Music Festivals In Europe: The Best Of List

In this post I want to round up some of the best and greatest music festivals in Europe that are scattered all across the continent. Compiling this sort of stuff is an awesome way for me to do a bit of research on travel related festivities that I’m interested in.

I would love nothing more than to spend a year going to every big music festival all around the world, and Europe certainly plays host to some of the biggest and coolest music festivals that exist out there. Bearing in mind I tend to lean towards indie and alternative music so a lot of the choices for this list reflect that.

If you’re not concerned about the music in a festival, check out my other post that rounds up the best party festivals from all around Europe.

Some of these you will of course have heard of already, but hopefully I can unearth a few music festival gems that inhabit this culturally diverse continent of Europe.

Lowlands Festival in Biddinghuizen, The Netherlands

Photo of the crowds at Lowlands Festival in The Netherlands in Europe

The full title of this festival is actually ‘A Camping Flight to Lowlands Paradise’, but that’s a bit of a mouthful and in reality, everyone just calls it ‘Lowlands’.

Set in a place called Biddinghuizen, Flevoland in The Netherlands (which is a place people only know BECAUSE of the festival), Lowlands is Holland’s premiere indie & alternative live music festival. If you’re a big deal and you’re on tour in Europe, it’s likely you’ll be playing at Lowlands.

With a turnout generally over 50,000 people, Lowlands tickets sell out in hours of going up for sale. It’s a camping festival that plays host to hundreds of performances, heaps of bars and global cafes and restaurants, a market, hippie enclaves – it even has its own daily newspaper, radio station and currency!

Where & When: Around mid August annually – check out the website for more details. Tickets tend to sell out within hours, so you’ll need to book ahead to be involved in this one.
Website: http://lowlands.nl/en/

Looking for a similar yet cheaper alternative? We recently went to Mundial Festival in Tilburg and that was a blast, and whilst a little smaller with not as ‘famous’ acts – it was also a lot easier on the budget!

Sonar Festival in Barcelona, Spain

People dancing on the street at the Sonar Festival in Barcelona

What better place to party and rock out to some live music than the vibrant city of Barcelona?

This is a city festival, so you won’t be camping and jumping around in the mud here – which is sometimes quite a pleasant change! Sonar takes place in two different locations depending on day or night, Sonar by Day takes place around the city centre, and Sonar by Night is slightly out of town.

Barcelona fills up during the festival, so booking accommodation is vital – but this also means the bars and clubs are absolutely heaving, which for Barcelona is really saying something.

This is one of Spain’s ‘go-to’ live music festivals, and always features a selection of hot indie and rock bands that will please any young music lover.

When: 14th – 16th of June every year.
Website: http://sonar.es/en/

Glastonbury Festival in Somerset, England

Crowds walking around at Glastonbury Festival in UK

Officially known as the ‘Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts’, Glastonbury (or just Glasto) is England’s musical answer to Burning Man. Set on massive, rolling green grounds, Glastonbury has a rich live music culture and is without a doubt the biggest music festival in the United Kingdom.

The festival has come a long way since its farm origins in the 1970’s – now Glastonbury consistently headlines some of the world’s best acts such as Radiohead and U2. If The Beatles were still playing, this is where they would be.

It’s not just the world famous bands that show up, there are hundreds of alternative and indie bands so Glastonbury definitely has something for everyone – spread out into the different areas such as the main stage known as The Pyramid or the alternative Green Fields or perhaps the Acoustic Village or techno Shangri-La. There are literally too many sections to name and list them all; those of the hippie persuasion will be in heaven but there is dance, salsa, beat, techno – you name it and Glastonbury’s got it.

When: Normally towards the end of June, check out the official site for more info.
Website: http://www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk/

Electric Picnic in Stradbally, Ireland

Performer on the stage at the Eletric Picnic Festival in Ireland

“One of the best festivals we have ever been to.” Rolling Stone

This Irish festival is generally considered to be the best event that Ireland has to offer when it comes to a live music festival, and it caters heavily to indie and rock fans. It’s a weekend camping festival nestled in the rolling lawns of Stradbally Hall, Co Laois which is a sprawling 600 hectare estate about 50 minutes from Dublin.

Just looking at the lineup for 2012 made me drool, with loads of my favourite bands playing like The Killers, The xx, Metronomy and Bat for Lashes just to name a few.

With a green and eco friendly feel and loads of independent acts, Electric Picnic also features a rip-roaring comedy tent, a silent disco and

If there is one festival to go to in Ireland – this is it.

When: Normally runs for a weekend at the end of August and into the start of September. It’s an annual festival.
Website: http://electricpicnic.ie/

The Festival Internacional de Benicàssim, Spain

A girl sitting on shoulders in crowd with arms raised at Benicassim Music Festival in Spain

Also known simply as ‘FIB’, this is one of Spain’s popular music festivals for young party go-ers. It’s located in the town of Benicassim in Costa del Azahar, Valencia (which is located on the coast). So those who plan on camping for the festival are literally only hundreds of metres away from the sand and sea!

