From fairytale festivals to avant-garde art, Katrina Lobley finds 10 great events around the globe.
Sometimes there are happy accidents when travelling. You stumble into a thrilling exhibition or landmark event in a far-flung place, or find a city or a country is throwing a year-long party. With careful planning, though, you can be sure you don't miss out. We've trawled the globe to find this year's 10 most compelling cultural events.
Germany: strings attached
Cinderella. Snow White. The Sleeping Beauty. Hansel and Gretel. These stories of beautiful princesses, handsome princes, evil stepmothers and big, bad wolves have enchanted and scared the hell out of kids for the past 200 years. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm first published a collection of these folk tales on December 20, 1812, but Germany is celebrating the bicentenary throughout 2013. Kassel's interactive Expedition Grimm (April 27-September 8) is the centrepiece exhibition of the celebrations, while Steinau, home of the Brothers Grimm, will host puppeteers telling the stories in September and October. Favourite characters will parade through Bad Sooden-Allendorf during Fairytale Week (March 31-April 7). Germany also celebrates the bicentenary of the birth of composer Richard Wagner. In his birthplace, Leipzig, a new Richard Wagner Museum will open on May 21 during the Richard Wagner Festival (May 16-26). germany.travel.
Netherlands: golden days
On April 13, Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum will unveil the results of 10 years of renovation and restoration. The radical €375 million ($468 million) makeover, undertaken with the help of purist Spanish architects and a French museum designer who worked magic on the Louvre's interiors, includes a new layout, garden and Asian Pavilion, and will allow visitors into the library for the first time. About 8000 artworks and objects in 80 rooms will showcase 800 years of Dutch culture. The Rijksmuseum (or State Museum) is famed for its works from the Dutch golden age - paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer and more. In fact, the only object to retain its original position is Rembrandt's The Night Watch, which remains in the centre of the 1885 fairytale castle-like building. rijksmuseum.nl/en.
Hong Kong: east meets west
This year the cutting-edge Art Basel contemporary art show ventures to Asia, replacing the Hong Kong International Art Fair at the Convention and Exhibition Centre. With the Hong Kong art fair a major annual attraction that drew art lovers from all walks of life, past visitors will be hanging to see how this incarnation does things differently. Certainly, visitors might need all of May 23-26 to make their way around the stands. About 250 galleries, including Sydney's own Sullivan and Strumpf, will exhibit paintings, sculpture, drawings, photographs, installations and multimedia artworks from 2000 artists, ranging from promising newcomers to sought-after contemporary masters. Art Basel was founded in Switzerland in 1970; there's also an outpost at Miami Beach. artbasel.com.
US: rights and wrongs
It's 50 years since US president John F. Kennedy was so shockingly assassinated. Dallas's Sixth Floor Museum - the spot from which Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly took aim from a corner window - is marking the anniversary with a Living History series throughout 2013. Hear first-hand accounts from those connected to that fateful day, such as Oswald's colleague who drove him to work and witnessed the assassination, a Dallas schoolgirl who shook hands with the president at Love Field airport and later waited outside his hospital, and a marine who kept watch over the president's casket. Birmingham is expecting a surge of visitors to its Civil Rights District, saluting 50 years since the height of the civil rights movement that led to the Civil Rights Act. jfk.org; 50yearsforward.com.
Northern Ireland: prize fight
Northern Ireland's Derry-Londonderry has scored quite the coup. The 2013 UK City of Culture will this year host the Turner Prize - the first time the prize has been held outside England and only the second it's not been at the Tate (it was at Gateshead in 2011). The controversial art prize, won previously by conceptual artist Damien Hirst and sculptor Antony Gormley, is awarded annually to a British artist under 50. Four shortlisted artists exhibit their work from October 23 before a winner is declared in December. Other events include a Guinness world record attempt on March 2 at the largest co-ordinated song and dance routine, when 4000 curly-haired Annies will try to keep time for longer than three minutes and 14 seconds. cityofculture2013.com.
