vibrant on Canberra's calendar.

Here's a guide to make sure can soak in all the delicious food and cultural entertainment on offer without any hassles.

When is it on?

Things get started Friday at 4pm and run through to midnight.

On Saturday, things get going at 11am (although you can't buy alcoholic drinks until noon) and again run to midnight. On Sunday, it's 11am to 5pm.

The Fringe Festival runs on Saturday, from 10am to 11pm.

It is easy to get distracted by hunting down all the great grub. But make sure you have found a good spot to watch the festival's free opening concert on Friday. It runs from 5pm to 11.45pm. Headline performer Kate Ceberano will light up Stage 1 at Garema Place along with Bollywood dancing, Andrea Kirwin, Miriam Leiberman, The Borderers and Sol Nation. There is plenty more on stages 2, 3, 5 and 6, too - and over the next two days as well.

Kate Cebrano and her neighbours in Elsternwick have won a fight against a developer.

Kate Cebrano to headline the 2017 National Multicultural Festival in Canberra.

What's good to eat

If in your eyes multiculturalism lifts the lid of a enormous bain-marie then this is your kind of festival.

Organisers expect more than 280,000 people to wander through more than 400 stalls, half of which are serving up wonderful flavours, at the festival over the three days. 

Put yourself in loose fitting clothes and indulge in the vast array of cuisines.

Whether you stuff your face with sticky Greek doughnuts, USA hotdogs, sauerkraut, Polish pierogies, Ethiopian dishes or Peruvian street food and more, you are in for a gastronomic adventure.

Greek Community of Canberra prepare Loukoumades (honey puffs)

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

Festival director Azra Khan's favourites 

1. China Village 

"There is a huge variety of martial arts, acrobatics, traditional Chinese music, puppetry and Qiang embroidery dance," Ms Khan said. 

The array of lively celebration would be bigger and better than previous years and on show throughout the festival near Stage 3.

2. Belly dance performances

It is an ancient art and one many of us might not feel daring enough to try. But, whether you get up a try it or not, the belly dance showcase is always one of the most popular performances of the festival. 

"This year we have Gypsy dreaming, Greek belly dancing and whole range of others," Ms Khan said."It is one of the most popular ones every year so make sure you catch it on Stage Two from 1pm to 3.30pm on Saturday." 

3. India in the City

This show will happen straight after the belly dance, so if you have tucked into too much food stay put and soak in some high-energy performance. 

"This showcase is growing enormously in popularity," Ms Khan said. "With all the various Bollywood dance groups both local and interstate. It goes from 3.40pm right through to 10pm. 

From 10pm until midnight everyone is invited to get involved and cut some moves at the High Heel dance party with DJs. 

4. Latin Quarter 

For a bit of passion, rhythm and contagious music head across to Stage 2 from 4pm-11pm on Saturday for Latin inspired performance. 

Ms Kahn mentioned to look out for La Rumba Flamenco group, Inka Marka but said there were too many high-energy performances to mention and encouraged festival-goers to soak in the fun. 

5. London Circuit Parade

Standing on London Circuit from 4pm to 5pm is almost like watching the cultures of the world walk by with plenty of wild costume, bold percussion and fanfare. 

"That is not to be missed," she said. "The procession gives people a sense of the enormous variety of cultures on show." 

People rest in the shade at the Multicultural Festival

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

Where is everything?

The festival is held in the middle of Civic, taking in Petrie Plaza, Garema Place, Civic Square, and Bunda Street. 

Here's a map showing where the stages, toilets and each section are.

How to get there

The best way to travel to the festival, and avoid the hassle of parking is by using public transport.

If you need to drive to get close to a bus route find out where the nearest Park & Ride facilities are to you.

Route 900 and 950 services will run across the weekend to and from the event from town centres with additional services to manage the demand.

Additional 900 routes will service Tuggeranong, Woden, the city and Belconnen and extra 950 routes will service Gungahlin and the city.

What roads are closed and when

Several roads and car parks will be closed on Friday to Sunday. Most will reopen about 6am Monday. These include:

  • London Circuit westbound between Northbourne Avenue and Akuna Street.
  • The two car parks at the rear and opposite of Baileys Corner.
  • Bunda Street between Petrie Street and Mort Street
  • Tocumwal Lane at the intersection with Bunda Street
  • Scots Crossing at Bunda Street
  • Petrie Street at Bunda Street
  • Genge Street at Bunda Street
  • Murulla Lane at Bunda Street
  • Bible Lane at Bunda Street
  • Ainslie place at the intersection with Riverside Lane

Staying late?

A special National Multicultural Festival Night Rider service will run on Saturday February 18 and depart every 20 minutes with the last service leaving the city at 1.30am. The Red Rapid Route 200 will service Gungahlin and the Blue Rapid Route 300 will service Belconnen, City, Woden and Tuggeranong.

25 November 2011 - Pic Elesa Lee - The Chronicle - Action bus driver Andrew Walls displays the Nightrider bus as it will return on Dec 9

Photo: Elesa Kurtz


There's a decent chance of rain on the big day, Saturday, although it's only expected to be about 1-5mm, and the forecast top is a relatively mild 28 degrees. Friday is expected to be warm, while Sunday is cooler. 

Friday: Mostly sunny with a top of 35 degrees. Winds will change in the afternoon and bring a westerly 15km/25km wind in the evening.

Saturday: Rainy with a maximum of 28 degrees. 

Sunday: Cloudy conditions and cooler still with a top of 25 degrees but less chance of rain.

Weatherzone: Canberra radar

Want even more detail?

Download the 2017 National Multicultural Festival app available for both iOS and Android for real time updates, full performance schedule and more.