Sure, there’s nothing like being in the audience of a massive event, having thousands of hands clapping in the air as the act comes out for their encore. But what if you want something more down home? Events that are not as big or all-encompassing, but rather, further off the beaten path, with a focus on the individual or setting? Where you can maybe meet the band afterwards, or calmly navigate through the city beforehand? Then this list is for you.
Whether it’s in a medieval Irish castle, or along the Adriatic coastlines of Montenegro or Croatia, Europe is home to a number of smaller festivals that provide for a more one-on-one atmosphere between the artist and attendee. You can be a music lover, or a foodie, or just someone who wants to experience something new—whatever it may be, Flightnetwork’s list of Europe’s most intimate festivals in 2018 has something for you. Get ready to clear your schedule.
Here’s what’s happening now:
Since 1954, lovers and practitioners of choir music have flocked to Cork, Ireland, for this five-day festival that takes place annually before the first Monday in May. The programme is stacked with a number of gala and school concerts, as well as competitions between national and international choirs. The bar for achievement here is set high, as the Cork International Choral Festival has reached a higher echelon of talent with its innovative and eclectic showcases.
The price of the shows vary, but generally range between €0 to €31, while weekly tickets can be bought for 100€. For more information, check out their site here.
Organizers of the SPOT festival describe the experience as “a shopping spree for new music,” with attendees “returning home with bags full of new bands you’ve discovered before everybody else.” And for good reason: this is the biggest showcase festival in Scandinavia, each year introducing around 300 Nordic artists and bands to a wider audience. The festival is spread out over 20 stages, all of which are proximate, and welcomes visitors to Aarhus, which sits along Denmark’s beautiful coast. Like South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, the town comes alive with activity for this event, as attendees can feel right at home in this display of good music and vibes.
In 2019, the event will be around 600 Danish Kroner to enter. More information can be found on their site here.
The Masked Ball really has a unique story. It was started in Cornwall in 2006 by a group of party-loving friends, who sought to create an all-night hedonistic throw down that was equal parts Italian Carnevale and Mardi Gras. Now, it’s morphed into a bi-annual event that thousands of people look forward to, set with masqueraded attendees and dance stars. While the Halloween fest is equally renowned, here we’re highlighting the spring ball, which is outfitted with an elaborate, artistic layout and, as organizers say, “hedonistic zest for having the best time humanly possible.” You in?
Tickets start at 70 pounds. When you’re ready to dawn your mask and get lost in the crowd, check out their site here.
Organic food is everywhere—it’s in supermarkets, it’s at sporting events, and it’s increasingly being offered at restaurants worldwide. The NorthSide Festival in Denmark caters to that phenomenon. We’re back in Aarhus for this “100% organic festival,” as the event tags itself, which doubles as a two-day tour of the world of organic food, offering a sampling of foods that is nothing short of spectacular. Talks and tastings with players in the organic foods industry will impart wisdom on those in attendance. And if you’re looking for something a bit more edgy, head into Sideshow, the festival’s more bizarre bazaar.
Ticket prices vary, but start at $155. Here’s the site if you want to start salivating.
If you’re a traveler, then you’ve likely heard of Stonehenge—the circular set of mysterious rock pillars that is listed as one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, located in England. But we guarantee you’ve never seen Stonehenge like this. Each year, at the time of the summer solstice in June, those lucky enough to snatch a ticket up are welcome to celebrate the coming sun at Europe’s most famous prehistoric monument. And the attractions do not disappoint the almost spiritual occasion: enchanting musical acts, and workshops that seek to bring out energy and enthusiasm in attendees.
It’s no wonder then that the tickets are £110.00. If you’re willing to try your hand, then start sooner rather than later here.
For many people, Ireland isn’t the first country that comes to mind when you think of surfing. But the organizers of Sea Sessions will tell you otherwise. Located on the Wild Atlantic Way in Bundoran Donegal, this beachside festival sees nearly 70 acts over its five stages, as festival-goers can join in on surf contents, or take part in the colour run. Get your exercise on in the beach olympics or skate zone, and bask in the beauty that is Ireland’s coastline well into night. Oh, and don’t forget to party just a little.
