50 top festivals around the world, from biggest to most unique

The world is a magical place where cultures collide in a colorful explosion of music, dance, and tradition. Festivals around the globe offer a glimpse into the heart and soul of diverse communities, each with its own unique story, pacing our lives just like seasons.

Trying to pick the “best”, or top festivals in the world? Well, it's a bit like choosing your favorite flavor of gelato — Hazelnut? Straciatella, maybe? It's all about personal taste!

For this article, we based our choices on criteria such as cultural significance, global recognition, attendance and overall impact. We’ve also included te wildest and most unusual festivals! Please forgive us if your favorite local festival is not included, but we could only list so many.

Whether it's massive gatherings that rival Coachella or local celebrations like Catalan La Mercè, festivals are where people come together to celebrate life. Music, theater, religion, food, traditions… There’s always a good reason to party!

So, come join us as we dive into the most wonderful festivals from around the world, where every event is a fiesta of diversity, creativity, and good vibes.

Festivals from around the world with global recognition or impact

Ready to party? We’ve gathered some of the biggest festivals in the world, drawing thousands of people from all over the planet!

1. Oktoberfest - Munich, Germany

[Usually celebrated from late September to the first weekend in October]

Prost! Oktoberfest, held annually in Munich, Germany, is a renowned beer festival dating back to the early 19th century. Lasting about two weeks, it attracts millions of visitors worldwide who enjoy Bavarian delicacies and specially brewed beers.

Beyond its cultural significance, Oktoberfest promotes responsible drinking and fosters social connections among attendees.

Check our articles on drinks in German to learn more vocab!

Oktoberfest, held annually in Munich, Germany, is a renowned beer festival dating back to the early 19th century.

2. Chinese New Year - China

[Celebrated according to the lunar calendar, typically falling between January 21 and February 20]

Chinese New Year, or the Spring Festival, marks the beginning of the lunar year with customs symbolizing renewal and prosperity.

Celebrated globally, it includes family reunions, feasts, dragon dances, and the iconic red envelopes. Recent efforts focus on eco-friendly celebrations due to their environmental impact.

Learn how to wish a Happy Chinese New Year in our article!

3. Burning Man - Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA

[Occurs annually during the week leading up to and including Labor Day weekend in late August and early September]

Burning Man is an experimental event in Nevada's Black Rock Desert, emphasizing community, art, and self-expression.

Attendees create a temporary city, engage in a gift economy, and witness the burning of a wooden effigy, sparking discussions on sustainability and creativity.

Burning Man is an experimental event in Nevada's Black Rock Desert.

4. Cannes Film Festival - Cannes, France

[Usually held in May]

The Cannes Film Festival is a prestigious and glamorous event on the French Riviera, showcasing international films and hosting awards ceremonies.

It serves as a platform for cultural diversity, artistic innovation, and addressing social issues within the film industry.

5. Tokyo International Film Festival - Tokyo, Japan

[Usually held in late October]

Another cinema event, The Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) features a diverse selection of global films.

It fosters creativity, collaboration, and discussion on industry challenges, including diversity and technology.

6. Edinburgh International Festival - Edinburgh, Scotland

[Usually held in August]

The Edinburgh International Festival, with its alternative festival Fringe, is a prominent arts festival, presenting music, theater, and more from around the world.

It promotes cultural exchange and dialogue on societal issues while celebrating artistic excellence.

7. SXSW (South by Southwest) - Austin, Texas, USA

[Usually held in March]

SXSW is a conglomeration of festivals and conferences in Austin, Texas, focusing on film, music, and interactive media.

It's a hub for showcasing emerging talent, exploring innovation, and networking across industries.

And the Texan “weirdo” (in a good way) city is the perfect place for this!

8. Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) - Berlin, Germany

[Usually held in February]

The Berlin International Film Festival, or Berlinale, is renowned for its diverse film program and industry events.

It champions cultural diversity, artistic integrity, and social engagement in cinema.

9. Venice International Film Festival - Venice, Italy

[Usually held in late August or early September]

The Venice International Film Festival is one of the oldest and most prestigious film festivals, awarding the coveted Golden Lion.

