Festivals offer a magical opportunity for various communities to come together and celebrate their love of everything from music and art, to food and wine. These gatherings call forth the creative and free spirit within us all, and are like a fun and inspirational playground for people of all ages.
Whether you’re into the idea of roller skating on the most fascinating rooftops in Amsterdam, examining the jaw-dropping innovative art that South Africa has to offer, sipping on world renowned beers while dancing along to masterfully curated musical programs, taking a musical journey into Australia’s legendary bushland, or glamping under the star-filled New Zealand skies, the global festival scene throughout 2018 and 2019 has got you covered.
But, for those with a vast tapestry of interests it can be tricky to decide which festivals to say yes to. For this reason, Flight Network has done thorough research and countless interviews to whittle down the seemingly endless offerings of global festivals to 30 of the best. Let our list of the top 30 global festivals be your guiding light when planning your unforgettable year of festival hopping.
Silver Mountain Music Festival offers a celebration of music, nature and country living in a unique mountain setting. The festival is inspired by the silvery glow of the Langeberg Mountains in Western Cape, South Africa, where the natural beauty of the land is coupled with a rich cultural heritage and genuine rural hospitality.
Concerts take place in unusual venues from historical country hotels to converted farm sheds, and are combined with events that showcase nature and country living. Special events include walks with Cape Buffalo, exploring indigenous forests, and milk and wine tastings. In addition, the location of the festival in Grootvadersbosch Valley, is the gateway to a host of mountain activities, including hiking, mountain biking, and canyoning. This festival is a true community event and sure to delight lovers of music and nature.
ROEF will literally take you to new heights as it showcases Amsterdam’s finest rooftops. This one-of-a-kind festival showcases the top 20 rooftops in Amsterdam, and creates opportunities for attendees to roller skate at 85 meter heights, dive into a hot tub with a view, or find their way out of an escape room. Guests will also enjoy dancing to the sounds of the finest dj’s and live bands, in addition to gaining inspiration from poets and sustainability connaisseurs. And of course, this all takes place while attendees sip on their favorite summer drinks.
Other special events include the exclusive pop up Rooftop Campsite on the A’dam Tower, a Rooftop Dinner with botanical beer pairings, Rooftop Expeditions, and an inspiring Rooftop Symposium on the future of rooftop landscape. ROEF is based on the concept of Show, Grow, Connect, which focuses on showing the possibilities of the green roof movement and inspiring others to join. ROEF demonstrates what the roof landscape of Amsterdam has to offer, in both its sustainable value and its potential to escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.
An impressive gathering of African talent, the National Arts Festival has been running for 44 years and attracts artists and art-enthusiasts from around the world to a small town in South Africa. For eleven days the sleepy town of Grahamstown comes alive with 90 venues, more than 200,000 visitors, 2,000 performances, and more than 700 events. The National Art Festival is easily Africa’s largest multi-arts festival.
And, this gathering is truly inclusive as it’s always been open to all, regardless of race, colour, sex or creed. In addition, no censorship or artistic restraint has ever been imposed on works presented in Grahamstown, allowing the National Arts Festival to serve as an important forum for political protest. This festival is sure to surprise and excite as it’s part of the World Fringe Alliance and draws on a pool of Fringe talent and talent-spotters, which stimulates an innovative energy for both performers and audiences.
The Robeco SummerNights festival offers endless opportunities for an amazing evening out, with an informal atmosphere and top-musicians from across the globe. This long-standing summer festival features concerts in all genres, from classical and pop, to world music and jazz, all in one of the greatest Concert-halls in the World: the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.
Guests can choose from more than 80 concerts and enrich the experience by adding on a tour of the building, or a three course dinner served in the magnificent Mirror Hall. Those hoping to enjoy an evening with top-musicians in an informal atmosphere will not be disappointed.
Enjoy over 100 activities spread across 10 days at the Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival. From food, sports and live entertainment, to running, cycling, swimming and children’s activities there is something for everyone. This year, the festival will take place between June 29 and July 8, providing an ideal choice for a family-friendly winter break.
The Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival has become an institution on South Africa’s winter calendar as it offers such a diverse array of activities. Sports enthusiasts can sign up for the country’s top cycling and road-running events, families can bond during the countless fun-filled holiday activities, and adventurers can explore the area’s spectacular natural scenery. And of course, those looking to indulge in word-famous Knysna oysters, with a glass or two of bubbly, will find that they’ve landed in paradise.
