There are loads of festivals in October for you to add to your bucket list. The summer may be over but the fun has just begun!
With fiery leaves, pumpkin spice and refreshing, crisp weather; autumn is one of the best times for festivals. And what festivals we’re fortunate enough to enjoy!
Some may originate from religious myths while others are wacky festivals you’d never have thought existed. Take yourself outdoors before the weather turns even colder to enjoy these best festivals in October.
Best Festivals in October
Here are the best October festivals for you to choose between!
1. Oktoberfest, Germany
16th September – 3rd October 2023
The actual Oktoberfest in Munich is celebrated a month earlier, thanks to the cold weather. You can read all about the original Oktoberfest in my post on the best September festivals, or in my post about that year I went to Munich Oktoberfest.
This mega event is over two weeks of beer and nothing but beer, taking place in the heart of Munich. Since 1810, travellers made the journey to Germany to celebrate the stomach-warming liquor. Apart from drinks, the festival treats you to a cacophony of regional and folk dances, rich food and an extremely friendly atmosphere.
But, I’ve listed it as a best festival in October as around the world it’s celebrated then, in beer halls and beer tents globally. To sum Oktoberfest up in one word: beer.
If you can’t make it to Munich then look out for local celebrations. In the UK we even have a travelling Oktoberfest festival so keep an eye on the listings in your nearest city.
2. Diwali, India (and worldwide)
12th November 2024
How do you welcome a god home after battle and exile? Diwali, known as the ‘festival of the lights’, represents light’s triumph over darkness. The magical sight of cities glowing with fireworks and paper lanterns is even more stunning up close; candles are lit everywhere and lanterns are set into the sky.
As one of the biggest October international events, you can definitely look forward to more extravagant displays too! From gift exchanges, flower necklaces on every human and animal, loud firework shows and more, the festival crosses India’s borders to every country where Hinduism is present.
Diwali is one of the most celebrated and biggest festivals in the world.
3. Dusshera, India (and worldwide)
24th of October 2023
We’re back in India.
One of the most important Hindu festivals in October is Dusshera, with its roots deep in Hindu mythology. The festivities around India pay tribute to the Hindu God Rama, and his victory over the Demon King Ravana. Apart from the usual food and fun, there are also several traditions! These include burning a tall dummy of the demon king, lighting baked clay lamps and releasing crackers everywhere.
If you can’t travel to India for this festival during this time, other countries that celebrate this festival in October include Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
4. Hachiman Matsuri, Japan
9th – 10th October 2023
Autumn is always celebrated season in Japan, not in the least because of the gorgeous maples across the country. In the beautiful Gifu Prefecture lies Takayama City, home to talented craftsmen with generational businesses.
Hachiman Matsuri, aka the Autumn Takayama Matsuri, is a chance for you to see these crafts in person. To pay tribute to the guardian deity of Sakurayama Hachimangu shrine, 11 splendid floats are paraded around the city. If the golden phoenixes, carvings, embroidery and precise construction don’t impress you, then the accompanying festival offerings and night festivals definitely will.
5. Concurs de Castells, Spain
1st – 2nd October 2023
Have you ever seen human towers so tall that they overtake buildings?
Well, Catalonia’s annual competition and festival Concurs de Castells will have your jaws dropping every October.
Tracing back to the 18th century, back to when traditional Valencian dances decided to challenge conventional human form; this art of human towers have reached new heights. 32 tower teams pit against each other to create columns as high as 9 stories – with the crowning rider (always a child) at the very top! It’s definitely one of the most impressive and unusual October celebrations around the world.
Never seen human construction and connection quite like this before.
While you’re there, take in as much Catalan culture as possible. Parades, street performances, music and food stalls all contribute to the festive mood.
6. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, USA
7th – 15th October 2023
No, we’re not talking about balloons that pop with a single poke – the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is all about wowing the public with hot air balloons. This is one of the biggest hot air balloon festivals in the world.
For 9 days, the skies of New Mexico host a colourful mass of over 500 bobbing balloons. It’s amazing to see, especially when they’re all different shapes and sizes. Even if you don’t dare step into one yourself, the event offers mind-blowing visuals. This is one October festival I’m super keen to get to!