Those interested can grab tickets for €54. Find out who’s playing this year on the website here.
Imagine this: you’re cooking over a live fire, with country music tunes blastin’ from the stereos. There’s a line of custom Harley Davidsons nearby, and the sun is setting on the beautiful summer night. In most occasions, this would be your classic Americana setting, right? Well, not this time. No, this is the Black Deer Festival in the UK—the “ultimate celebration of US culture” that is held at Eridge Park in Kent, as a sort of ode to Route 66-style living with plenty of music and food to go around. The new festival’s mission: unite people in all things Americana. And have fun, too.
Tickets start at around $60. Want to learn more? Check out the site here.
We’re sure you’re wondering the same thing we did: what’s Genk? Well, here’s some background: It’s the town in Belgium where this city festival happens each year, offering attendees free access to nine stages, where 100 acts from all different musical backgrounds and ethnicities play their hearts out for the crowd. The festival itself is three days long, and the programme is basically nonstop. So choose your day, plan your schedule, and get ready to Genk.
As mentioned, there’s no entrance fee for this one. But to see who’s playing this year, check out the website here.
There are a lot of reasons to go to Greece, and Crete in particular: the stunning sights, the history, the ocean, the food… we really could go on for ages. But here’s another reason to add to that long list: the Chania Rock Festival. Since 2002, this rock and metal festival has set up shop in the heart of the old town of Chania, and opens the city up to its musical energy. It is located in an ancient fortress known as San Salvatore, which is available for events by specific authorization only. And each year, visitors from over 20 countries come to witness what this festival is all about.
Daily tickets start at €32, and can be purchased on the festival’s website.
Mission Ready is a music festival, but it pegs itself as something much more than that: a celebration of punk lifestyle, where attendees are encouraged to live life by the fullest. The event is held each year at the Giebelstadt Airfield, near Wuerzburg, which provides a setting that is solid-grounded, and flexible to weather conditions. The two stages are rotational, meaning that the acts of punk, hardcore, and ska are never overlapping—attendees won’t have to worry here about choosing one act over the other. They’re just told to rock out.
Entry to this one-day festival starts at 58 euros, and more information can be found right here.
The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, London, is a historic landmark, most notably for its location along the River Thames. So it’s perhaps the perfect setting for a festival like Greenwich Music Time. In 2018, the open-air experience saw the likes of Tom Jones, Steps, Noel Gallagher, Emeli Sande, and Il Divo—and 2019, its sixth year, is sure to not disappoint. Marvel in the Victorian architecture of the Naval College, get lost in the sounds of the stage, or take in the Thames on a beautiful London afternoon. It’s up to you!
Grab your ticket to one of London’s most popular festivals for £32.50, and stand by for the line-up here.
Where to begin with this one. For starters, InterHarmony International Music Festival happens in two towns, in two different countries: Acqui Terme, in northern Italy, and Sulzbach-Rosenberg, in Germany’s Bavaria. Each are stunning in their own right, and provide a suiting backdrop to the festival’s prestige as a multiple-concerto epic that, each year, sees some of the world’s best soloists, orchestras and chamber musicians. For over a month, there’s something happening nearly every evening: attendees can sit in on performances, and young classical music students are invited to workshops connecting them to mentors and longtime performers. If you’re a lover of classical music, this has your name on it.
Entrance fee starts at €15.50, and you can take your pick of where you’re going, and who you’re seeing, on their website here.
Black Deer Festival isn’t the only festival in the UK that celebrates Americana music, and culture. Next up is the Maverick Festival, which takes place each year in the Suffolk countryside, barely two hours outside of London. There, the pastoral sights of Easton Farm Park, known for its renowned Victorian farmhouses, make up the setting for this Americana/Roots music festival. But it’s not just music from the States—this is about artists from both sides of the Atlantic, who enjoy and play these genres passionately. You see that in the number of music performances (over forty artists across five stages), film screenings, and workshops that are available to attendees. And luckily, if it rains, there’s room for activities indoors, too.
