So much to see and do in Europe already, but why not plan your trip around some of the season’s special events? Festivals and fairs are a window into a culture, a signifier of what is important to a community, and an excellent way to rub elbows with the locals.
Here is your 2020 trip planner, with dates and events to help you plan. This is not an exhaustive list but a good place to start. Happy planning, and see you on an Untour!
March 21 – May 10, 2020
Lisse, Holland (Leiden Untour)
This massive seasonal garden is a showplace of Dutch flower power that should be on the bucket list of any gardener. Enjoy endless fields of blooming tulips and other local flowers in every genus, variety, and color, along with brimming greenhouses and winding trails of color.
Easter Week in Italy
April 9 – 12, 2020
Rome, Italy (Rome Untour)
Easter week is celebrated in the Vatican and around Rome with numerous observances, masses, and Papal appearances. Maundy Thursday services in various churches in town include the symbolic washing of feet. Good Friday evening normally sees the pope lead a torchlit procession from the Colosseum to Palatine Hill, stopping at the Stations of the Cross along the route to pray. The pope celebrates Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square, but you will need tickets. http://www.vatican.va/various/prefettura/index_en.html
The Exploding of the Cart
April 12, 2020
Florence, Italy (Florence and Tuscany Untours)
Scoppio del Carro is a tradition that dates back to the 17th century and happens every Easter in front of the Duomo, where a costumed procession follows a cart drawn by costumed donkeys. The cart is ignited in minor explosions to a delighted crowd.
Good Friday processions and Easter celebrations happen in towns throughout Italy, and Pasquetta (little Easter, the Monday after) is a holiday in Italy, with families relaxing or heading out for picnics with their leftovers.
April 24 – 26, 2020
Noordwijk to Haarlem, Holland (Leiden Untour)
The Rose Bowl Parade has nothing on this massive 25-mile flower parade from Noordwijk to Haarlem. Celebrate tulip season with a weekend of celebrations and displays that includes a parade of floats made out of bright flowers, which happens on April 25. It is quite a spectacle!
May 4 – 17, 2020
Cordoba, Spain (Cordoba and Andalusia Untours)
More than a garden festival, this is a celebration of people and traditions, as local residents of Cordoba open their private gardens to their neighbors and other visitors. Marvel at the vertical displays of bright potted flowers and the devotion of their gardeners in this intimate celebration.
Chelsea Flower Show
May 19 – 23, 2020
London, UK (London Untour)
Each spring the Royal Horticultural Society presents this popular and wildly beautiful flower show, which is often attended by royals and around 150,000 commoners alike. Book your tickets for this one. https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show
Spring through Summer
The Highland Games
Weekends, May 10 – September 12, 2020
Towns throughout the Scottish Highlands (Scottish Highlands and Central Scotland Untour)
The celebration of Scottish heritage commemorates the meeting of clans and includes bagpiping and drumming competitions, dance, and traditional sporting events like the caber toss. Enjoy the kilts and comradery!
See the schedule here: https://scotlandwelcomesyou.com/scottish-highland-games/
Some other helpful links:
Bridge of Allan: http://bofagames.com/
Vienna summer music events
Vienna, Austria (Vienna Untour)
Beethoven’s 250th Birthday
In honor of Beethoven’s milestone birthday, Vienna is hosting numerous concerts and events throughout the year, with some special summer performances. Read more here: http://www.visitingvienna.com/entertainment/events/beethoven-2020/
2020 Summer Night Concert at Schoenbrunn Palace, May 21, 2020
This magical concert typically begins at 8.30pm, but you need to get there much earlier. Entry is free but on a first come – first served basis.
Vienna Festival, mid-May to mid-June
Vienna outdoes itself providing music, theater, and opera to an international audience. Visit www.festwochen.at for details and events.
The Viennese Musical Summer, late June to mid-September
This fairly new festival was created to share the city’s performing arts during the months when many foreign guests are visiting, outside of the normal performance season. Guests can procure tickets on site in Vienna.
Art Untour Provence: In the Footsteps of Cezanne and Van Gogh
June 3 – 10, 2020
Provence, France (Provence Untour)
Join a local art historian for a deep dive into the regional look at the post impressionists in the area where they worked. Visit the towns where Van Gogh and Cezanne lived and worked and learn about how the light and landscape shaped their work. This trip is for anyone who loves and includes optional sketching classes suitable for all levels.
June 5 – 7, 2020
Frutigen, Switzerland (Swiss Heartland and Oberland Untours)
This summer Alpine festival is a classic, with young men from local villages competing in a unique kind of regional wrestling. Like all Swiss festivals, the gathering also includes local food, alpenhorn, yodeling, and community warmth against a gorgeous mountain backdrop.
June 6 – 21, 2020
Budapest, Hungary (Budapest Untour)
This annual dance festival gathers performers from around the world and hosts performances of traditional, modern, and contemporary dance at venues across the city, along with dance competitions, a colorful carnival parade, and wine events around the city.
National Yodeling Festival
June 26 – 28, 2020
Basel, Switzerland (Swiss Heartland & Oberland Untours)
Held only once every three years, the National Yodeling Festival brings some of the country’s best yodelers from all the cantons of Switzerland to a central city for performances and a celebration of Swiss music. This year’s gathering is in Basel, an easy day trip from our Swiss Untours.
Festival dei Due Mondi di Spoleto
June 26, 2020 – July 12, 2020
Spoleto, Italy (Umbria Untour)
The original Spoleto Festival draws artists and audiences from around the world for its world class performing arts, with opera, dance, theater, and musical performances taking over the ancient town center of this lovely Umbria town. Book early for this memorable celebration.
