Updated: Oct 3
If you're visiting a World Expo, everything you see around is about YOU. In fact, the purpose of World Expos, as defined by the international treaty that regulates them, is the education of the public. Everything in a World Expo is built to improve your understanding of the world.
World Expos offer a wide variety of experiences to visitors. After having worked in five of these mega-events, here I share some highlights to make your visit more enjoyable and fruitful.
National pavilions of participating countries are the stars of World Expos. This is where you'll encounter new cultures and will discover new things about familiar cultures. Most countries want you to better understand their culture and to leave with a positive impression.
Some pavilions will bring hosting staff from their countries, which will add much authenticity to your international experience. The finest pavilions will also bring original art and historic pieces, which will give more value to your visit. Some countries complement their exhibitions with restaurants and souvenir shops, which are usually linked to their national culture.
World Expos have themes that guide the exhibits of official participants. Host countries normally build several theme pavilions around the theme. Frequently, these pavilions are among the best in terms of architecture, message, and quality. Also, several theme pavilions are overlooked and have short lines.
Around the Expo site, you will find a number of small-sized outdoor stages, where artists from around the world perform during the day. On a regular day, you'll be attracted to several of these stages as you walk from one pavilion to another. A bit harder to find are indoor stages, which usually host more select performances. World Expos also tend to have one or two very large stages, which host major international artists. In most cases, these shows are included in the price of your ticket. Look for a schedule of open-air and indoor artistic events in the Expo media or at information kiosks, and pay attention to National Days for a selection of events related to a specific participating country.
Throughout the Expo site, you'll run unexpectedly into entertainers performing magic, acrobatics, music, and much more. The selection of entertainers tends to be international and exhaustive, which guarantees innovative and memorable experiences.
Some World Expos have daily parades scheduled as part of their main attractions. Quality varies widely from Expo to Expo, so ask around before spending too much time reserving your space for a parade.
Host and participating countries bring a diverse gastronomic offer to World Expos. You will find options from across the world, ranging from small street food stands to elegant, expensive restaurants operated by renowned chefs. Be open to try new and exciting food, but be prepared for long waits and expensive meals.
Some buildings are designed to be symbols of an Expo, and some become symbols organically, by popular choice. Most of the buildings in World Expos will be repurposed or will disappear shortly after the closing ceremony. In some cases, iconic buildings -like the Seed Cathedral, the UK Pavilion at Expo 2010 Shanghai- will disappear forever. Photos in front of these buildings make very good souvenirs and are treasured by visitors decades after visiting a World Expo.
Some host countries present evening light and sound shows that summarize the main message of the World Expo. Aqua Matrix at Expo 1998 Lisbon, Flambée at Expo 2000 Hannover, the Big-O at Expo 2012 Yeosu, and the Tree of Life at Expo 2015 Milan, are examples of shows that marked the end of the day.
Enjoy your visit
In the end, the purpose of a World Expo is to nurture your mind by providing you an international experience full of ideas and solutions from around the globe. You have multiple options to make your visit enjoyable and memorable.
Please let me know if you have any questions about how to make the most of your visit. I'll try my best to help.