The word festival can mean a lot of different things depending on the culture and period of time. Over the years, festivals have transformed from something that we typically related to religion and agriculture to something that’s more focused on partying, music, and food. No matter what type of festival you’ve been looking to celebrate, there’s certain to be a big one happening somewhere on Earth. Let’s take a look at 10 of the biggest world festivals
Coachella (Indio, California)
There are a ton of major music festivals throughout the United States, but the biggest one of them all is Coachella. What began as a Pearl Jam solo concert in 1993 launched the idea for an annual festival in 1999, and it has since become America’s premier destination for top-level talent and A-list celebrities. Some of the headliners have included Eminem, Beyonce, Drake, and Paul McCartney, showing that it isn’t just about one genre.
Rock in Rio (Alternating Cities)
Rock in Rio was launched in 1985 as a rock concert in Brazil headlined by the likes of AC/DC and over the years has rotated between Brazil, Spain, and Portugal (with one instance in the United States). The festival has pulled in millions of fans so far and even holds the single-day record for most hamburgers sold at an event. No longer contained to just the hard rock genre, Rock in Rio has seen headliners including Katy Perry, Post Malone, and Justin Timberlake.
Montreal International Jazz Festival (Montreal, Quebec)
While jazz music might not be the most mainstream genre these days, it still has plenty of fans, with 2 million of them making their way to Montreal each year for the International Jazz Festival. The event began in 1980 and held a long-running competition for the best jazz performer. COVID-19 threw a wrench into the festival’s future plans, but in 2023 it was revived to keep the dream of jazz musicians around the world alive.
Donauinselfest (Vienna, Austria)
Each year, more than three million people attend the Danube Island Festival in Vienna over the course of three days, and the area covered makes it the largest outdoor festival in the entire world. The festival contains the Rock the Island Contest which focuses on budding talent in the country. Meanwhile, there are plenty of established acts that have included Billy Idol, Sean Paul, and Simple Minds.
Tomorrowland (Boom, Belgium)
Not to be confused with the part of the Disneyland theme park, the Tomorrowland festival in Belgium started in 2005 and now pulls in more than 600,000 people per year. Focusing more on electronic music compared to the other festivals we’ve featured so far, you can expect to see acts like Swedish House Mafia, Tiesto, and Afrojack to name a few.
Carnival (Nationwide – Brazil)
Carnival is celebrated by many countries, but nobody does it quite like Brazil. The festival lasts throughout the country for five days between the Friday before Ash Wednesday and Ash Wednesday itself. The festival itself is considered a Brazilian holiday and draws around five million people each year. While it doesn’t get many headlining acts compared to the other festivals, it’s still the biggest party.
Mardi Gras (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Carnival is to Brazil as Mardi Gras is to Louisiana. You don’t really expect to see any pop music performers on center stage, but instead just party between Ash Wednesday and up until Fat Tuesday following Easter. While celebrated in countries like Belgium and Germany, the United States kicks it up a notch with the celebration on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, especially with the annual float parade.
Summerfest (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
Milwaukee is a city that loves its festivals, many of which revolve around food and beer. However, the culmination of those things plus some of music’s biggest names is Summerfest, which begins the final Wednesday in June and runs for 11 days. Some of the biggest names to headline Summerfest include Lady Gaga, Whitney Houston, and Metallica, giving the midwestern United States its own version of Coachella.
Pol’And’Rock (Czaplinek, Poland)
Starting in 1995 and now pulling in over 700,000 people each year, the Pol’And’Rock festival is one of the largest in all of Europe and is meant to be the continent’s version of Woodstock. Dozens of bands perform on the larger stages throughout Pol’And’Rock, but you can’t be afraid to get messy when you’re there as people rolling around in the mud is a common occurrence. Some headliners over the years have included Judas Priest, Papa Roach, and Shaggy.
Electric Daisy Carnival (Las Vegas, Nevada)
If the idea of spending a few days outside in the hot sun of Las Vegas in the summertime doesn’t sound fun, then EDC might not be for you. The festival takes place at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and features well over 200 DJs throughout. Make sure to bring plenty of water because it does get packed and that heat can make you dehydrated in a hurry.