July 2 and August 16, 2020
Siena, Italy (Tuscany and Florence Untours)
This historic horse race is run twice each summer and transforms the Tuscan town of Siena, when its main campo becomes a horse racing track. While the race itself draws massive crowds and viewing spaces are difficult and expensive to procure, the festivities in the days leading up to each race are great fun to observe, as the various condrada celebrate.
The first week on July, 2020 dates TBD
Nafplio, Greece (Greece Untour)
Our seaside Greek hometown comes alive with performing arts during this annual collection of concerts and performances that take place in historic venues around town. Join the Athenians for memorable concerts and performances.
July 14, 2020
All over France (Paris, Provence, and Alsace Untours)
Every year the French people commemorate the storming of the Bastille and remember the freedom gained in the French revolution. Join celebrations throughout the country on this important national holiday.
August 7 – 29, 2020
Edinburgh, Scotland (Central Scotland Untour)
Set against the dramatic backdrop of EdinburghCastle, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a musical spectacle of great power, a gathering of military bands from the British Armed Forces, the Commonwealth, and around the world. Plan and purchase tickets well ahead of time. https://edinburgh.org/discover/edinburgh-festivals/royal-edinburgh-military-tattoo/
The International Festival of performing arts and the Fringe Festival run concurrent to the Tattoo and take over venues throughout the city during “festival season” in historic Edinburgh.
September 6, 2020
Venice, Italy (Venice Untour)
The Grand Canal of Venice fills with historic boats and costumed rowers for this breathtaking spectacle. It’s a little like observing a Canaletto painting coming to life, watching the city’s rowing clubs in their traditional costume take back the waterways in this unique boat parade.
Dvorak’s Prague Festival
September 4 – 20, 2020
Prague, Czechia (Prague Untour)
Concerts take place in multiple venures over this 2-week musical salute to Antonín Dvořák and his contemporaries. Book tickets in advance.
Wine & Food Untour
Barcelona, Spain (Barcelona Untour), September 9 – 16, 2020
Andalusia, Spain (Andalusia Unour), September 23 – 30, 2020
Provence, France (Provence Untour), October 14 – 21, 2020 (October 7 – 14 term is sold out)
Tuscany, Italy (Tuscany Untour), October 14 – 21, 2020
Join chefs, sommeliers, and local food experts on the ground in Europe for an immersion into regional cooking, wine and food traditions. Learn about local cheeses, tour the markets, visit vineyards, and master some of the regions’ iconic dishes.
Budapest International Wine Festival
September 8 – 11, 2020
Budapest, Hungary (Budapest Untour)
This annual wine weekend takes place on Castle Hill and offers wine tastings and local food in a convivial setting. There is a harvest parade, a wine auction, and some other private events as well.
Rhine in Flames
September 14 & 21, 2020
Middle Rhine, Germany (Rhine Untour)
This spectacular nighttime event lights up the skies above the Rhine, with fireworks throwing light over its castles and countryside. Boats ply the river to offer the best views. The celebration transpires over multiple nights, including May 2 in Bonn, July 4 in Bingen/Ruedesheim, August 8 in Spay/Koblenz, September 14 in Oberwesel and September 21 in St. Goar. The last two are within easy reach of our Rhine Untour, and the Juy date is also within the area.
Heritage Fair of History and Culture
September 16 – 18, 2020
Pernes-les-Fontaines, France (Provence Untour)
Every four years the Untours hometown of Pernes-les-Fontaines goes back to its historical roots for a three-day fair of cultural heritage. Vehicles are banned from the city center and locals don costumes and transform their town streets and squares to what life was like over a century ago. This festival is for the people and aims toward authenticity that makes it a regional favorite.
Hasliberg Chästeilet and Mountain Festival
Normally the 3rd weekend in September (dates TBD)
Hasliberg, Switzerland (Swiss Heartland & Oberland Untours)
The “Chästeilet” is the dividing of the cheese, a traditional ceremony when dairy farmers divide the bounty. This local festival includes music, a parade of colorfully costumed cows, and a festive party with regional music and food. It’s a divine way to celebrate with the locals.
September 19 – October 4, 2020 in Munich
September 25 – October 11, 2020 in Stuttgart
Smaller gatherings in other cities too. (Castle and Rhine Untours)
Grab your dirndl and lederhosen and head to the festival grounds for a beloved German tradition that goes well beyond sausage and beer gardens to encompass traditional music, dance, costumes and food. Festivals offer a wide range of beers and food, and some Octoberfests like Munich’s have their own app to help you navigate the expansive festival grounds. Book and read ahead, as the crowds are tremendous in Munich.
Last weekend in October (dates TBD)
Montacino, Italy (Tuscany Untour)
The Sagra del Tordo is a harvest festival that takes over the cobbled streets and atmospheric squares of Montacino. Look for a costumed procession, archery and other traditional games, and a celebration of local cuisine and the region’s celebrated Brunello wine.
Halloween Week (exact dates TBD)
Kenmare, Ireland (County Kerry Untour)
Nope, Ireland isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think Halloween, but Kenmare throws a week long party to celebrate, with lots of costumes, community events, and festivities that bring the people of this charming town together.
All over Europe (Winter Untours in Holland, London, Greece, Vienna, and Budapest; Christmas Markets on the Rhine, river cruise)
Traditionally, the Christmas markets begin in late November or the beginning of December and run through Christmas Eve. Traditions vary by country, but you will always find good, fun shopping, mulled wine, and a warm sense of community.
Have you experienced any of these events? We’d love to hear about it and see your photos! Please share.
Did we miss one of your favorite events? Please tell us about it in the comments sections so we can include it next time.