15 Unique Food Festivals Around The World

If you want to eat a variety of food in a short amount of time without breaking the bank, food festivals are often the way to go. But some festivals are more than just a quick bite to eat. They can also represent an innate love of the culinary arts, with many festivals featuring top chefs, cooking demonstrations, and curated meals. While there are many such gatherings in the United States, these cherished events are not exclusively American. Food festivals are a global phenomenon. 

Across the globe, culinary enthusiasts gather to celebrate all things food in a variety of festivals. These events span from traditional ceremonies dating back hundreds of years to modern-day exhibitions featuring some of the planet's top talents. There seem to be a lot of food festivals out there these days, but some stand out amongst the crowd. Some are known for focusing on one special food item or ingredient. Others are appreciated for their ability to attract tourists. We have compiled a list of the best global food festivals worth adding to your travel bucket list. Here are 15 unique food festivals around the world. 

Pizzafest - Naples, Italy

Pizzafest has brought foodies to Naples, Italy each year since 1995. Headquartered in the birthplace of pizza, the festival features chefs from around the globe coming together to make all sorts of pizza. The city is essentially turned into a pizza village, with plenty of food and activities to keep you busy. Pizzafest can last over a week and usually takes place in early summer.

Any time of the year is a great time to visit Naples, but if you love pizza, then visiting during Pizzafest can make the trip extra special. Pizza aside, the city is filled with many opportunities to fulfill your inner foodie. While a traditional Neapolitan-style pizza may not be everyone's favorite, the festival gives visitors the chance to try different varieties. If you want to give a Neapolitan-style pizza a try before heading overseas, aficionados will point you to New Haven, Connecticut for a similar taste.

Salon du Chocolat - Paris, France

If you ever find yourself in Paris during the fall, be sure to carve out some time for the Salon du Chocolat. Pastry chefs and chocolate connoisseurs from around the world have gathered annually in the French capital since the '90s, participating in demonstrations, exhibitions, and other events centered around chocolate. Paris is considered by many to be one of the ultimate global culinary destinations. The city's decadent pastries, desserts, and sweets are a part of its amazing reputation for food. So, an entire festival solely dedicated to chocolate seems to lend itself perfectly to its Paris setting.

The festival is not just a celebration of all things chocolate. Paris' culture is front and center, with a chocolate-themed fashion show being one of the Salon's highlights. From iconic Parisian landmarks sculpted out of chocolate to wearable sweets on display in the fashion show, attendees will experience a tasty whirlwind every October.

Dragon Boat Festival - Hong Kong

The Tuen Ng Festival (also known as the Dragon Boat Festival) is not only a gathering that marks a specific time in the lunar calendar but a culinary treat. As one story goes, the Hong Kong festival began with the death of poet Qu Yuan who drowned on the fifth day of the fifth month in the lunar calendar. To keep fish and evil spirits away, people would drop sticky rice dumplings into the river where it was believed the poet's body was located. 

These days, the Dragon Boat Festival is marked by attendees eating an abundance of rice dumplings while watching teams race dragon-shaped boats. Hong Kong restaurants and vendors will have plenty of rice dumplings on hand during the celebration of the Dragon Boat Festival. You can purchase some and enjoy the dumplings as you watch the many boat races. In 2022, the Tuen Ng Festival was celebrated on June 3. 

Herring Festival - Hvide Sande, Denmark

Fishing is a big business in Denmark. In fact, according to a report by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, Denmark is one of the world's biggest exporters of fish. So when it comes time to celebrate the country's major economic stronghold, the Danes go all out. While traveling to Denmark usually involves enjoying the culinary scene in Copenhagen, visiting more remote, coastal Danish cities — like the one where this festival takes place — is worth it, too. 

Whether you enjoy the sport of fishing or you want to check out all of the foodie offerings, the Herring Festival in the small town of Hvide Sande is the place to be. The event has taken place in the spring, since 1994. The festival features various competitions and plenty of tastings that, you guessed it, revolve around one central component: herring. It is the biggest festival of its kind in Denmark.

St. Moritz Gourmet Festival - St. Moritz, Switzerland

When many people think about food festivals, they often associate them with street food, local vendors, and bite-sized samples of food and drinks from the area. It is not often thought of as a gourmet event, but that is where St. Moritz, Switzerland stands apart. The popular ski destination is also known for its culinary scene, so it only makes sense that the city hosts its very own Gourmet Festival.

