The summery (at least for the Northern Hemisphere) month of July is host to a number of exciting festivals around the globe. From America’s Independence Day to the Darwin Beer Can Regatta, here are some of the month’s most fascinating festivals.
Fourth of July (Independence Day) – United States
The Fourth of July (Independence Day) is the quintessential American holiday. The holiday commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, an almost holy document in the American psyche that declared American independence from Britain on July 4, 1776.
Over the 220-odd years since then, the fourth of July holiday has been synonymous with enormous fireworks displays, parades, barbecues, drunkenness, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, sports games, family reunions and political speeches. You’ll find different variations throughout the country, but some of the finest fireworks displays will be found in big cities like New York.
Read more: The Best Places to Celebrate the 4th of July
Wireless Festival – London, England
The Wireless Festival takes place in London’s historic Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park every year in early July, with plenty of big-name bands and DJs on multiple stages. It is particularly popular with lovers of the mainstream and electronic music scene. The festival draws tens of thousands of revelers to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, transforming it into a rowdy three-night celebration of music, dancing and partying. As the atmosphere is not exactly suitable for young children, those under 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
World Bodypainting Festival – Pörtschach, Austria
Created on a whim in 1998 by a travel agent tasked with organizing a new summer event in Seeboden, Austria, the World Bodypainting Festival has since mutated into a major festival, drawing tens of thousands of spectators and bodypaint artists and models from around the world.
Held annually in late June/early July, the festival lasts for a week, the first four days of which are filled with bodypainting and various other artistic workshops. The last three days is when the actual festival takes place in “Bodypaint City,” which is open to the public and packed full of concerts, parties and attractions such as the “Body Circus” of the “Surreal Ballroom.”
Open’er Festival – Gdynia, Poland
The Heineken Open’er Festival takes place each year in early July in Gdynia, on the north coast of Poland. It was given the Best Major Festival prize in the European Festival Awards ceremony in both 2009 and 2010. Unique features of the festival include an attached military air base that is used separately for a silent disco and fashion show showcasing the best of the local fashion designers, as well as an onsite Ferris wheel (whoever wants to ride it must sign a waiver stating they’re not drunk and won’t do anything mischievous). A free shuttle bus service also ferries festival-goers to Gdynia, where you can shop or relax on the beach.
Past lineups include: Bjork, Coldplay, Prince, The Black Tapes, The Wombats, The Strokes, M.I.A., and many more.
B’estfest – Bucharest, Romania
B’estfest is the only Romanian music festival to have been included on the Top 20 European Festivals list (The Times in 2009 and The Guardian in 2011). It is one of the largest events of its kind in Central and Eastern Europe, held annually on the shores of Pasarea Lake near the capital city of Bucharest, usually on the first weekend in July. The event features top international artists alongside local and regional favorites, with performances taking place on four stages, in addition to numerous other bars and terraces that feature live shows, DJ sets, unconventional art exhibits and creative workshops.
Exit (festival) – Vojvodina, Serbia
Exit, also known as ‘State of Exit’, is a four-day music festival held each July in the impressive 18th-century Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad, Serbia. The festival’s stated mission is to provide relevant entertainment to the Serbian youth while giving them ground to understand current social topics going on around the world. In addition to its strong social and political messages, Exit refuses to stick to a single genre, showcasing everything from hip-hop to heavy metal.
The festival features an astounding 16 stages, and inside the ‘Exit Village’ you’ll find a pool, a badminton court, an entertainment park with bumper cars and a zip-line that provides an excellent view over the festival site. UK Festival Awards, together with Yourope (the Association of the 40 largest festivals in Europe), awarded Exit the ‘Best European Festival’ award in 2007.
Bristol Harbour Festival – Bristol, England
The Bristol Harbour Festival is one of the UK’s largest public festivals and gives visitors and locals alike the chance to celebrate the city’s maritime heritage. It’s also an opportunity for Bristol to showcase its rich musical and performance roots with live music, street performances and a variety of live entertainment. The festival includes music stages, a dance stage, street theatre performances and water displays. The festival takes place annually over a weekend at the end of July or beginning of August, drawing over 250,000 festival-goers down to the two-mile stretch along the city’s waterfront to party, dance and simply enjoy the entertainment.
