Top Festivals in May

May heralds the summer season in many places in the Northern Hemisphere. It offers one last sip of spring as well as a slurp of the goodness of summer. Besides the amazing weather, there is a lineup of festivals in May around the world that bring you closer to culture and adventure. Some festivals are windows into the deep culture, while others offer a range of electrifying activities. Take a look at the top festivals in May, waiting to please your senses with a smorgasbord of experiences.

Top Festivals in May That You Must Attend

1. Bergen International Festival

Bergen International Festival NorwayImage Credit:

When: 22nd May – 5th June

Where: Begren, Norway

Why: To celebrate music, theatre, and other dance forms and applaud artistic innovation.

Started in 1953, the Bergen International Festival is the biggest music and theatre festival in the Nordic countries. Norway’s flagship festival is stretched over two weeks, creating the largest European center for arts and culture. It features the mind-blowing premieres of movies, music, opera, and drama. Also, Bergen is a beautiful city known for its colorful wooden houses, historic wharf, and lavish fjords. The festival provides a perfect excuse to explore this charming destination.

2. Vivid Sydney

Vivid Sydney AustraliaImage Credit:

When: 24th May – 15th June

Where: Sydney, Australia

Why: To honor the harbor and culture by decorating light installations and art.

Vivid Sydney is an annual festival that blends light, music, and thoughts. Celebrated for 23 days, the event transforms the city into a buzzing hub, with awe-inspiring light installations and 3D light projections that put the limelight on iconic landmarks like the Sydney Opera House. Vivid Sydney is more than a dazzling display of color and light; it invites the most creative and brilliant minds under one roof. There are groundbreaking discussions, eye-opening debates, live workshops, culinary events and musical concerts. It is also the best time to visit Sydney as the weather is pleasant and the crowd begins to disperse.

3. Lunar Moon Festival

Lunar Moon Festival

When: 21st May

Where: Vietnam

Why: A full moon is considered the day of transformation, so people reflect on life and worship their ancestors.

Lunar Moon Festival or Hoi An Lantern Festival is a beautiful, better to say, magical event. It is celebrated on the 14th day of the lunar month when the sky is shining with a full, bright moon. On the night of the full moon, thousands of colorful lanterns are lit, both on the streets and in the water, creating an ethereal atmosphere. These lanterns are symbols of wealth, fortune, and happiness. Besides hanging lanterns, tourists and townfolks flock together to watch scores of cultural events that honor the region’s heritage and ancestors. They burn incense, wear colorful clothes, perform traditional shows, and hear musical renditions. The celebrations begin at dusk and end at around 9:00 PM.

4. Cannes Film Festival

Cannes Film Festival FranceImage Credit:

When: 14th – 25th May

Where: Cannes, France

Why: To celebrate the skills of movie-making.

Cannes is widely regarded as the most prestigious film festival in the world and one of the ‘Big Three’ major European film accolade ceremonies. Over 4000 professionals from the film fraternity come together to attend premieres, screenings and social events at this mega festival. Held since 1946, it introduces new films and documentaries of all genres. This invitation-only festival is organized at Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, France.

5. Hamamatsu Festival

Hamamatsu FestivalImage Credit:

When: 3rd-5th May

Where: Hamamatsu, Japan

Why: The highlight is the “first kite,” a special kite flown to celebrate the birth of a firstborn son (or child).

A 3-day festival held annually in Japan, the Hamamatsu Festival is known for its giant kites. The origin of the festival dates back to 1558 when the lord of Hamamatsu castle organized an eve to celebrate the birth of his son. The lord flew the kite with his son’s name on it. Later, as the years passed, flying kites became a popular activity in Japan. The atmosphere is electric, with cheers and excitement as teams glide their kites in the air to cut down the strings of their opponents’ kites. As the day comes to an end, the focus of the festival shifts to the downtown area, where a dazzling parade of decorated floats, known as “goten yatai,” takes center stage. There are also numerous food stalls and brass band parades.

