This is going to be a roundup of the best festivals in Europe if you’re looking to party and witness some of the awesome festivities that can be had by all. A who’s who of the top festivals from Scotland to Spain and everywhere in between.
This post won’t cover off the hordes of incredible music festivals in Europe, there are so many good ones that I’ve made a separate post just for them.
This is all about the party, the arts (and the beer!).
Tents filled with kegs of fresh German beer overflowing into massive litre glasses (called a mass), raucous locals and tourists alike drinking on long wooden tables nestled inside incredible towering tents. Live traditional and rock music and delectable Bavarian fare of potato dumplings and pork knuckles to help sate your appetite…It’s difficult to go wrong with Oktoberfest!
This is definitely one of the biggest parties in the world when it comes to beer and the general appreciation of said drink. With Bavarian purity law passing beers on tap such as Augustiner, Paulaner and Spaten – beer lovers will have the time of their lives.
When: Oktoberfest generally runs from mid September through to the first week of October.
How To Do It Cheap: As you can imagine accommodation in the city is far from cheap. During the festival prices for a bed increase dramatically. To keep the budget intact, you can go camping outside of the city.
I hear good things about The Tent and the München Thalkirchen (infamous as an ‘Aussie’ campsite).
Want to know more? Check out my epic guide to Oktoberfest!
A truck comes in, dropping thousands of bright red and juicy tomatoes onto the street. Everyone rushes in to grab some and a red food fight of epic proportions does ensue. Welcome to La Tomatina in a little town of Valencia called Buñol in Spain.
Although in a way, La Tomatina is a victim of its own success, it’s still certainly a fun festival as the partying tends to start a week before the actual throwing of the tomatoes (which only occurs for about an hour).
The festival will start with the climbing of the ‘palo jabón”, also known as the greasy ham pole. The aim is to climb a greased pole with a ham on top and knock it off, when the ham is toppled from its perch this indicates the start of the tomato throwing frenzy. Safety rules include the fact that tomatoes must be crushed first before thrown, and no other projectiles of any other kind are allowed to be used.
Colour the streets and the people in a river of red, crushed tomatoes will soar all around you (and inevitably hit you too!) – making this one strange yet oddly endearing festival. It’s a popular stop for young backpackers on European trips.
When: La Tomatina occurs every last Wednesday of August.
Everyone has heard of this crazy and slightly ludicrous festival in Pamplona. Much of its popularity outside of Spain can be attributed to the great Ernest Hemingway, who published the novel “The Sun Also Rises” which introduced the rest of the world to the bull run festival.
Every morning at 8am from the 7th to the 14th of July, a rocket is fired and the wild and horned bulls are loosed on a set route through the city. Runners wear white with a red handkerchief around their necks and ‘run with the bulls’ (more like trying to avoid them and not getting hit).
The festival has its roots in religion, but these days it is more of a commercial affair. I’m not a vegetarian but I don’t particularly agree with making bulls run down a street with humans as part of a festival – I can’t imagine they’re having too much fun. The festival is not without its risks either, as it gains notoriety more people opt to drink and party before the run as well as plain old accidents. Security guards and first aid are certainly on hand, since 1924 however 15 people have died and 200 hundred have been seriously injured whilst partaking in the run.
However you want to look at it, Running of the Bulls is certainly a big notch on anyone’s festival calendar and I’m sure is a once in a lifetime experience if you happen to be in Spain!
When: Annually on the 7th – 14th of July.
The ‘Fringe’ is an eclectic mix of comedy, theatre, music and performing arts. Its got an incredibly rich history and culture behind it, and is definitely one of the premiere annual festivals to check out in Scotland.
Prepare yourself for streets bursting with vibrant colours and performers, theatre shows both contemporary and traditional as well as side splittingly hilarious comedy acts. The Fringe really does have something for everyone.
The history of the Fringe is interesting, as it originally began as a platform for less established artists to make a name for themselves and showcase their performances. Nowadays it’s a bit of a big deal – but it still caters true to its origins with thousands of acts from student theatre groups and street performers to the more well known shows from comedians and the like.
Edinburgh is also a wonderful city to visit, festival or otherwise!
When: Annually throughout the month of August.
The Liffey River in Dublin flows green on this incredible day when the locals come out to party and celebrate their roots and all things Irish. Street parades buzz through the city and the streets come alive with green revelers.
Shamrocks are adorned and Guinness is had, and of course good craic is experienced by all (I find it’s always best to keep to the stereotypes for these sorts of things…leprechauns?).
The festival normally draws around 750,000 people or so, and Dublin is not exactly huge so the place is heaving with happy festival-goers.
When: 17th of March
You probably already know the Dutch like to wear Orange at sports events, but the other time when Orange comes out in full bloom is on Queen’s Day. This annual event is essentially a celebration of the Royal Family and is also a good excuse for Dutch to have a big party.
Although the day is huge all around The Netherlands, nowhere is busier than Amsterdam (which can be good or bad depending on how you look at it. Transport wise it’s a bit of a pain!).
However, if you want the biggest party and the most orange you’ll ever see in your life – then Amsterdam on Queen’s Day is the place to be.
In Dutch it’s called “Koninginnedag” but that’s a bit of a mouthful for most non-Dutchies, if you plan on staying in Amsterdam on this day then you’ll certainly want to book ahead or you’ll be sleeping in the canal.
The day is also traditionally a time where everyone is allowed to setup their own market stall on the streets, so many people will sell their old or unwanted items and the quaint canal streets can turn into an orange beer drinking flea market. Fun, right?
You can read about my experience of Queen’s Day in The Netherlands – I was in Rotterdam (the city I’m currently living in), but it was a lot of fun! It’s worth swinging by one of the larger Dutch cities if you’re in Europe to celebrate this happy day.
When: On the 30th April every year!
Almost every country in the world has their own awesome festivals, but these are some of the best and biggest from around Europe – there are many more, but no-one wants to read a 15,000 word article
Know of a great party festival that you experienced on your travels? Share it here!