Forget the tourist-ridden Carnival in Rio or Oktoberfest in Munich – the world is full of incredible festivals in locations that are wonderful places year-round, not just for a few days. Here's our pick of the best.
Paris: Bastille Day
We can think of quite a few stupendous fireworks festivals – Madeira has a month-long pyro-musical extravaganza in June and exploding rockets litter the skies over Japan throughout the year – but for pure pomp and circumstance, Bastille Day in Paris is not to be missed.
Every July 14 for la fête nationale, thousands of soldiers parade down the Champs-Elysées with trumpets, bugles and drums, celebrating the day in 1789 that the Bastille was stormed, their country’s move towards democracy – albeit a bloody one. Parties are held throughout the city, including the notorious Bals des Pompiers (Fireman’s Balls) and, come 11pm, fireworks shoot off the Eiffel Tower and Trocadéro gardens to dazzling effect.
As for where to live? Agents are using the words ‘sublime’ and ‘sumptuous’ to describe this roomy 2,701sq ft apartment at the garden level of a 19th century hôtel particulier on a leafy street bordering the Élysée Palace Gardens.
With parquet floors, fireplaces, high ceilings, a library and interiors by Jacques Garcia, it has a master bedroom with dressing room, a separate, self-contained apartment within it and a private formal garden stretching to nearly 4,000sq ft. POA through Christie’s International Real Estate.
Venice: Carnevale di maschere
This Baroque spectacle was so shocking in its decadence (think Casanova, courtesans and illicit mingling of classes and genders behind painted masks) that it was banned by Napoleon the moment he invaded Venice in 1797. After a few stops and starts, Carnevale di Venezia was reinstated in 1979.
It now runs from mid February to Shrove Tuesday every year and opens with the Flight of the Angel, in which a beautiful woman leaps (attached to a cable), scattering confetti, from the Campanile in the Piazza San Marco towards a crowd of some 20,000 revellers.
Your Venetian pied-a-terre (or should that be pied-en-eau?) could be this six-bedroom apartment which takes up a floor of a 15th-century palazzo on Campo Santo Stefano.
It’s decorated with 18th-century frescoes by Perotti and is close to the action. There’s a roof terrace, a private entrance on the campo and a second entrance leading to a canal for boat access. POA, Sotheby’s International Realty.
Hong Kong: Chinese New Year
If New Year’s Eve in Britain is a damp squib, a person who owns property in Hong Kong knows that, come January/February, the vibrant, week-long Chinese New Year will set things right. Next year, festivities marking the start of the Year of the Pig begin on February 5.
No doubt neon swine will light up the façades of the city’s high rises, with lasers, LED lights and musical displays, best viewed in the evenings from a junk in Victoria Harbour. Visitors can also hike along the Dragon’s Back Trail (it’s good luck), sup on steamed buns and marvel at the multi-coloured lanterns on every street.
For property hunters, this set of two light-filled houses on Little Palm Peninsula, overlooking Clear Water Bay, is on the market for the first time in 30 years.
The main house has four bedrooms and the guest house two. With a formal garden and infinity pool, it’s perfect for a house party needing a dose of peace and quiet after the bright city lights. HK$280 million (£27.3m) through Savills.
USA: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
Floating across the expanse of a blue New Mexico sky, the 500 or so hot-air balloons that take part in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta every October, the largest event of its kind in the world, drift as peacefully as soft clouds, albeit in rainbow hues.
More than 100,000 spectators flock to the launch field throughout the nine-day event (usually held in October) to enjoy the balloons as well as other entertainments including laser light shows, fireworks and, obviously, chainsaw-carving demonstrations. The locals simply set up camp in their backyard and look up.
For an extra dose of the surreal, the city of Albuquerque, founded as a Spanish colony in 1706 but with a strong Native American influence, sits in the middle of a desert and contains properties such as this one:
In one of its most coveted neighbourhoods, bordering the Sandia Pueblo Reservation and with unobstructed views of the surrounding mountain ranges, this luxurious seven-bedroom property is constructed on a U shape, centred around an outdoor living area with pool, spa and alfresco kitchen.
Elsewhere, there’s a sauna, steam room, putting green and deck, ideal for watching balloons. $3.995 million (£3.035m) through Sotheby’s International Realty.
Switzerland: The Snow Polo World Cup
Termed ‘a crazy adventure’ by its co-founder, hotelier Reto Gaudenzi, and, by others, ‘a spectacle not a sport’, the Snow Polo World Cup in St Moritz may not draw the same kind of crowds as, say, the Rio Carnival, but it wins points for sheer surrealism. Every January, 12,000 people turn up to watch eight polo players battle it out on a 44m-deep frozen lake 1,850m up in the mountains for the Cartier Trophy.
Next year will be the 35th iteration (January 25–27, 2019). Back in 1985, it was the first ever polo tournament on snow; it’s still the world’s only high-goal tournament on snow, but its popularity has spurred on similar events in Aspen, Cortina in Italy and China’s Tianjin. ‘A little bit of craziness must be behind every good idea,’ says Mr Gaudenzi.
With 300 days of sunshine a year, ‘St Moritz is the place where everybody wants to go’ – and it’s also where plenty of people want to live.
Cue the exclusive, spectacular and bizarre Chesa Futura, by award-winning architect Sir Norman Foster, which agents call a ‘stateof- the-art masterpiece’. It overlooks the town and lake and an apartment with five bedrooms, five bathrooms and a terrace is currently on the market. POA through Christie’s International Real Estate.
India: Holi, the world’s most colourful festival
Glorious spring and its bounty is celebrated all over the world, but nowhere matches India for kaleidoscopic colour. Every March, on the first day after the Full Moon, after a night of dancing around bonfires to mark the burning of the demoness Holika, revellers throughout India throw coloured powder (gulal) all over the place and spray each other with water (March 21–22, 2019).
Holi, in honour of Hindu god Vishnu, is a celebration of good’s triumph over evil and is seen as a symbolic day for making a fresh start. Everyone who takes part is submerged in a tapestry of colours and people often remark that on this day all caste systems and nationalities disappear – everyone is equal. In Goa, Holi is ramped up as part of a more extensive, weeks-long spring festival – Shigmo, including folk and warrior dancing and Hindu New Year.
Dip in and out of the action from Assagao village, where this contemporary ‘levitating house’ shows a mix of Japanese, colonial and Portuguese influences.
With four bedrooms, an infinity pool and outdoor bar it’s a beautiful home, while the location of this stunning villa is quaint, peaceful and wooded. Perfect. 92.5 million Indian Rupees (£967,000) through India Sotheby’s International Realty.