6. Cheung Chau Bun Festival

Cheung-Chau-Bun-FestivalImage Credit:

When: 12th -16th May

Where: Cheung Chau Island, Hong Kong

Why: A Taoist ritual in Hong Kong since the 1800s, climbing a precarious bun tower for good luck.

It is a unique festival that comes from an unusual reason — the end of a plague in Cheng Chau. Today, the celebration has been reshaped into one of the region’s most famous and unique cultural events. It is a fun revelry that is also rooted in tradition and spirituality. The buns are considered lucky and believed to bring health and prosperity to those who eat them. The climbing of the bun towers is also seen as a way to ward off evil spirits and bad luck. In a span of 4 days, the first two days are dedicated to vegetarian meals and self-cleansing, followed by a public holiday. Visitors can also partake in competitions, such as floating colors and bun-snatching tussle.

7. Balispirit Festival

BaliSpirit-FestivalImage Credit:

When: 1st-5th May

Where: Bali, Indonesia

Why: A celebration of Indonesian arts and culture since 2008, promoting peace and unity through creativity.

Visit the world’s best island during its liveliest phase. Imagine enjoying a peaceful respite in Bali with the highly renowned yogis and dancers. Isn’t it like a dream? The festival hosts over 200 workshops in different categories, from yoga and breathwork to dance, healing, and personality development. These classes cater to all levels, from gentle beginner sessions to advanced practices. Explore the stalls of local artisans showcasing beautiful handcrafted jewelry, textiles, paintings, and sculptures. There can be no better festival than just dancing and reviving under the bliss of beautiful nature.

8. Afrikaburn

Afrikaburn Image Credit:

When: 29th April – 5th May

Where: Tankwa, South Africa

Why: A week-long South African art and music festival inspired by Burning Man, fostering self-expression and community.

Heard about the Burning Man festival in the US? Afrikaburn takes an inspo from it. It is an arts and culture festival held in the Tankwa Karoo National Park in South Africa every year. A temporary city called “Tankwa Town” is built by volunteers and visitors to celebrate art, self-expression, and harmony. You will find people from all walks of life coming together to attend this joyous event. Running for a week, the event is home to interactive art installations, pop-up communities, large-scale art installations, and a large wooden effigy. You will love that it addresses sustainability, as participants are responsible for bringing in everything they need and taking everything out with them, leaving the desert pristine. Do note it down as one of the best festivals to experience before you turn 30.

9. Pahiyas Festival

Pahiyas FestivalImage Credit:

When: 15th May

Where: Quezon, Philippines

Why: To honor patron saint San Isidro Labrador and say thanksgiving prayers.

The ultimate celebration of the abundance of harvest, Pahiyas Festival is the most colorful festival in May. Homes are decorated with fruits, veggies, flowers, and other yields. The most iconic decorations are the kiping, colorful leaf-shaped rice wafers, which are intricately arranged in various designs and patterns and hung on the front of houses, forming vibrant curtains of color. You may head to Lucban to check out the authentic celebration. There are also street performances, cultural shows, and food stalls offering a variety of local delicacies and specialties.

10. Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling Festival

When: 27th May

Where: Gloucestershire, England

Why: Although the history (or origin) of the festival is still a mystery, it is believed to be around 600 years old tradition.

One of the completely fun and eccentric May festivals, the idea behind Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling Festival will have you rolling on the floor. The event begins with rolling a round, double Gloucester cheese down the hill, which can reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour (110 km/h). Participants then race down the hill after it, often tumbling and somersaulting in their attempt to capture the cheese. The first person to reach the bottom of the hill and grab the cheese wins. What does he win? A real cheese roll as a prize. Of course, the event expresses the quirkiness and spirit of British culture.

11. Hay Festival of Literature and Arts

Hay FestivalImage Credit:

When: 23rd May – 2nd June

Where: Hay-on-Wye, Wales

Why: In the past days, Hay-on-Wye was already acknowledged for its diverse bookstores, but Richard Booth came in 1962 and opened his first bookshop—naming Hay as “The Town of Books’.