Naadam – Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Referred to by Mongolians as “the three games of men”, Naadam is a traditional festival that holds sports competitions in Mongolian wrestling, horse racing and archery over two days in July. The festival has its roots in nomadic wedding assemblies and the hunting extravaganzas of the Mongol Army, with an opening ceremony that features marches and music from extravagantly-dressed soldiers, monks and athletes before the sporting competitions begin. Naadam is one of the country’s biggest holidays and a great time to experience the culture and people of Mongolia. In 2010, it was added to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Events are held throughout Mongolia, but the biggest festival is held in Ulaanbaatar from July 11 – 13.
Read more: 5 Amazing Travel Experiences in Mongolia
Calgary Stampede – Calgary, Canada
Hold onto your hat because this annual ten-day rodeo and festival is sure to get your boots kickin’. Billing itself as ‘The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth’, the Calgary Stampede is held every July in Calgary and attracts over a million visitors. It is one of Canada’s largest festivals and features one of the world’s largest rodeos. For those who want to experience western culture and heritage first-hand, the Calgary Stampede is probably the best shows on offer.
Experience the Calgary Stampede on a tour from Vancouver
Roskilde Festival – Roskilde, Denmark
The Roskilde Festival, held ever year over four days near the town of Roskilde at beginning of July, is the largest culture and music festival in Northern Europe, with usually over 180 bands and more than 100,000 spectators.
Begun in 1971 by two high school students and originally popular with hippies, the festival has since expanded into the mainstream European youth market, but has still managed to maintain a bit of that free love vibe, evident in its clothing-optional policy and yearly nude race.
Read more: Tips for Attending Roskilde Festival
Darwin Beer Can Regatta – Darwin, Australia
The basic idea of the Darwin Beer Can Regatta is to have participants create boats using empty beer cans, soft drink bottles and milk cartons, and then watch these boats fall apart as they attempt to ride them out to sea. Held every July since 1974, the Regatta is a great opportunity to experience Australian culture at its most outlandish. Side-events include concerts, a thong-throwing contest and the “Henley-on-Mindil” competition, in which participants run their beer-can boats around town like Flintstones cars.
Just for Laughs – Montreal, Canada
Founded in 1983, the Just for Laughs comedy festival is held each July in Montreal. Lasting a full month, with French-speaking acts performed during the first half and English-speaking acts during the second half, it is the largest international comedy festival in the world. Non-verbal performances such as acrobats and pantomimes are interspersed throughout the program, and each day you’ll find street artists performing around the city, particularly in the Latin Quarter.
Although the festival attracts spectators from around the world, many of those in the audience are talent scouts and booking agents from the entertainment industry, thus performing at the festival is a huge opportunity for emerging talent to perform in front of industry professionals, and a number of current comedy stars got their start here. Since 1996, Just for Laughs has also hosted the Comedia comedy film festival.
Buzios Jazz and Blues Festival – Buzios, Brazil
The four-day Buzios Jazz and Blues Festival was founded in 1998 and is held every July in clubs, public plazas and parks all over Buzios. In late July, some of the city’s best music venues put on music performances, and free shows are held throughout the city during the festival.
Reggae Sumfest – Montego Bay, Jamaica
Reggae Sumfest is not only the largest concert festival in Jamaica, but also one of the hottest reggae festivals in the world. It takes place each year in mid-July in Montego Bay, kicking off with a beach party at the Aquasol Theme Park, followed by three nights of concerts at Montego Bay’s Catherine Hall. The festival features a wide variety of Jamaican dancehall and reggae favorites, both old and new, as well as top international acts.
San Diego Comic-Con International – San Diego, USA
Commonly known as Comic-Con, the San Diego Comic-Con International is a multi-genre convention held annually from the end of July to early August in San Diego, California. The convention originally showcased comic books, science fiction, fantasy and related popular arts, but now features a broader range of pop culture phenomena, including horror, animation, anime, manga, collectible card games, video games and webcomics. It is San Diego’s largest convention and a popular yearly gathering point for nerds from around the continent.
Crop Over Festival – Barbados
Crop Over is Barbados’ traditional harvest festival. Originally a celebration of the end of the yearly sugar cane harvest, Crop Over has since evolved into Barbados’ biggest national festival. The celebration includes singing, dancing and music performances, along with other traditions such as drinking competitions, feasting and climbing a greased pole. Beginning in June, Crop Over lasts until the first Monday in August, when the two-month party culminates in a finale known as the Grand Kadooment.
