Kiel Week is held annually in the last complete week in June, and opens officially on the preceding Saturday with the official Glasen, followed by the Holstenbummel. The “Soundcheck” is on the Friday before the official opening; it is a music festival across all the stages within the city. Kiel Week ends with a large fireworks display at 11 p.m. on Sunday, fired from pontoons or the quays at the Howaldtswerke, visible all across the Bay of Kiel.

Most ship races begin at the Olympic harbor of Schilksee, also the center of most sporting activities during Kiel Week. As Schilksee is located outside of the inner city and most sailing competitions take place yet further out, only some races – mainly of smaller boat types – can be viewed from shore, namely from along the Kiellinie at the west coast of the Bay of Kiel.

Kiel Week usually gathers around 5,000 sailors, 2,000 ships, and about three million visitors each year. The event is organized in joint effort by the Yacht Club of Kiel, the Norddeutscher Regattaverein, the Hamburger Sailing Club, and the Verein Seglerhaus am Wannsee.