A 2019 Calendar of Cultural Celebrations to Inspire Your Wanderlust
From royal birthdays to ancient religious festivals tied to the phases of the moon, participating in a unique celebration is one of the most enjoyable ways to learn more about another culture. Considering that nearly a third (31%) of global travelers plan to take a trip this year to experience an event specific to a region*, country or religion, we've rounded up a full calendar of cultural festivities to inspire your wanderlust in 2019. With stately parades, bombastic firework displays, scrumptious traditional delicacies and people dancing in the streets in practically every corner of the globe, there’s a festive reason to travel for every month of the year.
January – Australia Day, Australia
Celebrated annually on January 26 across the country, Australia Day marks the anniversary of the arrival of the first British ships to the continent in 1788. Today it is a public holiday that celebrates the history, diversity and people of Australia, full of festive activities, parades, traditional performances, music events, and stunning firework displays. To experience Australia’s National Day to the most, spend the day in Sydney where celebrations start in the morning and include water shows and live concerts throughout the day. If you are traveling with kids, the Children's Festival at Tumbalong Park in Darling Harbour promises fun for the whole family.
Where to stay: For a truly unique experience with stunning views of the Sydney skyline and a beautiful infinity pool, stay at the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour. The hotel’s rooftop bar is an ideal spot to watch fireworks fill the sky on Australia Day.
February – Chinese New Year, China
The most important holiday in China and to Chinese people all over the world, the celebration of the new lunar year lasts over two weeks and is often also referred to as the Spring Festival (春节). Festivities in honor of the Year of the Pig begin on February 5 and include brilliant firework displays, ceremonial offerings to the ancestors and lots of dumplings to bring good luck and prosperity in the coming year. There are numerous traditions associated with Chinese New Year, including a dedicated day in advance for sweeping bad luck out of the house to make way for the good luck the new year will bring.
Where to stay: If you are looking for a unique experience in Beijing, then Simple Family hostel is the place to be. Just a quick walk from Guijie Street (Ghost Street), a foodie paradise for late-night snacking, the property also features beautiful indoor tents, including your choice of mattress . If you prefer to dine in, you can prepare your very own New Year’s feast in the hostel’s shared kitchen.
March – St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland
Observed every year on March 17 in honor of Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick’s day is a religious and cultural festival celebrated by the Irish community in every corner of the globe. If you want to immerse yourself in the festivities, then head to the city of Kilkenny, where St Patrick’s Day becomes St Patrick’s Week, when the five-day ‘Tradfest’ takes over the town. The festival focuses on traditional Irish music and culture, while simultaneously encouraging visitors to invent a few new traditions of their own. There is plenty of live music, and you can even join a variety of workshops on traditional Irish folk dancing or how to play the accordion or fiddle.
Where to stay: A historic Georgian manor in the heart of the city, Butler House was once the dower house of Kilkenny castle and home to the Dukes of Ormonde. The expansive restored gardens to the rear of the estate have a private entrance to the grounds of Kilkenny castle and from the front door, you’re only a short walk to the river and medieval center of the city.
April – King’s Day, Netherlands
Every April, the people of Netherlands throw a big birthday party for the country’s monarch. Now celebrated on April 27 - the actual birthday of current reigning monarch, King Willem-Alexander - Koningsdag (literally ‘King’s Day’) was first celebrated in August of 1885 to celebrate the birthday of then Princess Wilhelmina who would later become queen. The day is marked by a nationwide vrijmarkt (literally free market) where people sell their second-hand goods on the street (the only day you’re permitted to do so in the Netherlands without a permit or charging the obligatory sales tax) and public celebrations throughout the country, including concerts, parties and lots and lots of orange (the Dutch national color), most notably in Amsterdam.
Where to stay: With the biggest party for King’s Day taking place in and around the famous canals of Amsterdam, it’s the most iconic and vibrant place to experience this uniquely Dutch holiday. The Former Rembrandt workshop two bedroom apartment is a lovely getaway in the heart of the Jordaan neighborhood, where the most boisterous and authentic public celebrations take place.
May – Golden Week, Japan
In honor of a cluster of important national holidays in Japan that take place at the beginning of May, including the former Emperor’s birthday and Constitution Memorial Day, many Japanese take time off during Golden Week (starting on April 29) to rest, travel and celebrate the change in weather.
Where to stay: Located near the Imperial Palace, HOSHINOYA Tokyo is a beautiful ryokan with modern details. Guests can relax at the property’s indoor hot spring and revitalize their body and soul before heading out to sample some of the amazing cuisine that the city has to offer.
June – Festa Junina Brazil
The annual Brazilian festivities of Festa Junina (also known as the festa de São João) celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist and have their roots in Midsummer festivities imported by the Portuguese in the 16th century. The celebrations occur throughout the month of June and have an important agrarian connection, i.e. to give thanks for the rainy period that is just coming to an end. Although primarily a rural festival, Festa Junina has also become very popular in urban areas of Brazil and is the second most popular holiday after Carnival. If you travel to Brazil during the festivities, you’ll have the opportunity to taste delicious pastries made from corn, as June is usually when the corn crop is harvested.