Nice Jazz Festival – Nice, France
The Nice Jazz Festival has been held annually on the French Riviera since 1948 and is considered by many to be the first jazz festival of international significance. The festival features several stages, where jazz bands and solo artists perform simultaneously each evening over eight days in July. If you’re in Western Europe during the summer and love jazz, the Nice Jazz festival is the hottest ticket you’ll find all year.
Running of the Bulls (San Fermín Festival) – Pamplona, Spain
Does the festival of San Fermín really need introduction? Known locally as ‘Sanfermines’, the festival is held in honor of Saint Fermin, the co-patron of Navarre. It is probably the most internationally well-known festival in Spain, attracting up to a million people each year. The opening of the festival is marked by a pyrotechnic display at noon on 6 July and lasts until midnight on 14 July. It’s most famous event is the running of the bulls, which happens each morning at 8am, but the festival also includes numerous other traditional and folkloric events that are not nearly as dramatic but nonetheless worth checking out.
Read more about things to do in Pamplona
Palio di Siena – Siena, Italy
The Palio di Siena is an extravagant bareback horse race held twice each year (on 2 July and 16 August) in the Italian town of Siena. The ten ostentatiously-dressed jockeys who take part in the race represent ten of the seventeen city wards and compete for their district’s prestige. The Palio that takes place in July is named the Palio di Provenzano, in honor of the Madonna of Provenzano. Be sure to arrive to the races early to catch the Corteo Storico, a magnificent pageant that precedes the competition.
Wickerman Festival – Scotland
Dubbed ‘Scotland’s Alternative Music festival’, the Wickerman Music Festival is a family-friendly music festival held each July that has been likened to a smaller version of Glastonbury. The festival features an eclectic mix of music and climaxes with the burning of a giant 30-foot Wickerman. There are ten stages at the festival, as well as a cinema and a crafts tent. Wickerman won the award for ‘Best Grassroots Festival’ in 2005 and has developed a cult following, so expect an atmosphere where everybody feels as if they’re part of something special.
Bastille Day – France
Bastille Day (the English name given to French National Day) commemorates the 14 July 1789 storming of the Bastille fortress-prison. Festivities and official ceremonies are held throughout the country, best the best take place in Paris, with Europe’s oldest and largest regular military parade held on the Champs-Élysées avenue the morning of the 14th. Thousands of people line the parade route and military aircraft fly over it as it marches down the avenue. Besides that, many French spend the day attending musical performances, communal meals, balls and spectacular fireworks displays.
Gilroy Garlic Festival – Gilroy, California, USA
Held annually in Gilroy, California on the last full weekend in July, the Gilroy Garlic Festival is one of the largest food festivals in the United States. Besides featuring a number of diverse garlic-themed culinary creations, such as garlic-flavored ice cream and garlic french fries, attendees also enjoy three stages full of musical entertainment, a Great Garlic Cook-off, celebrity cooking demonstrations, a garlic braiding workshop, interactive displays and a Miss Gilroy Garlic Festival beauty pageant.
Panafest – Ghana
The Pan-African Historical Theatre Project, now simply referred to as ‘Panafest’, is a cultural event held every two years in Ghana in July and August. As a cultural event dedicated to enhancement of the ideals of Pan-Africanism and the development of the African continent, the festival is organized for Africans, people of African descent and anyone committed to the well-being of Africans both on the continent and in Diaspora. Panafest’s goals are to establish the truth about African history and the experiences of the African people using the vehicle of African arts and culture, with activities that include performances in the areas of theatre, drama, music, poetry, fashion and art.
Pflasterspektakel – Linz, Austria
The Pflasterspektakel (German for ‘pavement spectacle’) is a street art festival that takes place every year in July around the main square and the Landstraße in Linz, Austria, transforming the city into one of the world’s hottest spots to view international street art.
The three-day celebration features an excellent variety of object and improvisational theatre, musical acts of all kinds, juggling, acrobatics, dance, circus artistry, pantomime, high-wire and fire acrobatics, clownery, fire dancing, painting, samba parades and comedic performance art. In addition, the ‘Kinderspektakel’ offers a special program for children, including theatre for young audiences.
Over the past 25 years the Pflasterspektakel has become one of the most important and diverse street art festivals in Europe, guaranteeing high-quality acts and attracting over 200,000 visitors.