The 15 Best Food Festivals in the World

A region’s culture is reflected in its cuisine. In this way, food has the amazing ability to illustrate certain intricacies about a country’s culture to those on the outside. For example, American cuisine tends to be fast and bold, emblematic of American ideals. With hundreds of festivals celebrating food throughout the world, there is a destination to appease even the pickiest of appetites. Attracting all different kinds of epicurean stars and enthusiasts, food festivals are a fabulous place to expand one’s mind and stretch one’s boundaries. The following is a list of 15 exciting and diverse festivals celebrating foods from every culture throughout the world:

  1. Maine Lobster Festival: Serving over twenty thousand pounds of lobster over the course of five days, Maine’s Lobster Festival is one of the premier food festivals in the world. Located in the small coastal town of Rockland, the Maine Lobster Festival celebrates Maine’s biggest export by boiling it alive and eating it — delicious. Thousands of volunteers work for the eleven months before the festival preparing for the upcoming activities. The festival includes a big parade, several cooking contests, the Sea Goddess Pageant, road races, arts and crafts, lobster crate races, and of course lots and lots of lobster.
  2. Cayman Cookout: Offering a glorious escape from harsh winter temperatures, the Cayman Cookout is a must-see destination for any food lover. Presented by award winning chef Eric Ripert, the festival features local dishes such as fresh ceviche and international favorites like fine chocolate and gourmet truffles. Each day of the festival offers something new and exciting to the guests. One day, swim with and feed the Southern Stingrays of Stingray City and the North Sound, and then enjoy Chef Eric’s boat-prepared ceviche. The next day, enjoy freshly baked pastries and brews from award winning chefs all over the world. As if the Cayman Islands weren’t an enticing enough vacation destination, the Cayman Cookout adds even more allure.
  3. Arcata Bay Oyster Festival: More than seventy percent of the oysters consumed in the state of California are cultivated in Arcata Bay on California’s northwest coast. It is here that the internationally known oyster festival takes place every June. Celebrating the local chefs of Humboldt County, the Arcata Bay Oyster Festival features vendors from the most popular restaurants in town. Preparing oysters roasted, fried, barbecued, raw, and more, the chefs display their creativity and zeal for the slimy delicacies. Vying for the coveted title of "Best Oyster of the Festival," each year chefs push the boundaries of traditional oyster flavor and preparation.
  4. Festival Gourmet International: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico’s reputation as a gastronomic Mecca owes much thanks to the Festival Gourmet International, a food festival celebrated in November every year. Promoting a different atmosphere than most other food festivals throughout the world, Festival Gourmet International is run on a non-competitive format. The festival boasts a dynamic combination of master chefs famous throughout the world and new chefs, wishing to display their immense talent. The festival works to blend Mexican traditions, wine tasting, parties, dinners, and cooking workshops over the course of ten luxurious days in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Featuring over twenty international celebrity chefs, all of the proceeds from the event go to local charities in Puerto Vallarta.
  5. The World Gourmet Summit: Beginning in the end of April, The World Gourmet Summit (WGS) in Singapore offers five days of all things food. The WGS will feature traditional Chinese dishes, celebrity dinners, culinary master-classes, wine tastings, and gourmet cooking workshops in various national cuisines. The World Gourmet Summit is one of the most well known and highly regarded food festivals in the world. Featuring internationally acclaimed chefs and rare epicurean wines, The WGS is any foodies dream expedition.
  6. The Good Food and Wine Show: As one of the largest food celebrations in the world, The Good Food and Wine Show is a culinary showcase that spans three cities in South Africa (Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg) over a period of several months. With numerous Chef-in-Action theatres, featuring world renowned celebrity chefs, this festival offers a great learning experience for any food enthusiast or culinary wannabe. Celebrating delicacies special to South Africa, The Good Food and Wine Show highlights the finest of the South African coffee industry in the National Barista Championships. The festival also offers several other food competitions and classes, including a cocktail competition, wine tasting, and organic food forums.
  7. Moritz Gourmet Festival: Set in a winter oasis among clear skies and crystalline cold, St. Moritz, Switzerland has been a vacationing destination for centuries. This five-day long festival features celebrity guest chefs from around the world who fly in to create original dishes with top chefs from St. Moritz’s leading hotels. Opening with a five-course gourmet meal and the Grand Gourmet Opening Cocktail at the Carlton Hotel, this festival boasts nonstop entertainment and culinary delight. The Chocolate Cult, one of the highlight events of the festival, showcases personalized chocolate delicacies using local chili, pepper, saffron, and honey. Guests can also get in on the action, creating their own personalized chocolate under the supervision of the master chocolatier in Zurich. The experience at St. Moritz is truly unique and a dream escape for any culinary fanatic.
  8. Aspen Food and Wine Classic: Taking place in Aspen, CO, every summer, the Food and Wine Classic is one of the most notorious food festivals in the world. Made hugely well known by the popular reality television series Top Chef, the Classic offers a weekend full of gourmet cooking demonstrations and samplings prepared by some of the top names in the business. Featuring lessons from dozens of world renowned chefs, wine tastings, and cooking competitions, this event sells out every year. A portion of the proceeds from the ticket sales for the event is donated to the Grow for Good campaign sponsored by Food and Wine Magazine. Grow for Good is a nationwide initiative that supports local farms and encourages sustainable agriculture.
