Travel Bloggers Pick The Coolest Music Festivals in Europe

Paredes de Coura 2014 Music Festival – A World to Travel – Portugal (62)

1. Iceland Airwaves, Iceland

by Flora The Explorer

Iceland Airwaves by Flora The Explorer - The Coolest Music Festivals in Europe - A World to Travel-2

A festival performance at KEX hostel in Reykjavik.

Iceland Airwaves is a five day music festival held every November in the country’s capital city of Reykjavik. Although the weather is cold and the sun sets early, people travel from all over the world to attend Airwaves – mainly because it’s so unique. First up, while calling itself an international festival, any international act invited to perform at Airwaves can only ever do so once. This ensures that the Icelandic musicians, however new or with however small a fan base, always have a annual platform where they can perform.
Secondly (and this is my favourite aspect), the daytimes are comprised of ‘off-venue’ gigs, where artists perform short, intimate sets in Reykjavik’s coffee shops, restaurants, libraries, churches, swimming pools and hostel dormitories – basically every location imaginable. Off-venue performances are open to anyone, not just ticket holders; the city’s streets are flooded with music and you never know what you’re going to hear next. In the evenings, the real (ie. festival-ticketed) performances kick off in several different venues, all within walking distance from each other, and afterwards the party continues late into the night in the city’s bars, clubs and the streets themselves.

I volunteered at the festival in exchange for my Airwaves ticket the first year, fell in love with the country/city/festival and then stayed in Reykjavik the year after, choosing to just attend Airwaves’ off-venue shows each day. If you’re looking to budget, either one is a great option!

Flora Baker is Flora The Explorer. Follow her adventures around the world on Instagram as well. 

 

2. The Secret Garden Party, UK

by Global Help Swap

Secret Garden Party by Global Help Swap - The Coolest Festivals in Europe - A World to TravelThe Secret Garden Party is one of the most picturesque festivals you will ever attend. Set in the grounds of a Georgian Farmhouse with it’s own lake (which you can swim in), river and landscape gardens, this is a place where fairytales are made.

The festival began in 2004 and has gone from strength to strength. Held every year in July at Abbots Ripton, near Huntingdon, England, the festival is normally set around a theme. This year’s theme is “Childish Things”. I would say 70% of the festival goers dress up around the theme which makes for some interesting photos!

This festival is where you can catch acts that are about to hit the bigtime. We have watched Florence & The Machine, The XX, and Lily Allen all before they became headliners. Like Glastonbury, The Secret Garden Party supports charities. The main one being The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), which aims to prevent male suicide in the United Kingdom.

The Secret Garden Party is a great medium sized festival with a fun crowd. I will meet you at the Paint Fight!

 

 

 

3. End Of The Road Festival, UK

by Global Help Swap

End of the Road Festival by Global Help Swap - The Coolest Festivals in Europe - A World to Travel

Starting in 2006, the End of the Road festival is held every year (in Sept) in the Larmer Tree Gardens on the borders of Somerset and Dorset, England. In 2011 the festival won the award for “best small festival” and it’s not hard to see why.

With four stages set around woods, gardens and Tipis, this festival has an ultra mellow vibe. The music is centered around folk, americana and alt.country. This year the festival will be celebrating it’s 10 year anniversary with Tame Impala, The War on Drugs and Laura Marling playing.

As the festival is held in beautiful landscaped gardens don’t be alarmed when you come across the peacocks roaming about. Aswell as the music there are also children’s play areas, a film tent, a library in the forest and much more. Like any alternative UK festival, our advice is to explore, explore, explore!

We attended this festival for the first time last year and loved the chilled out crowd and atmosphere. I will meet you in the woods for a game of hide and seek. Paul Farrugia is a an avid traveller and blogger. When he is not travelling he likes to spend his free time reading, going to festivals and sitting down enjoying a nice glass of red! If you would like to reach him, check his blog Global Help Swap! You can follow him on Facebook as well. 