It's a platform for global cinema, setting standards and promoting cultural exchange.

10. Carnival of Venice - Venice, Italy

[Usually held in February]

Let’s stay in one of the most romantic cities in the world (learn how to say I love you in Italian here)! The Carnival of Venice is a historic festival known for elaborate masks and masquerade balls.

It celebrates the city's cultural heritage with parades, performances, as well as mysterious and elegant social gatherings. I was there with my Italian class in high school, and we had such a blast!

Carnival of Venice is a historic festival known for elaborate masks and masquerade balls.

11. Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival - Indio, California, USA

[Usually held in April]

Who’s never heard of it? Coachella is a renowned music festival in California, featuring diverse musical acts and immersive art experiences, and attracting the hippest Hollywood celebrities. Yep, even Leo seems to be totally into it!

It's a cultural phenomenon shaping trends in music, fashion, and art while supporting social and environmental causes.

12. Glastonbury Festival - Somerset, UK

[Usually late June]

Glastonbury Festival, held in Somerset, UK, is a renowned music festival dating back to 1970, following the footsteps of legendary Woodstock.

It features diverse musical genres, theater, and arts, while promoting environmental sustainability and social activism.

13. Tomorrowland - Boom, Belgium

[Usually July]

Tomorrowland in Boom, Belgium, is a premier electronic dance music festival known for its immersive experience and inclusivity, promoting unity and environmental awareness.

14. Roskilde Festival - Roskilde, Denmark

[Usually late June to early July]

Roskilde Festival in Denmark is among Europe's largest music festivals, focusing on cultural exchange, sustainability, and community engagement through diverse musical acts and art installations.

And what better country than the birthplace of Hygge for this?

15. Tribeca Film Festival - New York City, USA

[Usually April]

Tribeca Film Festival in New York City showcases independent films, documentaries, and virtual reality experiences.

It fosters creativity, diversity, and innovation in storytelling.

16. Montréal International Jazz Festival - Montreal, Canada

[Usually late June to early July]

The Montréal International Jazz Festival is the world's largest jazz festival, celebrating diverse musical talents from all over the world and cultural exchange in downtown Montreal.

You’ll find it in our article on Québécois French!

17. Gion Matsuri - Kyoto, Japan

[Usually July]

Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, Japan, is a vibrant festival dating back over a thousand years, featuring colorful processions, traditional performances, and street food stalls.

Gion Matsuri's original purpose was purification and pacification of disease causing entities.

18. San Fermín - Pamplona, Spain

[Annually from July 6 to July 14]

The festival of San Fermín in Pamplona, Spain, is famous for its running of the bulls and week-long festivities honoring Saint Fermín.

Every year, this festival raises international attention and debates on tradition and ethics. Just imagine sleep-deprived, inebriated and brave (or reckless?) people running after a bull…

You can sing along the traditional song and brush up on your Spanish months and numbers!

19. Essaouira Gnaoua World Music Festival - Essaouira, Morocco

[Usually June]

The Essaouira Gnaoua World Music Festival celebrates Gnaoua music and culture in Morocco, featuring performances, workshops, and collaborations promoting intercultural understanding and artistic excellence.

Without forgetting the Moroccan hospitality!

The biggest festivals in the world in terms of attendance

Which festivals attract the most people? Find out below!

1. Kumbh Mela - Various locations in India

[Celebrated at four locations in India: Haridwar, Prayagraj (formerly Allahabad), Nashik, and Ujjain, rotating every three years]

Kumbh Mela is one of the largest religious gatherings globally, drawing millions of Hindu pilgrims to its sacred sites every three years.

The festival involves ritual dips in holy rivers for spiritual cleansing and blessings, accompanied by colorful processions and cultural performances.

2. Sunburn Festival - Goa, India

[Usually held in December]

Let’s stay in India with the Sunburn Festival, Asia's largest electronic dance music festival, held annually in Goa. It features renowned DJs, stunning stage designs, and immersive experiences set against the backdrop of Goa's beautiful beaches.

