It is highly unlikely for anyone to spend a couple of months touring Europe and never get to attend at least one festival. There are so many annual festivals that range from small traditional village festivals in Switzerland to manic, weeklong celebrations in Italy and Spain. Festivals in Europe can be religious affairs such as Easter and Carnival, traditional events dating back thousands of years, art and cultural festivals, sporting events, or purely musical events. The exact dates for festival is a very from year to year usually because local authorities decided to move the dates around slightly in order to suit the public. The national tourist office of the country you plan to visit can usually give you the accurate dates of the major festivals a year in advance. If you would like to join a big event, you need to book accommodation well in advance or you can expect to sleep rough. Also expect food and everything else to be slightly more expensive during festival time.
In January, the Carnival of Venice is the best-known of the many Carnivals held in Italy during the 10 days that lead up to Ash Wednesday. Venetians and tourists don masks and costumes for a continuous street party. Germany also holds its carnival season at around the same time. In Iceland, the first day of summer is celebrated with a huge street party. At around the same time in March, there are many colorful parades to watch out for during the holy week Festival in Portugal. This festival also features hundreds of barefoot penitents carrying torches around the city. On March 17, a great parade with lots of drinking is held to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland.
From mid-May to June, music festivals abound. The Vienna Festival in Austria is one of the biggest music festivals in Europe. Another big music festival held in late June is England’s Glastonbury Festival. Norway’s Constitution Day held in May is the country’s biggest national holiday. A great celebration of opera, ballet and classical music is held in the Athens festival in Greece every June. The Holland Festival is Amsterdam’s celebration of arts, dance and theater. It is also held in late June.
In July, France celebrates Bastille Day. Its biggest celebration is in Paris which displays a military parade and fireworks show at the Eiffel Tower. The world-famous Montreux Jazz Festival is held in early July on the edge of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. If you are a fan of Mozart, make your way to the Salzburg international Festival in Austria. The famous running of the Bulls is held amid wild partying in the streets of Pamplona, Spain for eight days in early July. The Nottinghill Carnival in England is also a massive Caribbean street carnival held in west London in late August.
Munich’s legendary Oktoberfest usually starts in late September and goes on for a couple of weeks. If you love beer, this is a must. During the last few months of the year, most of Europe celebrates Christmas and New Year’s just like the rest of the Western world. If you are on the lookout for one of the world’s greatest New Year’s Eve parties, be sure to make your way to the pubs and streets of Edinburgh in Scotland.