Where to stay: Featuring a rooftop pool, fitness area and sauna, the apartments and suites at the George V Residence Casa Branca are just steps away from the fabulous shopping on Sao Paulo’s Oscar Freire Street. Guests can kick off the festivities with contemporary gourmet dishes and exotic cocktails at one of the tasty restaurants on nearby Barão de Capanema Street.
July – Independence Day, USA
Independence Day in the United States, commonly referred to as the 4th of July, commemorates the day in 1776 that the 13 American colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence and separated from the British crown. The nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. is a historic place to experience the 4th of July, offering plenty of pomp and ceremony. The day is filled with military drills and ceremonies, live music, parades, locals mingling around the Washington Monument with picnics, and food trucks lining the Mall. There is also a fireworks finale, filling the sky over the US Capitol West Lawn after a free concert from the National Symphony Orchestra.
Where to stay: For a stay that’s infamously connected to a more recent chapter in U.S. history, the Watergate Hotel Georgetown offers luxurious rooms with private balconies and views of the Potomac River.You can grab a drink and enjoy the fireworks from The Top of the Gate, the hotel’s rooftop bar with panoramic views of the Georgetown waterfront and the Washington Monument.
August – Dormition of Virgin Mary, Greece
One of the most significant holidays in the Greek Orthodox calendar is the Dormition of Virgin Mary. Celebrated on August 15, the festival commemorates the moment when Mary literally “fell asleep” and ascended to heaven. Every part of the country has a feast (known as panigiri) and visiting during this period is a great opportunity to experience a unique aspect of Greek culture, as most churches around the country hold a religious ceremony in the morning followed by local festivities. The most popular spot in Greece to participate in this annual celebration is the Church of Panagia Evangelistria on the island of Tinos. Pilgrims gather from all around the country gather to pray before a famous icon of the Virgin Mary, consequently the most beloved and important in all of Greece.
Where to stay: Aeolis Tinos Suites make for a spacious and relaxing getaway on the beautiful island of Tinos. You can relax at the outdoor pool overlooking the Aegean Sea before heading to the Church of Panagia Evangelistria to view the miraculous icon of Our Lady of Tinos for yourself.
September – Chuseok (Harvest Festival), South Korea
In South Korea, the Harvest Moon Festival, or Chuseok, falls on the full moon which occurs on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar year. Koreans celebrate this special day by making special rice cakes (songpyeon) tinted yellow, pink or green, playing games and dancing. This festival is often compared to the American Thanksgiving, as families also gather together and give gifts to show their appreciation and gratefulness for each other.
Where to stay: Located in the Jongno-Gu district in northern Seoul, Hanok 24 Guesthouse Gyeongbokgung offers cosy, traditional rooms just a short walk away from Gyeongbokgung Palace, a former royal residence of the Joseon dynasty built in 1395.
October – Diwali, India
Also known as the Festival of Lights, Diwali is one of the biggest festivals in Hinduism and signifies the victory of good (light) over evil (dark). During the festival, small lamps are placed in front of temples and houses. If you travel to India during Diwali, you can savor a variety of local foods and sweets, including mithai (Indian sweets made of sugar and chickpea flour) and samosas (fried pastries filled with vegetables, meat or lentils).
Where to stay: Built over 175 years ago within the city of Jaipur as a royal family manor, Samode Haveli still reflects that original style and attention to detail. Each of the elegantly decorated rooms feature antique couches, rich mosaics and painted arches.
November – Day of the Dead, Mexico
Day of the Dead (or Día de Muertos), is a Mexican holiday where family and friends celebrate deceased loved ones. A surprisingly uplifting and happy tradition celebrated on November 2 with painted faces, decorated skulls, butterflies and vivid flowers, this special day emphasizes the continuity of life. While the Mexican capital now celebrates the day with a colorful parade, many locals visit the graves of their loved ones to leave candles, flowers, food and beverages.
Where to stay: Set in the Polanco district, a cultural, business and shopping area of the city, the Intercontinental Presidente Mexico City boasts stunning views of Chapultepec Park, which you can enjoy before heading out to find the perfect spot to watch the parade.
December - Russian Winter Festival, Moscow
Running between mid-December and mid-January, the Russian Winter Festival is celebrated with great excitement in different cities around the country, with Moscow being the best place to enjoy it in all its glory. Festive activities and events can be enjoyed throughout the city, including performances of traditional songs and dances in Revolution Square, ice skating in Gorky Park and ice sculptures on Red Square.
Where to stay: Sputnik Hostel & Personal Space is a modern hostel in central Moscow, just a short walk away from the Kremlin and Red Square, ideal for taking in all of special events during the festival.
*Based on the percentage of travelers that thinks it is “likely” or “ very likely” that in 2019, they will go on a “cultural event trip (ex. A trip to experience a event specific to a region, country or religion)”. Research commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among a sample of 53,492 respondents across 31 markets (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, Hong Kong, Croatia, Indonesia, Israel, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia, Sweden, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United States of America and Vietnam). In order to participate in this survey, respondents had to be 18 years of age or older, had to have travelled at least once in the past 12 months and be either the primary decision maker or involved in the decision making of their travel. The survey was taken online and took place between October 16th and November 12th, 2018.