Sunburn Festival has become a staple of India's festival scene, drawing music lovers and partygoers from across the country and beyond.

3. Carnival of Rio de Janeiro - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

[Usually held in February or March, 40 days before Easter]

The Carnival of Rio de Janeiro is among the world's largest and most vibrant festivals, attracting millions to the streets for its iconic parades, samba music, and elaborate costumes.

It's a celebration of Brazilian culture and joy, featuring the renowned Samba Parade and numerous street parties and cultural events.

Around the world, many towns and cities — including mine, Sitges — try to replicate this irresistible, glittery event!

The Carnival of Rio de Janeiro is a celebration of Brazilian culture and joy.

4. Comic-Con International - San Diego, California, USA

[Usually held in July]

Comic-Con International is one of the largest pop culture conventions globally, held annually in San Diego, California.

It brings together comic book enthusiasts, — nerds — movie buffs, TV show fans, and gamers to celebrate their passions.

The event features panel discussions, celebrity appearances, exclusive previews, cosplay contests, and exhibitions by major entertainment companies, making it a mecca for pop culture enthusiasts from around the world.

5. Sydney New Year's Eve - Sydney, Australia

[Celebrated on December 31st]

Sydney New Year's Eve is one of the most spectacular New Year's celebrations globally, centered around the iconic Sydney Harbor. Millions gather to witness the breathtaking fireworks display illuminating the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Sydney Opera House.

The event also includes live music performances, boat parades, and cultural festivities, making it a must-visit destination for welcoming the New Year in style.

If you can’t make it Down Under, it’s broadcasted on TV all over the world.

6. Edinburgh's Hogmanay - Edinburgh, Scotland

[Celebrated on December 31st to January 1st]

Edinburgh's Hogmanay is another one of the world's most renowned New Year's celebrations, spanning several days of festivities.

The event includes street parties, concerts, fireworks displays, and traditional Scottish ceilidh dancing, attracting visitors from around the globe to ring in the New Year in the historic and picturesque city of Edinburgh.

7. Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) - Various locations in the USA

[Held in different cities throughout the year, including Las Vegas, Orlando, and others]

Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) is one of the largest electronic dance music festivals globally, featuring top DJs, immersive art installations, and carnival rides.

With its vibrant atmosphere and cutting-edge music, EDC attracts hundreds of thousands of attendees to each of its editions, creating unforgettable experiences of music, art, and community.

8. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta - Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

[Usually held in October]

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the largest hot air balloon festival globally, showcasing hundreds of colorful balloons floating over the New Mexico skies — note that these are IDENTIFIED flying objects!

The fiesta includes mass ascensions, balloon glows, and competitions, attracting balloonists and spectators from around the world to marvel at the spectacle of flight. Absolutely magical!

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the largest hot air balloon festival globally.

9. Oktoberfest - Munich, Germany

[Usually celebrated from late September to the first weekend in October]

Ya, Oktoberfest is again in this ranking, for the amount of visitors it receives every year. Glückwunsch!

10. Mardi Gras - New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

[Occurs annually on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday]

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a legendary carnival celebration known for its colorful parades, vibrant music, extravagant masquerade balls, and, let’s be honest, absolute madness.

The festival, rooted in French Catholic tradition, attracts millions of visitors to the streets of New Orleans, where they can catch beads — Try to wear like a hundred necklaces at once — enjoy live performances, immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere and let loose, really loose, before the solemnity of Lent begins.

Celebrations around the world with cultural significance

The celebrations below have a high cultural significance. While many of them are religious, they captivate people from all horizons and beliefs. Beautiful!

1. Hajj - Saudi Arabia

[Celebrated during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah]

Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, mandatory for all able-bodied Muslims. It involves rituals such as circling the Kaaba and spending a day at Mount Arafat, symbolizing unity and submission to God.

Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

2. Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha - Islamic World

[Eid al-Fitr: Celebrated at the end of Ramadan; Eid al-Adha: Celebrated on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah]

Eid festivals are important Islamic celebrations marked by prayers, feasting, and acts of charity.

Eid al-Fitr ends Ramadan, while Eid al-Adha commemorates Abraham's sacrifice.

3. Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) - Mexico

[Celebrated on November 1st and 2nd]

Day of the Dead honors deceased loved ones with altars, offerings, and festivities. It's a vibrant celebration of Mexican culture, featuring parades, music, and colorful decorations.

This unique festival was honored in the Disney movie Coco.

4. Navratri/Durga Puja - India

[Celebrated at different times depending on the lunar calendar, usually in September or October]

Navratri/Durga Puja is a Hindu festival celebrating the goddess Durga over nine nights.

It includes prayers, fasting, and traditional dances like Garba, fostering spiritual renewal and community bonding.

Durga Puja celebrates the victory of the goddess Durga over the demon king Mahishasura.

5. Pongal - India

[Celebrated in mid-January, usually from January 14th to 17th]

Also in India, Pongal is a Tamil harvest festival celebrated with prayers, feasting, and the preparation of a special dish called Pongal.

It's a time to express gratitude for a bountiful harvest and to celebrate prosperity.

6. Diwali (Deepavali) - India

[Celebrated in October or November, depending on the lunar calendar]

Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, is another major Indian (Hindu) festival celebrated with prayers, feasting, and the lighting of lamps.

It symbolizes the victory of light over darkness and the triumph of good over evil.

7. Obon - Japan

[Celebrated in mid-August or July, varies by region]

Obon is a Japanese Buddhist festival honoring ancestors with rituals, lantern lighting, and Bon dances.

It's a time for reflection, remembrance, and gratitude for the continuity of life.

8. Hanami - Japan

[Celebrated during the cherry blossom season, typically in late March to early April]

Another beautiful and unique celebration, Hanami is the Japanese tradition of flower viewing, particularly cherry blossoms. It involves picnics, parties, and contemplation beneath the blooming trees, symbolizing renewal and the fleeting nature of life.

Every year, the Japanese tourism board publishes a cherry blossom map per region.

9. Semana Santa - Spain

[Celebrated during Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter]

Semana Santa is a solemn religious observance in Spain, featuring processions, music, and elaborate floats depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ.

It's a time of reverence and reflection for Catholics. I live in Spain, and let me tell you, they live it very intensely!

Many Spaniards also enjoy this holiday to go on their first beach vacation of the year.

10. La Mercè - Barcelona, Spain

[Celebrated around September 24th]

Barcelona was my hometown for many years, and La Mercè still holds a place in my heart.

Barcelona's annual festival, honoring the city's patron saint, features cultural events such as parades, human tower (castellers) competitions, music concerts, and fireworks, celebrating the strong Catalan identity and heritage. Visca Catalunya!

By the way, do you know the differences between Spanish and Catalan?

11. Las Fallas - Valencia, Spain

[Annually from March 15th to March 19th]

Beware, Spaniards like it loud!

Las Fallas is a lively festival celebrated in Valencia, Spain, to honor Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. It features elaborate papier-mâché sculptures, known as "fallas," which are erected throughout the city streets. These sculptures often satirize political figures, current events, and popular culture.

The highlight of Fallas is the nightly fireworks displays, known as "mascletàs," which fill the sky with explosions of sound and color. Day “mascletàs” are also organized, which success is measured by the decibel level!

On the final night of the festival, the fallas are set ablaze in a spectacular event known as "La Cremà" (the burning), symbolizing the renewal of life and the coming of spring.

12. Sukkot - Israel

[Celebrated on the 15th day of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar]

Sukkot is a Jewish harvest festival commemorating the Israelites' dwelling in temporary shelters during the Exodus.

It includes building and decorating sukkahs, waving the lulav and etrog, and feasting.

The wildest festivals in the world

Ok, cultural and religious celebrations are fascinating, but if you want to party and really go wild, check out these unusual and unique festivals from around the world.

1. La Tomatina - Buñol, Spain

[Usually held on the last Wednesday of August]

Spain is the all-category champion of festivals. And, since they don’t have enough religious events and century-old traditions (note the sarcasm), they come up with the craziest ideas! Any reason is good for a fiesta, right?

