Festivals and events

Plan Your Year: 2020 Events Worth Travelling For

A month of eating, the world’s most innovative exhibition and non-stop partying at festivals and tournament events alike – these are the 2020 events to add to your travel plans this year


Sundance Film Festival, Utah (US)

Credit: Courtesy image

New year, new mindset – kick things off with some inspirational cinema. Sundance, the largest independent film festival in the US, takes place annually in Utah, flanked by the snow-capped Wasatch mountains. The Sundance Institute was founded by actor Robert Redford in 1981, with the idea of encouraging new voices and risk-taking within the film industry. Ticket-holders to this year’s festival (23 January-2 February) will get an early peek at the hottest indie flicks of 2020.

Credit: Rob Hammer/Getty Images


Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River (Thailand)

Credit: Gareth Harrison/Unsplash

We hardly need an excuse to visit the Thai capital, but in February there’s an iron-clad justification: the opening of the 299-room Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River. The hotel boasts tree-filled courtyards, outdoor infinity pools and a spa specialising in quartz massage. Restaurants include Riva del Fiume, with three terraces overlooking the water. The Four Seasons will also have its own boat to transport guests to and from the property or whisk them around the city’s canals for a different perspective on the bustling city.


Donald Judd retrospective, MoMA, New York (US)

Donald Judd MoMA New York
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Still fresh from a US$400 million revamp, New York’s Museum of Modern Art will host a retrospective exhibition of work by the revered American minimalist artist Donald Judd. Making its debut on 1 March and running until 11 July, it will be the first major exhibition of his creative legacy since 1988, encompassing 60 key pieces by the visionary artist – including his stacked box installations, which redefined the scope of sculpture in modern art.


Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens rugby series, Hong Kong (China)

Credit: Mike Pickles

Hey, ho, let’s go – to Hong Kong for the biggest sporting event/party in the calendar. From 3-5 April, more than 120,000 fans will flock to Hong Kong Stadium, and still more to Fan Zones around the city, for the 45th Hong Kong Sevens. All eyes will be on Fiji, who won the men’s cup for the fifth year running in 2019. And for the first time, 2020 will officially include the World Rugby Women’s Sevens series within the tournament. 


Singapore International Festival of Arts

Credit: Tuckys Photography

Mingle with artists and bask in the creative energy unleashed at the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) from 15-31 May. The packed schedule of events includes classic recitals, plays, dance performances, workshops, lectures, screenings and Q&As at various venues around the city. Armed with new ideas, perspectives and visions, follow the crowd to artsy after-parties around town for lively discussions amid Singapore’s buzzing bar scene.


Primavera Sound, Barcelona (Spain)

Credit: Xavi Torrent/WireImage/Getty Images

For indie rockers of the ’90s there’s only one place to be this June, with cult band Pavement reforming to headline Barcelona’s Primavera Sound. The eclectic music festival, running from 3-7 June, will welcome hundreds of artists spanning electronica to pop across 17 stages in the huge outdoor Parc del Fòrum. But that’s not all: expect plenty of bars, food trucks, record fairs and secret shows.


Olympic and Paralympic Games, Tokyo (Japan)

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For the second time Tokyo hosts the Summer Olympics (24 July-9 August), followed by the Paralympics (25 August-6 September.) Cheer on 11,000 athletes as they push their abilities to the limit in a bid to take home the gold. New sports this year include surfing, freestyle BMX, skateboarding, basketball and karate. After being lit in Greece, the Olympic flame will land in Fukushima, travelling for 121 days across all 47 of Japan’s prefectures before arriving at the capital for the opening ceremony.


Auckland Restaurant Month (New Zealand)

Credit: Aaron Birch/Unsplash

Flying to Auckland at the height of winter may seem counterintuitive, but there’s one powerful reason to do exactly that: food. In August the entire city celebrates all things culinary, with more than 100 restaurants launching special menus and tantalising offers, celebrity chefs flying in to showcase their skills, and a rolling itinerary of events such as street food festival Street Eats and pitch-black dining experience Dinner in the Dark.


Open House London (UK)

Credit: Arcaid Images/Alamy Stock Photo

From gherkin-shaped skyscrapers to baroque cathedrals and Georgian townhouses, London is renowned for its diverse – and largely off-limits – architecture. But on 19 and 20 September, London lifts the veil on its architectural heritage for Open House Month, allowing visitors to peek behind the neoclassical facades and colonnaded porches of some of the city’s most interesting addresses. From the Grade I-listed house of Benjamin Franklin to the 18th-century interiors of Savile Row’s tailors, visitors will be given free rein to get nosy inside more than 800 private buildings throughout the capital.


World Expo Dubai (UAE)

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Once every five years the world unites to showcase technological advancements, medical innovation and avant-garde creativity spanning everything from architecture to food. On 20 October, the World Expo launches in Dubai with pavilions from 190 countries: expect an energy-neutral artificial rainforest from Singapore; a 360-degree immersive theatre from Canada; and a real-time reconstruction of Peru’s last remaining Inca bridge. You’ll also find make-your-own-robot workshops and get the chance to learn about 3D-printed human organs – if you’re not too busy chasing down new business opportunities or taking in poetry slams and acrobatic displays.


Matisse: Life & Spirit exhibition (Australia)

Credit: Philippe Migeat - Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI /Dist RMN-GP © Succession H Matisse/Copyright Agency, 2019

A master of colour and draughtmanship, French artist Henri Matisse is celebrated in a major exhibition at Sydney’s Art Gallery of New South Wales running from November 2020 to March 2021. Six decades’ worth of paintings, sculpture, drawings and paper cutouts will demonstrate Matisse’s exemplary use of colour, shape and form, including famous pieces such as Decorative Figure on an Ornamental Background from 1925 (pictured) and Blue Nude II from 1952.


Brussels Christmas markets (Belgium)

Credit: Eric Danhier

German Christmas markets might hog the festive limelight, but there’s plenty more jolliness elsewhere in Europe. For the month of December the cobbled streets of Belgium’s capital are transformed into a winter wonderland. At the Place Flagey, craftspeople from all over Europe come to sell their wares, with twinkling lights and chalets selling everything from glühwein (warm spiced wine) to glittering baubles.

Credit: Eric Danhier
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