27 May 2024

Cultural Festivals for the Soul: 2024 Events That Celebrate Art, Design, and Creativity

Embrace the blank canvas of the year by planning a trip around a cultural event. Whether at home or abroad, it'll allow you to travel somewhere new, immerse yourself in new ideas and fresh creativity, and recharge your imagination in the process. And hopefully, you'll meet some fun and interesting people along the way.


These are not just breaks from the norm; they're journeys fueled by curiosity and creativity. Picture yourself wandering the labyrinthine alleyways of Venice during the Biennale, discovering hidden masterpieces around every corner, soaking in the electrifying energy of SXSW, where music, film, and technology collide in a vibrant Texan melting pot, or feeling the thrum of anticipation alongside aspiring filmmakers at Sundance. Better than sitting on the sofa doomscrolling, right?


In short, the world is pulsating with countless hidden gems, so take the opportunity to connect with diverse perspectives, ignite your imagination, and return home brimming with stories, sketches, and ideas that will colour the whole year.


Canadian Music Week – Canada, 1-8 June

One of North America's biggest music, media and entertainment industry events, Canadian Music Week features a blend of live musical performances and industry conferences in Toronto. Use Toronto's public transit and explore the city's multicultural neighbourhoods.

Bali Arts Festival – Indonesia

It's a long flight to Bali, so why waste it simply sitting on a beach the whole time? Held since 1979, this month-long festival showcases Bali's rich cultural heritage. Traditional dances, music performances, puppet shows and art exhibitions all celebrate the Indonesian island's unique artistic and cultural practices. Rent a scooter for local travel and explore Bali's beaches and temples.


Montreux Jazz Festival – Switzerland, 5-20 July

If you love your jazz, then this is the mothership: so why haven't you been yet? Situated by Lake Geneva, this iconic music festival showcases jazz, blues, rock, and pop performances by international artists, both established and emerging. This year's lineup includes Stacey Ryan, Ethan Bortnick, Gayle, Ekkstacy, Lovejoy, The Doug, and Overmono. Take scenic train rides around Lake Geneva and indulge in Swiss chocolates.

Comic-Con International – USA, 25-28 July

Held in San Diego since 1970, this convention doesn't just celebrate comic books and graphic novels any more. It's now the world's epicentre for anime, manga, video games, cosplay, movies, and television, with some of the world's biggest writers, directors and actors eagerly presenting their latest sci-fi and fantasy creations. Book accommodations early in San Diego and visit the city's famous zoo.


Edinburgh Festival Fringe – Scotland, 2-6 August

Beginning in 1947, this is no longer a 'fringe' event; far from it. In fact, it's now the largest performance arts festival in the world and features thousands of performers with shows ranging from theatre and comedy to dance and music. Wander through the city centre, grab a bunch of flyers and see some shows at random. Some might be amazing, others will be awful… but that's all part of the fun. Walk to explore Edinburgh's historic sites and try traditional Scottish dishes like Tattie scones and Cullen Skink – a deliciously creamy seafood soup.

Helsinki Festival – Finland, 15 Aug-1 Sep

Finland's largest arts festival offers a wide range of events, from classical to contemporary art, including music, theatre, dance, and visual arts. The festival's aim is to make art accessible for all, and this year's performers include Samuli Putro, Angélique Kidjo and The Cleveland Orchestra. Enjoy sauna experiences and explore the city's design district.

Burning Man – USA, 25 August-2 September

Once a year, 80,000 people gather in Nevada's Black Rock Desert to create Black Rock City, a temporary metropolis dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and participation, a truly unique event. Unfortunately, last year's event was uniquely horrible, with major flooding leaving one dead and thousands stranded. On the flip side, we reckon those who brave a return in 2024 will give this year's event quite a special atmosphere this time around. Be prepared for a self-sustaining experience in the Nevada desert and explore the Reno area before or after the event.


London Design Festival – UK, 14-22 September

London is one of the world's great centres of design, and this week-long festival celebrates this fact with a series of installations and exhibitions throughout the city. Drawing in the country's greatest thinkers, practitioners, retailers and educators, you'll be spoiled for choice in events to inspire, excite and enthral you. Make sure to use London's Underground for easy travel and enjoy high tea in the afternoon.

Biennale de Lyon – France, 21 September-5 January

Lyon isn't on every visitor's list of places to visit in France. But it has a huge amount to offer, including an awe-inspiring Baroque cathedral, Michelin-starred restaurants, and some fantastic museums, galleries and nightclubs. Organise your trip around this major contemporary art festival, which brings together a range of artworks, including installations, paintings, and performances from international artists. Use Lyon's public bike system and savour the city's renowned cuisine.


Nuit Blanche Toronto – Canada, 5 October

Nuit Blanche Toronto is the city's annual all-night celebration of contemporary art, transforming its Streets, museums, and other public spaces in collaboration with the local arts community. Since 2006, this award-winning event has featured almost 1,600 art installations by approximately 5,800 artists. Toronto has many wonderful free things to do, like exploring vibrant Kensington Market, strolling through High Park, or picnicking on the shores of Lake Ontario.

Frankfurt Book Fair – Germany, 16-20 October

Known as Germany's most international city, Frankfurt is easy to get around and has many cultural events to offer. These include the world's largest trade fair for books and media, offering a comprehensive look into the publishing industry with a wide range of events and exhibitions. Explore Frankfurt's museums and try the local apple wine.

Lucca Comics & Games – Italy, 30 Oct-3 Nov

Ten miles from Pisa, Lucca is one of the most beautiful of Tuscany's provincial cities, encircled by an imposing ring of Renaissance walls and filled with delightful cobbled streets. It's also home to one of Europe's largest festivals for comics, animation, illustration, and gaming. Come to enjoy exhibitions, cosplay, interactive events and more. Elsewhere, soak up Tuscany's scenic beauty and its world-famous wines.


Istanbul Biennial – Turkey, 14 September-17 November.

Istanbul is a capital city like no other: the only place in the world where you can walk across a bridge and be on another continent (Asia or Europe, depending on which side you start). A good time to visit is during the Biennial, the most comprehensive international exhibition in the region, which plays an essential role in promoting contemporary artists and artist collectives. You'll encounter a wide range of design ideas from around the world, including urban design, architecture, and interactive installations. Use Istanbul's ferries for scenic city views and try Turkish coffee and baklava.


Art Basel Miami Beach – USA, 4-8 December

Art Basel is a major international art fair staged annually in Basel, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Paris and Miami. Each one offers the same modern and contemporary art inspiration from galleries from around the world, but only Miami offers sun, sand and surf, too! Take a walking tour to discover the city's unique range of multicultural neighbourhoods.

Festival of Lights Berlin – Germany, 10-19 October

This incredible festival transforms Berlin into an illuminated wonderland with light and video projections onto famous landmarks. It's a visual treat and a celebration of creativity. Plan in time to visit the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag Building and the Holocaust Memorial during your stay.

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival – USA (Dates to be announced)

Florida is a great place to have family fun at theme parks, but all the heat and commercialism can get a bit much for some. Add some culinary culture to the mix at this festival held at Walt Disney World, which offers food and drink samples from around the globe, along with live music and culinary workshops. Use Orlando's shuttle services and explore the Kennedy Space Center.