When it comes to festivals this year has already started off with a bang with Carnival in Rio de Janeiro and also in Venice. Hot on their heels are the annual festivals of Las Fallas in Valencia and St Patrick’s Day in Dublin. So what’s going on when you’re travelling? To help you plan your calendar, we take a look at what fifteen of the biggest festivals to take place between now and the end of the year...
1. Las Fallas
Where? Valencia, Spain
When? March 15th - 19th, 2013
It's a bit of a cliché when it comes to some events, but Las Fallas really does have to be seen to be believed. A pyromaniac's dream come true, this is a festival that's centred around fireworks spectacles during the day as well as the night. Every day at 2pm the 'Mascleta' (a fireworks display that relies on sound) awakes the city with a BOOM. Over the course of rest of the festival is the burning of the 'fallas' – enormous and elaborate paper mache sculptures, painstakingly made over months and then set on fire.
2. St Patrick's Festival
Where? Dublin, Ireland (and the rest of Ireland)
When? March 14th - 18th, 2013
Every city, town and village in Ireland celebrates like never before on March 17th of every year, so if you're lucky enough to be in Ireland then be prepared for a day and night you'll never forget. If you're in Dublin before and after the event, don't expect a rest - in the capital, the festivities last for five whole days. As well as the parade on the big day, other events include street fairs, 'ceilidhs' (traditional Irish music dances) and much more.
3. Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts
Where? Cape Town, South Africa
When? November 25, 2012 – April 7th, 2013
Cape Town is always buzzing with activity in the summer and it can be hard to pick what to check out. One of the best (and most underrated) Cape Town festivals is the Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts series. Every Sunday until the start of April you can spend a lazy day on the grass chatting to people, drinking some local wine and watching a variety of performances by popular local musicians, from the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra to Freshlyground.
4. Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Where? Melbourne, Australia
When?March 27th – April 21st, 2013
There are three major comedy festivals to take place around the world throughout the year – the Melbourne Comedy Festival is one of them. Attracting top comedians from both Australia and overseas, the festival was launched in 1987 by veteran Australian comedian Barry Humphries and British comedian Peter Cook. These days it entertains over 80,000 comedy-goers annually, who laugh and chortle at over 100 acts at venues all over the city. This year’s highlights include American comedian Ruby Wax, with many more acts to be announced soon.
5. Queen’s Day
When? April 30th
Every year on April 30th (or the 29th if the 30th falls on a Sunday) millions of people in the Netherlands celebrate the country's national day – Queen's Day. In Amsterdam alone, over a million people take to the streets. If you're lucky enough to be there for the biggest festival on the Dutch calendar you'll witness one of the craziest and busiest events to take place on the planet. There are some things to note when at it – almost everybody wears something orange, the festival actually begins the night before (known as ‘Queen’s Night’), and make sure you have a few euro to buy something as there are people selling all types of everything everywhere as it’s the only day of the year where you can sell items openly on the street without having to have a permit.
6. Canada Day
Where? Cities and towns throughout Canada
When? July 1st
This day marks the anniversary of the enactment of the British North America Act which took place on July 1st, 1867, and united two British colonies and a province of the British Empire into one single country. This is by far the biggest event on the Canadian calendar. Cities all over the country celebrate with a host of events. These include free concerts, colourful parades, air shows, maritime activities and, of course, the obligatory fireworks displays.Book hostels in the rest of Canada | Canada videos, podcasts, itineraries, free pocket guides and more
7. American Independence Day
Where? Cities and towns throughout USA
When? July 4th
Independence Day commemorates the Declaration of the Independence which was adopted on July 4th, 1776, and declared America’s independence from the United Kingdom. Also known simply as the Fourth of July, there isn’t a single city or town in USA that doesn’t celebrate the occasion with gusto. To do this, families get together for barbecues, lively street parties take place, parades march through towns, live concerts are staged and, as this is the biggest event in USA along with Thanksgiving, the day usually ends with a mind-boggling fireworks display.
