8 Can’t-Miss Winter Festivals Around the World

Estimated reading time 6 min

Whether celebrating ice, snow and Christmas or simply using the winter season to explore their culture, many countries around the globe host opulent festivals in the winter season. If you are planning a winter travel adventure, it’s a great time to see one of these winter festivals. Here are some of the top festivals that should be on your travel bucket list.

Carnival in Venice - Winter FestivalCarnival in Venice

If you love to get dressed up, head to Venice during the 40 days before Easter to celebrate Carnival. This festival is held every year starting 40 days before Easter, and ending on Fat Tuesday. You will see stunning examples of international costume and fashion designs as you explore parades, masquerade balls, live entertainment and more! Be sure to pick up your decorative mask to participate fully in the festivities. While you are exploring the wonders of Carnival, you can also experience the wonders of Venice. While this festival is at the tail end of winter and the start of spring, it deserves a spot on the list because it holds so many wonders.

Carnival in Rio de Janeiro - Winter FestivalsCarnival in Rio

Maybe your idea of a winter experience is escaping the cold, rather than running to it. In this case, Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is the festival you need to put on your bucket list. This festival is world-famous, so you’ll want to plan early to ensure you can get a hotel, but you will be glad you did. While festivities abound around the time of Carnival, the Carnival is a one-day event. Starting with a huge parade and ending with a dance competition in the street from rival samba schools, you will get your fill of Brazilian culture, enjoy seeing brilliant dance and costumes, and have the chance to participate in a festival that is hundreds of years old. Carnival was started in 1723, so it has a rich and vibrant history. Be prepared for crowds, though, as Carnival draws two million people to the streets of Rio de Janeiro. Learn more about what to expect at the Rio de Janeiro Carnival celebration here.

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival in ChinaHarbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival

The Chinese town of Harbin hosts an annual Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival on January 5 of each year, and the festival runs through February. This is a great way to break up the doldrums of late winter. At this festival, ice sculptors from around the world come to Harbin to showcase their skills. They create an ice and snow wonderland that you can walk through by day, then at night the addition of lights makes the scene truly magical.

After seeing the festival, you can head to nearby Yabuli to enjoy snow skiing. If you’re feeling particularly brave, you can participate in “polar bear plunge” style swimming competitions at the Songhua River.

Las Fallas Valencia - Winter FestivalsLas Fallas, Valencia, Spain

For five days, Valencia, Spain, comes alive with a colorful fiesta. The heart of the festivities is the creation of ninots, which are puppets made to look like politicians, celebrities or pop culture figures. Throughout the five days, festival goers poke fun at the ninots through satire and shows. Colorful Spanish costumes are abundant during the festival as well. Parades are held around the city to add to the festivities. On March 18, at the end of the festival, a huge bonfire is lit to burn the ninots in a day known as La Crema. One ninot is spared from destruction based on the vote of the crowd. All in good fun, though it sounds a little dire, Las Fallas is a way to experience traditional Spanish culture.

Tromoso international Festival - WinterTromso International Film Festival

Norway’s version of the Sundance film festival, the Tromso International Film Festival is held in mid-January and brings independent films to the big screen. What makes this festival unique among film festivals is the fact that it’s held outdoors. Since Norway has minimal daylight during this time of year, you can watch showings all day long on the outdoor screens. Over 50,000 people will be there for the event, and you will want to stick around for the awards ceremonies to see which took home the big prizes. You may even get to hobnob with some of the filmmakers while you are there.

Sapporo, Japan - Winter FestivalsSapporo Snow Festival

If you’re looking to see Japanese culture and artistic abilities on full display, head to Sapporo, Japan for the Sapporo Snow Festival, held in February. This seven-day festival brings the Internationals Snow Sculpture Contest to Odori Park and Susukino. You will be mesmerized by the stunning carvings and frozen artwork that lines the streets of these locations. Other festivities include crowning a Susukino Queen of Ice in a beauty pageant held over the seven days.

Cologne Germany - Winter FestivalCologne Festival, Germany

The Cologne Festival in Germany is held on November 11, but the festival runs through the start of the Christmas period. During the Cologne festival, you can experience concerts, smaller music festivals, costume parties, art festivals, food festivals and more! However, the highlight of this particular event is Rose Monday’s parade. Over 140 floats and hundreds of costumed parade participants will take to the streets to celebrate German life!

Chinese New Year - Winter FestivalChinese New Year Celebration

One of the most important dates in China is the Chinese New Year, which will fall some time in January or February each year. This is a period when families come together to celebrate, fireworks are shot off all around the country, and most cities hold a large festival with parades, dragon puppets, dances and plenty of Chinese food. Pick the Chinese city of your choice for a large city experience, or visit one of China’s smaller villages for a more intimate experience. No matter where you go in China during the Chinese New Year, you will find a number of festivals for you to participate in, with plenty of culture to enjoy.

As you can see, winter is far from drab when you travel. Whether you enjoy films and fashion, snow and ice, or sun and parades, you will find that the world comes alive in the winter with these winter festivals. Make plans to enjoy one of these festive events as you plan your next winter getaway.

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