The festival has taken place every year since 1994 and draws in some of the top talents from around the globe. Each festival has an annual theme. In 2023, the theme was Middle Eastern Cuisine. As one would imagine, this is quite a swanky gathering, lasting over several days. Events include a multi-course dinner prepared by master chefs. If you are a major fan of fine dining, then this festival is likely already on your bucket list.

Melbourne Food & Wine Festival - Melbourne, Australia

In case you need another reason to book a trip to Australia, let us introduce you to the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. The vastly entertaining festival brings together over 100 individual events, food crawls, chef demonstrations, and more. Attendees get the opportunity to take in some of the best food in Melbourne. The festival is traditionally held at the end of March each year.

Whether you want to try stellar baked goods, farm-to-table eats, or all things cheese, the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival has an event for it. The events take place across the city, so it may not always feel like other tightly-packed festivals with vendors that are centralized in just one area. Other popular demonstrations taking place during the 2023 festival are the World's Longest Brunch and the World's Longest Lunch. Both events feature guests seated at a very long communal table.

Gilroy Garlic Festival - Gilroy, California

There are some spectacular food festivals around the globe, but there are a few standouts that Americans can enjoy without needing a passport. Out in California, garlic fans can get their fill at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, taking place each summer in the town of Gilroy. The festival has been celebrated annually for over 40 years. What started as a way of commemorating the town's garlic production has grown into a famous foodie destination. Anyone who loves garlic will tell you all of its benefits, particularly when it comes to improving heart health, per Healthline. So a festival solely devoted to the herb is sure to draw out fans from far and wide.

The festival has faced some challenges in recent years in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a tragic shooting that took place in 2019, per the San Francisco Chronicle. NBC Bay Area announced in 2022 that a version of the Gilroy Garlic Festival was picked up by a new promoter that would move the event to Stockton, California. So while the original festival is on an indefinite pause, there are still opportunities to celebrate all things garlic in California.

Cooper's Hill Cheese Roll - Gloucester, England

If the thought of a wheel of cheese rolling down a hill brings a smile to your face, then you would benefit from a trip to Gloucester, England. There, a crowd of spectators marvels at the annual Cooper's Hill Cheese Roll. For the curious, it is an opportunity to witness one of the most bizarre yet beloved traditions in England. But for the brave, it is a chance to participate in the sport itself, chasing a wheel of cheese down a 200-yard-long hill.

It is a time-honored tradition with official records dating back to the early 1800s, but it is believed to be much older than that. Cheese itself is an ancient food by all accounts, so it only makes sense that the act of chasing it down a steep hill is also pretty old — right? This is one of those food festivals that is less about eating any particular dish and more about the act of involving a specific ingredient in a feat of human imagination. The Cooper's Hill Cheese Roll is not the only festival of this kind appearing on our list.

La Tomatina - Valencia, Spain

When we grew up, we likely fell into one of two camps. We were either the kid that always wondered what it would be like to participate in a food fight, or we were the kid that took part in one. Today, we can indulge in our childish urges to start a food fight by hopping over to Valencia, Spain, for La Tomatina.

La Tomatina, according to its website, is known as "the world's biggest food fight." It takes place on the last Wednesday of August each year and brings tens of thousands of participants to the town of Buñol, located just outside of Valencia. There is only one main rule when it comes to this food fight, and that is you can only use tomatoes. That is right, each year, thousands of people gather to throw tomatoes at each other. There are several additional guidelines to keep everyone safe, including a rule that you must squash the tomato first before throwing it so the impact does not hurt anyone. Perhaps, after a visit to La Tomatina, you will never look at a tomato the same way again.

Waikiki SPAM Jam - Honolulu, Hawaii

In the world of processed foods, few are as universally recognized as SPAM. The American product was invented in 1937. Shortly after, World War II played an important role in increasing SPAM's popularity in Hawaii. That popularity has been maintained over the decades. To attend the annual SPAM Jam, you have to hop on a plane and fly out to Honolulu.

