Each European country has its own unique cultural heritage, and nowhere is this more apparent than in each country’s feast days, fiestas, and festivals. To really get a feel for the local culture – and soak up the sights while you’re there – you can time your holidays to coincide with one of these marvels.
Semana Santa and Feria
If you have not yet experienced the heady joys of Semana Santa or Holy Week in Spain, then you have a real treat ahead.
All Spanish cities celebrate this traditional Catholic event with parades and pageantry, but none does it better than Seville, where medieval church confraternities take their plaster saints from inside the churches and parade them through the city’s winding streets for hours in a show of penitence and emotion.
It’s a strangely affecting experience, but if you prefer fiestas of the more secular variety, then Seville’s Feria de Abril, or April Fair, sees the streets filled with stalls of delicious foods; the local tipple Jerez flows freely, and the sevillanos take part in flamenco dancing.
The Budapest Spring Music Festival
This prestigious cultural festival takes place in the appropriately harmonious surroundings of this elegant capital city, and public buildings are commandeered for the length of it. With folk dancing, opera, church concerts, ballet, theatre, and all manner of exhibitions, this festival is a real must for culture vultures.
Scandi-style Celebrations in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark
Did you know that 17th May is Norway’s Constitution Day? On this day every year, Norwegians celebrate independence from Denmark with colourful children’s parades. In Oslo, the Royal Family comes out to wave at the cheering populace, everyone eats ice-cream, and the atmosphere is generally joyous.
In June, Swedes and Danes celebrate the shortest night of the year with singalongs, bonfires on the water, and picnics in the open air, while young women wear crowns of flowers.
When Irish eyes are smiling
If you have the stomach for it, Dublin’s St Patrick’s Day parades and four-day parties are the best in the world. If you prefer something a little more literary, then Bloomsday on 16th June pays homage to Ireland’s arguably greatest writer, James Joyce, where the people relive the events of his novel Ulysses (set on 16 June 1904).
Ireland also celebrates in cultural style with the annual Dublin Dance Festival and Drogheda Arts Festival, both in the Spring or early summer, when temperatures improve.