Some people venture abroad to visit the world's best beaches, mountains, forests, or hot springs. Others go overseas to immerse themselves in history and culture. But there's one final group—the foodies. These individuals plan trips revolving around gastronomy. They binge-watch shows like MasterChef, know more about Michelin stars than Michelin tires, and want to experience far-flung destinations just as Bourdain did. If you fall into this last group, you'll want to add a food festival or three to your travel mood board. And we have just the scrumptious inspiration you need.
Oktoberfest is a world-renowned celebration of food and big German mugs of beer. As a bucket list event, you'll want to go with a hungry stomach and a tolerance for crowds. Millions of people visit Bavaria to feast on pretzels, dumplings, cheese noodles, sausages, grilled fish on a stick, potato pancakes, and so much more. You can also hop on a rollercoaster if you feel so inclined. Clear your September and October calendar and source a folksy costume for this famous fair ASAP.
Ah, poutine. This iconic Québécois dish warrants a celebration in the nation's capital. For three days in the summer, you can indulge in cheese curds, fries, and gravy to your heart's content and take part in an eating contest while you're at it. Enjoy exotic takes on the traditional poutine that pay homage to Canada's diversity. Around 30 vendors serve up riffs on poutine from Indian to Thai varieties.
Chocoholics, listen up. If there's one festival you don't want to miss, it's Salon du Chocolat. This trade fair began in Paris in the early 90s, and since then, other cities such as Tokyo, New York, and Moscow have gotten in on the cocoalicious action. Visitors can attend pastry workshops and book signings and view magnificent chocolate sculptures over five yummy days. PS, there's a June chocolate festival in Quito, Ecuador, that's worth the cost of a flight.
Beloved by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and just about everybody else, pizza is fast food royalty. Visit the Napoli Pizza Village in Italy for the ultimate pizza party. For just over a week in September, Naples goes pizza crazy, and the best pizza makers in the world compete for kudos. You can sample classics and maybe even sneak in a few modern pies as well. It's a large gathering—hundreds of thousands of people attend— and it's gloriously cheesy with gluten-free options, dough demonstrations, and dancing.
New Zealand is renowned for its natural beauty, but it's quite the foodie destination too. In March, adventurous locals and tourists descend on Hokitika for a taste of the peculiar. Think huhu beetle grubs, crispy tarantulas, horse semen, pigs' nipples, and mountain oysters with a side of fantastic live music and camping. Conventional fare includes escargot, mussels, venison, and scallops. Wildfoods has a Feral Fashion costume competition for attendees with appetizing prizes up for grabs.
If you're more interested in playing with food than eating it, La Tomatina may be for you. Almost every Spain tourism brochure has a picture of La Tomatina, the annual tomato fight that takes place in Valencia in August. The festival traces its roots to a parade held a week before the end of WW2. General Franco banned the event in the 50s, and after locals held a tomato funeral in protest, the festival continued until the COVID pandemic.
Phuket is a firm favorite island destination. For nine days in September and October, you can couple long Thai massages and dips in aquamarine waters with tasty and cleansing vegetarian cuisine. Head to Ranong Road for the food and watch out for street processions. This food festival is also a Taoist religious festival called The Nine Emperor Gods Festival, so on top of everything else Thailand has to offer, you can witness jaw-dropping feats. Brace yourself for firewalkers, tongue-slashers, hot oil baths, and unconventional body piercings.
Wales might not immediately pop into your head when you think of foodie playgrounds, but it has plenty going for it, including an annual September cheese festival to rule them all. You can fill your belly with fresh and aged cheeses, cheeses from various hoofed mammals, as well as a range of other delicious local treats. Cardiff Castle is a spectacular backdrop and an additional item for your itinerary.
Dubai is an events mecca, shopper's paradise, and foodie holy grail. It's also one of the most diverse places on the planet, with ex-pats from dozens of countries and just as many mouthwatering cuisines on offer. You can savor halal food and not-so-halal food, and the festival comprises outdoor markets, a Restaurant Week, chef showcases, and more.
If you're a fan of surf without the turf, you'll love this seafood fiesta in the Pine Tree State. Pop on by in August for cookoffs, entertainment, arts and crafts, and the freshest marine bounty. The festival is a volunteer-run non-profit organization, and all the proceeds go back into the community. It's a win-win for your stomach and the locals.