Must Visit May Festivals Around the World

Discover the top must visit May festivals around the world. From vibrant celebrations in Amsterdam to serene events in Bhutan, explore these unique cultural experiences and immerse yourself in global festivities.

May is a month of vibrant celebrations and cultural festivities around the globe. As spring blossoms and the weather warms, cities and towns come alive with music, dance, and unique traditions. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or planning your next adventure, attending a festival can provide a deep and immersive cultural experience.

Tulip Festival – One of the Must Visit May Festival

Amsterdam’s Tulip Festival is a stunning celebration of the Netherlands’ national flower. Held throughout the month of May, this festival transforms the city into a vibrant sea of colors, with millions of tulips blooming across parks, gardens, and public spaces.


Keukenhof Gardens, located just outside Amsterdam, is one of the main attractions during the Tulip Festival. Known as the “Garden of Europe,” it features over seven million flowers and spectacular floral displays. Visitors can stroll through the expansive gardens, take guided tours, and enjoy various events such as flower-arranging workshops and photography contests.

The festival also extends into the city itself, with tulip displays in iconic locations like Museumplein and Vondelpark. Many museums and cultural institutions participate in the festivities, offering special exhibits and activities related to tulips and Dutch horticulture. The Tulip Festival not only showcases the beauty of these flowers but also celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the Netherlands.

Cannes Film Festival – Cannes, France

The Cannes Film Festival is one of the must visit May festivals in the world. Located on the French Riviera, this star-studded event attracts filmmakers, celebrities, and cinema enthusiasts from around the globe.

The festival showcases a wide range of films, from Hollywood blockbusters to independent and international cinema. Screenings take place in various venues across Cannes, with the iconic Palais des Festivals et des Congrès hosting the most high-profile premieres and red carpet events. Attendees have the opportunity to watch new films, attend press conferences, and participate in Q&A sessions with filmmakers and actors.

Beyond the screenings, Cannes is abuzz with parties, networking events, and exclusive soirées. The festival’s prestigious awards, including the Palme d’Or, are highly coveted and can launch careers and influence trends in the film industry. For cinephiles and those seeking a taste of the high life, the Cannes Film Festival is an unmissable event in May.

Buddha Jayanti – Bhutan

Buddha Jayanti, also known as Buddha Purnima, is a significant religious festival celebrated in Bhutan to commemorate the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha. Held on the full moon day of the Vesak month (usually in May), this festival is marked with deep reverence and spiritual activities.

In Bhutan, Buddha Jayanti is celebrated with grand ceremonies and rituals at monasteries and temples across the country. Monks and devotees gather to offer prayers, chant sacred texts, and make offerings to Buddha. The festival is especially vibrant at the Thimphu and Paro Dzongs, where large-scale religious events and community gatherings take place.

One of the highlights of Buddha Jayanti in Bhutan is the lighting of butter lamps. Thousands of lamps are lit to symbolize the dispelling of darkness and ignorance. This creates a serene and ethereal atmosphere, particularly at dusk making it one of the must visit May festivals in the world. Additionally, traditional music, dance performances, and cultural exhibitions are organized, providing a deeper insight into Bhutanese culture and Buddhist practices.

Festa della Sensa – Venice, Italy

Festa della Sensa, or the Feast of the Ascension, is a traditional Venetian festival that takes place on the Sunday after Ascension Day, which usually falls in May. This historic event celebrates Venice’s relationship with the sea and commemorates significant naval victories.

The centerpiece of the festival is the “Marriage of the Sea” ceremony, a ritual that dates back to the year 1000. The ceremony involves a grand procession of boats led by the Mayor of Venice and other dignitaries, who sail from St. Mark’s Square to the Church of San Nicolò on the Lido. Once there, a symbolic wedding is performed, where a ring is thrown into the sea as a token of Venice’s commitment to the water.

The festivities also include a traditional regatta with various categories of rowing competitions, showcasing the skills of local rowers. The regatta is a vibrant and colorful spectacle, with elaborately decorated boats and enthusiastic crowds cheering from the waterfront.

Vesak Day – Singapore

Vesak Day, celebrated in May, is a major Buddhist festival in Singapore that commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha. It is a public holiday in Singapore, and the day is marked with a variety of religious and cultural activities.

The festivities begin with devotees visiting temples such as the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown and Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery in Toa Payoh. They participate in rituals like chanting, prayer sessions, and making offerings. One of the significant rituals is the “Bathing of the Buddha” ceremony, where participants pour water over a statue of the baby Buddha to purify their minds and cultivate humility.

In addition to temple activities, Vesak Day is also a time for acts of kindness and charity. Many people engage in giving alms to monks, donating to charitable causes, and participating in community service. Streets are often decorated with colorful lanterns and flags, creating a festive atmosphere.

Hay Festival – Hay-on-Wye, Wales

The Hay Festival, held annually in May in the charming town of Hay-on-Wye in Wales, is a literary festival that attracts writers, thinkers, and book lovers from around the world. Known as the “Woodstock of the mind,” the festival celebrates literature, arts, and ideas over ten days of inspiring events.

The festival features a diverse program of events, including book readings, panel discussions, workshops, and interviews with authors, poets, journalists, and artists. Renowned writers and emerging talents alike take to the stage to share their work and insights, making the Hay Festival a hub of intellectual and creative exchange.

In addition to literary events, the festival offers a range of activities for all ages, including children’s programming, live music, comedy shows, and art exhibitions. The picturesque setting of Hay-on-Wye, with its numerous bookshops and scenic countryside, adds to the charm and appeal of the festival.


From the colorful tulips of Amsterdam’s Tulip Festival to the literary wonders of the Hay Festival in Wales, each event offers a glimpse into the diverse traditions and vibrant cultures of different regions. Whether you seek spiritual enlightenment in Bhutan, cinematic glamour in Cannes, or maritime heritage in Venice, these must-visit festivals in May promise unforgettable memories and a deeper connection to the world’s cultural tapestry.

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