Festivals Happening Around the World in August

July 29, 2013 by

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

August is party-central across the globe, with people dancing in the streets all the way from Notting Hill, London, to Davao City, The Philippines. Here are the best festivals happening around the world in August.

Salzburg Festival, Austria

Preparing for Salzburg Festival Courtesy of Rankun 76 on Flickr

Preparing for Salzburg Festival Courtesy of Rankun 76 on Flickr

Attracting 250,000 visitors into the city annually, Salzburg Festival is the biggest and most prestigious cultural festival in Austria, celebrating classical performance at its very best. Salzburg Festival 2013 brings a full summer of classical music, opera, chamber orchestras and theater to this city of music and Mozart.

With a total of 220 events at 14 venues, best bets this year include works by British maestro Sir Harrison Birtwistle, ever-popular concerts of work by Mahler, Haydn and Mozart and an outdoor staging of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The festival will close with a white-tie ball, held this year at the Summer Riding School.

Lollapalooza, Chicago, USA

Stage at Chicago’s Lollapalooza Courtesy of EMR on Flickr

Stage at Chicago’s Lollapalooza Courtesy of EMR on Flickr

August sees Chicago’s biggest rock festival kick off for a weekend of non-stop music from world-class bands; big names in the 2013 line-up include songsters-of-the-moment Mumford and Sons, who closed at Glastonbury to huge acclaim; The Killers and aging punk band The Cure; who will play alongside 150 other up-and-coming reggae, electronic, Indie and hip-hop bands.

Now 23 years old, Lollapalooza has settled into Chicago’s Grant Park and for a festival attracting 160,000, is surprisingly family-friendly and eco-conscious – in addition to the tunes there are plenty of activities for kids, skateboard parks, karaoke opportunities, farmers’ markets and gourmet food outlets.

Satchmo SummerFest, New Orleans, USA

Satchmo SummerFest Courtesy of infrogmation on Flickr

Satchmo SummerFest Courtesy of infrogmation on Flickr

First held in New Orleans’s French Quarter in 2001 as an homage to legendary jazz man Louis Armstrong, Satchmo SummerFest proved such a hot hit that it has become an annual occasion on the city’s party calendar. In 2013 the stellar line up includes The Dukes of Dixieland, trumpeter Wendell Brunious and SummerFest regulars Connie Jones and Tim Laughlin.

Free for all to attend and with 50 performers to enjoy on multiple stages, steamy New Orleans becomes one massive open-air concert accompanied by dancing in the streets, the Creole delicacies of jambalaya and gumbo sold in every bar and the bourbon flowing freely.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Scotland, UK

Plugging Performances at Edinburgh Fringe Courtesy of Pure Image on Flickr

Plugging Performances at Edinburgh Fringe Courtesy of Pure Image on Flickr

Spawned from its classical counterpart, the mainstream Edinburgh Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe sees a frenzy of thespian festivity featuring the brilliant and bizarre and even the plain bonkers, but acts do include a fair share of rising stars of comedy and drama.

Nearly every major TV star in the UK cut their teeth at the Fringe from Mr Bean to John Bishop. This year’s Fringe runs spreads itself across the city in 300 venues from Canongate Kirk to the Gilded Balloon, with thousands of performances on offer from kiddie shows to high drama, jazz singers to cabaret, dance troupes to acrobats. Star turns this year include homespun comedienne of the moment Sarah Millican, the magic tricks of Jerry Sadowitz and from overseas, Alba Flamenco and Bangalore Rock offer their unique interpretations of world music. The Fringe Box Office is at 180 High Street; this becomes an unofficial stage in itself as hundreds of performers gather outside daily to plug their shows.

Reykjavik Pride

Reykjavik Gay Pride. Photo courtesy of Helgi Halldórsson

Reykjavik Gay Pride. Photo courtesy of Helgi Halldórsson via Flickr

Now 15 years old, Reykjavik Pride is a six-day culture-fest in a city notorious for its hard partying. In 2013 gay Iceland celebrates with exhibitions, classical concerts, choir recitals, comedy shows and – rather incongruously – whale-watching cruises as well as gay literary readings and the iconic Gay Pride parade through central Reykjavik.

