20 of the World’s Best Music Festivals for Summer 2014

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Just as coconut-scented sunscreens, bikinis and lime-flavored beers have become the smells, sights and tastes of summer, music festivals have become summer traditions that cross all borders and cultural boundaries. From a jazz festival in Switzerland to African rhythms in Morocco and a celebration of self expression in North America, the following 20 music festivals combine the joys of music and the joys of travel into some of the best summer fun around the world.

#1. Donauinselfest — Vienna, Austria

Europeans are known for throwing massive musical festivals, and Austria’s Donauinselfest is the largest in the world with over 3.2 million people in attendance for three days of nonstop music. While a majority of the festival features the biggest names in Austrian music, a variety of the world’s biggest international acts head to this jam-packed, 6.5-kilometer stretch of Danube Island to entertain millions of attendees each year.

Photo credit: Claus Rebler
Photo credit: Claus Rebler

#2. Rock in Rio — Lisbon, Madrid and Brazil

One and a half million people headed to Rio de Janeiro in 1985 for the very first Rock in Rio festival. While Queen, Iron Maiden and AC/DC were some of the headlining acts at that debut Rock in Rio, the 2013 festival hosted artists like Bruce Springsteen and Beyonce. Rock in Rio is now held in Madrid and Lisbon on even years and back in Rio de Janeiro on the odds.

Photo credit: Focka
Photo credit: Focka

#3. Glastonbury Festival — Glastonbury, United Kingdom

With roots dating back to the 1970s, Glastonbury has been one of the best festivals in the world for decades longer than most others. Fans are advised to shop for festival tickets long before they book their flights, because this year’s 135,000 tickets for the June event sold out in less than two hours.

Photo credit: jaswooduk
Photo credit: jaswooduk

#4. Mawazine — Rabat, Morocco

Although it’s not as well known in North America, the Mawazine festival in Rabat is one of the world’s largest festivals with over 2.5 million people in attendance in 2013. Roughly 90 African and international acts fill seven stages to entertain Mawazine’s massive crowd, which continues to grow every year.

Photo credit: Carros de Foc
Photo credit: Carros de Foc

#5. Summerfest — Wisconsin, U.S.A.

With nearly one million people in attendance at Summerfest each year, it’s long been titled, “The World’s Largest Festival.” And although that’s not exactly true, it is ridiculously large with over 800 diverse acts ranging from up-and-coming local artists to some of the most famous rock and electronic acts in the world. Street markets, art and sports also play a big role in this massive festival, so don’t forget your wallet or your camera.

Photo credit: EMR
Photo credit: EMR

#6. Exit Festival — Novi Sad, Serbia

One of the most enticing features of the Exit Festival is where it’s held. Inside the Petrovaradin Fortress, attendees can explore winding tunnels and cobblestone streets or the incredible views of the Danube River as they enjoy over 300 performing acts on 18 different stages. Exit Festival  began in 2000 as a youth movement toward democracy and peace in Serbia, but it has since grown into one of the world’s largest festivals with over 200,000 people in attendance each year.

Photo credit: Exit Festival
Photo credit: Exit Festival

#7. Sziget Festival — Budapest, Hungary

The week-long Sziget Festival in Hungary hosts over 400,000 attendees for live music and cultural performances at over 50 different venues on the “Island of Freedom.” The result of a summer get-together of students in 1993 has turned into an internationally recognized music festival that hosts visitors from over 70 different countries and has a following of roughly 5 million viewers who watch the event online from home.

Photo credit: macskapocs
Photo credit: macskapocs

#8. Fes Festival of World Sacred Music — Fes, Morocco

Arts, spirituality and music are the building blocks of the internationally praised Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, which takes place in the scenic city of Fes, Morocco each year. Instead of focusing on one musical genre, the Fes Festival explores an incredible variety of sights, sounds and rhythms from around the world.

Photo credit: Fulvio's photos
Photo credit: Fulvio’s photos

#9. Przystanek Woodstock — Kostrzyn Nad Odra, Poland

Woodstock is still alive — and extremely popular — in Kostrzyn Nad Odra, Poland, where over 550,000 people gather to see roughly 80 bands perform in celebration of “Love, Friendship and Music.” Perhaps some of Przystanek Woodstock’s popularity is because the event is 100 percent free, but there’s no doubt music fans would pay to see the countless internationally recognized artists that take the stage every year if they had to.

Photo credit: frankenschulz
Photo credit: frankenschulz

#10. Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival — California, U.S.A.

The 675,000 people who attend Coachella every year for two consecutive weekends of the biggest names in music will attest that it’s certainly one of the top 10 music festivals in the world. And with tickets selling out nearly every year since 2002, there’s no denying that the elaborate sights and sounds of Coachella simply must be seen.

