10 European Music Festivals You Really Ought to Visit

May 19, 2012 6:36 pm

Over the past few years, there has been a move by some Brits to try out some of the foreign festivals on offer, and why not? Rather than traipse through muddy quagmires just to get to your mates’ tent, destroying various items of clothing (not to mention dignity) in the process, people all over the country are trading their wellies for an extra pair of shorts and sun cream across Europe.

It’s not just the typically sublime conditions that are the main pulling factor for us Brits, but no longer will you have to fork out over £200 for your ticket, European festivals are notoriously cheaper than their British counterparts, usually for longer too, no more £5 warm beers you queue up for half an hour for.

Given the price of British rail travel nowadays, it doesn’t necessarily have to cost you any more to get there either, the vast majority of these festivals lie on or near some kind of Easyjet or Ryanair route, meaning there’s literally nothing stopping you giving any of them a try.


10. Balaton Sound (12th-15th July)

Set on Lake Balaton in the middle of Hungary, this up and coming festival will do its best to keep you entertained with a host of electronic acts from all over the world. Formed in 2007, this festival is snowballing in popularity and each year the acts announced get bigger and bigger. This festival is ideal if you’re wanting a festival with decent names on a beach, but don’t necessarily want the boisterous nature of the British crowd stereotypically associated with Benicassim.

Who’s playing: Avicii, Caribou, Armin van Buuren

Where: Zamárdi, Lake Balaton, Hungary

Price: €125 (if booked before June 30th) + 7€ camping fee


9. Hurricane Festival (22nd-24th July)

One of the most popular festivals in Germany, this festival has been going on almost as long as Glastonbury itself. This is the festival to go to in Germany for all varieties of alternative acts. Each year some of the biggest artists in the world flock here from all over the world to perform to the 75,000 crowd. It could also be said that this is one of the greener festivals in Europe too, a €10 deposit is charged with the ticket price, which is refunded once you return your rubbish at the end of the festival. The proximity to both Bremen and Hamburg also provide ample opportunity for a great holiday.

Who’s playing: New Order, Justice, Blink-182

Where: Scheeßel, Germany

Price: €131 + €10 waste deposit


8. Optimus Alive! (13th-15th July)

Another new festival, founded in 2007, Optimus Alive! is staged in Lisbon in the height of Summer, so there’s every chance that you’ll need to pack that sun cream as you prepare for a Portuguese beach break like no other with a great lineup at a bargain price. The festival itself is actually set on the banks of the Tagus River, and the entire area turns into a brilliant place for the festival dweller to potter around during the day with cafes and restaurants galore. Acts don’t tend to start until 6PM and go on right the way through until 3AM, which means you can enjoy the sun/nurse the hangover right the way through the day and then do it all again the next day.

Who’s playing: Radiohead, Florence + Machine, Stone Roses

Where: Lisbon, Portugal

Price: €105 + €16 camping fee


7. Tomorrowland (27th-29th July)

If you’re a fan of dance music, then this is probably the most intense dance festival in Europe. Saturated with household names such as Fatboy Slim and Swedish House Mafia, everyone who is anyone is here. The festival site is littered with decorations to enhance the visual experience, and each year it follows a different theme, last year’s being Alice in Wonderland. Belgium is without doubt one of the homes of European electronic music, so it’s no surprise that one of the best electronic festivals is staged here. What else would you expect from a town called Boom?

Who’s playing: David Guetta, Skrillex, Calvin Harris

Where: Boom, Belgium

Price: €172.50


6. Bilbao BBK Live (12th-14th July)

Possibly the most underrated festival in the whole of Europe, the award winning Bilbao BBK Live also has to go down as one of the bargains of the century. At just £88 for a weekend ticket to see some of the best artists around, it doesn’t get much cheaper. This is another festival where the acts don’t kick off until sundown, so there’s plenty of time to check out the city of Bilbao during the daytime to satiate your cultural desires, which is highly recommended. With so much to see for so little money, you can be supping your £1.50 mojitos in the Spanish sun before long.

Who’s playing: Radiohead, Bloc Party, The Cure

Where: Bilbao, Spain

Price: £88 inc. camping


5. Exit (12th-15th July)

How about a festival in Serbia? To be more precise, Exit is a festival situated right next to the Danube, in an 18th century fortress. There’s an enormous level of variety in the acts playing here. From drum and bass to metal to electronica to punk, there’s literally something for any musical taste. Now into its 13th edition, the festival has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and has also remained cheap through the years too, less than half the price of Reading/Leeds festival. It was created by three university students in 2000 to rebel against Slobodan Milosevic, and as such, remains one of the lesser commercial festivals around.

Who’s playing: Duran Duran, Plan B, Guns N Roses

Where: Novi Sad, Serbia

Price: £95 + £25 camping fee


4. Heineken Open’er (4th-7th July)

Open’er is a Polish festival which is growing at a rapid pace. Down the road from Gdansk and situated on a disused Polish airfield, this festival won the award for Best Major Festival in both 2010 and 2011 at the European Festival Awards. Yet another festival that boasts an incredibly low entry price, Open’er has been attracting bigger and bigger names onto its lineup year on year, also showcasing numerous Polish acts throughout the weekend.

Who’s playing: Bon Iver, M83, New Order

Where: Gdynia, Poland

Price: £76 inc. camping


3. Pukkelpop (16th-18th August)

After the tragic conclusion of the festival last Summer, this festival’s Belgian organisers are determined to bounce back bigger than ever. The second biggest festival in the country only after Rock Werchter, this festival sees 160,000 people through its gates over the 3 days. Previous acts here include Nirvana, Neil Young and The Ramones, and this year it’s shaping up very nicely too, with acts such as Foo Fighters and Bjork performing.

Who’s playing: The Black Keys, Stone Roses, Bloc Party

Where: Hasselt, Belgium

Price: €155 inc. camping


2. Rock Werchter (28th June-1st July)

This is the big one for lineups. Every year this festival draws huge names from all around the world. Situated in the village of Werchter, not far from the pleasant student city of Leuven, included in the ticket price is all transport to and from any point in Belgium, making it a cinch to get to from anywhere. With a very chilled atmosphere, this is for the music lovers definitely, beer tents line the road on the way down to the main arena selling an exquisite range of Belgian beers and festival food at around half the price of the British equivalent. This year sees the introduction of a third stage, making even more choice, and an even wider variety of world class acts.

Who’s playing: Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Deadmau5

Where: Werchter, Belgium

Price: €195 + €18 camping fee


1. Sziget Festival (6th-13th August)

Sziget festival is one like no other. Perched on an island in the middle of the Danube, just to the north of Budapest city centre, this festival accommodates 380,000 music fans and more than 1,000 performances. This festival is the one that draws closest comparisons to Glastonbury, indeed it is endorsed by none other than Michael Eavis himself, who stated that in the absence of Glastonbury, this is the one to go for. With cheap beer, cheap multinational food, an audience hailing from all over the world and acts spread across a huge number of stages (including the Roma Gypsy Tent), this festival is perfect for a supreme cultural experience, and with Budapest just down the river, what else do you need from a holiday?

Who’s playing: Stone Roses, Placebo, The Killers

Where: Budapest, Hungary

Price: €225 inc. camping

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