La Tomatina is a unique festival where participants engage in a massive tomato fight, hurling thousands of ripe tomatoes at each other. This bizarre tradition has been held annually since 1945 and attracts tourists from all over the world to join in the messy fun.

Oh, and they have a similar festival with wine!

La Tomatina is a unique festival where participants engage in a massive tomato fight.

By Graham McLellan from London, UK - 00690016

2. New Year’s Eve - Bérchules, Spain

I know what you’re thinking: A New Year’s Eve celebration is nothing original, right?

Well, maybe not, except when it takes place… at the beginning of August.

But why in summer? Well, on New Year's Eve 1994, everything was ready for the fiesta in this quaint Andalusian town. But a blackout at left the town without light, putting an end to all the celebrations.

Determined to celebrate anyway, the festivities were postponed to the summer, and it’s been that way ever since!

If you want to join the fun, make sure to learn these ways to say Happy New Year in Spanish!

3. El Colacho (Baby Jumping Festival) - Castrillo de Murcia, Spain

[Held annually on the Sunday after Corpus Christi]

El Colacho, also known as the Baby Jumping Festival, involves men dressed as the devil leaping over rows of babies lying on mattresses in the streets.

This bizarre tradition is believed to cleanse the babies of sin and bring them good luck and protection. Locos, I’m telling you!

4. Up Helly Aa - Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland

[Usually held on the last Tuesday of January]

Up Helly Aa is a Viking fire festival where participants dress up as Vikings, complete with torches and helmets, and march through the streets before setting a replica Viking longship ablaze.

This dramatic spectacle celebrates Shetland's Norse heritage in a truly unforgettable way. So cool!

5. Cheese Rolling Festival - Gloucestershire, England

[Usually held annually in late May]

One of my favorites! The Cheese Rolling Festival is a quirky event where participants chase a large wheel of cheese down a steep hill.

Contestants often end up tumbling and rolling after the cheese, resulting in hilarious and sometimes painful antics that draw spectators from far and wide. Do yourself a favor and watch this video. Didn’t it make your day?

6. Boryeong Mud Festival - Boryeong, South Korea

[Usually held in July]

The Boryeong Mud Festival is an annual event where participants engage in mud wrestling, mud slides, and other muddy activities on Daecheon Beach.

The festival originated as a marketing ploy for local cosmetics but has since grown into a wildly popular international attraction.

7. The Monkey Buffet Festival - Lopburi, Thailand

[Usually held in November]

If you’re not an animal fan, you might want to skip this one! The Monkey Buffet Festival is a unique event where the local macaque monkeys are treated to a lavish feast of fruits, vegetables, and desserts arranged in colorful displays.

The festival aims to promote tourism and celebrate the coexistence of humans and monkeys in the region.

8. Night of the Radishes (Noche de Rábanos) - Oaxaca, Mexico

[Annually on December 23rd]

The Night of the Radishes is a traditional event where artisans carve elaborate sculptures out of radishes, showcasing intricate scenes and figures.

This unusual festival has its roots in a Spanish colonial market tradition and has evolved into a vibrant celebration of creativity and craftsmanship.

9. Wife-Carrying World Championships - Sonkajärvi, Finland

[Held annually in July]

It HAD to be Finnish. The Wife-Carrying World Championships challenge male competitors to carry their female partners through a challenging obstacle course, featuring hurdles, water traps, and even a "widow maker."

The quirky event draws participants from around the world to compete for the title of champion wife carrier. Oh, what a title.

I hope you enjoyed this colorful tour of the most epic celebrations on the planet!

But it's not just about music and partying. Festivals like Holi in India or Diwali's dazzling lights remind us of the power of tradition and community, while events like La Tomatina in Spain or the Boryeong Mud Festival in South Korea show us that sometimes, the best fun is a little messy — and seriously wild!

So, whether you're chasing adventure, broadening your culture, seeking enlightment or just looking for an excuse to let loose, these top festivals in the world have got you covered.

They're a global showcase of the best of humanity — our creativity, our diversity, and our unbridled love for life, wich we always try to embrace on our language and culture blog, right here.

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