Looking for the best foodie festivals? Check out our expert guide to the best secret summer food festivals.
Barcelona BORN Gourmet, Barcelona
Barcelona’s trendy Born district plays host to this buzzy street festival every summer (it’s often in September). Home to a thriving food community of Catalan bodegas, hipster wine bars, Basque pintxos, cheese shops and delis, BORN Gourmet carves a route through them all, hand-picking the best and showcasing them in a vibrant market of stalls and tastings.
Look out for Sagardi’s grilled fish (straight from the Barceloneta fish market), Sagas’ superlative sandwiches and Llamber’s modern take on Spanish tapas. For a glass of wine, head to Born’s old-school wine bar, La Vinya del Senyor, and choose from its ever-changing selection of wines, or make your way to Vidrios y Cristales’ stall for a glass of vermouth and an impressive choice of traditional tinned fish.
As much about food as it is a celebration of music and the neighbourhood’s ancient traditions and architecture, this is a street festival in every sense of the word.
Credit: BORN Gourmet festival
Read our guide to the best restaurants, bars and places to stay in Barcelona
Street Food Festival ZA, Johannesburg & Cape Town
The annual South African Street Food Festival (often in early September) is a cornucopia of food trucks, DJs, live music and local chefs, all celebrating the country’s vibrant food culture.
Expect street food bites such as smoked brisket jaffles (that’s toasted sandwich to you), crispy chicken wings, grill specials and artisan ice cream, local wines and spirits, and a diverse programme of talks and discussions – the real highlight of this underdog festival.
Crate Talks is a panel of local food chefs, entrepreneurs, cooks, writers and producers, providing fascinating insights into South Africa’s local food culture, from Josh De Kock and his wors (sausage) and braai (grill) obsession to the guys at Convivium; a sister festival that aims to showcase South African food, chefs and producers.
Read our guide to the top places to eat and drink in Cape Town
Dessert Goals, New York
“Because dessert is always a good idea” is the cornerstone of Dessert Goals. Back by popular demand, this celebration of all things sweet usually stretches over two weekends with some of New York’s best vendors under – and on – one roof.
Gorge on Rebecca’s Cake Pops’ edible sculptures (including mini piña coladas), cruffins and croissants from Supermoon Bakehouse, Sugar Monster Sweets’ whoopie pies and a free, unlimited, pick ‘n’ mix from Dylan’s Candy Bar, then lounge off the sugar rush on the rooftop garden soaking up views over Manhattan. Mix in a nostalgic soundtrack of sugar-themed tunes and nineties and noughties throwbacks and you’ve got a recipe for sweet-toothed nirvana, albeit with a stall of salty snacks to graze on should you need respite.
Check out our guide to the best places to eat and drink in New York
Food and Words, Sydney
Storytelling, debate and food are the basis of Food and Words (which usually takes place in September), with talks from a mix of cooks, philosophers, poets, scientists, recipe writers and food producers, as well as top Australian chefs. The line-up reflects the festival’s fascination with food writing and is aimed at those who love the written word as much as the culinary world, combining the two in a range of smart and entertaining discussions, from food in fiction to the role of cookbooks to how to get published.
You can also expect musings on alternative agriculture with talks from Australian permaculture stars Kirsten Bradley and Nick Ritar from Milkwood Permaculture. Food and drink is included in the ticket price, including a lunch by Sydney’s Cornersmith, plus coffee from The Little Marionette and hip sips from Lowe Wines.
Food and Words, Sydney. Credit Samantha Mackie photography
Buvette, South of France
Natural wines, local produce, great music and country air is what this travelling festival is all about, popping up each year in various wild locations around southern France. With an emphasis on seasonal, ethical ingredients and local artisanal producers, there’s as much to try from local fishermen and cheesemakers as there is from street food trucks serving up gourmet burgers and a French twist on tapas.
The real reason to make the journey, though, is to try the rich crop of distinctive and unusual wines on offer. Organic, biodynamic and natural production methods are the name of the game here, and a great spread of wine-makers makes for interesting drinking. Stay on as the evenings darken, the wine flows and DJs stir up a festive vibe.
Buvette, South of France. Credit Marie Ormières
Lisbon Sardine Festival
Otherwise known as the Feast of St Anthony (after the Franciscan friar who took a vow of poverty), Lisbon’s sardine festival is quite literally that – a celebration of the humble fish. On a hot June day every year, five of Lisbon’s most historic neighbourhoods (Alfama, Castelo, Bica, Bairro Alto, and Madragoa) are temporarily lined with makeshift stalls selling grilled sardines (served whole and on bread), as well as Portuguese beer, sangria and wine. You’ll also catch the scent of fresh basil – traditionally, men offer a potted basil plant, decorated with a colourful paper carnation, to their loved ones on St Anthony’s day (June 13).
