Festivals Around the World in September

August 26, 2013 by

Festivals & Events, Things to Do, Travel Advice & Inspiration

From the world’s largest and most famous beer festival to Mexican Independence Day and even an African Reed Dance ceremony; there are plenty of good excuses to celebrate this month. Here are some of the best festivals happening around the world in September.

Southern Decadence, New Orleans

As Labor Day roles around, New Orleans’ GLBT population will be dusting off their spandex and brushing on the glitter for the 2013 Southern Decadence. The event, dubbed the ‘Gay Mardi Gras’, is the city’s biggest celebration of its gay and lesbian community, drawing crowds of over 100,000 from all over the world. This year, the 6-day festival kicks off on August 28th, centered around the theme ‘Live, Laugh and Love’ and featuring 24-hour entertainment in the city’s gay bars and nightclubs. The colorful climax of events is the Sunday Parade, when thousands of revelers will be marching through the streets of the French Quarter dressed in this year’s official color palette – fuchsia pink, tangerine orange and gold.

Oktoberfest, Germany


It’s time to dig out your lederhosen and prepare for a non-stop drink-a-thon, as Munich’s legendary beer festival kicks off at the end of the month. The world’s biggest festival, Oktoberfest  brings more than six million beer-swilling party-goers to the Bavarian capital, where over 30 beer tents will be representing Munich’s historic beer halls. Oktoberfest 2013 runs from September 21st – October 6thwith events including the legendary opening ceremony and the opening of the first keg by Munich’s Mayor; the colorful Oktoberfest Costume and Riflemen’s Parade; and a giant open-air concert of Oktoberfest bands.

Book Oktoberfest tickets in Munich

Whitianga Scallop Festival, New Zealand

As springtime hits the southern hemisphere, it’s the perfect time to celebrate fresh local produce and the annual Whitianga Scallop Festival will be held on September 14th. Despite only starting up in 2005, the little festival now pulls in over double the town’s population, making it one of the North Island’s most popular seafood festivals. It’s not only scallops that will be on offer – over 60 food vendors will be setting up shop at the event, serving up a medley of seafood-themed dishes and featuring cooking demonstrations and workshops by some of New Zealand’s most renowned chefs. Tuck into a bowl of creamy mussels, brave a plate of wriggling sea urchins or enter yourself in the annual seafood cook-off.

Mexican Armada Parade / Independence Day, Mexico

September 16th is Mexican Independence Day, one of the country’s biggest holidays, and around the country firework displays, parades and dances will be held in celebration. Join in the patriotic events in the Zócalo, or main square, of Mexico city, where huge crowds gather to witness the President’s public address and firework display on the evening of the 15th. Alternatively, Cancun draws thousands to its Independence Day Armada Parade – a grand military parade running through the city center.

Braemar Gathering, Scotland

Highland Games

There are few more quintessentially Scottish pastimes than the Highland Games – a series of athletic and heavy games set to test the strength, courage and endurance of Scotland’s ancient clans – and the Braemar Gathering is not only one of the biggest events, but boasts the most prestigious special guest of all – Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. Don your best tartan kilt and join the 20,000 revelers cheering on the competitors in events like the tug-of-war, the hill race, the Scottish hammer throw and the caber toss.

Book a trip to the Highland Games from Edinburgh

Bestival, Isle of Wight

The enormous Glastonbury might steal the limelight from the UK’s other music festivals, but Bestival, held on the Isle of Wight, is still one of the country’s most original festivals. This years music extravaganza is held from September 5th -8th and features everything from a Bollywood Cocktail bar to a mass fancy-dress party, and even a Roller disco, all in-keeping with the event’s non-corporate and eco-friendly ethos. Set up camp onsite and see out the summer festival season in style, with headliners as varied as Snoop Dogg, Fatboy Slim and Elton John.

Mid-Autumn/ Mooncake Festival – China/Singapore


Mooncakes. Photo credit: Wee Keat Chin via Flickr.

Nicknamed after the moon-shaped cakes that are traditionally baked for the festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most traditional festivals on the Chinese calendar. Celebrated across China and Singapore, the festivities mark the autumn equinox (this year falling on September 19th) and while the evening itself is traditionally a family affair, towns and cities will be getting in the festive mood throughout the week, with giant lantern displays, crafts fairs and dance performances. Of course, don’t forget to tuck into some of the famous mooncakes – glutinous rice flour cakes filled with lotus seed or red bean paste and a central ‘moon’ (a whole egg yolk) – and look out for unique recipes, like the Haagen-Dazs ice cream mooncakes.

Grape Throwing Festival, Mallorca, Spain

In the spirit of Buñol’s famous La Tomatina festival, the Spanish island of Mallorca hosts its own mass food fight at the annual Grape Throwing Festival. The small winemaking town of Binissalem has been hosting the two-week festival at the end of September since the 1930s, celebrating the end of the harvest by offloading their cast-off grapes on the town’s population. An estimated 100 tons of grapes are sloshed around during the grape throwing events, held in a field just outside of town, but if you don’t fancy getting drenched in grape goo, you can enter the grape-stomping competitions, join the colorful parades or indulge in wine tasting instead.