Tickets to this event start at £25.00, and you can check the website for more information.
Turku Archipelago is one of the most unique island arrangements in the world: a whopping total of 20,000 isles located off the shores of Finland, mostly kept in their natural state. And for a weekend in the middle of the Finnish summer, one of those islands is home to the Baltic Jazz Festival, an intimate performance of classic jazz, blues, and rock that has been attracting aficionados to the village of Dalsbruk since 1987. It’s grown since then, but is still largely known for keeping its original, comfortable charm. Enough so that the international talents who come here are said to rub shoulders with local talent on stage, with an incredible maritime setting in the background.
Tickets vary, but prices generally range from 0 to €40. Get the glimpse of what’s in store in Turku here.
Don’t leave Finland quite yet: the renowned Savonlinna Opera Festival occurs concurrently with the Baltic Jazz Festival, and runs until early August. Over the decades, the festival has grown into one of Finland’s finest and most famous, and that’s due in large part to its location at Olavinlinna, a medieval castle on the magnificent Lake Saimaa. It invites opera stars from around the world, as well as the biggest lovers of the genre, for high-end performances featuring world-class acoustics. Put simply: it’s an opera festival in a medieval castle in Finland. Enough said.
Tickets range from 85€ to 280€. If that works for you, then start planning your visit right here.
Dubrovnik has become a hot spot in recent years, namely for its Renaissance-Baroque aesthetic, relatively low prices, and panoramic views of the Adriatic Sea. But longtime visitors and residents know that one of the best reasons to come to the Croatian city is for its Summer Festival, which, for nearly 70 years, has attracted a renowned local, national, and international ensemble of theater, dance, classical music, jazz, and folkore artists. For over a month, practically every public space in the city—from its squares to its fortresses—becomes a stage, featuring over 80 programs to choose from. Time to get lost.
Ticket prices vary, but generally start at around 15 euro. To see where things are happening, check the site here.
By now, Iceland’s enchanting landscapes are no secret to anyone. The country has had a tourism renaissance, with millions of people each year coming to experience and explore the far-north island. But for those looking to rock out a little (or a lot) to heavy metal or indie, there’s no better place to go than Eistnaflug, a music festival held since 2005 in the eastern town of Neskaupstaður. If you’re traveling from abroad, head there from Reykjavik, and bring a few friends. Because there’s no other festival of this caliber in Iceland.
The entry fee is 105 krona. Check out who’s playing this year here.
You might be wondering: cactuses… in Europe? But it’s not really about cactuses. Cactusfestival is held in Minnewaterpark, one of Bruges’ most beautiful green space, famous for Minnewater Lake and other sites. It’s an eco-friendly festival that is small and quaint, but featuring a big line-up: last year, they attracted the likes of Emeli Sandé and Mogwai to this park outside of the historic city centre. There’s only one stage, so you can stay put for all the action. And while you’re there, don’t forget to try the food and other activities that anyone can enjoy.
Pre-sale tickets go for $56.71, and then shoot up to $68 at the door. So buy fast — and find out more here.
Intimacy is the underlying tone of MUSICALTA, an orchestra-focused festival in Alsace, France. Its mission is to bring together chamber musicians and fans from all over the world, in a setting that is both engaging, and comfortable. Each year sees a different, unique lineup over the course of three weeks, but you can expect narrative piano recitals, evenings of light classic music, and innovative fusions of music and story-telling. In 2018, the Viva Chamber Orchestra from South Korea wowed crowds with its cultural spin on opera arias and Korean music. And so 2019 will likely impress all the same.
Ticket prices vary, but generally run from 0 to 15 euros. To see who’s playing this here, visit the MUSICALTA website here.
