World's top food festivals

From street snacks to crafted dishes, delicious food and drink enjoyed on your travels can make you purr contentedly. At gastronomic festivals around the planet you can savour culinary pleasure while gaining cultural understanding. Here is our guide to the world’s best food and drink festivals.
Fresh seafood platter. Photo: Shutterstock
Fresh seafood platter. Photo: Shutterstock

As the Alba International White Truffle Fair attracts foodies to Italy’s Piedmont region, we take a look at some of the best annual celebrations of food and drink around the planet. These events bring people together in honor of culinary delights with markets, tastings, parades, demonstrations, and of course, oodles of delicious dishes.

1. Alba International White Truffle Fair, Alba, Italy

Each autumn, over every weekend for two months, the potent scent of the finest truffles harvested from the nearby Langhe and Roero woods fills the market at the Alba International Truffle Fair (5 Oct–24 Nov, 2019). Buyers and truffle hunters discuss incredibly high prices for the majestic, much sought-after fungi, which are relished finely sliced, raw, over risotto, carpaccio, eggs and regional specialities in the town’s restaurants. The festival also features a traditional donkey race, a parade and re-enactments featuring hundreds of local residents in medieval costumes.    

Truffles on a stall at Alba International White Truffle Fair, Piedmont, Italy. Photo: Alessandro Cristiano/Shutterstock

2. National Grape Harvest Festival, Mendoza, Argentina

Every year, in late February and early March, the end of the grape harvest is celebrated with gusto in Mendoza – one of the world’s great wine capitals – during the National Grape Harvest Festival. The event attracts locals, visitors and wine aficionados, who all make the most of abundant opportunities to sample plenty of the fruity, full-bodied Malbecs produced by local wineries. The city-wide fiesta also features an extravagant live musical theatre show, a blessing of the grapes ceremony, and a downtown float parade featuring gauchos and festival queen hopefuls, culminating in a firework display.

3. Menton Lemon Festival, Menton, France

In celebration of the region’s lemons, much-loved by pastry chefs for their high sugar content and fragrant zest, the Menton Lemon Festival (15 Feb–3 Mar, 2020) brings this French Riviera town out of its winter hibernation each year with a citrus blast. Thousands of visitors line the streets for daytime and evening parades of fruity floats made from countless lemons and oranges, depicting everything from cartoon characters and huge animals to Indian gods. Further attractions include citrus fruit sculpture displays, a crafts market and an orchid exhibition.

Undersea world sculpture at Menton Lemon Festival, France. Photo: Fabio Lotti/Shutterstock

4. Melbourne Food and Wine Festival

Melbourne reasserts itself as a gastronomic hot spot each March with a packed program of gourmet events during the annual Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Sip, sample and savor the state of Victoria’s abundant fresh seasonal produce at tastings, cooking masterclasses and banquets. Venues range from food markets and rooftop bars to boutique wineries and award-winning restaurants.  


5. Spirit of Speyside, Dufftown, Scotland 

In the heart of one of Scotland’s most famous whisky regions, many of the country’s finest malt whisky distilleries lie tucked away in secluded river valleys amid the heather. Here, you can learn about world-famous whisky brands with tours of the stills at producers such as Glenlivet and Glenfiddich. During the Spirit of Speyside (29 Apr–4 May, 2020), sample fiery drams of moreish single malt whiskies, enjoy uplifting evening ceilidh dancing, and wake up to bracing morning walks across the verdant hills surrounding Dufftown.

Stills in a Dufftown distillery, Scotland. Photo: JoffreyM/Shutterstock

6. Bordeaux Wine Festival, Bordeaux, France  

In the hub of one of the world’s great wine-producing regions, join thousands of aficionados and wine lovers in tasting tents that pop up along the banks and quays of the River Garonne during the annual Bordeaux Wine Festival (18-21 June, 2020). Savor selected fine reds complemented by Guyenne cheese and foie gras from the food stalls. Then head out of the city to wander through vineyards and enjoy themed trips in acclaimed wine-producing châteaux and the surrounding countryside. 