Simply called the Hay Festival, it is a famous annual literature festival. It is set up in a charming, pretty town in Wales called Hay-on-Wye. For ten days, from late May to early June, Hay-on-Wye modifies into a haven for bookworms and culture enthusiasts. Began in 1988 by Peter Florence and his father, Norman, the festival has evolved into one of the world’s leading literary festivals, attracting renowned authors, thinkers, artists, and performers from around the globe. The events also have workshops and discussions engaging intellectual minds and artists in thought-provoking conversations.

12. New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

When: 26th April – 5th May

Where: New Orleans, USA

Why: To celebrate the roots and evolution of jazz and New Orleans culture since 1971.

Nicknamed the Jazz Festival and considered the best music festival worldwide, it is a week-long affair that features a wide variety of musical genres, including jazz, blues, gospel, R&B, Cajun, zydeco, Afro-Caribbean, Latin, and more. Get ready to tap your toes to the tunes of world-renowned musicians, local artists, and budding performers. Wear comfortable shoes as you might be dancing here and there, trying to cover over 700 acts arranged on 12 different stages throughout the festival. In the past, top musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Fats Domino, Dr. John, and Allen Toussaint have made their attendance. In addition to concerts, browse the arts and crafts market. Jazz Fest is a haven for foodies, with all kinds of seafood, classic dishes, and vegetarian options.

13. Cinco de Mayo

Cinco-de-MayoImage Credit:

When: 5th May

Where: Mexico

Why: To celebrate Mexico’s military victory over the Second French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

Literally translated to “Fifth of May”, Cinco de Mayo is a cultural holiday celebrated primarily in Mexico and parts of the United States. After the victorious fight, 5th May became a day to celebrate Mexican heritage, culture, and the enduring spirit of its people. It is a grand festival marked by activities and festivities, including parades, traditional Mexican music and dance, mariachi performances, folkloric ballet, and plenty of delicious Mexican cuisine, especially guacamole. Although it is not Independence Day or National Day, it signifies the Mexicans’ unity and resilience.

14. Monaco Grand Prix

When: 23rd -26th May

Where: Monte Carlo, Mexico

Why: To showcase racing excellence on a challenging street circuit.

One of the top festivals in the world, the Monaco Grand Prix has been keeping the audience on the edge of their seats since 1929. This Formula One motor race turns into a hair-raising event that brims the streets of Monte Carlo with loud cheer and buzz from the audience. Stretched over 3.33 kilometers, the race takes place in the tight-cornered circuit over 78 laps. It is an extremely challenging race as each corner presents its own set of obstacles. No wonder it is often referred to as the “crown jewel” of Formula One.


1. Which continent celebrates most festivals in May?

Europe has a thriving list of festivals in May.

2. Are there any popular festivals in May?

Some of the must-visit festivals in May are the Cannes Film Festival, Cinco de Mayo, and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

3. Which festival should film lovers attend in May?

The Cannes Film Festival is one of the most renowned festivals for cinema buffs in May.

4. Are there any literature festivals in May?

Hay Festival of Literature & Arts offers a chance to meet your favorite authors and discover new voices.

5. Are there any music festivals worth attending in May?

EDC Las Vegas, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and Primavera Sound are some of the biggest music festivals in May.

6. What should I remember when attending festivals in May?

Temperatures can be high at several places, so stay hydrated. Since it’s a new place, stay aware of your surroundings. Also, do research on the festival to understand local rules and culture.


May bursts with vibrant celebrations around the globe, from dazzling light displays and film premieres to age-old traditions and joyous community gatherings. So pack your bags, embrace the spirit of adventure, and get ready to experience the world in a whole new light.

Intrigued by the breathtaking beauty and unbelievable diversity around the world, Shambhavi has taken the agenda of inspiring travellers to embark on their new journeys with passion and information. She has a pen in one hand and a camera in the other. She is a food-enamoured introvert who is fond of plants, reads fiction and taps feet to Bollywood music.

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