The Waikiki SPAM Jam Festival takes place in the spring, with a one-day party dedicated to this canned food. If you have been reluctant to give SPAM a try, the festival is a great way to get a quick crash course in the popular canned meat product. The festival also consists of several restaurants around Waikiki adding limited-time SPAM dishes on their menus, so even if you miss the block party, you still have plenty of time to take part in the celebration.

Tokyo Ramen Festa - Tokyo, Japan

Ramen is a beloved dish throughout Japan and Asia. The food has now even found its way into American culture. If you are one of the many people worldwide who cannot get enough of this dish, then you may want to consider a trip to Tokyo to attend the Tokyo Ramen Festa. The Tokyo Ramen Festa takes place each fall around late October and early November, just as the temperature begins to fall, and everyone begins to seek out a hearty bowl of ramen to warm them up. Attendees purchase tickets that can be exchanged around Komazawa Olympic Park for bowls of ramen. 

This food festival is unique in that it is split into two time periods with a completely different set of vendors in each period. Because of this, it could benefit extreme ramen aficionados to attend the festival twice, to try out as many different ramens as possible.

Battle of the Oranges - Ivrea, Italy

There are countless time-honored traditions surrounding the Christian calendar, particularly around Easter and the holidays leading up to it. Americans are probably more aware of the festivities that take place in New Orleans, Louisiana each winter due to Mardis Gras. But a similar yet lesser-known event takes place in the historic town of Ivrea, Italy, each year. In the three days leading up to Shrove Tuesday, people gather to participate in what is known as the Battle of the Oranges. The battle involves several teams paying homage to a war that took place between the rebellious Ivrea residents and the Royal Napoleonic Troops. But instead of the arrows and other deadly weapons used in the first battle, today's participants use citrus fruit.

The concept of throwing food at another person is not new. The modern-day food fight can be traced back to medieval times. As one might imagine, oranges have the capability of doing some minor damage if thrown with enough force. As many as 70 people have been injured in past fights. So, take part in the Battle of the Oranges at your own risk.

Oktoberfest - Munich, Germany

There are few international food festivals celebrated as much in the United States as Germany's Oktoberfest. Despite its name, the multi-week German festival now starts in September. 

But the original Oktoberfest did take place in October. It started as far back as the early 1800s. The first Oktoberfest was held to commemorate the marriage of Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. While it is widely recognized as a beer festival today, back then there was little to no beer involved whatsoever. Rather, the origins of Oktoberfest resembled more of an entertainment festival with some agricultural components.

Oktoberfest specifically celebrates Bavarian culture, but it is recognized all across Germany. The festival's central hub of activity takes place in Munich. There, you can enjoy the iconic beer tents known for selling pints. But attendees of all ages can celebrate Oktoberfest with carnival rides, food, and entertainment.

Maine Lobster Festival - Rockland, Maine

Certain foods are believed to be superior if they are from a specific place. According to some people, peaches are better if they are from Georgia, barbecue is better in Texas, and lobsters are better if they come from Maine. Fans are so devoted to the idea of Maine lobsters, that an entire festival was developed in the 1940s in the coastal town of Rockland, Maine to celebrate the crustaceans.

The Maine Lobster Festival takes place each August and attracts thousands of attendees. Festival events include an array of lobster dinners, plus all kinds of lobster-centric dishes like macaroni and cheese, bisques, salads, and lobster rolls. Food aside, attendees can enjoy arts and crafts, entertainment, parades, and a pageant that each year crowns a Maine Sea Goddess. Seafood fans will feel right at home over the five-day festival, as the lobster is just about as fresh as it can get.

Vegetarian Festival - Phuket, Thailand

Maybe you are a vegetarian. Maybe you are interested in sampling plant-based foods around the world. Perhaps, you have been wanting to plan a trip to Thailand. If any of this applies to you, the Thai city of Phuket could be your next best travel destination. The Vegetarian Festival began as a way to purify the body by eliminating all meat from one's diet for nine days whilst praying to the Nine Emperor Gods. The festival has grown over time intro an attraction for travelers from around the world to witness or take part in. 

Phuket's Vegetarian Festival now includes all things veggie, with vendors offering many plant-based dishes to both locals and tourists alike. While there are food components to the Vegetarian Festival, many use this period as a spiritual practice. Non-local attendees may witness various ceremonies involving burning coal beds, facial punctures, and firecrackers in close range.