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…

Hay Festival
Hay Festival
The Hay Festival has expanded from its Welsh roots to encompass a number of international sister festivals

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.

Edinburgh International Book Festival
Edinburgh International Book Festival
The book festival has grown to become a prestigious part of the world famous Edinburgh Festival

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.

ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival
ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival
The attendance figures alone make this Indian festival one of the most prominent literary events in the world
What? The world’s largest free literary festival, attracting over 800,000 visitors and almost 2000 speakers!

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.

Cheltenham Literature Festival
Cheltenham Literature Festival
Cheltenham is home to a variety of arts and cultural events, one of which is this renowned literature festival

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.

Texas Book Festival
Texas Book Festival
The annual Texas Book Festival features over 250 authors at more than 20 different venues

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!

Sydney Writers’ Festival
Sydney Writers' Festival
Focused around Sydney Harbour, the SWF also has events taking place across the wider city

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.

Brooklyn Book Festival
Brooklyn Book Festival
The Brooklyn Book Festival is a recent addition to the borough’s ongoing cultural renaissance

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.

Berlin International Literature Festival
Berlin International Literature Festival
Programme sections for this Berlin festival include Literatures of the World, Reflections and Science and the Humanities

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.

International Literary Festival of Paraty
International Literary Festival of Paraty
FLIP festival takes place every year on the banks of the Perequê-Açu River

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).

World Voices Festival of International Literature
World Voices Festival of International Literature
PEN World Voices seeks to bring together worldwide writers and artists “to address the most pressing issues of the day”

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.

Gothenburg Book Fair

Goteborg Book Fair

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.

Library of Congress National Book Festival
Library of Congress National Book Festival
The Library of Congress Bookfest features presentations and panel discussions from dozens of nationally known authors

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.

Miami Book Fair
Miami Book Fair
The Miami Book Fair has a number of ongoing events throughout the year to supplement the main event – which this year takes place from November 12th-19th

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.

Wordstock: Portland’s Book Festival
Wordstock Festival
The historic Portland Art Museum is one of the central venues for Wordstock Festival

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.

Conrad Festival
Conrad Festival
The festival describes famed Polish-Brit author Joseph Conrad as a “symbolic patron of our international undertaking”

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.

Istanbul Book Fair
Istanbul Book Fair
Turkey’s Istanbul Book Fair takes place on a truly remarkable scale

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.

Buenos Aires Book Fair
Buenos Aires Book Fair
This 20-day-long literary festival has one of the most comprehensive cultural programmes of any event of its kind

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.

NGC Bocas Lit Fest
NGC Bocas Lit Fest
Why not celebrate Caribbean literature in a vibrant atmosphere with the NGC Bocas Lit Fest?

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.

Norwegian Festival of Literature
Norwegian Festival of Literature
This festival is also Norway’s largest industry event for authors, critics and publishers

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.

Ubud Writers & Readers Festival
Ubud Writers Festival
Each edition of the Ubud Writers Festival will have a central theme which changes every year

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.

Further Help

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Have we missed out any of your favourite literary festivals? Got a fantastic experience to share? Let us know in the comments below.

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14 thoughts on “20 Best Literary Festivals Around the World That You Should Attend

    1. Hi Cath, thanks for the comment! Buxton is yet another very good book festival that could’ve easily made the list – it just missed out on this occasion due to some very stiff competition from these other festivals taking place across the globe. We’ll be reviewing and updating the list going forward though, so we’ll keep Buxton in mind! – Thanks, Danny

      1. Please do not forget about us fellow Canadians! The International Festival of Authors (IFOA) should definitely be on this list.

  1. You also forgot the Calabash International Literary Festival in Jamaica “the greatest little festival in the greatest little town in the greatest little country in the world”!! Just ask Wole Soyinka, Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith, Junot Diaz, Derek Walcott (if you could) Marlon James, Colson Whitehead, Eleanor Catton, Chimamanda Adichie etc etc etc who have all graced the stage at Jakes in Treasure Beach.

  2. I enjoyed the Galle Literary Festival when I was traveling in Sri Lanka. Not teaming with people like the Jaipur festival, but the presenters included some heavy hitters and . I was wondering if these smaller more intimate festivals even make these lists?

  3. This is one of my greatest discoveries as a new writer. I would really love to attend one or more of these book festivals. I have a recently published book called, Pain,Heartache & Forgiveness, and I would like to exhibit or talk about my book at a book festival.

  4. There’s a lot of buzz around the start-up Orcas Island Lit Fest. For their debut launch, they’ve got Pulitzer Prize-winners and NY Times bestsellers coming to their tiny remote island in the Pacific Northwest, accessible only by sea plane, private jet, or a one-hour boat ride.

  5. Listowel Writers’ Week is Ireland’s oldest literary festival. It’s on the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ and is set in town steeped with literary history. Well worth a visit at the beginning of June each year 🙂 You’ll get plenty ideas for your summer reading! There is a great atmosphere in the town and it really does celebrate both emerging & established writers.

  6. The top list is predominantly English language festivals.
    We are organising a bilingual literary festival in Gascony France for 2020 and researching lists such as this one from The Writers’ Academy for guidelines and standards on what makes a great festival. Our challenge will be to invite English and French language authors and curate a festival that ensures access for our participants in both languages. I would be interested in any comments on how this might have been successfully applied in established literary festivals around the world. Thanks for the list!

    1. I’m an Australian author who would love to be involved in a festival like that. I’ve presented in Amsterdam and will also be at a conference in Switzerland next year. I’m happy to present at festivals anywhere in the world. I can also put you in touch with other Australian writers if you think this would be helpful.

  7. Hi Danny,
    Would like to introduce you to the Fairway Galle Literary Festival based in Galle Sri Lanka. Its a small intimate Lit fest which is held in a beautiful location called Galle Fort – which is a world Heritage site. We have had some amazing participants such as Dame Maggie Smith, Alexander Mccall Smith, Lord David Puttnam, Sebastian Faulks, Shrabani Basu, Christina Lamb, Philippa Gregory….etc etc. Its a Lit Fest apart from the main sessions – where you can also have an opportunity to lunch, Dine and have tea with the authors at some of the most spectacular boutique hotels. please check our website: http://www.galleliteraryfestival.com
    Hope one day you will be able to visit us.
    Best regards

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