The Gent Jazz Festival unites music devotees in Ghent’s abbey gardens to rejoice in the sheer beauty of the current music scene. Jazz hands optional. The authentic 13th century abbey gardens plays host to some of the world’s greatest artists, such as Tom Jones, The Roots, Melanie De Biasio, and Selah Sue. The newest and brightest names in the jazz scene are also brought into the mix, providing a robust offering of musical treats. Not afraid to colour outside of the lines, Gent Jazz Festival prides itself on surprising jazz fanatics and delighting newcomers. Come for the music, stay for the vibrant musical camaraderie.
This world class beer festival is a truly memorable experience as it has mastered the fine art of fun. If you’ve been dreaming of a gathering where you can explore the highest-quality beers from around the world, pair your drinks with phenomenal food, and dance to a masterfully curated musical program, the Utrecht TAPT Festival is for you. To amp up the fun factor participants can engage in or observe hilarious games, revel in the impressive decorations, and mingle with other beautiful people in super relaxing vibes.
The Franschhoek Bastille Festival is a French-inspired food and wine festival in the heart of South Africa’s winelands that is sure to bring out your inner Parisian. During the festival, the captivating village of Franschhoek comes alive with entertaining activities and merry-makers dressed to the nines in the French colours of red, blue and white – a homage to the area’s French heritage.
Be sure to check out the highly-coveted Food & Wine Marquee, which is set against the backdrop of the historic Huguenot Monument, where you can sample superb Franschhoek wines, or treat your taste buds to delicious gourmet fare from local eateries. Be on the lookout for the quirky caricature artist who can capture the humor in your Bastille experience, and don’t miss the popular Porcupine Ridge Barrel Rolling Competition or live music. To be one with the theme, be sure to bring along your beret to this memorable French-loving festival.
Hamburg Pride week sparkles with an open-minded spirit, powerful human rights demonstrations, and colourful celebrations in one of the most beautiful venues you can imagine: the Inner Alster Lake. Attracting more than 300,000 visitors, this festival is touted by many as one of the most vivid and powerful celebrations of LGBTIQ*+ life in Germany’s second largest city.
Participants will never be without something to do, as they can dive into 100 events, ranging from discussion boards to parties. Welcoming both locals and visitors in its unique, nonjudgmental fashion, this gathering truly offers everything the rainbow heart desires.
A gathering for lovers of world class blues, soul, rock and gospel music, the Notodden Blues Festival is Scandinavia’s largest blues festival, and known around the world as Europe’s finest blues experience. Set in the stunning region of Telemark, Norway, this festival is visited annually by up to 30,000 music enthusiasts from all corners of the world. Over four days, participants can revel in intimate club concerts, blues cruises on gorgeous lake Heddal, church concerts, a World Heritage blues cruise on lake Tinnsjø, educational workshops at the European Blues Center, band camps for youth, family events and major concerts with the world’s biggest blues stars.
This year, the Notodden Blues Festival offers an impressive lineup of blues, roots and rock-icons including Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, the energetic blues rock band Vintage Trouble, Norwegian superstar Adam Douglas, Sugaray Rayford, The Welch Ledbetter Connection, Ana Popovic, Norwegian Grammy winners Knut Reiersrud Band and Rita Engedalen and many more.
A the largest electronic music festival in Spain, Dreambeach caters to over 150,000 guests who are ready to dance and play on the Mediterranean shoreline in Almeria. Billed as “The New Era”, the sixth edition of the festival will build on its impressive variation of music offerings with a line-up that includes hip-hop, bass, hardstyle, techno, trance and EDM.
For those that want to fully immerse themselves in the experience, there’s a camping area that offers luxurious Balinese beds, barbecue sites and a swimming pool that’s over 60 metres long. This magical festival might just be the highlight of your summer.
The fact that a third of Iceland’s population attends Reykjavik Culture Night should be a sign that this festival should be on your must-attend list. During this unforgettable evening, the center of Reykjavik transforms into a festival arena, and every street, shop window, bank, hairdresser, backyard, and more becomes a venue for music, dance, art, installations, theater, or a delightful mix of all of the above. Reykjavik Culture Night is a wonderfully chaotic experience where anything and everything can happen – and it often does in the span of one legendary evening.
Unseen is a highly renowned festival that highlights what’s happening at the forefront of international photography. With 53 exhibitors, and an interactive platform CO-OP that features 12 diverse artist-run collectives, Unseen is a gathering commonly sought out by everyone from famous photographers to curious novices. Highlights of the festival include two extensive exhibitions, the Book Market, Unseen Amsterdams’ speakers programme in the Living Room, Onsite Projects, and development programmes, which focus on new talent.
During Camera Japan, Japanese culture and food meet in Amsterdam, one of the most exciting European cities. This ideal combination creates a multidisciplinary festival that brings together film, theatre, music, art exhibits, and of course, delicious Japanese food. In short: Camera Japan offers the best that Japanese culture has to offer, providing guests with an opportunity to engage with an exciting assortment of Japanese films, musicians, artists, and cuisine, all presented in mesmerizing surroundings.
