Europe & Britain | Inspiration

The 9 most colorful costumes, customs and summer festivals in Europe

Recently updated on September 28th, 2023 at 10:37 am

In summer Europe comes alive with a kaleidoscope of colors, rhythms, and traditions. Between beach days and outdoor meals, summer festivals take center stage, captivating the hearts of locals and travelers alike. 

Beyond the well-known celebrations, discover a tapestry of lesser-known festivities, each offering a glimpse into the diverse cultures and rich customs that make Europe so unique. From quaint villages to big cities, these gatherings offer an opportunity to delve into the costumes, customs, and age-old rituals that have been cherished for generations.

Celebrate the spirit of summer with these nine festivals that add to the magic of the season in Europe.

Sardinia Fish Festival 

Where: Santa Teresa Gallura, Sardinia, Italy
When: July

The Sardinia Fish Festival, held in the picturesque town of Santa Teresa Gallura, marks the rebellion of 1802 with a big celebration of the sea’s offerings. Intertwining history, culture, and gastronomy, the festival holds deep significance as it pays homage to the town’s resilient spirit. As the aroma of freshly prepared seafood fills the air, locals and visitors gather to indulge in this feast of flavors, with delectable fried fish delicacies and special dishes.

Battle of Wine

Where: Haro, La Rioja region, Spain
When: June 29

Unleash your inner wine warrior at the Haro Battle of Wine! Every year, this quirky and lively summer festival transforms the sleepy Spanish town of Haro into a riotous fiesta of vino-infused merriment. Armed with nothing but buckets of red wine and an unyielding sense of fun, participants converge on the streets, ready to splash, spray, and drench each other in crimson vino. This is one of those summer festivals you’ll always remember (resulting in stains you’ll never be able to remove). Embrace the playful chaos and joyous celebration.

GET INSPIRED BY: Great Iberian Cities

Santos Populares (Lisbon’s Sardine Festival)

Where: Lisbon, Portugal
When: All of June, but especially June 12

Every June the streets of Lisbon fill with the mouthwatering aroma of grilled sardines, colorful decorations, music, dance, and laughter. This is one of those summer festivals that lasts all month, celebrating Portuguese food, culture and community every single evening. At its roots are religious days celebrating various saints, the biggest being Saint Anthony Day on June 13 every year. Lisboetas and tourists venture out onto the streets on June 12 for the “biggest night of the year”, partying until the sun comes up. There are also parades, marriages, and other unique traditions.

GET INSPIRED BY: Best of Portugal

Feria De Málaga (August Fair In Malaga)

Where: Málaga, Spain
When: August

This vibrant summer fiesta brings the heart of Andalusia to life with its contagious energy and pulsating rhythms. Held annually on the Costa del Sol, the week-long Feria De Málaga fuses tradition, culture, and fun. Expect to find streets adorned with colorful decorations, locals in traditional flamenco dresses and outfits, and endless events. By day, the festivities overflow with lively parades, street performances, and mouthwatering delicacies, while as night falls, the city transforms into a dazzling sea of lights, filled with music, dancing, and laughter.

International Folklore Festival

Where: Zagreb, Croatia
When: July 

Looking for summer festivals in Europe that celebrate culture and tradition? Mark this one in your calendar. Held annually in the heart of the Croatian capital, the International Folklore Festival welcomes folk dance groups, musicians, and artists from all corners of the world to showcase their unique heritage with captivating performances. Expect a kaleidoscope of colors, music, and dance with an atmosphere of connection and appreciation for the world’s diverse folk traditions. This special festival, which has been held since 1966, serves as a platform for preserving and promoting cultural heritage, and fostering harmony.

GET INSPIRED BY: Balkan Delight

Il Palio di Siena (The Palio of Siena)

Where; Siena, Tuscany, Italy
When: July and August, two events

This thrilling and ancient horse race captivates the Tuscan city of Siena twice a year. With roots dating back to the medieval era, this historic event embodies a fierce spirit of competition and civic pride. The race takes place in Siena’s iconic Piazza del Campo, where the city’s seventeen contrade (neighborhoods) fiercely compete for victory. Each selects a skilled jockey to represent them, and the 90-second race takes place amidst a tumultuous atmosphere of drums, flags, and cheers from enthusiastic spectators.

GET INSPIRED BY: Rome and Tuscan Highlights

Romaria d’Agonia

Where; Viana do Castelo, Portugal
When: August 

This deeply rooted religious festival beautifully intertwines spirituality, tradition, and community spirit. Held in honor of Senhora d’Agonia, the patron saint of fishermen, this summer festival takes place annually in late August in the Portuguese town of Viana do Castelo, about one hour north of Porto. While the festivities go on for more than a week, the highlight is the Mordomia Parade, where more than 500 local women parade through the streets in beautiful traditional costumes with kilos of gold on their chests. The women wear family heirlooms and combined it’s the largest outdoor gold showcase in the world!

Brussel’s Flower Carpet

Where: Brussels, Belgium
When: August, every two years on Assumption Day

An elaborate tapestry of colorful flowers, arranged to form intricate patterns and designs, takes over the historic Grand Place in Brussels every two years. This tradition dates back to 1971 and has become an iconic symbol of Belgian craftsmanship and horticultural artistry. Stretching over 1,800 square meters, the Flower Carpet is a true testament to the nation’s love for flowers and their rich cultural significance.

GET INSPIRED BY: European Whirl

Korčula Sword Dance Festival 

Where: Korčula Island, Dalmatian Coast, Croatia
When: June

This special festival pays homage to the Croatian island’s rich heritage of sword dances, passed down through generations. Once performed to protest against Moorish occupation, this fighting dance was once found across Europe but is now only kept alive by local dance troupes in Korčula. Adorned in colorful traditional costumes, dancers gather in June to showcase mastery of the intricate sword dance routines. The festival’s origins are steeped in ancient folklore, believed to have protective and symbolic significance for the community. 

GET INSPIRED BY: Pearls of the Adriatic

Planning to travel the continent this summer or next? Tell us which summer festivals in Europe you’re most excited to attend in the comments…

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