7. San Pedro Lobsterfest, Ambergis Caye, Belize

Held each June in the laid-back town of San Pedro, Lobsterfest celebrates the start of lobster season in Belize. Nightly events in beach bars and restaurants feature numerous opportunities to sample the meat of the highly prized Caribbean spiny lobsters, prepared in a variety of ways from barbecued and marinated to topping crispy tacos served with chilli and lime juice. And all accompanied by rum punch, ice cold beers and the sunny rhythms of dancehall and reggae. The festival climaxes with a block party featuring live music and fire dancers and, of course, more tempting lobster dishes.

8. Knysna Oyster Festival, Knysna, South Africa

Attracting thousands of seafood gastronomes each day, Knysna Oyster Festival takes place each July during peak oyster season, making it the best time to savour the exquisite molluscs for which this West Cape Province coastal town is so well known. Sporty locals, kids and visitors take part in daytime cycle tours, mountain biking, hiking, snorkelling trips and football tournaments, while for the seriously athletic there’s the Knysna Forest Marathon. Cocktail evenings, wine tastings and buffet lunches offer the opportunity to relish fresh, baked and marinated oysters to your heart’s content.

Fresh oysters with lemon slices. Photo: Shutterstock

9. Boston Chowderfest, Boston, USA

Part of the annual Boston Harborfest celebrations, Chowderfest is a salute to the hearty white clam chowder soup that is much-loved in New England. Up to a dozen of Boston’s most enterprising restaurants ladle out their own creamy seafood broth, whether from a traditional recipe or with an innovative new twist, to the discerning public, who sample them all and get to cast votes on which chowder wears the crown.

10. Singapore Food Festival, Singapore

The Singapore Food Festival brings together some of the most thrilling multi-ethnic gastronomic experiences out there in this vibrant capital’s dining scene each July. With influences from China, India and Malaysia, chefs draw on a rich pool of flavours to create innovative new recipes that complement the mouthwatering range of traditional Singaporean dishes, from chilli crab and fish-head curry to Hainanese chicken rice and spicy Katong laksa rice noodles. Top chefs whip up enticing menus at pop-up restaurants, burgeoning hawker centre cooks showcase the nation’s favourite street food dishes, and local delis create innovative locally inspired drinks and sandwiches as part of this culinary carnival's spirited programme of events.

Hainanese chicken rice. Photo: Shutterstock

11. O Grove Fiesta del Marisco (Seafood Festival), Galicia, Spain

Galicia’s long-established O Grove Seafood Festival provides a wonderful opportunity during October to relish the delectable fresh fish and seafood that is abundantly available in this normally sleepy coastal town perched on a peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic. Warm the cockles of your heart with steaming bowls of fish stew, clams, baked scallps and juicy mussels served with saffron rice, complemented by copious amounts of crisp, refreshing albariño white wine, before enjoying any number of Galician folk dance performances.

12. Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany

Oktoberfest can trace its roots back to the early 19th century, since when it has grown into a major event on Bavaria’s festival calendar as the biggest celebration of beer in the world. Tradition holds sway in the 16 largest tents each of which has its own particular ambience and crowd, who enthusiastically drink beer from selected Munich breweries by the litre fuelling a party like no other. The most Bavarian of all the brews, Weissbier, an amber-coloured wheat beer with a splendid foaming head is not to be missed. The aroma of spit-roasted oxen, suckling pig and a multitude of frying sausages fills the air, along with the sound of roisterous German songs. Marching bands, parades and numerous regional costumes stoke up the carnival atmosphere, while traditional fairground rides and amusements ensure that families have just as much fun as everyone else. 

Oktoberfest food and drink – bavarian beer, white sausage and pretzel. Photo: hlphoto/Shutterstock

13. Helsinki Baltic Herring Fair

As one of the longest running events in Finland, the Helsinki Baltic Herring Market takes place each October offering the chance to experience a festival tradition that dates from the mid-18th century. Crowds of locals browse for the choicest strong-smelling fish that the boats bring in. Visitors can try herring prepared in various different ways – salted, pickled and served on slices of chewy rye bread. Or sit down to a lunch of fresh fish in one of the heated marquees set up alongside the handicrafts stalls in the harborside Market Square. 

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Updated 15 October, 2019