Traveling is the best way to explore the world’s diverse cultures and hidden gems. While world-renowned festivals like Rio Carnival and Coachella might be the most popular, there are tons of culture and art festivals that you’ve probably never heard of. Each festival offers its own unique and authentic experience in its corner of the world.

If you’re seeking new culture and art festivals each year and want to expand your horizons, these five extraordinary festivals deserve a prime spot on your travel itinerary. From a festival celebrating the Black punk scene in the Big Smoke to one championing books, art, and design in the Big Apple, prepare to embark on a cultural journey like no other at these five must-attend festivals.

Five Culture and Art Festivals

Decolonise Fest

Decolonise Fest is an annual London-based DIY punk festival, organized by punx of color since 2017. The festival is a collective of activists, community organizers, musicians, and artists committed to creating a space that centers on the experiences of people of color. The festival defines punx of color as those with ancestry from Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, North America, and various island regions, as well as those of Romany Gypsy or Traveler heritage.

At Decolonise Fest, the focus is on advocacy. Above all, the festival makes room for emerging artists of color and fosters a connection for punx of color to speak on global struggles. Decolonise Fest is for marginalized voices in the punk scene to be heard, celebrated, and empowered.

The Dakar Biennale (Dak’Art)

The Dakar Biennale, also known as Dak’Art, is a major contemporary art exhibit held every two years in Dakar, Senegal. Established in 1990, Dak’Art became one of the most important events in the world of African art. The cultural event showcases the diverse talents of artists from Africa and the diaspora. The Biennale includes a wide range of mediums, including painting, sculpture, photography, video art, and more. Dak’Art aims to promote cultural exchange, foster conversation, and encourage collaboration among artists and art professionals.

Dak’Art attracts diverse attendees, including influential artists, curators, collectors, and art enthusiasts worldwide. Over the years, artists like Zanele Muholi, Kehinde Wiley, and Yinka Shonibare participated in or attended the biennale. Dak’Art continues to draw attention to Dakar as a dynamic center of art, innovation, and cultural exchange in Africa.

Mawazine Festival

Mawazine, meaning “rhythms of the world” in Arabic, is the most popular international music festival in the world. This festival, held annually in Rabat, Morocco is a vibrant event. It showcases a diverse lineup of both international and local music artists, drawing a huge crowd each year. In 2013, approximately 2.5 million people attended, making the festival the second largest in the world, second to Donauinselfest in Vienna, Austria. The festival typically features at least 90 acts spread across 7 stages, the highest ratio of attendees per stage globally.

Mawazine has hosted an illustrious array of artists over the years, including global icons like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Stevie Wonder, among others. Despite its success, Mawazine has not been without controversy. The culture and art festival’s funding has faced criticism within Morocco. Nevertheless, the festival remains a beacon of cultural diversity and artistic expression.

São Paulo Art Biennial

The São Paulo Art Biennial is one of the oldest and most prestigious art exhibitions in the world. This art festival takes place biennially in São Paulo, Brazil. It’s so influential that it plays a significant role in shaping the international art scene.

The event showcases a diverse range of contemporary art forms, including painting, sculpture, installation, photography, video art, and performance art. The São Paulo Art Biennial is renowned for its themed exhibits. They explore current and standing social, political, and cultural issues. Above all, the biennial is praised for its inclusion of both established and emerging artists.

In its 35th edition in 2023, the São Paulo Biennial featured the works of 100 artists. A notable aspect of this edition was the significant representation of the Global South. Not only were over three-quarters of the participating artists from these regions, but 92 percent of the artists also identified as Black and indigenous, or non-white. The biennial prioritizes amplifying voices from historically marginalized communities.

NY Art Book Fair

The NY Art Book Fair is an annual event that focuses on the understanding and appreciation of art books and publications. Held in New York City, the fair showcases and explores the diverse world of art publishing, with a focus on independent and experimental books.

The NY Art Book Fair features a wide array of small presses, artists’ collectives, zine makers, and established art book publishers. Attendees can browse through thousands of publications like artist books, zines, and catalogs. The fair also hosts a series of lectures, panel discussions, workshops, and performances to foster dialogue within the art community. The NY Art Book Fair has become a premier event for artists, publishers, and art lovers alike.