When it comes to music festivals, Europe really is king with the widest array of choices, particularly through the summer months when every weekend usually has at least one great option. From rock to pop, everyone should be able to find a festival that truly gets their pulses racing. On this page, we look at ten of the best music festivals in Europe.
10 of the Best Music Festivals in Europe
Venue: The English Countryside. (Pilton in Somerset to be precise)
When: Late June
Glasto is legendary and a ‘must-do’ for any music festival lover. Famous for mud, hippies and various themed segments, you’ll never be short of bands to see or things to do as you’ll sprawl around this vast site. It’s probably the biggest music festival on the planet and attracts thousands of artists from various genres. Recent headliners include Jay-Z and Beyonce but it is still predominately a Rock festival.
Glastonbury is located in Somerset and is not far from Bristol and Bath which are both on our UK backpacking itinerary. However be warned that you need to apply for tickets well in advance and they usually sell out very quickly. The festival takes place most years but has only been staged once since 2017 for a variety of reasons, meaning the 2022 affair is sure to be a special one.
Leeds/Reading Festivals, UK
Venue: Parks in Leeds and Reading
When: Late August
For those of you, not in the know about English geography, Leeds is a city in Northern England and Reading is in the Southeast, not far from London. The festivals run on the same weekend each year and have a pretty much identical line-up with bands playing Leeds one day and Reading the next (or vice-versa).
It’s nowhere near as varied or as bizarre as Glastonbury but if you dig Indie music, then you’ll struggle to find a better line-up and it certainly ranks as one of Britain’s best festivals and a cracking end to the English summer.
Spain Music Festivals
Music: Mostly Electronic, but always a few acts to mix things up a bit
Venue: Exhibition Centre in Barcelona
One of Europe’s finest cities has achieved what most of the others have failed to achieve and organise a damn good music festival. Attend Sonar by Day for up and coming acts or Sonar by Night for an array of top DJ’s and bands mostly from the world of electronica.
If you’re hardcore you can do both and rave pretty much party non-stop from Thursday through to 8:00 am on Sunday morning. There’s also a load of ‘off-sonar’ parties and events (often free) if your budget doesn’t stretch for the full €185 abono ticket.
Music: Pop, Rock, Dance
Venue: Seaside town not far from Valencia.
When: Mid July
A big hit with regulars on the UK festival scene. This is thanks to a line-up that can compete with any of the main British festivals with the added benefit of beaches and nice weather. It is Spain’s biggest music festival but don’t expect that much local representation in the line-up.
Headliners for the 2022 edition include Kasabian, Justice and Two Door Cinema Club. Early bird tickets start at just €60 making it also one of the best value options on the European festival calendar.
Festivals in Central & Eastern Europe
Exit Festival, Serbia
Music: Electro/Rock mix with a bit of metal and hip-hop
Venue: An old fortress in Novi Sad, Northern Serbia
The setting is perhaps the best of any of the European summer festivals and the music isn’t bad either. It has grown from humble beginnings to become one of the largest and best loved festivals in Europe with a varied schedule on the numerous different stages and it also represents great value for money.
The festival could easily be fitted into a summer backpacking the Balkans, a very underrated region. Novi Sad lies on the Danube and you can very quickly hop over into nearby Croatia which is also home to a number of cool summer festivals.
Sziget Festival, Hungary
Music: Extremely varied
Venue: Obudai Island, Budapest
This six-day event is pretty damn enormous with 60 different stages set in woodlands by the River Danube. With so many stages, there is music to suit all tastes with everything from pop and punk to psychedelic rock and reggae on the bill. There are also loads of extra events from boat parties to art programs, performances and talks.
The event takes places on a wonderful island in the middle of the river, but it’s easy to hop over a bridge into the heart of the Hungarian capital and explore what is one of Europe’s most interesting cities.
Music: Mostly rock or electronic but with some more experimental acts too.
Venue: Baltic coastal city of Gdynia
When: Late June/Early July
This 4 day event takes place in an important port city in Northern Poland and has a very different vibe to some of the others, as you might be able to tell from the moody looking images on its website! There is something of an industrial feel to the whole thing but it is frequently the setting for some powerful performances from some of the most talented artists and bands on the planet.
Tickets are excellent value and much cheaper than comparable events with similar lineups in Western Europe. It promotes itself as an eco-friendly event too and also boasts fashion and art stages to go with the tunes.
The Best Winter Festival
Music: New and upcoming artists plus lots of Icelandic bands
Venue: Various venues around the small and uber-cool capital Reykjavik
When: Late October/Early November
Airwaves was first held on an airplane hanger back in 1999 and has since grown into a really special event lasting four days. The festival takes place during the onset of the dark Icelandic winter which adds a special vibe to the event and makes it quite unique from other festivals as it takes place at a time when the Europe festival calendar has long since winded down from the summer buzz.
You might not get as many household names at Iceland Airwaves but it’s still a fascinating and beautiful country to visit and for a small city, Reykjavik has plenty of brilliant bars and live music venues making it the perfect setting to check out some of the hottest new bands. It is worth noting though the the cost of travel in Iceland is very much on the high side so it’s not a good choice for anyone looking for a budget festival experience.
The Best of the Rest
Music: Varied including rock, reggae, hip-hop, metal, electronic and much more.
Venue: Lakeside town of Roskilde near Copenhagen.
When: Late June/Early July
Pretty much anyone who’s anyone in the world of music has played this Danish festival over the years with the likes of Bob Marley, Nirvana, R.E.M and Radiohead all former headliners. The festival officially lasts eight days and consists of activism, camps and art as well as the music.
There are plenty of fun and quirky things to do from taking a dip in the swimming lake, to visiting the on-site cinema or for the exhibitionists amongst you taking part in the naked run!
Venue: Green recreational area in the wonderfully named town of Boom.
When: Late July
This festival was one of the success stories of the 2010’s and has turned into something of a mecca for fans of dance and electronic music. It attracted 400,000 people in 2019 and promises to be one of Europe’s biggest festivals in 2022 when, all being well, thousands will flock to Belgium once more.
This is another festival that can sell out very quickly and it attracts hundreds of top DJ’s from around the world to Flanders. There are also now a number of spin-off events building on its success such as Tomorrowland Winter in the French Alps.
Feel free to comment below with your views on the best music festivals in Europe. There are loads more great ones that we haven’t mentioned.
This article was last updated in January 2022.
Featured image of festival crowd (original image page on Wunderstock no longer live) via Swpnobaz Rubel