 

4. Coleur Café, Belgium

by Wonderful Wanderings

Couleur Café is an annual music festival in the city of Brussels. It’s unique as it doesn’t take place in the streets of the city, either on a festival terrain, but on the events site of Tour & Taxis. Here you can listen to big hip hop and rap artists, but also to all kinds of world music, including reggae and Latin, and a bit of dubstep

Besides the stage acts, there are also always some side acts, like a marching band or street performers, who entertain the crowds throughout the day.

And if you do need a musical break, you can head to the world market or to the food stands. No need to fear: the food at Couleur Café is delicious and the options are plenty. There are about 50 food stands with products from all over the world, including vegetarian meals.

Tip for first timers: Couleur Café is in the middle of Brussels and parking options are scarce. The festival website doesn’t even address coming by car. On the upside: there are various discount options with public transportation especially for the festival, so be sure to check those out.

Sofie is a freelance writer, translator and travel blogger who takes people with her on her travels in Belgium and beyond. Her blog Wonderful Wanderings focuses both on the must-sees and daily life, on the big attractions and the places you’d never find by yourself. You can connect with Sofie on Facebook.

 

5. Rock in Rio Lisboa, Portugal

by Concerteca

Rock in Rio was born in Brazil in 1985. In 2004, it arrived to Portugal to stay, with pretty big gigs such as Paul McCartney,  Kings of Lion and Foo Figthers in Belavista Park, a natural stage that becomes a rock city every edition. RiR has also been held in Spain and this year it will arrive to the US, being Vegas the chosen city for its opening in the country.

Last year, Rolling Stones and other bands celebrated in Lisbon the 10th anniversary, 90 thousand people enjoyed how Bruce Springsteen made a last minute surprise appearance after being invited by Jagger to join the party. Pretty epic.

Inside the festival grounds, apart from a ferris wheel, there is Rock and Street dance, a food court and a chillout area. Unluckily, this one does not have a camping area and once you enter the festival, you can’t go out, a bit of a nuisance. But if you play along, it is one of your best bets in the country and you will be able to enjoy Lisbon, a fantastic city, as well!

 

6. Main Square Festival, France

by Concerteca

I would go back in a whim just to enjoy once again the unreal scenery of the city where is held, Arras old town, about 150km away from Paris. 11 years old, Main Square is one of the best put together festivals we’ve ever been to. Apart from the cozy town, the camping zone happens to be located really nearby and Lille or Charleroi airports are both conveniently located around 45km away.

Sting, Green Day, Iron Maden, David Guetta,  Muse and The Prodigy have played there. This year dates are July, 3rd to 5th, being the 3 day passes and Saturday / Sunday tickets over. So if you want to have a peak, the Friday pass is your best bet and you could be listening to Lenny Kravitz an Shaka Ponk in a few weeks.

A great atmosphere, mix of festival goers, families and locals, perfect for the first timers and likers of all kinds of music. Truly enjoyable!

Maria runs Concerteca. Follow them on Facebook.

 

7. Festival do Sudoeste, Portugal

by A World to Travel

Sudoeste Festival - The Coolest Music Festivals in Europe - A World to Travel

This one is held in Zambujeira do Mar, in the South West coast of Portugal, hence the name. Jose travelled there in 2011. Unluckily, Amy Winehouse – who was leading the line up – had just passed away but still he could enjoy some other great bands and DJs like Asian Dub Fundation, Underworld, Deus, Scissor Sisters, David Guetta, Snoop Dog, Swedish House Mafia, Alpha Blondie, Interpol and many others spreaded across 4 stages, being his favorite the reggae one.

Although temperatures can get really harsh and shades are almost non existent, there is a pond where you can get some relief during the day. Highly recommended.

 

8. Berlin Festival, Germany

by Un Poco de Sur

Berlin Festival - The Coolest Music Festivals in Europe

If we want to talk about music festivals we can forget Berlin, the cradle of the (in)famous Love parade has nowadays many other remarkable events to follow like the small, but incredible important, Berlin Festival.