7. Rubber Duck Race, Germany
Bet you’ve never seen so many rubber ducks outside the bathroom! At the Tübingen Duck Race there are 7000 yellow ducks floating down River Necker every year.
But how does this race work?
Anyone with a rubber duck simply needs to fish it out of their bathtub, stick their name and number on it, and cheer as they race down the designated stretch! With a monetary prize on the line, you know everyone takes it seriously.
Definitely one of the more unique festivals in October on the list!
8. Círio de Nazaré, Brazil
8th October 2023
Another annual Brazilian festival as celebrated as the Rio Carnival, but lesser known out of the country is Círio de Nazaré. This October festival is religious in its origins; local communities and pilgrims from across the country gather in tribute of ‘Our Lady of Nazareth’. A huge procession – literally hundreds of boats crossing the Amazon River – carries the small statue from Belem to Icoaraci and back.
Celebrations actually begin as early as August, but cumulate in mid-October. It’s an awe-inspiring occasion, featuring Amazonian culture and cuisine. If you’re a boat lover, you’ll be stunned by the scale of the on-water procession!
9. New York City’s Village Halloween Parade, USA
31st October (annually)
I don’t think Halloween really needs explaining! The last day of October welcomes one of the best festivals – for humans and the supernatural.
The Halloween Parade in New York City’s Greenwich Village is a fine example of how this festival is celebrated worldwide. Bring out your masks, face paints, outrageous costumes and gnarly roars. There’s no hiding from the scary faces on this night; people can be whoever they want to be. Of course, there’s no missing the puppeteering either.
Join your monstrous brethren in taking over the streets under moonlight!
10. MassKara Festival, Philippines
22nd of October 2023
Bacolod, known as the City of Smiles, hosts one of the most significant festivals in Philippines: MassKara Festival. While the name translates into ‘many faces’, expressed through the countless smiling masks and elaborate costumes, the backstory is not so happy.
Born out of a crisis, the festival was created in hopes of lifting people’s spirits during the 1980s. Facing an economic crisis and a tragic ferry accident where many prominent families lost their members, the local community rallied together to pull through the challenges. The colourful beaded masks, vibrant hats and outlandish costumes all tell a story of resilience.
I’ve never actually made it to this one but it looks pretty epic!
READ MORE: The Best Festivals in Autumn
11. Paris Nuit Blanche, France
3rd June 2023 (moved to the summer for this year’s edition)
This October festival may be young still, but it’s already well-loved worldwide. Usually running from 7pm to 7am on the first Saturday of October, this all-night arts festival offers one of the best ways to explore Paris – artistically and culturally.
Elegant landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Institut de Monde Arabe becomes a stage for bizarre and humorous performances. Museums, art galleries and other cultural venues open to the public free of charge. For a night, you’re free to indulge in art and expression in any way you’d like.
12. Naga Fireball Festival, Thailand
29th October – 5th November 2023
Invoking yet another mythical creature, the Naga Fireball Festival centres around the phenomenon where hundreds and thousands of glowing ‘fireballs’ rise from Mekong River. These red glowing balls vary in size, hitting 100 metres up before disappearing.
Many believe that they’re breathed out by the Naga, a serpent that haunts the river. Seeing really is believing – it’s an incredible happening that hasn’t been explained yet. Get to the river early to see it up close.
13. Barcolana Regatta, Italy
29th September – 8th October 2023
Crowding the Gulf of Trieste is Italy’s historic Barcolana regatta, an international sailing race held every second Sunday of October. It’s an infinitely impressive sight, with over 2000 boats and 16,000 sailors!
Of course, as many major gatherings do, it turns into a full-blown festival. Other water sports, night concerts, vintage vessel parades and even a temporary village set-up calls to visitors. If you like to skim freely over the waves, you’ve got to be there.
14. Inle Lake Pagoda Festival, Myanmar
10th. -17th October 2023
The date varies from year to year, falling on the 7th month of the Burmese lunar calendar – but the traditional festival itself? It never ceases to inspire.
