Europe’s Coolest Music Festivals

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

Originally published on Jun 17, 2015, last updated on Jul 11, 2023.

Are you a music lover and a travel enthusiast? Look no further! In this article, we have gathered insights from top travel bloggers who share their favorite music festivals across Europe.

From the lively streets of Barcelona to the enchanting stages of Budapest, get ready to discover the music festivals that will make your European adventure unforgettable.

So without further ado, let’s dive in and explore the vibrant harmonies and electrifying atmospheres of these must-visit events!

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 an annual platform where they can perform.

Secondly (and this is my favorite aspect), the daytimes are comprised of ‘off-venue’ gigs, where artists perform short, intimate sets in Reykjavik’scoffee 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 afterward, 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!

This year’s Iceland Airwaves dates are Thu, Nov 2, 2023 – Sat, Nov 4, 2023.

Flora Baker is Flora The Explorer

2. The Secret Garden Party, the 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 on the grounds of a Georgian Farmhouse with its own lake (which you can swim in), river, and landscaped gardens, this is a place where fairy tales 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 festivalgoers 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 big time. 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 is 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!

The Secret Garden Party returns from 20 – 23 July 2023.

3. End Of The Road Festival, the 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 its 10th anniversary with Tame Impala, The War on Drugs, and Laura Marling playing.

As the festival is held in beautifully landscaped gardens don’t be alarmed when you come across the peacocks roaming about. As well 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!

End of the Road Festival returns from August 31st to September 3rd, 2023.

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 an avid traveler and blogger. When he is not traveling he likes to spend his free time reading, going to festivals, and sitting down and enjoying a nice glass of red! If you would like to reach him, check out his blog Global Help Swap! You can follow him on Facebook as well. 

4. Couleur 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 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.

This year’s event was held from Friday 23 June till Sunday 25 June 2023, at Osseghem Park (near the Atomium).

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 in Portugal to stay, with pretty big gigs such as Paul McCartney,  Kings of Lion, and Foo Fighters 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 in 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!

This year’s event took place on Saturday, 17 June 2023 at Parque da Bela Vista, Lisbon, LI.

6. Main Square Festival, France

by Concerteca

I would go back on 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 nearby and Lille and Charleroi airports are both conveniently located around 45km away.

Sting, Green Day, Iron Maden, David Guetta, Muse, and The Prodigy played there. This year’s 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 and Shaka Ponk in a few weeks.

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

This year’s event took place during the first weekend of July.

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, on the South West coast of Portugal, hence the name. Jose was there in 2011.

Unluckily, Amy Winehouse – who was leading the lineup – had just passed away but still, he could enjoy some other great bands and DJs like Asian Dub Foundation, Underworld, Deus, Scissor Sisters, David Guetta, Snoop Dog, Swedish House Mafia, Alpha Blondie, Interpol, and many others spread across 4 stages, being his favorite the reggae one.

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

This year’s dates are Wed, Aug 9, 2023 – Sun, Aug 13, 2023.

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 cannot forget Berlin, the cradle of the (in)famous Love Parade has nowadays many other remarkable events to follow like the small, but incredibly 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 3 days in a row in the “city center” 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 it’s 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 comfy in your bed and have a shower in your bathroom before hitting the party again. It’s not a massive festival just small scenarios, cultural events, and many possibilities… Call me old but sounds like paradise to me.

We haven’t found the dates for 2023, but there is never a shortage of great parties or festivals in Berlin!

Valen & Jesper have been traveling for about 3 years now, they settle down in Berlín for a while and from here plan their next adventure. 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 its highest, and a couple of big stages that remain pumping it up till 5 am 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!

The Paredes de Coura Festival will be returning in 2023, taking place from the 16th to the 19th of August.

10. Hellfest, France

by Fotostrasse

Hellfest by Fotostrasse - The Coolest Music Festivals in Europe - A World to Travel.jpgI’ve worked as a photographer for years and years at this festival, it was the best place to see your favorite band and have a great time. In the 2011 edition, I got the chance to see for the first time my one true love, at least my 16-year-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 in the last few years and some problems came with it, but it is still in my top position. It holds the medal for the 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 a headache and embrace the headbanging.

Where: Clisson, France

Music: Rock, Metal, Punk, and more.

This year’s event took place from Jun 15, 2023, to Jun 18, 2023.

11. Sonisphere, the UK

by Fotostrasse

My first European experience as a photographer happened at Sonisphere in 2009. Since that day, Sonisphere has grown on my heart as my plants grow in the summertime.

I don’t know if it was the fact that I had 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 day.

Gotta say that of all the crowds I’ve seen as a music photographer over the years, the 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 the UK, especially in England.

Even if you’re not there for the music, go for the fun that comes with it!
England is the birthplace of metal and the legend of craziness continues every time I have the chance to see a show or a festival there!

Update: In a 2018 interview, Stuart Galbraith, CEO of Kilimanjaro Live, confirmed that there are no plans to revive the festival, indicating that Sonisphere is now discontinued and gone forever.

Marcela, who wrote these lines, and Felipe used to run Fotostrasse.

12. Boom Festival

by Mochila Nomada

Boom Festival is a biannual trance music festival that 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 gather to attend this ‘conscious’ and ‘sustainable’ festival. So much so 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.