With a name like OBSCENE EXTREME, this festival in the Czech city of Trutnov certainly does not disappoint. It invites “freaks and weirdos” to come enjoy a communal gathering, where anyone is welcome. The varied rock and metal groups on stage feel like a part of the audience, tagging along in stage diving, circle pits, and every other old-school concert style out there. The underlying theme here is friendship—OBSCENE EXTREME is about having a blast, and getting along. If that’s your style, then get planning.
Single-day tickets are not available to this event, and full weekend passes can be bought for 72 euros. Catch a glimpse of what’s in store here.
Here’s another happening in the Czech Republic that weekend: Colours of Ostrava. The award-winning festival has been thrown since 2002, and features music that is both multi-national, and multi-genre. What’s unique about it is that it’s held in Ostrava’s old industrial metallurgical works, which has been honored as a European Cultural Heritage Site in recent years. That adds to the aesthetic of raw music—you’re up close and personal at this one, so be ready to buckle up and have some fun.
Ticket prices vary, but start at 82 euros for pre-sale. But they sell out fast. So grab one on their website before it’s too late.
What better place than the Swiss Alps for a festival that seeks to intimately gather world-class musicians and aspiring classical music students under the same roof? The Verbier Festival strives to do exactly that, with an extensive orchestra programme over the course of three weeks that is meant to both teach, and entertain. The prestigious concerts are held in the heart of town, and there are plenty of free activities for anyone to join in on. Oh, and did we mention you’re in the Swiss Alps?
Ticket prices vary by event. To find out costs, locations, and artists, go to the Verbier Festival website here.
Half of the reason why you come to the MIDI Festival is the view: it’s set in Hyères, a hilly city near St. Tropez that looks out on none other than the French Riviera. While you take in the sights of France’s gorgeous south shore, you can comfortably listen to the music of the 22 indie artists who perform across the town’s landmark locations. We’re likely not the first people to say this, but why not make a whole trip out of it? (That’s what we’re thinking.)
Ticket prices are between 10 and 45 euros. Want to see what’s in store for you? Check out the website here.
While each country in Europe may have its own unique heritage and history, there is a common cultural bond amongst the continent’s residents that is tangible… you can almost feel it. And the Europeade of European Folk Culture wants to make sure you do. Every year, this summer gathering invites groups of all sizes to dance the days and nights away in costume to European folk dance and music from a number of different countries. Solidarity in music is the name of the game here, and what better way to celebrate.
And the best part: it’s free. To start planning for the 56th Europeade, head to the site here.
Castlepalooza Music and Arts Festival, 2017. Photography by Ruth Medjber / Ruthless Imagery www.ruthlessimagery.com
You might’ve heard of Lollapalooza, but what about Castlepalooza? No? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like—a three-day festival located inside the halls of a 17th-century castle in Ireland, surrounded by an ancient oak forest. The medieval charm adds to the fun of the educational workshops, and the performances from local talent in the castle’s epic ballroom. What’s not to love about eating food, shopping, listening to music and Irish stand-up comedy, and just hanging out in a castle that would give Hogwarts a run for its money? Seriously!
Day passes can be purchased for 49 euros, and 139 for a three-day camping pass. Want to hear more? Check out the Castlepalooza website here.
Sicily is the unsung hero of Italian travel—an island with a culture entirely of its own, offering a different experience than that of the mainland. And a good way to dip your foot into the Sicilian lifestyle is with the Ypsigrock Festival. This age-old festival, now in its third decade of programming, takes place about an hour outside of Palermo, in the medieval town of Castelbuono. The town’s piazza, cloisters, and other stylish landmarks open up to performances, as the sleepy foothills of the Madonie mountains act as a backdrop to an event that has long shepherded underground and experimental rock to this part of Europe. And it’s not just about the music: foodies can pride themselves on the Sicilian street food (which is a must if you’re here), as well as award-winning restaurants close to the main stage. So you’ll never be far from what makes Sicily great.
Entry starts at 41 euros, but prices vary. For more information, you can find the Ypsigrock Festival site here.