Read My World is an Amsterdam-based literary initiative that explores the borders between literature and journalism. Offering a platform to new international literary developments, this festival challenges Dutch and international authors to take a deep dive into the fascinating waters of literature and journalism, with an emphasis on how each discipline impacts the other.
Each year, this thought-provoking gathering inspects a different region and asks local curators to introduce writers and poets who can share stories that go beyond the superficiality of day-to-day news. The imagination and curiosity of writers and readers alike will come alive during this compelling festival.
Besides being the first collaborative public design festival in South Africa, and generating multiple forms of value for people from all walks of life, Open Design is one of the most inclusive and accessible design festivals in the world. Driven to create systemic change to help build a future-ready Afrika, Open Design is a partner of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network and is persistent in its mission to help drive the UN Sustainable Development Goals in South Africa and Africa.
During this 10-day experience, Open Design Afrika Festival promotes the concept that design is the unifying thread that links innovation, and that education and community are the building blocks of a sustainable, inclusive, and prosperous society. Featuring a melting pot of cross-sector and cross-cultural engagements through talks, tours, workshops, master classes, exhibitions, maker spaces and more, Open Design is an ideal space to experience top Afrikan and international design-led innovations that are enhancing the quality of life across diverse sectors.
Gain exclusive access to life in Zaandam during the Nacht van de Nacht op de Zaanse Schans festival. Festival attendees gain access to the homes of Zaandam residents during living room concerts, and become one with the natural environment by hopping on a boat tour through the local polder at night. And night is exactly what this festival is all about, as it focuses on the beauty and function of darkness. Many of the festival activities take place after the sun sets, and supports guests in developing a new appreciation for the darker hours of the day.
I Am Surf Film Festival opens your eyes to the rich spectrum of surfing experiences through films, music and art by independent filmmakers and artists from across the globe. As the Netherlands’ foremost celebration of surf culture, this celebration of surfing presents a stellar selection of the best independent surf films from across the globe to inspire, excite and entertain.
Each year the festival promises a line-up of premieres, award-winning documentaries and short films, accompanied by inspiring workshops, talks with filmmakers, art expositions, food, drinks and music. I Am Surf is a cultural happening and must-attend event for all lovers of the surf scene.
A world-class music experience that inspires audiences, develops new artists, invigorates the community and shapes the national jazz and blues scene, the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz is an annual Australian festival that attracts up to 15,000 attendees annually. Events are held at various venues in the town of Wangaratta, which is 260 kilometres (162 mi) north east of the state capital, Melbourne.
Since its inception, Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues has grown to include more than 100 performances, from over 350 national and international artists, each year. This popular festival also hosts the National Jazz Awards, Youth Jazz Workshops, Sunday Market, master classes and other events throughout Wangaratta and the surrounding wine regions.
A world-class party in one of New South Wales‘s most pristine bush-land locations, Strawberry Fields is an annual celebration of art, music and the wild outdoors. The endless smiles, blue skies and majestic clouds, mixed with fun and friends, both new and old, make this musical journey into Australia’s legendary bushland one that will leave a lasting imprint.
As guests embark on adventures through ghost gums, discover an oriental tea lounge, stumble upon a jazz quintet improvising on the beach, or let loose while a disco legend unleashes funk and soul from a treehouse, they’ll be transported to a space where their creative energy, and good vibes come alive. Travel to the wild world of Strawberry Fields and prepare to jump into the greatest weekend of your life.
Network Waitaki Victorian Fete is a remarkable opportunity to surround yourself with the beauty of Oamaru’s stunning Victorian architecture, while taking a step back in time and sampling the nostalgia of the Victorian era. This festival offers a jam packed day of entertainment, complete with elaborate Victorian costumes, jugglers, street performers, magicians and stilt walkers.
Every detail of this event helps to ensure that it will provide a day to remember. To top off the goodness, the festival is the annual fundraiser for the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust with proceeds going towards preserving New Zealand’s Best Collection of Heritage Buildings in Oamaru.
The first festival in the world to welcome the first sunrise of the new year, Rhythm and Vines Festival is a world class four-day music and camping festival set amongst the vines of Waiohika Estate in Gisborne New Zealand. This iconic event attracts over 20,000 people from across the globe, who flock to Gisborne to celebrate the New Year with some of the world’s hottest talent.