The Berlin Festival used to take place at Tempelhofer feld, the abandoned airport and city lung, but fast enough has left behind the “overpopulated” festival idea and moved into a more intimate space, the Arena Berlin. It takes place along 3 days in a row in the “city centre” and offers a huge amount of possibilities from cultural workshops, to Crazy DJ electro parties till chillout mornings/afternoons in one of the most particular swimming pools in the city, The badeshift.

One of the remarkable things is the support to the local artists, the Berlin festival counts with huge international names such as Rudimental or Fritz Kalkbrenner but its also a place with a big space for the local community giving Berlin bands and artists a jump to the mass public.

I always refer to it as the “nearly 30’s festival”, is a city festival therefore no camping place, you will sleep totally comfy in your bed and have a shower in your bathroom before hitting the party again. Its not a massive festival just small scenarios, cultural events and many possibilities… Call me old but sounds like the paradise to me.

Valen & Jesper have been travelling for about 3 years now, they settle down in Berlín for a while and from here plan their next adventure. You can find many advices about a Backpacking trip through South America in their blog. Follow them on Facebook

 

9. Paredes de Coura Festival, Portugal

by A World to Travel

A lot has been said around here about our favorite music festival ever. After having attended the last 4 editions (read 2014 Paredes de Coura Uncut Chronicle Part 1 and Part 2 here), we can only wait for next August to go back and live it up once again. Dream location on a hill featuring a cool river – perfect for the afternoon ‘Jazz na relva’ sessions as well as cooling off when the sun is at is highest, and a couple of big stages that remain pumping it up till 5am mostly (sometimes, coming as a great surprise, further in the wee hours!).

We even put a short video featuring the very best of last year’s edition.

Seriously, you need to check this one out. Priceless!

 

10. Hellfest, France

by Fotostrasse

Hellfest by Fotostrasse - The Coolest Music Festivals in Europe - A World to Travel.jpg

I’ve worked as a photographer for years and years on this festival, it was clearly the best place to see your fav band and have a great time. The 2011 edition I got the chance to see for the first time my one true love, at least my 16 years old’s love: Phil Anselmo, the former lead singer of the legendary Pantera.
It was great! I was without words and a bit frozen to be so close to my idol.
Hellfest grew too much on the last years and some problems came with it, but nevertheless, it is still on my top position. It holds the medal for best metal fest in Europe in my opinion.
My tip is: forget about hotels, go camping.
The camping site is great, you will not miss one single show, there’s always a party going on and there are not enough buses to take you to the next town. Avoid the headache and embrace the headbanging.
Where: Clisson, France​
​Music: Rock, Metal, Punk and more.

11. Sonisphere, UK

by Fotostrasse

My first European experience as a photographer happened at Sonisphere in 2009.
Since that day, Sonisphere grew on my heart like my plants grow on the summer time.
I don’t know if it is the fact that I was seen Metallica for the second time live, if it was the fact that I met the guys or the fact that I was finally doing work for a huge magazine abroad. I was working with Rolling Stone back in the days.
Gotta say that of all the crowds I’ve seen as a music photographer over the years, UK delivers the best and most funny characters every time! It is impressive the energy and the lack of self preservation that you see during festivals in UK, specially England.
Even if you’re not there for the music, go for fun that comes with it!
England is the birth place for metal and the legend of craziness continues every time I have the chance to see a show or a festival there!
Marcela, who wrote this lines, and Felipe own Fotostrasse. Follow them on Instagram.

12. Boom Festival

by Mochila Nomada

Boom Festival is a biannual trance music festival which is held a few km away from Idanha-a-Nova, a Portuguese town by an awesome lake that soon becomes one of the festival goers favorite places to hang out.

More than 30 thousand people gathers to attend this ‘conscious’ and ‘sustainable’ festival. So much that it was awarded the ‘Outstanding Greener Festival Award’ in 2008, 2010 and 2012.

And music is just only a small part of what is going on there. Conferences, workshops, exhibitions, games, chillout areas and a huge camping zone from the lake to some close mountains’ peaks.

A must.

Jairo runs Mochila Nomada. Follow him on Facebook.