Venice: canal therapy
Odd-numbered years mean just one thing in Venice: Biennale time. For five months, from June 1 to November 24 this year, visitors will stumble upon moments of sheer unexpected delight thanks to clever placement of artworks from around the world. Art lovers can also spend days exploring the national pavilions at the Giardini and the Arsenale, located out of the hustle and bustle in the city's east. Among the eight countries making their Biennale debut this year are Kosovo, Maldives, Nigeria and Paraguay. Work by multimedia artist Simryn Gill will occupy the Australian pavilion. labiennale.org/en/art/.
Zambia: rise and falls
David Livingstone, the first European to clap eyes on the awesome sight of Victoria Falls and baptise it with its regal name, was born in Scotland in 1813.The bicentenary of his birth is reason enough for the town of Livingstone, nestled next to the falls on the banks of the Zambezi, to go nuts. It's hosting arts, cultural and sporting events from March 19 (Livingstone's birthday, also to be marked by a wreath-laying ceremony at London's Westminster Abbey where he's buried) to November 16, the date Livingstone first saw the falls in 1855. Neighbouring countries, as well as countries through which the intrepid explorer, missionary, medic and anti-slavery campaigner travelled, will bring customs and foods to an international cultural festival in March while an academic conference in April will reconsider Livingstone's legacy. livingstone2013.com. Bicentenary events are also taking place in Scotland and Malawi. davidlivingstone200.org.
Australia: master blast
Tasmania's Museum of Old and New Art demonstrates one thing: art can be reason enough for people to hop a plane. So what Australian galleries are major drawcards this year? The Art Gallery of Western Australia is collaborating with New York City's Museum of Modern Art to mount two shows: photographs of the Big Apple (January 26-May 16) and iconic works from Dali, van Gogh, Picasso, Kahlo, Cezanne and more (June 22-December 2). Fans of J.M.W. Turner's atmospheric seas and skies can soak up more than 100 masterpieces from the Turner Bequest, held at Tate Britain, at the Art Gallery of South Australia from February 8 to May 19. Turner from the Tate: The Making of a Master is the first major Turner retrospective in Australia for almost 20 years. Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art will host a major showing of work by Yoko Ono in November titled War is Over! (if you want it). The avant-garde artist is expected to be in attendance. artgallery.wa.gov.au; artgallery.sa.gov.au; mca.com.au.
Canberra: culture capital
On March 12, 1913, Lady Denman, wife of Governor-General Sir Thomas Denman, glanced down at a slip of paper in her hand and announced Canberra the name of Australia's new capital. Canberra is throwing a year-long party to celebrate its centenary, with March 8-12 designated the Big Birthday Long Weekend. With many Canberrans due at work on the official birthday, a Tuesday, much of the action will unfold around Lake Burley Griffin on March 11. Enjoy the world's longest bubbly bars, multiple music stages, the world premiere of Andrew Schultz's Centenary symphony, and fireworks to finish. Landmark buildings will be lit dramatically and the Canberra-raised owners of the Famous Spiegeltent will bring their glamorous 1920 Belgian mirror tent to Old Parliament House's Senate Rose Gardens for its debut Canberra season (February 27-March 24). canberra100.com.au.
Baghdad: war and peace
One of the most intriguing cultural destinations this year must be Baghdad, anointed the 2013 Arab Capital of Culture. Certainly, with the Australian government advising strongly against travel to Iraq due to a threat of terrorism, it's a destination only for those with a cast-iron adventurous streak. A new sculpture in Firdos Square - the spot where a giant bronze statue of former dictator Saddam Hussein was famously toppled in 2003 - is due for completion. Artist Abbas Gharib's 21-metre-tall monument will pay homage to Iraq's history, stretching back to Mesopotamian and Babylonian civilisations. The work is part of a planned 19 new monuments and memorials, some of which will honour late cultural icons such as poet Nazik Al-Malaika, killed in 2007. British-based Hinterland Travel (hinterlandtravel.com) resumed its Iraq tours in 2009 and says the mood there is "upbeat, vibrant, with the security aspects improving all the time".