Cool Bookish Places

Best Literary Festivals in Europe

Nicole Froio

Staff Writer

Nicole Froio is a Brazilian journalist currently based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She writes about feminism, human rights, politics, mental health issues, pop culture, books and the media. She was born in São Paulo but moved a lot as a kid, which hinders her ability to root down in only one place in adulthood. Her favorite genres of book are fantasy, YA fiction, romance and any book that requires the main character to find themselves. An avid intersectional feminist, her tolerance for bigotry is extremely low. Blog: Words by Nicole Froio Twitter: @NicoleFroio

Literary events are great for bookish people: it’s where we go to gush and nerd out about books and authors. The best part is that, in these events, we aren’t judged for our geekyness and can be as excited as we want about the genres and books we love. What a dream!

Now, imagine travelling abroad to enjoy the goodness of a literary festival. This is what this post is all about: I’ve done some research and I’ve come up with some truly excellent literary festivals taking place all over Europe. There’s nothing like learning new things and seeing new places at the same time.

Edinburgh International Book Festival, Scotland, August 12th to 28th

the pin

Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square Gardens, where the festival takes place.

Running since 1983, this book festival hosts around 700 different events during its running period. The most important feature of the festival is the debates that revolve around current world issues, discussed by authors from all over the world. The festival also has running events for children and takes place in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square Gardens. The cool thing about this festival is that you could time your trip to hit other cultural festivals that take place in Edinburgh during summer which feature comedy (Fringe Festival), film (Film Festival) and music (Jazz Festival).

Berlin International Book Festival, Germany, September 6th to 16th

This festival promises to not only host famous authors but also support smaller books and writers that will be “fascinating new discoveries in the fields of prose and poetry.” This festival also has its own space for the discussion of current events with journalists and authors, as well as children and teenage fiction events for younger readers. A list of confirmed guests can be seen here – it looks pretty diverse to me so far.

Bare Lit Festival, London, England, dates TBA

Bare Lit was born in 2016 because in 2015, the UK’s largest literary festivals featured over 2,000 authors, of which only 4% were from Black Caribbean, Black African, South Asian or East Asian backgrounds. The creators of Bare Lit, who also run the non-profit Media Diversified, flipped the script in the lack of diversity in the UK literary festival world and focused only on showcasing and inviting writers of color to their event. I’m looking forward to seeing what Bare Lit will bring to readers and authors in 2017.

Festival del Letterature, Rome, Italy, dates TBA

This event is for those of us who prefer more low key events. Taking place over five days in Rome, the gatherings are smaller and more intimate than most literary festivals. It seems like the atmosphere is also quite collaborative as authors share stages with musicians and artists throughout.

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate, England, July 20th to 23rd

I thought this event sounded cool because it is specifically for crime and mystery fans and has previously featured the likes of Gillian Flynn and Ian Rankin. Also, Harrogate is a lovely, chill place to visit and this festival is recommended by both The Guardian and Elle. (As a side note, if you’re truly a crime and mystery fan and need the venue to match your literary tastes, most English streets look quite creepy at night, so you’re set!)

European Children’s Literature Hay Festival, Aarhus, Denmark, October 25th to 29th

The Hay Festival in Bogotá, Colombia is considered one of the best literary festivals in the world. The festival has now expanded to be hosted in other cultural cities across the world, and Aarhus is one of the chosen locations to host its children’s lit festival. It’s probably also handy to note that there are Hay Festivals taking place all over the world this whole year (dates and locations can be seen here).

Cheltenham Literature Festival, Cheltenham, England, October 6th to 15th

Part of a bigger conglomerate of festivals that brings 2,500 musicians, writers, scientists, performers and thinkers to Cheltenham from around the world, this festival has been a part of the UK cultural landscape since 1945. Previous guests include Nigella Lawson, Nick Frost and Cheryl Strayed.