The 2023 edition of the festival will take place from the 20th to the 27th of July at Idanha-a-Nova Lake in Portugal.

Jairo runs Mochila Nomada and wrote about the festival here: Follow him on Facebook.

13. Colours of Ostrava

by My Wanderlust

Of 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 – which itself adds 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 favorite too!

Colors of Ostrava returns from Wednesday, July 19, 2023, to Saturday, July 22, 2023.

Kami blogs at My Wanderlust. 

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 favorite 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 favorite month in Milan!

If you’re intrigued by the idea of exploring unique festivals like MITO while also keeping an eye on your budget, I highly recommend checking out our comprehensive guide to the best Italian places to visit if you are traveling on a budget.

This guide is packed with insider tips, money-saving hacks, and practical advice to help you make the most of your Italian adventure without burning a hole in your pocket. So whether you’re planning to attend MITO or discover other hidden gems in Italy, it will be your go-to resource for creating an affordable and unforgettable experience.

Photo caption: Nema Problema, a Balkan music band, performing at Stazione Centrale, Milan.

MITO 2023 will be held in Milan from September 7th to September 20th, and in Torino from September 8th to September 22nd.

Margherita runs The Crowded Planet with her husband Nick, a photographer.

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 several 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.

If you’re interested, here’s a 10-day road trip itinerary to Sardinia, including stops in beautiful coastal towns and picturesque landscapes. Enjoy your trip!

The 36th edition of the Time in Jazz Festival, one of Sardinia’s most significant live music events, will take place from August 8th to August 16th, 2023. The festival will be held in Berchidda, near Olbia, as well as in various towns in the northern part of the island.

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 uncovered this one last year. Super Bock Super Rock Festival is held in Aldeia do Meco, on 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, an 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 lineups. Metallica, Rage Against The Machine, Ben Harper, Arcade Fire, Incubus… a never-ending list that pleases very different crowds every year.

Super Bock Super Rock, one of Portugal’s most popular festivals, takes place in Meco, Sesimbra, south of Lisbon. With a reputation that has grown steadily over the past 25 years, the festival originated in rock music but now incorporates pop, hip-hop, and electronic music genres. In 2023, it will be held from July 13th to July 15th.

Have a look at Maruxaina’s blog here.

17. Donauinselfest, Austria

by Girl vs Globe

Image via

Image via

Donauinselfest – or Danube Island Festival in English – is one of the biggest festivals in Europe and one that delivers the best bang for your buck. Why? Entry to this open-air 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 center of Vienna?

It might not be as exotic as being in the Caribbean, but it’s certainly not bad for central Europe! So 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!

This year’s dates are Jun 23, 2023 – Jun 25, 2023.

Sabina Trojanova is Girl vs Globe

18. Marés Vivas

by Una Idea Un Viaje

Marés Vivas has become one of the most popular music festivals in the north of Portugal, a great reference for these summer festival 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 stereotypical 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, buddy. You won’t regret it!

MEO Marés Vivas 2023 will take place on July 14th, 15th and 16th.

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. 

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. Held every summer in the picturesque town of St. Malo in Brittany, France.

French and British festival-goers love the event mainly because the lineup is always 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 hosts top international performers such as Massive Attack or Portishead, this summer Bjork is announced to play!!!

But they are great at 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. 

Route du Rock’s next dates are Wed, Aug 16, 2023 – Sat, Aug 19, 2023.

20. Electric Castle, Romania

by My Travel Affairs

Electric Castle Festival is one of the largest music festivals in Romania, held annually in Banffy Castle in Cluj. Over 4 days participants can indulge in an extensive variety of concerts taking place over 6 stages, numerous workshops, urban activities, and extreme sports! It is crazy, it is fun and it is not to be missed! 

This year’s dates are Wed, Jul 19, 2023 – Sun, Jul 23, 2023.

Marysia Maciocha runs My Travel Affairs. Follow her on My Travel Affairs.

From the pulsating beats of electronic music to the soulful melodies of jazz and everything in between, Europe offers a rich tapestry of musical experiences. And whether you’re seeking iconic headliners, hidden gems in captivating locations, or a fusion of genres that will ignite your passion for music, there is something for everyone.

So pack your bags, grab your festival essentials, and get ready to dance the night away at these incredible music festivals across Europe. Keep exploring, keep grooving, and let the rhythm of Europe captivate your soul.

More interesting reads:

There are 20 comments

Add yours
  1. Vicky and Buddy

    Yikes! I hadn’t heard of any of these. Thanks for putting together such a great list!

  2. Dave Briggs from Daves Travel Pages

    I was just about to comment about Glastonbury not being on the list! I have to say, that in the UK we are so lucky to have the festivals you listed here, and dozens more great ones that didn’t get a mention!

    • Inma

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

  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!

  4. 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 😀

  5. 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!

  6. EvaSturm

    Thank you for sharing this extensive list of event. Makes you want to pack your bags and go rockin on some festival right away!

    • Inma

      All those pretty pics have been mainly taken by the bloggers recommending the festivals! Aren’t they just great?

  7. savoredjourneys

    Wow. It’s really cool to see all of these great events listed in one place. There are so many. You could travel the world just for music festivals and never run out.

Comments are closed.