Eastern Europe is seriously coming in to it's own when it comes to festivals, and one of the main reasons is the price by comparison. Even after paying for your transport and accommodation – especially if you're camping – you can still save money by seeing your favourite band overseas instead of at home. Festivals in western Europe may not save you anything financially but they do equal a few days in the sun and an overseas trip, which sounds a lot more exciting than spending a long weekend in a field at home.
The same festival-going rules apply: Which means don't show up without a ticket and your accommodation or campsite booked, and check out the festival etiquette on their website so as not to offend or be offended. Best to check out all THE RULES while you're at it. Bring a group of mates if you can, or go with an organised group if you're not a planner and fancy making some new friends – which, let's face it, is one of the other reasons to go to a music festival in the first place. There are plenty of companies that offer festival tours, from booking the basic ticket and transport, to guides and drivers and hotels oh my!
Now all you have to do is go though the list below and work out which European music festival you fancy.
Europe's four biggest festivals are Rock Werchter, Roskilde, Glastonbury and the Sziget Festival. The number of fellow festival goers and line ups: of big names and crowd please-ers dotted with a few local up-and-comers, are pretty similar, the differences are mostly in the details – and the locations. Sziget is held on an island in the middle of the Danube, and people commute from comfy flats and hotels daily, despite the organiser's promise that the facilities are some of the best, Roskilde is in a wood – and they have kayak polo and an annual, non-compulsory naked race, but it's Belgium's Rock Werchter that keeps winning the awards for the Best Festival in the World at the annual International Live Music Conference, so they must be going to extra mile somewhere...
The INmusic Festival, held on Zagreb's Lake Jarun, is a rock festival to watch, as is France's largest festival, Eurockéennes, also held on the edge of a lake, though this time a remote one, so the party starts and finishes late – about 3AM. There's no lower age limit either.
The Frequency Festival is Vienna's Glastonbury: a same-ish blend of guitar pop laced with electronica, hip hop and rock – this time held on a race course just out of Vienna, and the Melt Festival is even cooler, held in a converted coal mine. Kudos for location alone, this festival is like an extension of Berlin's trendy club scene: around 80 live indie, electro, dance and disco acts, over six floors, under disco balls hung off old mining equipment.
Serbia's Exit Festival is fast becoming a favourite. Firstly it's got being held in a cool fortress going for it, which thumps with a pumping bass line and lights up like a birthday cake in the evenings. Exit days are spent in the sunny campsite, luxurious by festival standards, or in the town, drinking cheap beer and chowing down on good local grub before hitting the pool in the 40 degree heat. Then it's up to the castle for an exceptionally lined up evening and a loved up sunrise over medieval walls and idyllic surrounds. They say it's never rained...
The Electric Elephant, on the sand-tastic Dalmatian Coast, is a summer holiday and summer festival in one: run by the people from Manchester's Electric Chair, this is a mega beach party, boat party, dance party, music festival combined. Germany's Haldern Pop Festival, in the Rhineland, may look like a local festival with its single stage and chill vibe, but that scenic appeal also attracts the biggest bands, and there aren't many other festivals where you're as intimately involved with what's going on on stage. Bulgaria's Spirit of Burgas and Amsterdam's Lowlands are other fine examples of small festivals getting THE bands.
Calvi on the Rocks, happening out of the Octopussy Beach Club on Corsica, is a favourite of a few big name DJs who come to party by the azure sea as well as play, and get their friends down to do the same.
Summertime... When the living is easy... And the weather is ripe for enjoying jazz in the great outdoors – though Jazz festivals seem to benefit from funky city digs rather than open fields and campsites. Paris sizzling in the summer is such a cliché, but one that fits talk of the Paris Jazz Festival which is an outdoor, largely free event held in the Parc Floral.
Rotterdam's North Sea Jazz Festival chooses three midsummer days for its event showcasing swing, gospel, funk, blues, latin, electro and big band jazz, and runs alongside a children's jazz event - that's right, hook the next generation. Copenhagen's jazz community also takes jazz to the masses in July for the Copenhagen Jazz Festival. Big names perform at some of Copenhagen's most famous landmarks, including The Royal Theatre, the Tivoli Gardens and the Frederiksborg Castle Gardens. The rest of the city is overrun with intimate and unique jazz performances in shopping malls, cafes, parks and even on boats.
Even the Swiss Riviera jazzes up over summer for the Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland's largest jazz festival. Yes, the Swiss do swing. The French Riviera won't be left out of that one either, it basks in the late July glow of the Nice Jazz Festival, held amongst olive groves and ruined Roman amphitheatres. The Umbria Jazz Festival has a similar setting of medieval walls and Roman ruins, with stages built on the streets and in fields to take advantage of the beautiful, but incongruous setting.
When it comes to music sometimes an oldie is a goodie, and these festivals are just as seriously attended, if not with quite the same openly raucous abandon. When it comes to opera in an idyllic setting you can't really top the Torre del Lago Puccini Festival – beautiful Italian lakeside setting for sweeeeping, passionate music, the Verona Opera Festival, held in an ancient and less battered version of Rome's Colosseum, Verdi in Parma or the Savonlinna Opera Festival in Olavinlinna Castle.
For the indecisive, or for festival loving families with varied tastes, festivals presenting a blend of musical genres, like the White Nights Festival, the Budapest Spring Music Festival, the Bath International Music Festival or the Paris Fete de la Musique might be a bit easier to get involved with.
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