Mark Your Calendar - The Biggest Festivals of the Year

      In just a matter of days two of the biggest festivals will take place in Venice and Rio. Hot on their heels are world-famous events in Dublin, Las Fallas and other cities around the world. 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. Carnival of Venice

    Where? Venice, Italy 
    When? February 11th - 21st

    The first of Europe's major events is steeped in history. This historic festival is traditionally Venice’s last big party before Lent, a Christian event, but it also has its roots in a number of pagan festivals. Throughout the Venice Carnival, revellers can enjoy parades, masquerade balls, parties, street theatre and more. There's one thing in particular you should take note of though - to get into the spirit of things make you've got yourself a traditional venetian mask .

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  • 2. Rio Carnaval

    Where? Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 
    When? February 18th - 21st

    Arguably the world's most famous street party, millions of people descend on to the streets of Brazil's best known city every year for the festivities. The highlight of the event is parade, and the best seats in the house are along the the Sambadrome - Rio’s ‘stadium of samba’. This is a permanent parade route lined with concrete spectator stands which can seat around 70,000 people.

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  • 3. Las Fallas

    Where? Valencia, Spain 
    When? March 15th - 19th

    It's a bit of a cliche 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 that has 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 while over the course of rest of the festival the burning of the 'falla' - large models of animated characters dotted throughout the city.

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  • 4. St Patrick's Festival

    Where? Dublin, Ireland (and the rest of Ireland) 
    When? March 16th - 19th

    Every city, town and village in Ireland celebrates like never before on March 17th 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 no longer than 4 days. As well as the parade on the big day, other events include street fairs, 'ceilidhs' (traditional Irish music dances) and much more.

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  • 5. Cape Town Festival

    Where? Cape Town, South Africa 
    When? March 18th – 21st

    Each March Cape Town begins to buzz for four days constantly when the city’s annual arts festival takes place at various venues throughout the city. And the best thing about it? Most of the events are free! This is done deliberately to ensure as many people as possible can enjoy the different events to take place. Those that are staged include live music, performing arts, comedy, spoken word, visual arts and a whole lot more. While those performing aren’t only from South Africa but overseas also.

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  • 6. Melbourne Comedy Festival

    Where? Melbourne, Australia 
    When? 28th March – 22nd April

    There are three major comedy festivals to take place around the world throughout the year – the Melbourne Comedy Festivals 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 heartedly and chortle at over 100 acts at venues all over the city. This year highlights include Irish-American comedian Des Bishop, Britain's Stephen K Amos and local favourite Dave Hughes.

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  • 7. Queen’s Day

    Where? Netherlands 
    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. Over a million people take to the streets of Amsterdam alone. 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 which is known as ‘Queen’s Night’, and 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.

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  • 8. Canada Day

    Where? Cities and towns throughout Canada 
    When? July 1st

    Celebrating the anniversary of the enactment of the British North America Act which took place on July 1st 1867 which 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.

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  • 9. 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 which declared America’s independence from the United Kingdom. Also known as simply the Fourth of July, there isn’t one city or town in USA that doesn’t celebrate the occasion. 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.

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  • 7. 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 the night before all over the city, but in particular around Place de la Bastille. Then on the big day itself a huge parade marches through the city and down the famous Champs Elysees. Then the day ends in style with a mind-blowing fireworks display at the country’s most iconic landmark, the Eiffel Tower.

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  • 8. 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 to take place in the Scottish capital, six of which take place 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.

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  • 10. La Tomatina

    Where? Bunol, Spain 
    When? August 31st

    There aren’t many festivals around the world where the object of the event is to throw vegetables at each other. But the main thing to do at ‘La Tomatina’ in the Spanish town of Bunol 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.

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  • 11. Notting Hill Carnival

    Where? London 
    When? August 26th and 27th

    Held every year at the end of August in the famous West London suburb, the Notting Hill Carnival is arguably Europe’s most colourful and outlandish festival. Founded in 1964 as a way for 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 Notting Hill carnival revellers who are assisted by 40,000 volunteers. Not to be missed if you are in London in August, it is the largest festival celebration of its kind in Europe.

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  • 12. Tokyo September Basho

    Where? Tokyo 
    When? Two weeks in September (held every January and May also)

    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 makes it worthwhile.

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  • 13. Oktoberfest

    Where? Munich 
    When? September 22nd to October 7th

    Attracting over six million people every year, Oktoberfest is the largest public festival in the world. For 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. 2012’s festival will be the 179th Oktoberfest to take place.

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  • 14. Festes de la Merce

    Where? Barcelona 
    When? September 20th to 23rd

    For four days every September the city of Barcelona is transformed into a melting pot of activity for this, the biggest festival to take place there throughout the year. Various events take place all over the city both day and night. Squares to watch out for include Placa de Catalunya, Placa Reial, Placa 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 amuse you over the four days.

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  • 15. New Year's Eve on Copacabana Beach

    Where? Rio de Janeiro 
    When? December 31st

    There are many cities famous for its December 31st celebrations - Sydney is one, and Edinburgh is another. But if you're in South America close to the turn of the year, look nowhere else other than Rio de Janeiro to ring in the New Year. After the city's famous carnival in February, this is the biggest event of the year. Every year millions of revellers converge on the famous beach to party to samba music, celebrate with old friends, make new ones and wait for the fireworks display that lights up the Brazilian sky.

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