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Top 10 European Music Festivals


If you’ve got the music in you, there can be few better ways to throw yourself in to a culture than partying with the locals down the front of a top music festival. Come summer, Europe is awash with big time bands playing to 6 figure audiences, but some festivals truly stand out above the crowd. Here are ten of the best:

1. Glastonbury (England)
Michael Eavis’ yearly happy hippie fest is probably the most renowned music festival in Europe. Epic stages and monstrous tents feature an eclectic variety of tunes; legends leap out from every dusty corner of the bill. Its own mysterious stone circle, an environmental field, a non-profit ethos, a circus of the weird and wacky and all night special guest appearances put Glastonbury head and shoulders above the festival crowd. You could even spend all weekend shopping and eating international cuisine, providing it isn’t a muddy one that is!

2. Benicassim (Spain)
Big name bands not enough for you? How about main-stage sets that go on until the sun comes up, a festival arena set on a beach and campsites with swimming pools for the punters? A rich mix of rock and dance music blended perfectly with a summer beach party, art, theatre and short films, Benicassim pulls in the superstars, and leaves the beach to the revelers for a week after the music’s stopped. Dance the nights away and spend the days lounging in the hot Spanish summer sun. What more could you ask for?

3. Roskilde (Denmark)
Best known internationally for its stage-front deaths a few years ago, Roskilde has sorted its safety and become the heart of the Danish music scene. Playing under the iconic orange horns, the 75,000 revelers have been treated to the likes of Radiohead, Oasis, Coldplay and Guns and Roses in recent years. Often referred to as “Denmark’s Glastonbury”, Roskilde is a great green-themed, eco-friendly festival in its own right, and also features climbing walls, poetry and book readings.

4. Rock Im Park (Germany)
An old school rock festival in the best “devil horns and grunge” traditions, Rock Im Park and sister festival Rock Am Ring attract the world’s top rock, indie and metal acts. A dirty, heavy-drinking, metal-infused beast of a three-dayer, Rock Im Park’s punters don’t know the meaning of chill out. Huge pyrotechnic displays, staggered big-name headline acts on multiple stages and an impressive strength in depth to the line-ups make these German festivals a manic and heady experience.

5. EXIT Festival (Serbia)
Spawning from a protest against former Yugoslavian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, this 22-stage festival has grown with the newly independent Serbia. The stages are spread throughout the courtyards and underground tunnels of an ancient fortress overlooking the river Danube, and welcome 55,000 visitors for four days of alternative rock and infectious beat-heavy dance. Seen by many as a key part of the cultural development of Serbia, EXIT has a sense of national pride and pedigree that few can match.

6. Italia Wave Love Festival (Italy)
Italia Wave is a bargain basement festival with a growing reputation, offering a personal touch the big boys can’t. A series of concerts are all either free or incredibly cheap, and recently featured big names such as Chemical Brothers and Gnarls Barclay alongside local Italian talent. Other performing art experiences such as theatre and live comedy also feature heavily, as well as big-wave surf beaches and a seaside sports area. A relaxed, off-the-beaten-track gem well worth tracking down.

7. Electric Picnic (Ireland)
The chilled out vibe at Electric picnic sits well with the eclectic selection of tunes on offer. Whilst headliners sometimes fall short of the truly stellar, an in-it-together vibe and selection of alternative activities more than make up for it. For the girls there’s a huge selection of on-site make-up artists. For the guys, paintball, silent discos and modern day freak shows fill the picnic’s days with colour.

8. Snowside (Austria)
This tiny elite mountainside festival in Austria fuses music and snow sports in a perfect harmony, offering a winter alternative to those who just can’t wait. Ski all day, hopping off the half pipes and carving up the slopes before partying all night in the jazzy “cube” venue. Midnight border crossings and lakeside jaunts all add to the fun. The pistes here are world class, so much so that they have their own world cup grading. The Snowside’s atmosphere, meanwhile, puts your average après ski session to shame in a big, big way.

9. B’Estfest (Romania)
B’Estfest offers a taste of Romanian culture mixed in with some top class bands. The popular “sleepover” option means you can stay with the locals and have an authentic bohemian Bucharest experience. Novelty festival features include a kiss therapist (who promises no side effects!), a screaming van and a digital fun fare where you can learn to DJ. Last time out Cypress Hill, Alanis Morissette, Kaiser Chiefs, Judas Priest and Manu Chao provided the musical backdrop.

10. Iceland Airwaves (Iceland)
This festival is all about location. Hosted in amongst the geysers and volcanoes of Iceland’s capital Reykjavik, the fifteen venues around town are as notable for their blue-tinged backdrops as for the musicians who storm the stages. Occasional big name bands keep the vibe exciting, but the temptation to glance around you never really fades. Throw in the naturally heated blue lagoon bath that traditionally concludes the festival, and you’ve got a truly unforgettable experience.