FIB (not FBI), first took place in 1995 – and has been gaining momentum and popularity ever since. It has a real focus on indie pop and rock as well as electronic bands and tunes, it is much loved by the younger crowd as the festival tends to start around 5pm thus giving everyone time to sleep and relax on the beach before partying all night.

Its played host to bands like Radiohead, Oasis, Placebo, The Killers, Franz Ferdinand and The Strokes – you get the picture, it’s awesome.

If you’re deciding between Sonar festival in Barcelona or this one (why not do both?), then the key difference is this is more of a camping and beach festival and Sonar is set in the backdrop of Barcelona city. But as I said, just do both!

When: A 4 day festival in mid July – check out the website for exact dates.
Website: http://fiberfib.com/

Rock am Ring and Rock im Park, Germany

Crowd watching the stage at the Rock Am Ring Music Festival in Germany

If rock and rock only is your cup of tea, then the two simultaneous festivals in Germany known as Rock am Ring (Rock at the Ring) and Rock im Park (Rock in the Park) will be just what you’re after.

This is the premiere rock music festival in Europe drawing around 150,000 people and having featured bands like The Prodigy, Marilyn Manson, Kings of Leon you’re sure to get your rocks off.

Both festivals normally have identical line-ups, with each band playing one day in Nürburgring for the Rock am Ring and then another day at Nuremberg for the Rock im Park. People don’t normally go to both, but choose one or the other.

When: Usually runs the first weekend of June.
Website: http://www.rock-am-ring.com/ | http://www.rock-im-park.com/

Flow Festival in Helsinki, Finland

A photo of the surrounding area at Flow Music Festival in Finland

We all know the Finnish a little weird (in a good way, just embrace it, guys) – and the funky capital of Helsinki plays host to the eclectic Flow Festival. Their website is cool and the line-ups are better, you can almost taste the atmosphere and what they’re trying to create before you even buy the tickets.

It’s music and arts all rolled into one indie ball of goodness which takes place at a former power plant area near the capital called Suvilahti.

Never been to Finland? Now you have the perfect excuse!

When: Normally in August each year – see website for exact dates for upcoming festivals.
Website: http://www.flowfestival.com/en/

INMusic Festival in Zagreb, Croatia

Crowd walking across grass at night towards a stage at INMusic Festival in Croatia.

This is open air festival is Croatia’s biggest offering when it comes to the music festival scene, and is held in a place called ‘Youth Island’ which is smack bang in the middle of Lake Jarun, nearby Zagreb (the capital).

Generally spanning over three days, there is camping on Youth Island specifically for the festival and there are numerous activities to get up to like swimming and sports as well as offering hot water and wireless internet.

It only started in 2006, but this festival is quickly becoming known on the European music circuit as a fun hot spot.

When: INMusic runs annually sometime in June for 3 days.
Website: http://www.inmusicfestival.com/en

Sziget Festival in Budapest, Hungary

Photo of the stage with huge signs that read 'Sziget' at this festival.

This incredible music festival on Óbudai Island (on the Danube river) in Northern Budapest is sort of a big deal. Just like UK’s Glastonbury, many tout this as the ‘European Burning Man’ and having won the best European major festival award Sziget definitely knows how to put on a show.

If you’re thinking of travelling from Western Europe, there is a dedicated ‘party train’ that even has resident DJ’s just to get you warmed up for the festival.

Sziget runs for a week and camping tickets are available. You can even purchase a Festivalcard which you can register and top up electronically with funds, saving you from having to carry cash around all the time.

As you can imagine, all the well-known and big acts are attracted to this festival, but it’s known for having a wide range of musical genres on offer from rock to electronic to indie.

When: Runs every year for a week during the month of August.
Website: http://www.sziget.hu/festival_english

Been to an awesome music festival in Europe that you feel is worth mentioning? Let us all know!

Flickr Photo Credit: Punchyy | nudevinyl | al_green | 1541 | fiberfib | byteschieber | ruba8 | pieter.morlion | Balazs H

7 Responses to “Music Festivals In Europe: The Best Of List”

  1. Chantal says:

    Good stuff! Definitely more low-key than these is Metropolis this Sunday in Rotterdam. Wanna go?

  2. Chantal says:

    A few other CS’ers are going as well. Looks like it’ll be dry but not that warm.

  3. We love Glastonbury! Great other suggestions, too!

  4. Ron says:

    I am so glad I came across this blog! When planning our annual backpacking trips to Europe we are always looking for music festivals in places where we have not visited. We have been to the Salzburg Festival twice and loved it, but we have not been to any of these listed. Especially intriguing is the Sziget Festival in Budapest. We have been to Budapest several times, but have never been to this festival. Great place to end a backpacking trip! Thanks for the information!

    • Tom says:

      Hey Ron! Thanks for the kind feedback.

      There are SO MANY good music festivals in Europe that this list only does them partial justice.

      Sziget, as you say, does look especially interesting – it’s on an island on the Danube and everything! I would also love to get to Flow Festival as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© Copyright 2013 - ActiveBackpacker.com