Food and travel are a foolproof combination. There is probably no better way to experience the soul of a destination than through its food. Trying out the best restaurants, sampling local specialities or meeting up-and-coming chefs – what better way could there be to immerse yourself in a place. Food festivals bring together all these mouth-watering aspects, letting visitors get a taste of it all. Here’s our sampling of the best upcoming food festivals of the year, all of them worth travelling to for an unforgettable gourmet food and wine experience.
Melbourne Food and Wine Festival
4–13 March 2016 The annual Melbourne Food and Wine Festival is one of Victoria’s hallmark events, celebrating Melbourne as the food and wine capital of Australia. The 10-day festival features international chef dinners, wine tastings, cooking classes and much more. It’s a great opportunity to meet experts, sample local produce and try fine wines from Victoria. Whether you’re a seasoned foodie or just looking for something new, there's a smorgasbord of events to try, including the signature event, The Longest Lunch, where hundreds of diners gather at a seemingly endless outdoor table for a casual three-course lunch.
World Gourmet Summit
28 March–24 April 2016 World Gourmet Summit is Singapore’s most elegant food show. For almost an entire month every spring, the city’s restaurants, hotels and culinary academies throw open their kitchens to around ten invited master chefs – from Michelin-starred international celebrities to the hottest rising stars and Singapore’s own culinary masters – whose grandiose cooking lessons celebrate les plaisirs de la table. Dine in style while the forum gathers vintners, chefs and restaurateurs to talk business. The list of what to eat and who to meet is endless, especially this year as WGS celebrates its 20th anniversary with even more workshops, cooking presentations and gala dinners. The highlight is WGS 20 Best Chefs, a weekend of gastronomic jam sessions featuring the best culinary talents from around the world.
Blenheim Palace Food Festival
Woodstock, Oxfordshire, UK
28–30 May 2016
Following last year’s big success, the magnificent Blenheim Palace will host its annual food festival again. Home to the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, 18th-century Blenheim Palace is a stunning location for such an event. A festival village with more than 100 stalls will be set up on the grounds, offering a range of local food and drink as well as cooking demonstrations and activities for the entire family, from vintage fair rides to garden games and a picnic area.
Bordeaux Wine Festival
23–26 June 2016
This is an event that no food and wine lover wants to miss, especially since it only takes place every other year. The Bordeaux Wine Festival fêtes the expansive fields of vines near Aquitaine’s port capital that make it one of the greatest wine regions in the world. During four days at the end of June, tasting booths are open from 11 a.m. to midnight on the banks of the River Garonne, forming a two-kilometre long wine route along the river. In addition to quayside “Vin et Terroir” tastings, the wine festival also offers workshops and wine tours, and as night falls, the 18th-century facades on Place de la Bourse alight in a giant son et lumière performance followed by nightly fireworks. Expect this year’s festival to be especially grand, since it’s their 10th anniversary. June 2016 also sees the much anticipated opening of the Cité du Vin, just north of the Chaban-Delmas Bridge. The stunning 55-metre-high glass and aluminium structure houses what will be a mix of museum and theme park, leading visitors through the world of wine. Pour yourself a glass of grand crus and join the party!
Taste of Chicago
Chicago, Illinois, USA
6–10 July 2016
Known locally as “The Taste”, it’s one of the world’s biggest food shows, and certainly the United States’ leading outdoor food festival (and it’s free!), drawing crowds of hundreds of thousands. From food trucks to pop-up restaurants, cooking demonstrations and a string of high-profile concerts, this popular festival in lakefront Grant Park is a great opportunity to sample Chicago’s diverse dining scene. With a fun, relaxed atmosphere, Taste of Chicago is the quintessential summer festival.
Maine Lobster Festival
Camden and Rockport, Maine, USA
3–7 August 2016
For five days each year, Maine’s mid-coast communities of Camden and Rockport celebrate the sea’s bounty, with the spotlight on Homarus americanus. Begun in 1947 as a civic fundraiser and tourism marketing venture, the Maine Lobster Festival has evolved into an annual highlight for seafood lovers from New England and beyond. They come by the thousands in high summer to consume a combined 20,000 to 25,000 pounds of lobster, as well as oysters and mussels culled from the productive waters of the Atlantic. Concerts, an amateur cooking contest, the Maine Sea Goddess Pageant, a parade, carnival rides and a craft show fill the hours spent digesting between rounds of crustacean consumption.
Hillsborough Oyster Festival
Hillsborough, County Down, Northern Ireland
30 August – 4 September 2016
2016 is Northern Ireland’s Year of Food, celebrating the bounty of land and sea. September is seafood month and it's all about shucking and eating oysters at the hugely popular Hillsborough Oyster Festival. Competition is the main game here. The Guinness World Record for eating the most oysters was made at the 2005 festival, with a whopping 233 oysters consumed in three minutes by the county’s very own Colin Shirlow. The search for the new record breaker is on, but you may also just want to enjoy the gourmet delicacy.
Naples Pizza Village
6-11 September 2016
Naples is known as the birthplace of pizza, and it holds this big festival to pay tribute to Italy's most famous culinary export. The Naples Pizza Village food festival takes place before the spectacular backdrop of the Gulf of Naples, when for one week in September the seafront Caracciolo turns into a big pizza celebration, with workshops and master classes on how to make the perfect dough and traditional tomato sauce, cook-offs and of course many tastings of true Neapolitan pizza. At the end of the week-long celebration, a jury will proclaim the best pizzaiolo in the world.
Salon du Chocolat
Paris, France (and other locations around the world)
28 October–1 November 2016
Chocoholics the world over flock to the Salon du Chocolat, the world's largest show dedicated to chocolate, with events taking place in 22 locations across the globe. Paris has been hosting the Salon du Chocolat for more than 20 years. It's a great opportunity to discover and taste the latest chocolate creations and fine cocoas. Over 220 chocolatiers, pastry chefs and confectioners treat visitors to gourmet cooking demonstrations, workshops, a chocolate marketplace and even a fashion show featuring clothes made entirely from, you guessed it, chocolate!
Kona Coffee Cultural Festival
4–13 November 2016 Every year since 1970, November sees the celebration of the annual Kona coffee harvest, making the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival the oldest and most successful food festival in Hawaii. The event is a delight for coffee experts, amateurs and even non-coffee drinkers: coffee farm tours, informative workshops and cooking shows with Kona (one of the most expensive coffees in the world) are combined with art exhibits, demonstrations of Hawaiian handicrafts and cultural presentations. This means there is something for everyone. Alongside these exciting activities, the festival’s second day sees a picking contest at dawn, where early birds can test their hand-picking abilities. Those who don’t make the early start may prefer to do some coffee farm hopping instead. Visits to coffee farms around Hawaii are a wonderful insight into how Kona coffee is grown and processed today.