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Where to go when: A guide to the world's best events

Photo of Anna HardyPhoto of Anna Hardy
By Anna Hardy

26 January 202311 min read

Beachside view of a sunny day in Barcelona

Need some travel inspiration? Whether you’re dreaming of that bucket list adventure to Rio’s Carnival or you’re feeling the hype of the FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer in Sydney, 2023’s line-up of events is set to be pretty spectacular.

From the biggest annual festivals to this year's top sporting and global events, we’ve put together a month by month calendar of what’s happening around the world in 2023.

January

Kick start the year by celebrating the Chinese New Year. The 16-day event is China’s most important festival and traditions include dragon dances, the hanging of red lanterns, fireworks and a reunion dinner with family on New Year’s Eve. Continue the party in California where the first celebrations of Disney’s 100 Years of Wonder begin at Disneyland Resort. For those seeking something more sophisticated, Vienna’s enchanting ball season is in full swing.

Elsewhere, the annual setting alight of Nara's Mount Wakakusayama hillside for the Yamayaki festival in Japan is a sight to behold, as is the stunning natural wonder of the monarch butterfly migration – best seen in Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.

If your calendar is ruled by sport, the Monte Carlo Rally could be up your alley, or head to Hawaii to watch world-class surfers battle it out at the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational competition in Oahu.

February

February is the month for some of the world’s biggest and best-known cultural festivals. Be enraptured by the sensational parades, dancers and music at Rio’s Carnival, marvel at the captivating floats and street processions of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and prepare for street parties and costumes galore at the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival.

Snow bunnies will love the Quebec Winter Carnival and Japan’s Sapporo Snow Festival is the go-to for phenomenal ice sculptures.

Smaller in scale but equally as impressive, you can celebrate all things flora at Chiang Mai’s Flower Festival, soak up the mesmerising displays of Menton’s Lemon Festival in France or enjoy all the arty action at the Adelaide Fringe.

Not feeling a festival? Catch the American football championships and highly anticipated half-time show at the Super Bowl in Arizona, get the insider scoop on the latest in style at New York Fashion Week or get ready to celebrate all things LGBTQ+ at Sydney WorldPride.

March

With the start of spring comes a string of seasonal events. Norway gets its turn with the spectacular Northern Lights, which are best seen this month, and the glorious return of cherry blossoms across Japan is welcomed with Hanami picnic parties in Tokyo. The Spring Equinox happens in March too - a remarkable occasion to witness in Mexico as sun and shadow create the illusion of a snake descending the steps of Chichén Itzá.

Over in New Zealand, the Auckland Arts Festival is a globally renowned annual showcase of opera, theatre, dance and music, while the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is the most iconic of Alaska's winter events.

Make your way to India to participate in the Hindu festival of Holi. This ancient tradition celebrates the triumph of good over evil and is well-known around the world for the gleeful throwing of colourful powders. Alternatively, dally on to Dublin for music, dancing and all things green in celebration of St Patrick’s Day.

April

It’s all about tulips come April in Amsterdam. The annual Tulip Festival blankets the city in a rainbow of colour and celebrations include tulip field tours and flower parades. There’s beauty to be admired in Paris too as the city partners with Madrid and the US in the Picasso Celebration 1973-2023 – a collection of exhibits that showcase the artist’s career in honour of the 50th anniversary of his death.

Further afield, pack your dancing shoes for some serious rhythms at New Orleans Jazz Festival; don your favourite indie outfit for the US’ biggest music festival, Coachella; find your sea legs for the Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival in the British Virgin Islands; or get set for a splash at Songkran Festival – Thailand’s world-famous water fight.

If you celebrate Easter, the Pope’s Good Friday Procession to the Colosseum in Rome is a prestigious Christian event and you can follow it with the exuberant celebrations of Seville Fair, typically two weeks after Easter Holy Week. Alternatively, the Obidos Chocolate Festival in Portugal is the answer for those simply craving Easter chocolate.

May

Perhaps the biggest month in the calendar for the UK, May brings two major events. The first is the Coronation of King Charles III, where thousands are expected to flock to the streets of London to watch the royal procession. And second, Liverpool will host the 67th Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of Ukraine – the first time the competition has been held in Britain since 1998.

It’s a big month for France too as international film stars and creators celebrate the best in cinema at the annual Cannes Film Festival, while the Prague Spring International Music Festival is a fantastic showcase of opera and classical music in the Czech Republic capital.

Beyond Europe, check out the incredible floral display at Morocco's Festival of Roses, where the streets of Kelaat-M'Gouna are showered in roses and petals, or journey to Indonesia to see the elusive Komodo dragon. May is the best time to see them as they gather together for mating season.

June

The start of summer sparks one of the greatest wildlife scenes on earth, the great wildebeest migration. Travel to Tanzania to see their magnificent journey across the Serengeti. For a visual spectacle of another kind, spend the Summer Solstice at Wiltshire’s Stonehenge – famous for its alignment with the sun as it rises on the longest day of the year.

Elsewhere, it’s another prime month for festivals. There’s madness to be enjoyed at the San Vino Wine Fight Festival in Spain’s La Rioja; parties and parades to join at Porto’s St. John's Festival; races to cheer on at China’s charismatic Dragon Boat Festival; and endless entertainment on offer at Queenstown Winter Festival in New Zealand, including live music, comedy, snow sports and fireworks.