 

13. Colours of Ostrava

by My Wanderlust
From all the festivals I’ve ever attended Colours of Ostrava must be the most unique one.
It takes place in mid July in the 3rd biggest Czech city – Ostrava – not too far from the Polish border. What makes it so special is the location. The event is held in the industrial surroundings of the former iron and steel mill in Dolni Oblast Vitkovice – that itself adds up to the amazing vibe of the festival.
There are seven stages but you don’t have to walk too much between the concerts – the factory buildings perfectly insulate the sound! The biggest stars of this year’s, 14th edition, will be Bjork or Kasabian but artists come from all over the world and represent various music styles, from jazz to metal.
But Colours of Ostrava is more than just a music festival – there are also workshops, theater plays, poetry, movies or discussion panels – surely everyone will find something for themselves.
No wonder this Czech event is considered one of the best major European festivals, it surely is my favourite too!
Kami blogs at My Wanderlust. Follow her on Instagram

14. MITO Festival, Italy

by The Crowded Planet

MITO Festival by The Crowded Planet - The Coolest Festivals in Europe - A World to Travel

Normally, when you think of summer festivals, you imagine muddy fields and dancing all night long. Now, I’m not saying that’s not nice! But MITO, one of my favourite summer festivals, taking place every year in September, is very different. MITO stands for Milano and Torino, the two cities where the festival happens.

It’s very hard to put the festival into a specific category as one of its characteristics is that there are concerts for all preferences, from classical to jazz, rock and electronic. The venues are also special; concerts take place not only in theatres and halls, but also on trains, at trans stations, parks and reconverted factories. MITO is one of the reasons why September is my favourite month in Milan!

Photo caption: Nema Problema, a Balkan music band, performing at Stazione Centrale, Milan.
Margherita runs The Crowded Planet with her husband Nick, a photographer. You should follow this talented couple of travelers on Instagram.

15. Time in Jazz, Italy

by My Adventures Across The World

Time in Jazz by Claudia Tavani - The Coolest Music Festivals in Europe - A World to Travel

Time in Jazz takes place every August in Berchidda, in the North of Sardinia (Italy), and it is a must for any jazz, music and even nature lovers. It consists of a whole week or more of jazz concerts, held across a number of villages such as Berchidda and the surroundings, with open air concerts (which are free to attend).

The festival is organized by Paolo Fresu, a Sardinian born world famous trumpet player. Each year he gathers the most acclaimed jazz musicians for some incredible concerts.

It is an overall great event not only for the incredible quality of the music, but also for the settings: imagine listening to some great jazz in the middle of the forest, or in the pretty square of a lovely village. And some of the world’s best beaches are nearby too. Visitors can stay in one of the various camping sites or in some bed and breakfast accommodation, and top off their visit with some fabulous local food and wine!

Claudia Tavani , a former human rights lawyer and academic, writes at My Adventures Across The World. Follow her on Facebook.

 

16. Super Bock Super Rock, Portugal

by Maruxaina

We uncover this one last year. Super Bock Super Rock Festival is held in Aldeia do Meco, in the outskirts of Lisbon, and Eddie Vedder, Massive Atack and Kasabian played there already. We could see a very young audience, a just fine camping zone, outstanding VIP area (not difficult, after all it is VIP!) and a great location by the beach.

This year it will take part in July, at Nations Park, Lisbon, and it will be the 21st edition of one of Portugal’s main festivals. A 3 day pass is around $100 – a day ticket is half price – and Sting, Blur, Florence and the Machine and many others are already confirmed.

SBSR surprises the crowds every year with pretty diverse line ups. Metallica, Rage Against The Machine, Ben Harper, Arcade Fire, Incubus… a never ending list that pleases very different crowds every year.

Have a look to Maruxaina‘s blog here.