Imilchil Wedding Festival, Morocco

Berber man

A Berber man. Photo credit: Sebastian Anthony via Flickr.

The tragedy of local Romeo and Juliet-inspired lovers started this long-standing betrothal festival, held in the Berber village of Imilchil in the Middle Atlas Mountains each September, in a bid to bring together local tribes and allow young men and women to meet their match. Today, the Imilchil Wedding Festival draws large crowds of single, divorced and widowed men and women, and sees dozens of couples propose or take their marriage vows. The 3-day event is open to spectators and the dance performances, wedding ceremonies and craft markets allow visitors the chance to experience the colorful traditions of the Berber tribes.

Hermanus Whale Festival, South Africa


Hermanus. Photo credit: meshugas via Flickr.

In the southern coastal resort of Hermanus springtime heralds the return of the Southern Right whales and thousands of onlookers gather on the cliff top for the ‘Welcome Whale Wave’ – a 5km long human chain that welcomes the majestic creatures back into the bay.  This is one of the world’s best on-land spots for whale-watching and the endangered animals provide the mainstay of entertainment, but even if you miss out on nature’s spectacle there’s plenty of onshore entertainment to keep you busy – live music and dance performances, markets and even a Whales ‘n’ Wheels classic car show.

Umhlanga/Reed Dance Festival, Swaziland

Umhlanga Dance Festival

Umhlanga Dance Festival. Photo credit: Retlaw Snellac via Flickr.

The largest traditional festival of Swaziland, the Umhlanga (Reed) Dance draws up to 60,000 unmarried girls and women from around the country, to perform the traditional Umhlanga dance for the Royal family. Gathering at the Queen Mother’s royal village, the participants cut tall reeds, symbolic of their virginity, to present to the Queen and perform songs and dance for the members of the royal family. While rumors abound that the ceremony is held for the King to select his wives, the festival is actually intended to be a celebration of chastity, symbolic of bringing together the Kingdom’s ladies, and at the end of the 3-day festival, the collected reeds are used to rebuild the protective fence around the royal abode.

Galway Oyster Festival, Ireland

Expect a delicious array of innovative seafood dishes, cooking demonstrations, live music and guided foodie walks at the Galway Oyster Festival, one of Ireland’s most popular food festivals, dating back to 1954. The oyster theme runs strong at the festival, with highlights including the World Oyster shucking competitions, the Tribal Oyster feast off (oyster eating competition) and the Hot Oyster Awards cooking challenge. There’s even a Guinness Oyster Trail, with around 30 pubs serving up free trays of oysters when you buy a pint of the national brew. Celebrating the west coast’s acclaimed oyster harvest, this year’s festival will run from September 26th- 29th with crowds of over 10,000 expected to turn out for the parade, galas and celebrity cook-offs.

Berlin Festival

Berlin Festival

Performers at the Berlin Festival. Photo credit: Juliane via Flickr.

Held in the historic Tempelhof Airport on the weekend of September 6th -9th, the Berlin Festival transforms the former airfield into a lively outdoor festival, with stages and dance areas set up in the hangars. This year’s headliners include My Bloody Valentine and Klaxons, joined by a mix of pop and dance stars including Bjork, Ellie Goulding, Pet Shop Boys and M.I.A. It’s not just music that fuels the hip festival, either – there’s an Art Village, a Silent Disco (where revelers listen to the DJ via individual headphones), a Poetry Saloon and even a soccer pitch, and entrance tickets also allow free entry to the after parties at central Berlin’s nightclubs.

Stuttgart Wine Village, Germany


Vineyards in Stuttgart. Photo credit: ctsnow via Flickr.

Over 1 million wine lovers from around the world congregate at the annual Stuttgart Wine Village, one of Germany’s biggest and best-known wine festivals, with over 120 traditionally decorated wine caves taking over the Old Town. The 12-day event runs from August 28th to September 8th and guests can sip from over 500 varieties of Wuerttemberg wines, including Trollinger, Riesling, Kerner and Lemberger. Not a fan of wine? Stick around for the two-week Cannstatter Volksfest held at the end of September instead – Stuttgart’s answer to Munich’s Oktoberfest.

Read more about wine festivals in Germany

Bumbershoot, Seattle


Band at Bumbershoot. Photo credit: Joe Mabel via Flickr.

From live music and dance, to theater and literary arts, there’s something for everyone at Seattle’s annual Bumbershoot Arts Festival. Held in central Seattle over Labor Day Weekend since 1971, Bumbershoot takes over an incredible 19 venues with comedy, film, visual arts, urban crafts markets and children’s events, making it one of North America’s biggest art and music festivals. Bumbershoot 2013 is held from Aug 31st – Sept 2nd, featuring bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Fun., MGMT and Tegan and Sara.

– Zoe Smith

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