Past line-ups have included international acts such as N.E.R.D, Netsky, Chase & Status, Chromeo, Justice, Flying Lotus and Tinie Tempah, along with New Zealand acts like Shihad and The Naked and Famous. Rhythm and Vines helps guests set a positive and inspiring tone for the new year.
The aptly named Dark Music Days is an annual festival of contemporary and new music that takes place during the darkest period of the Icelandic winter. This festival is a unique opportunity for young composers and musicians from around the world to showcase their new music in the captivating city of Reykjavík.
The festival is Iceland’s oldest music gathering, being founded in 1980 by the Iceland Composers’ Society, and is a haven for artists who are pioneering contemporary music. Dark Music Days is the place to be if you’re a music lover craving a fresh musical experience.
Australia’s premier curated multi-arts celebration, Perth Festival is known for commissioning compelling new works, celebrating the unique qualities of Perth, and engaging diverse audiences. The charm of the Australian lifestyle, environment, and history is expertly woven into this festival, making it a must for those curious about this enthralling continent.
With a focus on celebrating creativity and culture, Perth Festival is bright, bold, quirky, and has something for everyone with numerous exhibitions, performances, and live music. If you’re ready to experience art in a different light, dance to top-quality tunes, say yes to loads of laughs, immerse yourself in incredible stories, and witness extraordinary physical feats, be sure to add Perth Festival to your 2019 travel itinerary.
The world’s best wines, unforgettable food, and world class kiwi entertainment can all be enjoyed at the Marlborough Wine and Food Festival. During this day of merriment, which takes place at the iconic Brancott Estate Vineyard, festival goers get to sample a unique selection of world-class wines and delicious local cuisine, all while dancing along to musical artists from New Zealand and Australia. Past line-ups have included NZ Marley All Stars, Supergroove, Hollie Smith, Newtown Rocksteady, Tahuna Breaks, Ladi6, The Black Seeds, Avalanche City, Gin Wigmore, The Phoneix Foundation, and Kora.
Melbourne is renowned for its vibrant nightlife, creative flair, and the way its people embrace opportunities to celebrate their city. White Night plays an important role in this culture. When the festivities kick off, the streets of Melbourne are handed over to the people as the White Night festival fills the streets.
Artists, performers and musicians transform the city from a civic space into a wonderland of creativity, allowing visitors to embark on a fantastical journey of discovery. This event is recognised as the most attended one-day major event in Victoria, attracting a diverse crowd of all ages, and inspiring a climate of harmony and innovation.
Friendly staff, strong programming, well chosen events, interesting guests, and an amazing chance to experience Iceland await you at the Stockfish Film Festival. This esteemed festival handpicks 20 of the most interesting films from the festival circuit and provides attendees with an in-depth knowledge of the films by inviting a representative of each film to partake in the industry days.
The industry days run alongside the festival and offer a unique opportunity for Icelandic filmmakers to converse with their colleagues and fans. Festival goers are also able to take part in masterclasses and panel talks, in addition to attending the entertaining offshoot of the festival, “The Shortfish”, which is a short film competition that shows six of the most prominent new Icelandic shorts.
Adelaide Fringe festival is composed of 31 magical days, and balmy Australian summer nights, filled with events at hundreds of venues, which showcase thousands of artists. This is the largest open access arts festival in the Southern Hemisphere, and is a playground of awe-inspiring events, groundbreaking work, fresh talent, innovative thinking and original voices.
Adelaide pulses with a stimulating energy of creativity during the festival, as the city is transformed into a wonderland of show tents and food stalls, comedians performing in a laundromat turned nightclub, mind blowing light displays, and so much more. Don’t miss out on this compelling journey into Australia’s art scene.
The Kawhia Kai Festival offers a rare chance to experience authentic Maori culture and food, from the land and sea, as it’s a celebration of the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. Because the Maoris believe that the Earth is the giver of life, they cook most food hangi style, which consists of using heated rocks and flax baskets in the ground.
Beyond the ample opportunities for one-of-a-kind food sampling, festival goers are treated to all day entertainment from local musicians and kapa haka groups, along with stalls demonstrating Maori carving, flax weaving, and tattooing. This festival should be at the top of the list for foodies who like their meals with a side of adventure.
Whether you’re a rugby devotee who loves being part of the action, or are just in it for the beer and banter, the Sydney 7s weekend won’t let you down. Rugby fans can join thousands of others at Sydney Olympic Park for fun in the sun, while cheering on Aussie teams as they battle it out on the field in 79 fast-paced games taking place over the course of three days.
Off the field, attendees get to play in a jovial atmosphere with music, pop-up food and drink bars, and a kid’s zone for families. One of the most entertaining aspects of this weekend are the wacky costumes, so dig into the wildest clothes in your closet, get creative, and remember that anything goes.