With 100,000 (in a country of just 300,000 people!) joining in the free festivities at Pride, the city’s celebrations continue later in the month with the Reykjavik Marathon followed by Culture Night, (‘Menningarnótt’ in Icelandic) which offers concerts, street theater and parties throughout the endless summer evening, topped off with a dramatic midnight firework display.

Highland Games, Scotland

Pipe band at Highland Games Courtesy of Piano Piano! on Flickr

Pipe band at Highland Games Courtesy of Piano Piano! on Flickr

If you like your outdoor entertainment served up with a swirl of bagpipes, tartan and tradition, summer in the Scottish Highlands is just the place for you. Throughout August there are ten such gatherings set in beautiful countryside from Portree for the Skye Highland Games, the rolling fields of Ballater, and the castle backdrop of the Crieff Highland Gathering.

These celebrations of Scottish culture are a cross between a ceilidh (singsong) and an athletics match, including bagpipe bands, displays of traditional reeling, hill racing, athletics and some seriously arcane Scots sports requiring massive strength, including putting the stone, throwing the hammer, and tossing the caber – a wooden pole weighing in at around 150 lbs (68 kilos) and up to 17 feet (five meters) in length.

Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival, San Francisco, USA

Crowds at Outside Lands Courtesy of Shemp 65 on Flickr

Crowds at Outside Lands Courtesy of Shemp 65 on Flickr

Tickets are virtually sold out already for San Francisco’s biggest music party, now in its sixth year and held in Golden Gate Park. This year’s cracking line up for Outside Lands includes Paul McCartney, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Emeli Sandé among around 90 other artists – Hall and Oates, Willie Nelson and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are also playing – and DJs who perform on a multitude of stages over the three-day musical extravaganza.

Crowds of around 180,000 will attend the three days of the festival, which also pays homage to local food and wine producers; gourmet specialties to sample include Mexican quesadillas, spicy Indian curries and BBQ shrimp.

Elvis Week, Memphis, USA

Remembering Elvis, Memphis Elvis Week Courtesy of Mhowry on Flickr

Remembering Elvis, Memphis Elvis Week Courtesy of Mhowry on Flickr

Surely one of the most indulgent festivals in the world will see avid fans of The King flocking to Memphis for a week of remembrance filled with Elvis impersonations, Elvis tribute concerts, Q&A sessions with Elvis’s friends, Elvis karaoke, screenings of Elvis’s best-loved films, and even themed tours around places of importance to Elvis.

The hotly contested Elvis Lookalike competition is staged at Graceland, his former home, where a candlelit vigil is held on Friday August 16, the anniversary of his untimely death in 1977. Proceedings wrap up with a concert featuring DJ Fontana and Millie Kirkham, who respectively played drums and sang in Elvis’s original band.

Buenos Aires Tango Festival, Argentina

Dancing at the Tango Festival. Photo courtesy of TangOblivion via Flickr

Dancing at the Tango Festival. Photo courtesy of TangOblivion via Flickr

Tango takes to the streets in Buenos Aires – its birthplace – for a mega-worship of this stylized, passionate dance. The world’s most flamboyant and important tango festival also incorporates its dance championships and professional dancers from all over the world pour in to take part. Alongside the competition is the mother of all street parties, with tango exhibitions, demonstrations, late-night concerts and glamorous, colorful milongas – even BA’s main street of Avenida Corrientes is closed off for the final dance off of the championships.

If you’re traveling to Argentina for the festival and want to be more than a spectator to the tango, free dance lessons can be had all over the city.

Grachtenfestival, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Classical musicians will perform at the Canal Festival in Amsterdam. Image courtesy of Daryn Barry on Flickr.

Classical musicians will perform at the Canal Festival in Amsterdam. Image courtesy of Daryn Barry on Flickr.