  9. Hokitika’s Wildfood Festival: A culinary extravaganza not for the weak at heart, this New Zealand event is filled with fun and excitement. Set in a destination on its own, the festival’s landscape includes scenic mountains, glaciers, rivers, rainforest, and wildlife. Celebrating the unique wilderness of New Zealand’s Southern Island, The Hokitika Wildfood Festival features exotic dishes like wasp larvae ice cream and barbequed Huhu grubs. This event has been happening for over two decades and hosts up to twenty three thousand guests from around the world each year. Wandering dancers, mimes, bands, and comedians, allow for no shortage in entertainment. With radical wild food innovations, visitors to the festival should expect to step out of their culinary comfort zone and try unique dishes including possum, earthworms, sweetbreads, and much more.
  10. Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto: These two events take place in Turin, Italy and are more than just festivals for food. Representing and celebrating the Slow Food Movement, Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto are two mega food events that happen each year. The Slow Food Movement is a global grassroots organization devoted to linking the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment. Terra Madre showcases food producers, farmers, educators, and cooks from around the world. This four day festival focuses on workshops, meetings, and lectures, discussing eating locally and practicing sustainable agriculture. The Salone del Gusto festival focuses more on experiencing the slow food ideologies in practice. This event is an international food and wine extravaganza with thousands of wines and dishes cooked with the slow food technique. Individuals visiting either of these festivals will leave with empowering knowledge about slow food practices and beliefs.
  11. The International White Truffle Festival: The white truffle has a rich history in Italy and throughout the world. Found most famously in the countryside of the Italian city of Alba, Italian white truffles are highly esteemed in the culinary world. The International White Truffle Festival in Italy is typically held between September and December each year. This festival celebrates all aspects of the glorious tuber. Famous chefs from all over the world incorporate white truffle elements into their masterpieces, giving their dishes added elegance and flavor. However, because white truffles have such a pungent taste and are so rare, they are used sparingly in the culinary world. The Italian festival celebrates the existence of this culinary gem with events dedicated to the white truffle. Auctions take place each year, selling the truffles for thousands of dollars apiece. Any gastronomist should seek this festival to enrich their culinary repertoire.
  12. Kona Coffee Cultural Festival: Visitors from all over the world gather alongside island locals on the beaches of Hawaii for this festival of arts, food, and drinks to celebrate all things coffee. Since the early eighteen hundreds coffee has been cultivated in the Kona Districts of the Big Island of Hawaii. Kona Coffee is now one of the most highly regarded and expensive coffee blends in the world. This coffee festival generally lasts just under two weeks in the beginning of November. The festival boasts a variety of events, including pageants, tours, workshops, lectures, parades, tastings, competitions, dinners, art exhibits, and live entertainment. Hosting almost twenty thousand visitors each year, people from all over the world flock to the Island for its spectacular beauty, rich history, and outstanding caffeinated brews.
  13. International Mango Festival: While there are several mango festivals that take place throughout the world, the International Mango Festival in India is one of the largest. The festival exhibits more than five hundred different varieties of mangoes grown throughout India, celebrating the unique color, smell and taste particular to the Indian mango. While mangoes are traditionally eaten raw in India, the festival showcases various recipes from notable Indian chefs. Involving all things mango, the festival’s events include a mango eating competition, mango slogan writing, mango carving, and mango quizzes. If you’re not a huge mango fan then this is certainly a festival you can skip. For those who relish the small succulent fruits, visit the International Mango Festival to taste one-of-a-kind mango jams, pickles, fruit juices, and more.
  14. Iceland Food and Fun Festival: Focused on celebrating fresh Icelandic ingredients, the Food and Fun Festival in Iceland attracts crowds from all over the world. Taking place in the dead of Reykjavik’s frosty winter each year, this food festival is a unique and unforgettable experience. For the first four days of the festival, visiting chefs from other countries are paired with local host restaurants to prepare some of their signature dishes for the public. On the final day of festivities, the visiting chefs compete for the title of "Chef of the Year". During this competition, the chefs are given one hour to shop in the local markets and purchase only fresh Icelandic ingredients and then three hours to prepare a winning three course Icelandic meal. The results of this competition are then served as the final meal of the festival. Competitive zeal and culinary excellence make Iceland’s Food and Fun Festival hard to miss.
  15. Memphis in May Barbecue Festival: Bringing something unique to the table each year, the Memphis in May Barbeque Festival sets its culinary theme around a different country each year. While the festival lasts the entire month of May, one week each year is devoted to showcasing the local foods and entertainment of the country being honored that year. The goal of this international celebration is to educate local students in Tennessee on the different cultures and customs of the world. This BBQ celebration draws crowds from all over the world, hosting just under one hundred thousand visitors a year. With endless food competitions, food related activities, music, and more, Memphis in May is an event to behold for any food lover. The festival also hosts The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, which is one of the most popular barbecue contests in the country, and the Sunset Symphony, which is a night of classical music.