Colourful streamers criss-cross the cobbled streets, there’s a parade to enjoy, plus flaming bonfires and live music all day (and well into the night). Look out for stalls selling hot caldo verde (Portuguese kale soup) or fatty pork ribs called entremeada, and make sure you come prepared for a lively atmosphere.
Big Grill Festival, Dublin
Europe’s largest BBQ festival, the Big Grill is all about cooking over fire. Around 20 restaurants join the party at Dublin’s Herbert Park over a weekend (usually sometime in August), all abiding by the festival’s single rule: they must cook with live fire using natural charcoal and wood only – no gas or electricity. Expect a bit of competition around who can build the biggest fire pit, and appearances from the likes of Black Axe Mangal‘s Lee Tiernan, Temper‘s Neil Rankin, and Charred’s Genevieve Taylor.
If you want to improve your own skills there will be masterclasses to join (expect everything from butchery and new grilling techniques to how to smoke your own meat at home), and plenty of dishes to try, including beer can chicken, coffee-cured duck grilled over embers, Texas-style brisket in taco shells, and Irish beef short rib rubbed with salt and pepper and smoked for hours over oak chips.
Woman Ice Cream Festival, Vienna
Inspired by ice cream festivals held in America (including the Gelato Festival America), the Woman Ice Cream Festival (sponsored by Austrian lifestyle magazine, Woman) takes place in Vienna’s Augartan park on a sunny weekend each July. Expect stalls from Viennese parlours like Zuckero, Schelato and Betty’s Ice Magic selling inventive flavours such as apricot cinnamon, matcha and sacher torte (the latter, made by Zuckero, designed to mimic Vienna’s iconic chocolate cake).
Entrance is free, and at most stalls you won’t pay more than a euro per scoop. Frozen yogurt and sorbet will also feature, alongside summery cocktails and niche products like Frozen Power ‘healthy’ ice cream, a locally made version of gelato with no added sugar that’s naturally high in protein.
Camp Glen Dye, Aberdeenshire
Charlie and Caroline Gladstone, co-founders of homewares brand Pedlars and The Good Life Experience festival, are hosting a series of four-night retreats, Camp Glen Dye, on their 30,000-acre Aberdeenshire estate this year. Think wild wellness, artisan crafts and, in June, Wild Food – a heady mixture of fermentation, curing and smoking workshops, local gin-tastings and the chance to wallow in some wild swimming, campfire sing-alongs and feasts cooked over fire. Look out for pop-up supper clubs (featuring ingredients foraged from the surrounding forest) and guest teachers such as River Cottage chef Gill Meller. Accommodation is available in cabins and cottages, a vintage airstream caravan and a converted sawmill.
Bigfoot Festival, Warwickshire
A family-friendly festival of food, drink and music, Bigfoot takes place in Ragley Hall’s grounds, right next to a pine-fringed Warwickshire lake, in June. New this year, it’s big on booze, with more than 40 independent breweries (including vegan-friendly Verdant Brewing Co.), winemakers and distillers all part of the plan for this three-day event. Join a guided foraging walk in the surrounding forest and eat food cooked by Silo’s Doug McMaster (a zero-waste pioneer), all to a background of DJ George Fitzgerald. Steel-only kegs and plenty of rinse stations (so you can re-use the same cup) mean it’s a pretty green-minded festival, too.
Sunset at Ragley Hall, Warwickshire
Cardigan River and Food Festival, Cardigan
The River Teifi plays a big role at this waterside festival in Wales, both in terms of fun (expect giant canoe rides) and food (Cardigan Bay Fish, one of around 50 Welsh producers exhibiting this August, catches everything from wild sea bass to crab in the seas the river spills into so its demonstrators know a thing or two about how to cook seafood). Other producers might include Popty Cara, a local bakery famed for its bara brith, and Parc y Dderwen, which makes Welsh sauerkraut and kimchi. Most exhibitors are small and local, and there’s usually a gentle sustainability thread running through events – the 2019 festival saw discussions led by Slow Food Cymru’s Gareth Johns and Jack Wild, who slow-ferments his bread at Cardigan’s Bara Menyn Bakehouse.
Words by Malou Herkes
Photographs by BORN Gourmet festival, Samantha Mackie photography, Marie Ormières