Photo credit: Jason Persse
Photo credit: Jason Persse

#11. Secret Solstice Festival — Reykjavik, Iceland

The sun shines all day and night during the summer solstice in Iceland, and that makes it the perfect time to enjoy some of Iceland’s best performing artists. Combine that endless sunshine with Reykjavik’s famous geothermal pools, local and international performing artists and tons of other exciting festival events, the all-new Secret Solstice Festival — held June 20 to 22 this year — is set to be one of the best festivals in the world.

photo credit: Passetti
photo credit: Passetti

#12. Primavera Sound Festival — Barcelona, Spain

Not only does Primavera feature the biggest names in popular music, it’s held on the breathtaking coast of Barcelona, which is what makes it one of the best festivals across the globe. With folk, jazz, indie, rock, hip hop, dance, experimental, alternative and just about every genre of music you can imagine taking the stage at different times throughout the festival, Primavera Sound is the perfect place to get your music (and gorgeous Balearic Sea Views) fix for the season.

Photo credit: scannerfm_flickr
Photo credit: scannerfm_flickr

#13. Burning Man — Nevada, U.S.A.

Since its inception in 1986, Burning Man has been one of those bucket list music and art festivals that simply must be seen at least once. Join nearly 50,000 other attendees in a grand celebration of art, music, community and self expression. Instead of large musical acts performing on multiple stages, the attendees create all of the action at Burning Man, making it one of the most unique music festivals in the world.

Photo credit: wetribe
Photo credit: wetribe

#14. Oya Festival — Oslo, Norway

During the first week of August, Oslo’s Medieval Park will be transformed from a scenic place to admire Norway’s historic ruins to a diverse musical utopia. With a location so close to the city’s center, you can enjoy some of Norway’s best tourist sites and some of the world’s top performing artists in the very same weekend.

Photo credit: r.isely
Photo credit: r.isely

#15. INmusic Festival — Zagreb, Croatia

One Huffington Post writer dubbed Croatia’s INmusic Festival, “the Woodstock of the 21st century,” and it seemed like a fair description. Taking place from June 23-25 this year, INmusic is set to be the best yet with the biggest national and international names in music and more artists, workshops and performances than ever. There’s a reason some of the world’s biggest media outlets — including CNN International and The Times — have included INmusic in their lists of favorite festivals.

Photo credit: Pieter Morlion
Photo credit: Pieter Morlion

#16.  Osheaga Music Festival — Montreal, Canada

The more low-key atmosphere of the Osheaga Music Festival is what keeps its fans coming back year after year to see some of the world’s top performing artists. While Osheaga has been gaining popularity since its 2006 debut (last year they sold roughly 135,000 tickets to the event), it remains one of the best places for true indie-rock music fans to enjoy a more intimate, just-the-right-size festival setting.

Photo credit: Anirudh Koul
Photo credit: Anirudh Koul

#17. OFF Festival — Katowice, Poland

Not sure if you’re a fan of Polish music? There’s no better way to find out than to visit the OFF Festival in Katowice. Featuring the best Polish performing artists from a variety of musical genres, and a wide variety of international acts, there’s no better place to dive head first into Poland’s music scene than the OFF Festival.

photo credit: macskapocs
photo credit: macskapocs

#18. Ultra — Florida, U.S.A.

Four minutes is all it took for Ultra to sell out of their early bird tickets for their 2014 event in Miami. There’s simply no denying that Ultra is the king of all electronic music festivals with over 330,000 spectators gathering in Miami to see over 300 electronic music artists every year. If you’re looking for three days of sunshine, music and the ultimate Miami party — Ultra is the music festival for you.

Photo credit: lonnypaul
Photo credit: lonnypaul

#19. Sled Island Music and Arts Festival — Calgary, Alberta

When thousands of attendees were disappointed by the cancellation of the 2013 Sled Island Music and Arts Festival due to flooding, the 2014 event became that much more anticipated. To appease their music-and-art-thirsty fans, the festival is expected to be bigger and better than ever with some of the world’s top musicians, artists and filmmakers on the roster.

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevelouie/
Photo credit: Steve Louie

#20. Montreux Jazz Festival — Montreux, Switzerland

As the second biggest jazz festival in the world, the Montreux Jazz Festival features the top jazz, blues, soul, rock and world music performing artists from around the globe. The picturesque setting of the Lake Geneva shoreline in Switzerland makes the Montreux Jazz Festival the perfect combination of travel, music, art and more.

Photo credit: Bertrand Monney
Photo credit: Bertrand Monney

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About the Author: Courtney McCaffrey

Courtney McCaffrey is a freelance writer and editor based in Wilmington, N.C. In addition to writing, she lives for travel - seeing new places, learning new cultures and surfing new waves.

Comments:

  • I am heading to Lisbon this summer so knowing there is I’m Rock in Rio festival there makes me a happy girl!

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