The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival takes place around the stilted villages of Inle Lake, one of Myanmar’s largest Buddhist celebrations. While visitors are drawn in by the loud notes of traditional music and rhythmic dances, it’s the on-water procession that keeps their attention. Four Buddha statues are rotated through each village for blessings, ferried by a golden barge shaped like a mythical bird.
If that’s not impressive, I don’t know what is!
15. Berlin Festival of Lights
6th – 15th October 2023
Taking place every year in German capital, the Berlin Festival of Lights usually happens in September or October. It lasts for about a week or so, where the city transforms into a dazzling display of light art. Many of Berlin’s most famous landmarks, cultural monuments, historic buildings, streets, and other locations are illuminated with brilliant light installations, projections, and laser shows.
The festival attracts artists from around the world to participate, where Berlin becomes like a canvas for their work. And of course, there’s lots of tourists that come every year to see the city in a new light, quite literally!
16. Amsterdam Dance Event in the Netherlands
18th – 22nd October 2023
This may be one of the biggest electronic music events in October and throughout the year generally. Spanning five days (and nights) in mid-October, ADE attracts over 400,000 festival-goers every year. Since its inception in the mid-1990s, the event has grown exponentially and now boasts over 1,000 events across 200 different venues.
Performances take place in a variety of venues, from large-scale arenas to intimate clubs and unconventional spaces, reflecting Amsterdam’s vibrant nightlife. There’s also lots of conferences, such as workshops, talks, networking for people within the electronic music world.
Plus, there’s film screenings, art exhibitions, and immersive installations, which delve into the broader implications of the genre, examining its history, its cultural significance, and its potential to shape societies.
Festivals in October
The weather may be cooling down but your passion for festivals in October is free to burn on. There are many reasons why autumn is such a beloved season; these October festivals sure contribute as some!
And they’re not all about Halloween either. There’s the iconic Oktoberfest in Munich celebrating beer, which is so popular is replicated in lots of cities around the world. Plus there’s electronic dance marathons, pagoda and regatta festivals, night and light celebrations across capital cities, and much more happening in October.
Although festivals are typically associated with camping and summer, the celebrations in October prove that Autumn is just as good.
READ MORE: The Best Festivals in November
What festivals are on October UK?
In the UK, the October festival list is filled with festivals and celebrations largely centred around autumnal celebrations and cultural events. One of the most widely recognised is the London Film Festival. Additionally, there’s the Cheltenham Literature Festival, one of the oldest literary events in the world. For beer enthusiasts, many towns and cities host Oktoberfest-inspired events, replicating the German beer festival. But probably the most popular celebrations revolve around Halloween on the 31st of October, celebrating all things spooky and supernatural.
What is celebrated around the world in October?
It’s generally a busy month, with many international events in October taking place around the world. Like in the UK, lots of countries celebrate Halloween at the end of October.
Other festivals and occasions in October include, Oktoberfest, though starting in late September, often runs into the first weekend of October in Munich, Germany. Meanwhile in the US, there’s Columbus Day, commemorating the arrival of Christopher Columbus.
What religious festivals take place in October?
For some, Halloween is associated with religion, given that it’s rooted in an annual Celtic pagan festival Samhain. However, it’s generally celebrated in a more secular way nowadays with themed parties and club nights, trick-or-treating and horror film marathons.
Beyond Halloween, there are other religious festivals in October. The Jewish calendar has lots such as Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. In Hinduism, Gandhi’s birthday is celebrated too on the 2nd October. As many other religions follow the lunar calendar, there are also lots of other special days in October each year.
Which are the best festivals in October in Europe?
Europe is alive with festivals in October. Oktoberfest is one of the most popular festivals in October in Europe, taking place in Munich, Germany. It draws visitors from all over the world for its beer and Bavarian festivities.
In Spain, the Sémaphore en Chanson in Barcelona celebrates French chanson music. Italy has the Alba White Truffle Festival in the Piedmont region, which is a great food festival in October if you love truffles! Meanwhile, the Amsterdam Dance Event in the Netherlands is one of the biggest electronic music festivals and conferences in the world.