We cannot have a list of European festivals, and not give up some love to Montenegro. The small nation has a reputation for its art and culture, and one of the best times it’s demonstrated is OMOF, the Operosa Montenegro Opera Festival. The event is usually held each year at the Kanla Kula and Forte Mare fortresses in Herceg Novi, a historic town along the Bay of Kotor in the Adriatic Sea. The Old Town centre sees a rotation of open-air performances from recognized talents in the electronic and classic music world. Lovers of opera can watch young talent grow, and bare witness contemporary performances that are redefining the genre in 2019. Operosa is about growth: the message of the festival is that opera is here to stay.
Tickets to the festival start at 30 euros. Chart your journey by checking out the festival’s website here.
The Home Festival should make you feel right at home in Italy—an event in Treviso, not too far from Venice, that organizers peg as a “360° cultural festival,” outfitted with seven stages, plenty of room for camping and sports, areas to hang back with your friends, incredible food, as well as a packed programme of entertainment. And the most important part: you’re in Italy! So feel free to explore nearby towns, eat your heart out, try some local wines, and maybe even spend a day in Venice along the Grand Canal. Bellini anyone?
A day pass to the event costs 30 euros, and a three-day pass can be purchased for 90. Start yearning for Italia by checking out the festival site here.
Because what list about European festivals would be complete without an electronic dance festival? That’s where HER DAMIT comes in. Intimacy is the key word of this techno and house music festival, which takes place about 50km from Berlin at the Bunkeranlage Freudenberg. The event seeks to reactivate unique abandoned places, by creating a small, comfortably-sized space for true electronic lovers. Crowds never exceed 3,000, and line-ups play to that close atmosphere. And it’s Germany, so you know the music’s good.
Ticket prices start at 30 euros for this event. Need directions? Check out the HER DAMIT website here.
As high season for tourism comes to an end, the Festival d’Ambronay is a great way to start the calmer autumn season in Europe. The month-long event takes place in Rhône-Alpes-Auvergne, as as well as in Lyon, where over 30 concerts are performed in the acoustical Ambronay abbey. It is put on by the Cultural Encounter Centre, whose year-round work is all put on public display. What does that mean for you? Endless concertos of recognized and emerging talent, workshops, visits, tours, and a number of talks by prominent baroque figures. Don’t worry… you’ve got the whole month.
Tickets range from €5 to€68, but depend on the event. For more information, you can go to the Festival d’Ambronay website here.
Baroque lovers—don’t go far! In September, Croatia is also home to a baroque bash that you won’t want to miss: the Varaždin Baroque Evenings. Over the course of two weeks, the Croatian city goes back in time to its historic roots, with over 30 concerts throughout the town performed by both national and international baroque talent. Each year, the festival partners with a country to bring in additional talent from abroad — in 2018, that honor went Japan. Although its mission is to bring back baroque music, it also seeks to broaden its audiences with a cultural connection. And so beyond the music, Varaždin comes alive, too, with events in the Old Castle, book and gastronomy events, and baroque-based beer tastings.
Ticket prices vary by concert, but they range between 10 and 30 euros. For more information, check out the festival’s website here.
Positioning itself as the “first festival in the world to focus entirely on modern progressive music of all kinds,” which spawned other festivals like it worldwide, Euroblast is an unspoken pilgrimage for the progressive music community. A time, once a year, for passionate connoisseurs of the genre to come to Cologne, Germany, and be with other progressive music fans in an atmosphere that can only be described as familial. It’s good vibes all around with like-minded fans. So if you’re on that list, then start packing your bags.
The entrance fee for Euroblast is 50€. To find out more, give the website a glance.
Athens is one of the most famous cities in world history. The capital of the ancient Greek empire, it is a living artifact of our past, with temples and public spaces still perfectly preserved for that time. But many people do not know that Athens also has an incredible festival scene, and one of its best hidden gems is the Plisskën Festival. This two-day event at the end of the year is for the experimental-leaning—artists that are blurring genres and creating new sounds are welcomed here, as the festival seeks to create a community that will appreciate and encourage those knocking down walls in music. All in the heart of where creative thought and philosophy got serious.