Beyond the Music: 5 Top Cultural Summer Festivals

While international music festivals are exciting and many, here are 5 summer festivals that yes, include music, but also showcase the cultural diversity of their respective countries. From fireworks to dance shows, these festivals are for the adventurous who want to be immersed in a culture at its height of celebration. You’ve got to drop your roots and adopt a fresh perspective full of new history and passionate people.


Polish Summer Solstice Festival June 21-June 23
Wianki takes place in Krakow, Poland at the height of summer, or the summer solstice. You can live out your midsummer night’s dream by making a wreath and floating it down the Wisla River. The floating wreaths accompany the pagan traditions of fortune telling, herb burning, and fire jumping rituals/competitions—though now under Christian contexts. If you’re looking to take the tradition even a step further, St. John’s Renaissance Faire at the Wawel Castle is running concurrently. In addition to traditional aspects, Wianki has now come to include many modern theater and music performances scheduled across the three days as well as a firework finale. The festival has become a popular expression of Polish culture and nationalism, as well as an attraction for tourists seeking the vitality Krakow has to offer. Polish food, art, and festivities bring crowds of people to Krakow so the best game plan would be to get there at least a day early to explore and settle in a place perhaps a bit outside the city craze. Whether in a shared room or private apartment, find your ideal Krakow accommodationfrom €12/night!

Paris Quartier d’Eté

Paris Summer Arts Festival July 14-August 11 Paris’ month long summer arts festival kicks off on July 14th with Bastille Day celebrations. Bastille Day celebrates French Nationalism Day, also known as Le quatorze juillet. A military parade in the morning through Champs-Élysées Avenue features infantry, motor troops, and aircraft fleets overhead. French military allies join in on the parade to commemorate the storming of the Bastille fortress which marked the end of the French Revolution. This is the oldest and largest military parade in Europe, so not one to miss! The day is concluded by fireworks—a strong finish for any national celebration. However, Bastille Day is only the beginning of the party. Throughout the rest of the month music, dance, theater, and acrobatic performances populate the city streets. All the usual things to do in Paris get that much more exciting when theater is on every corner. Most of these performances are free, but it is always a good idea to check the online schedule (watch out, it’s in French). Starting at only €20/night you can find terrific
accommodations in Paris to make your Paris vacation exciting, comfortable, and affordable!

Tokushima Awa Odori

Dance Festival August 12-August 15 This “Fool’s Dance” is the biggest dance party in Japan, definitely. This 400 year old dance festival in Tokushima, Japan is named after the lyrics to the main dance tune: “Fools dance and fools watch, if both are fools, you might as well dance.” At night the downtown streets erupt into a dance parade with dancers called “ren” parading through. In traditional Japanese garb, the dancers engage the audience with a staggered and off balance dance routines that complement the general drunken jolliness permeating the city. As suggested by the lyrics, the parade is not just a spectator sport. Onlookers (whether in the paid section or free standing section) are encouraged to join in. And of course, as with any festival, ample food and music opportunities accompany the Awa Odori extravaganza. This ancient, cultural opportunity is not one to miss if you are planning on traveling to Japan this summer! Tokushima gets pretty busy around this festival, so it’s best to stay outside the main city. Plan out where to stay for as low as €13/night on your Japan visit somewhere like Osaka—a great place to take a break from the Tokushima crowd.

Semana Grande Bilbao

A Basque Cultural Celebration August 17-25 Northern Spain, home to one of the oldest cultures in the world—Basque—starts its 8 day Semana Grande celebration on with the txupinazo: the launching of a rocket and proclamation of the festival. Carnival booths pop up on the streets as do life-sized puppets (so don’t watch any puppet horror movies during your stay). Basque folk dancing, complete with full costumes, is huge part of every day. Traditional Basque music accompanies a scene of more contemporary music concerts bringing in nationally and internationally known rock, pop, and folk stars. You can avoid the danger and chaos of Pamplona, because here you have the opportunity to engage in a Spanish classic: bull fighting. It takes place in Bilbao for those who have just come from witnessing the boxing or internationally known Strong-Man competitions also part of Semana Grande. Every night, a fireworks competition is held, showcasing fireworks from competitors around the world. These firework shows can be seen from pretty much anywhere. And of course, as with any Basque cultural event, Basque cuisine is plenty and delicious. Semana Grande festivities are all through Basque country, but are observed to the fullest in either Bilbao or San Sebastian. This Bilbao rental is an apartment in the heart of the city with a great view for watching fireworks! Find another rental or San Sebastian accommodation starting at €15/night...sign me up!

Boryeong Mud Festival

City Wide Mud Bath July 19-July 28 Just south of Seoul over 2 million people gather at Daecheon Beach every year for the Boryeong Mud Festival. When the festival first started out, it was intended to be a marketing opportunity for mud cosmetics companies. However, since 1998 it has expanded by the year and evolved into an event of entertainment, activity, and cross-cultural unity. The festival draws Koreans and westerners alike. When everyone is covered in germanium, mineral and Bentonite rich grey mud, only one race really exists. Mud sliding, mud wrestling, mud fireworks and mud painting make great potential photo entries for the mud photo contest. If you are really enthusiastic, you can participate in the mud training course. For those less excited to get dirty…too bad—you will be put in the mud prison until you get dirty (though you’ll for sure save on facials for the month with the cleansing properties of Daecheon dirt). For more relaxing opportunities massages and swimming—in either mud or the ocean—are top options. Check out the event website for even more event info. This will be the best beach day you’ve ever had. (Tip: the finale is the last weekend of the festival and is the most activity packed!) Find a $12/night Seoul accommodation with easy access to transportation. See the highlights of South Korea on your way down to the Mud Festival!   What other festivals are you going to this summer? Find the perfect festival accommodations on Tripping all over the world!
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Post by Christina Sours