Cultural festivals for the soul: 2024 events that celebrate art, design, and creativity

Make the most of 2024! We list the most exciting events around the world to help enrich your mind and fuel your inspiration.

Art Basel Miami Beach. Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Art Basel Miami Beach. Image licensed via Adobe Stock

It's January, and here's a great New Year's resolution for 2024: not to spend all your time at a desk! Sounds reasonable, right? But it's very easy to end up overloaded with work or just waste your life watching Netflix. So, it can help to plan and block-book time away to force yourself into action.

So why not act now? 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. To help you out, we've compiled a list of the best cultural festivals taking place over the next 12 months.


Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival – China, 5 Jan-early March

Ever been to an ice sculpture festival? We'd heartily recommend it! This festival transforms Harbin in China into a winter wonderland with massive, intricately carved ice sculptures, ice lanterns, and a variety of winter sports, drawing artists and visitors from around the world. Dress warmly in layers and book a guided tour to explore Harbin's ice sculptures and local cuisine.

Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, 2020. Image licensed via Adobe Stock. Photo credit: kikujungboy

Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, 2020. Image licensed via Adobe Stock. Photo credit: kikujungboy

Sundance Film Festival – USA, 18-28 January

Every film fan has heard of Sundance, but have you ever considered going? Held in Utah, this prestigious festival showcases independent films, including documentaries, feature-length and short films. It's a hub for filmmakers, industry members, and film enthusiasts. There's an incredible atmosphere, and the buzz and excitement of seeing previously unknown movies hit home with a first-time audience truly can't be beaten. Book accommodations early in Park City and explore the beautiful ski resorts nearby.

Singapore Art Week – Singapore, 19-28 January

If you've never experienced the small but perfectly formed Asian city-state of Singapore, here's the perfect opportunity. An annual celebration of visual arts, this event includes art fairs, gallery openings, installations, public art walks, and lifestyle events, highlighting both local and international artists. Use Singapore's efficient public transport to navigate, and don't miss the local street food. You can even find market stalls here that are Michelin-starred!


Carnival of Venice – Italy, 2-4, 8-11 and 13 February

Do you know how places that look stunning on TV and in movies can be a little underwhelming in real life? Venice is the exact opposite of that: it truly is an incredible visual feast. Time your visit to coincide with its annual Carnival. Famous for its stunning masks and costumes, the Carnival offers a glimpse into Venice's history and culture through masquerade balls, elaborate parades, and live performances in the city's canals and piazzas. Plan your visit early and consider staying on the mainland to avoid high accommodation costs in Venice proper.

Carnival of Venice. Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Carnival of Venice. Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Sapporo Snow Festival – Japan, Germany, 4-11 February

Here's another fantastic ice and snow sculpture festival. The streets of Hokkaido, the capital of Japan's northernmost main island, Sapporo, become packed with magnificent snow and ice sculptures, transforming the city into a winter fantasy land. The festival also includes concerts, snow slides, and regional food specialities. Stay hydrated in the cold weather and enjoy Sapporo's famous ramen and seafood.

Berlin International Film Festival – Germany, 15-25 February

Berlin is one of the most architecturally and culturally inspiring cities on the planet, and here's a great excuse to visit. Also known as the Berlinale, this festival is one of the film industry's most significant events, showcasing a diverse range of films and hosting numerous red carpet-events and awards. Use Berlin's extensive public transport network and explore the city's rich history and vibrant nightlife.


Art Dubai – UAE, 1-3 March

Held in the Madinat Jumeirah Hotel, this is the leading international art fair in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, offering an extensive programme of exhibitions, talks, and workshops. Dress modestly to respect the local culture, and don't miss exploring Dubai's futuristic architecture.

Madinat Jumeirah. Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Madinat Jumeirah. Image licensed via Adobe Stock

SXSW (South by Southwest) – USA, 8-16 March

Creatives of all stripes travel from across the world to attend this colossal event in Austin, Texan. A conglomerate of film, interactive media, and music festivals, it's where everything from a pop star's new album to a new social media platform gets launched. There's a fired-up energy among attendees you can't help but get swept along with, and the variety of talks, showcases, gigs, screenings, and exhibitions on offer to ticket holders is truly overwhelming. Rent a bike to navigate Austin easily and indulge in the city's famous barbecue and live music scene.


Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival – USA, 12-14 and 19-21 April

Coachella is one of America's closest equivalents to Glastonbury in the UK. Famed for its eclectic music lineup, art installations, and fashion, it's a cultural melting pot attracting celebrities and music fans alike. There are two separate weekends, both held at the Empire Polo Club grounds in Indio, California. Tickets for 2024 have been sold out for a while, but you can still sign up for the waitlists for both weekends on Coachella's website. Stay hydrated in the desert heat and explore the nearby Palm Springs area.

Milan Design Week – Italy, 16-21 April

Milan Design Week turns the entire city into a showcase for the latest in design and creativity. Arguably the world's most important design event, it combines both the Salone del Mobile furniture fair and the Fuorisalone, which covers all types of art and design. Plan your visit to different exhibitions in advance and savour Milan's exquisite Italian cuisine.

Milano, Fuori Salone del Mobile 2023, installazioni in Università Statale via Festa del Perdono. Image licensed via Adobe Stock. Photo credit: Franco Ricci

Milano, Fuori Salone del Mobile 2023, installazioni in Università Statale via Festa del Perdono. Image licensed via Adobe Stock. Photo credit: Franco Ricci

The Venice Biennale – Italy, 20 April – 24 November

Running since 1895, this international cultural exhibition takes place every two years and features contributions from countries all over the world. It includes a variety of contemporary art, architecture, cinema, dance, music, and theatre events running from April to November. Get a Vaporetto pass for easy canal navigation and enjoy a gondola ride.


Frieze New York – USA, 1-5 May

Held in the heart of Manhattan, this art fair brings together the world's leading galleries to showcase ambitious solo, group and themed presentations by pioneering artists. It's a chance to discover up-and-coming talent and engage with some of art history's most important figures. Use New York's subway system and enjoy the city's diverse culinary scene.

Melbourne Design Week – Australia, 23 May-2 Jun

Melbourne Design Week is an annual 11-day programme of talks, tours, exhibitions, launches, installations, and workshops across Australia's design capital. It features local and international exhibitions and presentations organised by the National Gallery of Victoria, which includes the Melbourne Art Book Fair and the Melbourne Design Fair, along with a satellite programme of events and exhibitions organised by the design community, held at ateliers, studios, retail spaces, universities, galleries, gardens and public spaces throughout regional Victoria. Utilise Melbourne's trams to get around and enjoy the city's famous coffee culture. And don't miss a trip to St Kilda Beach.

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Vivid Sydney – Australia, 24 May-15 June

This annual celebration of creativity, innovation and technology transforms Sydney for 23 days and nights. During the festival, the streets are filled with mesmerising art displays and 3D light projections, and you can also enjoy live music, debates, and Vivid Food, a programme of multisensory meals that celebrate Sydney's food culture and local produce. Use Sydney's public transport and catch a show at the Sydney Opera House.


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.

Burning Man. Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Burning Man. Image licensed via Adobe Stock

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.

Vintage posters for the Montreux Jazz Festival. Image licensed via Adobe Stock. Photo credit: BOOCYS

Vintage posters for the Montreux Jazz Festival. Image licensed via Adobe Stock. Photo credit: BOOCYS

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.

Confluence Museum in Lyon, France. Image licensed via Adobe Stock. Photo credit: dvoevnore

Confluence Museum in Lyon, France. Image licensed via Adobe Stock. Photo credit: dvoevnore

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.

Basilica di San Frediano and gardens of palazzo Pfanner in Lucca. Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Basilica di San Frediano and gardens of palazzo Pfanner in Lucca. Image licensed via Adobe Stock

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.

Ocean Drive, Miami. Image licensed via Adobe Stock. Photo credit: Travelview

Ocean Drive, Miami. Image licensed via Adobe Stock. Photo credit: Travelview

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.


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