Amsterdam’s vibrant Grachtenfestival (Canal Festival) brings aspiring musicians together with international classical stars into the city for ten days every August. Featuring all genres of classical music from opera to chamber orchestras, soloists and ensembles, the festival uses the spectacular backdrop of the Canal Ring to host concerts on boats, on pontoons and in splendid 17th-century canal-side mansions.

Grachtenfestival Festivities culminate in the now-traditional open-air Prinsengracht Concert. Headlining is Amsterdam’s homegrown Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the finale will include a rousing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

Kadayawan Festival, Davao City, Philippines

Beautiful dancer at Kadayawan Festival Courtesy of Jeff Pioquinto, SJ on Flickr

Beautiful dancer at Kadayawan Festival Courtesy of Jeff Pioquinto, SJ on Flickr

The premier festival in the Philippines is also its most entrancing. An explosion of color announces Davao City’s harvest festival in Mindanao, which sees the disparate religious and ethnic peoples of the city coming together to present a series of pageants, theater and thrilling dance spectaculars in thanks to their various gods for a successful harvest.

Kadayawan lasts for the whole month, though festivities center on one weekend when the fun ramps up and the carnival brings the whole city to a halt with parades of floats decorated with carpets of flowers plus displays of freshly harvested fruits and vegetables, and dancers take to the streets in brightly embroidered tribal costumes and exotic headgear.

Notting Hill Carnival, London, UK

Notting Hill Carnival Courtesy of Valters Krontals on Flickr

Notting Hill Carnival Courtesy of Valters Krontals on Flickr

London’s Notting Hill Carnival is the biggest street party in Europe and historically has not been without its problems.  Today it is a carefully policed, family friendly and joyously full-on celebration of Caribbean culture, with street parties, parades of wildly decorated floats, mind-busting reggae and dub blasting from house-high speakers and the smell of ganja redolent in the air. Steel bands and calypso singers compete for street space, jerk chicken and curried goat are sold on each street corner and 2.5 million visitors cram the streets.

Sunday is Children’s Day; on Monday the atmosphere cranks up a notch, with the main parade and after-raucous parties carrying on well after dark.

Burning Man, Nevada, USA

Sunset at Burning Man Courtesy of Mypubliclands on Flickr

Sunset at Burning Man Courtesy of Mypubliclands on Flickr

54,000 people converge on Nevada’s sun-scorched Black Rock Desert for the week of alternative art and equally alternative living that is Burning Man. What started as the firing up of a wicker sculpture on a California beach has transformed into a full-blown semi-circular desert city springing up for the week, with funfairs, circus tents, temples, galleries, craft villages and Mad Max-esque mutant cars constructed by festival participants (though some resent the event’s growth, particularly the addition of a ticket-based system).

Music blares from buses converted into dance clubs, speakers the size of small cars blast through the night and nudity is applauded. Leave the kids behind.

La Tomatina, Buñol, Valencia, Spain

Devastation at La Tomatina Courtesy of Fearghalionuallain on Flickr

Devastation at La Tomatina Courtesy of Fearghalionuallain on Flickr

One of the world’s more insane festivals, La Tomatina starts quietly enough with a week-long fiesta of dancing, music, firework displays and paella-cooking competitions in Buñol, 24 miles (38 km) inland from Valencia. Proceedings culminate in 50,000 people invading the little town for a morning of madness pelting each other with more than 100 tons (91 tonnes) of rotting tomatoes. At around 11am on August 28, a water canon fires and the world’s biggest food fight commences; the streets soon run red as participants accost each other mercilessly and madly with squashed tomato.

Precisely an hour later another cannon fires and hostilities seize immediately for a full-blown clean up to begin. No-one is quite sure where this tradition comes from but it started in the 1940s and nowadays incorporates an after-party with music and dancing late into the night.

-Sasha Heseltine

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One Response to “Festivals Happening Around the World in August”

  1. Martyn Colvey Says:

    For a great musical festival in a Italy you should checkout the busker festival for 2 weeks in the mediaeval city of Ferrara near, but very different to, Venice.

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