 

17. Donauinselfest, Austria

by Girl vs Globe

Image via http://2013.donauinselfest.at

Image via http://2013.donauinselfest.at

Donauinselfest – or Danube Island Festival in English – is one of the biggest festivals in Europe and definitely one that delivers the best bang for your buck. Why? Entry to this open-air free music festival is completely free! It takes place every year in the beautiful Austrian capital of Vienna and welcomes music acts from all over the world. Because I grew up in Vienna, I attended a few times and got to see performances ranging from Sunrise Avenue to The Prodigy… Not bad for an event with free entry!
There are lots of great food stalls and entertainment on site, for anyone from young party animals to extended families – in fact, my grandparents probably like the festival even more than I do for all those lederhosen-clad traditional Austrian bands. Oh, and have I mentioned that Danube Island is an actual island in the centre of Vienna? It might not be as exotic as being in the Caribbean, but it’s certainly not bad for central Europe! So take pack your passport and ask your 15-year-old cousin and your 80-year-old grandma to come along, because they’ll both find something to love at Donauinselfest!
Sabina Trojanova is Girl vs Globe. Follow her on Instagram

18. Marés Vivas

by Una Idea Un Viaje
Da weasel LiveMarés Vivas has become one of the most popular music festivals in the north of Portugal, a great reference for these summer festivals’ lovers. Marés Vivas, which means ‘Alive Tides’ if we translate it into English is exactly what its name brings to your mind: a blow of fresh air over all the stereotype festivals, out of any regular festival classification, a festival that comes and goes with styles as pop, rock, electronic, jazz, trip hop…And you still wonder why I keep attending?  Amazing ticket prices, camping area, great vibe, cheap places to chill around and the best spot ever for a stage. If you haven’t been there yet, don’t miss it this summer,buddie. You won’t regret!Eva Abal is the founder of Una Idea Un Viaje, a travel blog focused on nature, art, photography and ecotourism. Sharing her crazy and fun adventures without any censorship, she’s enrolled now in a solo round the world trip. Follow her on twitter.

19. La Route Du Rock

by My Travel Affairs
La Route Du Rock is one of the “best kept secrets” of the European festival circuit. Hold every summer in awfully picturesque town of St. Malo in Brittany, France.

French and British festival – goers love the event mainly because the line up is always a top-notch, no two bands ever overlap so there is no need to choose what you want to see more and the organization is always spotless!

The festival always host top international performers such as Massive Attack or Portishead, this summer Bjork is announced to play!!! But they are really great with spotting new bands and singers early too! Brilliant Mac Demarco or Perfect Pussy had performed on La Route du Rock early on in their career.

Next one will take part August 13-16 2015.

20. Electric Festival, Romania

by My Travel Affairs
Electric Castle Festival is the biggest music festival in Romania and is hold annually in Banffy Castle in Cluj. Over 4 days participants can indulge in extensive variety of concerts taking places over 6 stages, numerous workshops, urban activities and extreme sports! It is crazy, it is fun and it is not to be missed! 
Marysia Maciocha runs My Travel Affairs. Follow her on My Travel Affairs.

WHICH ONES ARE WE MISSING? LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW and if you are a travel blogger yourself, feel free to contact us to complete this list.

 

Luckily, this is not the end. Check out the following articles as well and start scheduling your favorite music festivals for this upcoming Summer:

Coolest Music Festivals Around the World

Coolest Music Festivals in Spain 

Coolest Music Festivals in Galicia 




There are 20 comments

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  1. Jen

    Reading your post made me realize how long it has been since I’ve been to a music festival. I’ll have to take a closer look in my next destination and see if I can track one down. I’m sure they are around and would be worth finding. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. rambleandwander

    Nice list! I’m however surprised Glastonbury has not made it to the list but got a mention just in passing 🙂

    • Inma

      Because Glastonbury is so freaking awesome that made it to the ‘Coolest Music Festivals Around the WORLD’ list. Link at the end of this article 😀

  3. Lindsay Nieminen

    Wow this is quite the list! having little kids, i don’t see these in the near future for me, but i have been known to Enjoy a music festival in Canada. So maybe in a few years time i will get to check one of these out!

    • Inma

      Hey Dave! It would be awesome to feature your favorite one! Glasto has been ‘upgraded’ to the ‘Coolest Music Festivals World Edition’ 😀


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