20 Best Literary Festivals Around the World That You Should Attend
There are so many literary festivals taking place around the globe that finding the best ones might seem like an impossible task.
Luckily for you, we’ve taken that challenge on:
We searched high and low through endless lists of events to narrow down the top 20 worldwide book festivals and fairs that you need to know about.
So read on for the what, where and when of the world’s very best literary events…
What? The Hay Festival of Literature and Arts, going strong since 1988 and famously described by 42nd US President Bill Clinton as ‘The Woodstock of the Mind’.
Where? The original festival takes place in Hay-on-Wye, Wales (hence the name), but international variations have sprung up in Colombia, Peru and Spain, to name a few.
When? The most famous Welsh incarnation takes place over 10 days from May to June, with the sister festivals taking place at different points throughout the year.
What? Another event billing itself as “the largest festival of its kind in the world”, the Edinburgh Book Festival has played host to esteemed names such as J.K. Rowling, Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie.
Where? Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, home to a vast array of events that make up the epic Edinburgh Festival (including the famous Edinburgh Fringe and Edinburgh International Festival).
When? As it coincides with the other Festival events, the book festival takes place in August every year.
Where? This massive event in the world of literature is held annually in the Northern Indian city of Jaipur.
When? Taking place over 5 days each January, India’s giant book festival kicks off the literary calendar in considerable style.
What? Another enormous UK-based international literature festival, taking place as part of a wider group of Cheltenham festivals (not to be confused with the horse-racing event!).
Where? Cheltenham is located in England’s scenic Cotswolds region, a nationally designated ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’.
When? The literature event is held in October, following the Jazz, Science and Music festivals that occur in April, June and July, respectively.
What? Established by the then-future First Lady of the United States, Laura Bush, this free annual book fair is one of America’s very best literary events.
Where? Taking place in Texas’ state capital, Austin, the massive local population ensures that this is always a very well-attended event.
When? The festival runs each year in late October or early November, so the temperature should be a little more bearable for the more fair-skinned readers out there!
What? While there’s competition from other huge writers’ festivals in Melbourne and Adelaide, the Sydney event is one of Australia’s finest.
Where? Situated on the stunning Sydney Harbour in Australia’s most popular tourist city, this is one event that would be worth attending for the location alone.
When? Another book festival which has given some consideration to international visitors, the event takes place in May, just before Australian winter begins.
What? Originally established to spotlight Brooklyn’s many homegrown writers, today the BKBF has grown to become an international literary event and is NYC’s largest literary festival.
Where? New York City’s most populous borough (no it’s not Manhattan, we promise), Brooklyn has evolved into a trendy hub of art and culture.
When? Held every September, the festival also plays host to the St. Francis College Literary Prize (a $50,000 award) every two years.
What? This annual German event has a focus on contemporary literature, with children’s and young adult literature also playing a very prominent part.
Where? Germany’s capital, Berlin, has an international reputation as a cultural hot spot – the literature festival takes pride of place among the city’s many other institutions.
When? An extensive affair, the Berlin International Literature Festival takes place over 11 days each September.
What? Only established in 2003, the Festa Literaria Internacional de Paraty (FLIP) has nonetheless grown to attract over 20,000 visitors in recent years.
Where? Taking place in beautiful Paraty in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, any visitors will also enjoy the spectacular coast and historic local village.
When? The festival normally takes place in July – the exception being once every 4 years, when it is moved to August to accommodate the World Cup (this is Brazil, after all).
What? Produced by nonprofit PEN American Center, this week-long New York festival has a political slant to it, with conversations and debates around international literature and promoting free expression.
Where? Broadway, New York City, provides a glamorous backdrop to a literary festival with an important message and mission statement.
When? The World Voices Festival normally takes place in April or early May, with exact dates varying from year to year.
What? Starting out as a small trade fair for academics, the Gothenburg Book Fair has since evolved to become the largest literary event in Scandinavia.
Where? The Swedish city of Gothenburg, which is home to a variety of international events such as the Gothenburg Film Festival, Way Out West and Metaltown.
When? The fair takes place annually over 4 days at the end of September.
What? The US national library, the Library of Congress, sponsors and organises this annual public book event to encourage American citizens to read more.
Where? The Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the US capital has been home to the festival since 2014.
When? The LOC bookfest takes place in September, when you can expect to see crowds of around 30,000 descend on Washington for this free event.
What? Describing itself as a “literary party”, the Miami Book Fair attracts 250,000 visitors over its 8 day run and has become a model for book fairs the world over.
Where? Miami, Florida – more specifically, the Wolfson Campus at Miami Dade College, the state college which founded the fair back in 1984.
When? The Miami Book Fair runs for 8 days every November, bringing hundreds of internationally renowned writers to present to the enormous crowds.
What? Despite taking place over only a single day, Wordstock is one of the largest literary festivals in the United States, featuring numerous readings, events and workshops.
Where? Wordstock is held in the US city of Portland, Oregon – noted for its environmental friendliness and unofficial slogan of “Keep Portland Weird”.
When? Previously held in October for the 9 years following its inception in 2015, the festival has taken place in November since its 2015 acquirement by Literary Arts.
What? Supported by Poland’s Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the Conrad Festival is the largest literary festival in Central Europe.
Where? The Polish city of Krakow, famed for its beauty and status as a tourist magnet, as well as its proximity to the nearby Auschwitz World War II concentration camp.
When? Occurring in October, the Conrad Festival also coincides with the Krakow Book Fair.
What? Turkey’s biggest book event, going strong since 1982 and drawing in over half a million visitors!
Where? The city of Istanbul may not be Turkey’s capital (which is Ankara, to save you Googling), but it is the country’s cultural center, and one of the most popular tourist spots on the planet.
When? Hundreds of events take place over the span of a week each November.
What? Billed as the “most important annual literary event in the Spanish speaking world”, and with good reason – this book fair brings in over a million Latin American readers every year!
Where? Argentina’s stunning capital, Buenos Aires, the most popular tourist destination in all of South America.
When? Lasting for almost 3 weeks each April, this is one of the most extensive literary events in the world.
What? The first major literary festival of the Southern Caribbean – only founded in 2011 but expanding rapidly and running in collaboration with many other international festivals.
Where? Port of Spain, capital of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago – just in case Argentina wasn’t quite exotic enough for you.
When? Readings, performances, films, workshops, discussions and children’s storytelling are all squeezed into this 5 day event every April.
What? The Nordic region’s biggest literary festival, international in scope, but with a focus on contemporary literature from that area of the globe.
Where? The picturesque Norwegian mountain town of Lillehammer provides an idyllic backdrop for this non-commercial literary event.
When? The Norwegian Festival of Literature takes place over 6 days at the end of May.
What? Southeast Asia’s “leading festival of words and ideas”, the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival involves over 200 events and brings in an audience of thousands from Indonesia and the rest of the world.
Where? The town of Ubud on the Indonesian island of Bali, which has developed a reputation as a hub of arts and culture.
When? The UWRF consists of a 4 day main program, held every October.
Have these exciting literary festivals got you inspired to start writing yourself?
If so, feel free take a look at our Creative Writing for Beginners course – who knows, one day you might just end up on one of those writers’ panels yourself…
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