8. Bastille Day
Where? Cities and towns throughout France
When? July 14th
Commemorating the uprising that marked the beginning of the French Revolution, Bastille Day is the biggest national holiday to take place in France. While there isn’t a city, town or village throughout the country that doesn’t do something to mark the event, the best place to celebrate it is in Paris. Here the celebrations start all over the city the night before, particularly around Place de la Bastille. Then on the big day itself a huge parade marches through the city and down the famous Champs-Élysées. Then the day ends in style with a mind-blowing fireworks display at the country’s most iconic landmark, the Eiffel Tower.
9. Edinburgh Festivals
Where? Edinburgh, Scotland
When? Late July to early September
Known as the festival capital of the world, there are over ten major events taking place in the Scottish capital annually, six of which happen between the last days of July and the beginning of September. The first of these is Edinburgh Art Festival, Scotland’s largest annual festival of visual art, which has something for everyone. The remaining five are the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Edinburgh International Festival (which focuses on classical performing arts) and the famous Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which is staged in front of Edinburgh Castle. But by far the best-known of all the festivals is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – the largest arts festival in the world.
10. La Tomatina
Where? Bunol, Spain
When? August 28th, 2013
There aren’t many festivals around the world where the object of the event is to throw vegetables at each other. But the main focus of La Tomatina in the Spanish town of Buñol near Valencia is just that. That’s what makes it so unique! For this festival, which originated in 1944, you’ll do nothing but throw tomatoes at those unfortunate to be in your vicinity at the time. If you go, expect every pick of clothing on you (and not to mention your hair) to go red! And if are lucky enough to make it, make sure to be well equipped with goggles to protect your eyes. Nobody likes citric acid in their eyes.
11. Notting Hill Carnival
When? August 25th and 26th, 2013
Held every year at the end of August in the famous West London neighbourhood, the Notting Hill Carnival is arguably Europe’s most colourful and outlandish festival. It was founded in 1964 as a way for local Afro-Caribbean communities to celebrate their cultures and traditions. Over the two days, twenty miles of colourful costumes surround over 40 static sound systems and hundreds of Caribbean food stalls. Enjoying it are over one million revellers, assisted by 40,000 volunteers. It’s a gargantuan operation. Not to be missed if you are in London in August, it is the largest festival celebration of its kind in Europe.
12. Tokyo September Basho
When? September 15th – 29th, 2013 (also held every January and May)
If you're lucky enough to be in the Japanese capital in January, May or September, get yourself to Kokugikan Sumo Hall, Japan's largest sumo arena. Once there, get ready for a treat – sumo wrestling is everything you expect it to be. You'll witness salt-throwing, stand-offs, and the occasional wrestle, too. Each fight may only last a minute or two, but the build up to it and the atmosphere in the arena make it worthwhile.
When? September 21st to October 6th, 2013
Attracting over six million people every year, Oktoberfest is the largest public festival in the world. It’s held over three weeks every September and the beginning of October – it was moved back to September some years ago due to the climate, would you believe. People from all over the world flock to the Bavarian capital to eat large sausages, make new friends, ride rollercoasters and (most importantly) drink copious and copious amounts of beer from giant glasses. And it’s been going on for about 200 years!
14. Festes de la Mercé
When? September 20th to 24th, 2013
For four days every September, the city of Barcelona is transformed into a melting pot of activity for this, the biggest festival of the year. Various events take place all over the city, both day and night. Squares to watch out for include Plaça de Catalunya, Plaça Reial, Plaça de Sant Jaume and Maremagnum. The programme can be picked up at hostels throughout the city and with activities taking place hourly in all main centres from morning until night, you’ll definitely find something to constantly amuse you over the four days.
15. New Year's Eve on Sydney Harbour
When? December 31st
Sydney is one of the world’s most popular cities in which to welcome the new year, and it’s no wonder; the fireworks display over Sydney Harbour is just spectacular. The official site has an interactive map of where to get the best view of the lights, plus listings of all the other end-of-year happenings, such as the Rolex yacht race, the annual gala at the Opera House and events at the zoo.