6 European Festivals to Go to in Your Lifetime
There are many reasons people travel Europe. Some set off to experience local culture, others do it for the history, food, or parties. And then there are those who’ve figured out that the best way to combine it all is to plan a trip to one of Europe’s famous annual celebrations. Here are six European festivals to go to in your lifetime:
European festivals throughout the year
1. St Patrick’s Festival, Dublin (March 17 – 20)
St Patrick’s Day is one of the most celebrated festivals in the world. But there’s no better place to experience it than in Ireland, where it all began. Dublin is the focal point of all the celebrations, and over four action-packed days in March you’ll find exhibitions, concerts, treasure hunts, boat tours, and the world-famous St Patrick’s Day Parade. All of which goes perfectly with a cold pint, or two, of Guinness.
How to get there: There are two main train stations in Dublin which service different regions of Ireland. Regular trains arrive from most major Irish cities including Cork, Belfast, and Sligo.
More information: stpatricksfestival.ie
2. King’s Day, Amsterdam (April 27)
The Dutch know how to party. And for 24 hours each year, the country comes together to celebrate King’s Day and do just that. The Dutch celebrated King’s Day (formerly Queen’s Day) for the first time in 2014, after the inauguration of King Willem-Alexander.
There are celebrations throughout the Netherlands, but the heart of the action is still in Amsterdam. You can expect orange pride to sweep through the streets and along the canals of Amsterdam. You’ll find markets, fairs, street parties, and parades, which make this one of the most enjoyable times to visit the capital.
How to get there: Several regional and international trains arrive directly at Amsterdam Central Station, including those from France, Belgium, and Germany. There are also regular overnight trains to Amsterdam from across Europe.
More information: iamsterdam.com
3. San Fermín, Pamplona (July 6 to 14)
For one week every July, the city of Pamplona in Spain comes to life when the sound of a chupinazo blasts out from the city center to signal the start of the famous San Fermín festival. The focal point of San Fermín is still the running of the bulls. But the celebrations last the entire week with a variety of traditional events and activities, and a healthy dose of partying.
It’s one of the most popular festivals in Spain, thanks in large part to Ernest Hemmingway’s The Sun Also Rises. Each year more than 1 million people visit Pamplona to experience first-hand this legendary, and somewhat hair-raising, occasion.
How to get there: There are daily trains to Pamplona from many Spanish cities, including Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastian, Galicia, and Zaragoza.
More information: sanfermin.com
4. Bastille Day, Paris (July 14)
Bastille Day is a big deal across France, and there’s nowhere better to celebrate it than in the country’s capital, Paris. The festivities start early in the morning and run late into the night, as young and old celebrate the Storming of the Bastille on this day in 1789.
You can expect a military parade, plenty of partying and dancing, free entrance into the Louvre, a free matinee performance at the Palais Garnier opera house, and a jaw-dropping fireworks display to light up the skies above one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
How to get there: Paris is one of the most well-connected cities in Europe. There are high-speed, long-distance, and even overnight TGV, Thalys, and ICE trains from many European capitals. There’s easy access to nearby cities on TER and InterCité trains.
More information: parisinfo.com
5. La Tomatina, Buñol (Last Wednesday of August)
There’s something strangely satisfying about hurling a fistful of tomatoes at a random stranger, and not facing consequences harsher than a few shrieks and receiving a few fistfuls back. This is what La Tomatina festival in Buñol, Spain, is all about.
Each year on the last Wednesday of August, 30,000 visitors descend on the small town to hurl in excess of 160 tons (145,000 kg) of squashed tomatoes at friends and strangers alike. These days there are many copycat festivals around the world, but if you want to say you’ve experienced the original, you’ll need to pencil in a trip to La Tomatina in late August.
How to get there: Take a train to the city of Valencia. There, you’ll need to connect to the Metro Valencia, which will deliver you to the nearby town of Buñol.
More information: tomatina.es
6. Oktoberfest, Munich (September 17 – October 8)
In mid-September each year, Munich welcomes 6 million guests to its famous fairgrounds. There, they cram into one of 14 large tents and immerse themselves in the more hedonistic side of Bavarian culture. Primarily, the drinking of beer. Most guests oblige, and on average each will consume 1.9 gallons (7.3 liters) over the course of the festival.
Oktoberfest is mainly about engaging with what Munich does best – beer and Bavarian food. There’s also an electric atmosphere throughout the festival with rides, music, and games, all of which combine to make this one of the world’s most revered festivals.
How to get there: Munich’s main station is in the center of the city, with trains arriving from most of Bavaria. There are also long-distance and night trains from across Europe, including Amsterdam, Budapest, Innsbruck, Milan, Rome, Salzburg, Venice, Vienna, and Zurich.
More information: oktoberfest.de
If you’re planning the European trip of a lifetime, or just want to get away for a week of revelry, it’s a great idea to anchor a trip around at least one legendary annual festival. A Eurail Global Pass is the perfect solution if you intend traveling to multiple cities on a single trip. Chances are you’ll make friends with other festival-goers before you’ve even arrived.
European festivals bring out the best in their cities. You may have to book ahead and brave bigger crowds, but you’re guaranteed to leave with a handful of new friends and fond memories that will have you plotting a return visit in a year’s time.