The biggest of all is Somerset's Glastonbury, widely regarded as the largest musical festival in the world with more than 200,000 attendees each year.

July

Start July with a bang in New York with Fourth of July celebrations. The American national holiday is filled with parades, concerts, family gatherings and fabulous firework displays. Pop across the border to Canada for a cowboy showdown at the famous Calgary Stampede Rodeo or watch almighty brown bears fishing for salmon as they migrate up river in Alaska. There’s further wildlife wonders to be seen in the Galapagos Islands, as the iconic blue-footed booby birds begin their uniquely beautiful courtship rituals.

While Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls divides opinion, the San Fermin Festival itself is a joyous fiesta of traditional music, parades and fireworks. To continue the celebration, get in the groove at Jamaica’s Reggae Sumfest or immerse yourself in Tahiti culture with the traditional dances of Heiva.

Before the month ends, get a prime position in the Champs-Élysées to see cyclists on the home stretch of the Tour de France in Paris.

August

The peak of summer brings one of 2023’s biggest sporting events, the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, you can catch matches in major cities across the two countries, but travel to Sydney in August to catch the exhilarating final at Stadium Australia.

From one end of the world to the other, Scotland is your next port of call for the Edinburgh Fringe – the world's largest arts and culture festival. Expect a jam-packed programme of theatre, comedy, media and artistic performances. An equally impressive showcase of arts, St. Dominic's Fair in Poland sees musicians and artists galore take to the streets of Gdansk. The celebrations only get brighter in the Caribbean. Barbados’ Crop Over is the island’s most popular festival and the parties and parades last throughout the month.

If you’re seeking a different sort of event this summer, look no further than Valencia’s La Tomatina. The chaotic, fun-filled festival is the world’s biggest food fight.

September

Venice is the place to be in September. Not only is it the month of the renowned Venice International Film Festival, but the Historical Regatta gets underway too. As Italy’s most famous rowing competition, the event sees both a parade of boats and gondolas as well as the rowing race up the Grand Canal.

Elsewhere in Europe, Galway is the go-to for all things fishy at the International Oyster and Seafood Festival while Sicily steals the show when it comes to wine - the ViniMilo Festival celebrating Sicillian food and wine is an annual highlight.

Over in America, Hawaii is a cultural favourite with its Aloha Festivals paying tribute to the islands’ history and customs. Nevada should be on your radar for the community-focused Burning Man desert festival.

September doesn’t go without its share of awe-inspiring wildlife events either. Travel to Sri Lanka to witness the largest congregation of Asian elephants in the world – known as The Minneriya Gathering – or opt for South Africa to celebrate the annual return of Southern Right whales at the Hermanus Whale Festival.

October

If you haven’t had your fill of the natural world, head to Canada in October to see vast numbers of polar bears in Churchill or choose Costa Rica for 'arribada'. Meaning 'arrival' in Spanish, the annual event sees thousands of sea turtles arrive ashore to nest. For a change of scenery, swap animals for the air at the biggest hot air balloon festival in the world, Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta.

If you’ve caught the festival bug, the eye-popping costumes of the Philippines' MassKara Festival gives Rio’s Carnival a run for its money while the Cafe Budapest Autumn Festival is a wonderful celebration of contemporary art.

October 2023 also sees some pretty impressive sports action with both the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup in India and the Men’s Rugby World Cup kicking off in France.

But the month’s two best known events are undoubtedly Germany’s Oktoberfest and Halloween. Top up your stein and don your lederhosen in Munich before putting on your scariest costume for New York’s Village Halloween Parade.

November

Prepare for further fright and skeleton costumes aplenty at Mexico’s Day of the Dead. The colossal parades and elaborate traditions of this Mexican holiday celebrating life and death are known around the world and thousands travel to Mexico City each year to see the spectacle. The religious festival of Diwali is celebrated worldwide too and is India's most important holiday of the year.

Millions also celebrate the US event of Thanksgiving in November, where friends and family gather to feast on turkey and pumpkin pie. While in the US, don’t miss the Las Vegas Grand Prix – eagerly awaited by F1 fans being the first race in Las Vegas since 1982.

Feeling adventurous? Jet off to Reykjavík for the immersive Iceland Airwaves music festival or marvel at the largest mammal migration on earth in Zambia, where over 10 million bats descend on Kasanka National Park.

December

Finish the year on a festival high. Jet off to the Bahamas for the vibrant performances and parades of Junkanoo (celebrations are at their biggest on Boxing Day); dance the night away at Uganda’s buzzing Nyege Nyege Electronic Music Festival; or check out the celebrations of Chichibu Night Festival in Japan, where ornate floats and lanterns light up the night. If you fancy a dose of winter sun, take a trip to Tunisia for the Festival of the Sahara.

For traditional Christmastime events, Germany takes the crown for best Christmas markets. You’ll find traditional stalls selling everything from handmade crafts to festive food across the country’s cities, with Berlin and Cologne hosting some of the largest. Alternatively, enjoy the cultural celebrations and feasts of Saint Spyridon Day in Corfu or immerse yourself in the folklore festivities of the Krampus Runs and Saint Nicholas Parade in Innsbruck, Austria.

Finally, end December in either Edinburgh for spirited Hogmanay celebrations, or Sydney for the phenomenal New Year’s Eve fireworks.

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