Bucket List Worthy
It’s summertime again, with long, hot days and short, cool nights. It’s time to strap on your sandals, throw on some shorts, and spend as much time outside as possible. And where else is more fitting than the cultural and artistic hub of the world… Europe!
In between licking Italian gelato, sipping red wine on Parisian terraces, dipping your toes in Greece’s clear turquoise waters, dancing until dawn in Budapest, and long hikes in the striking cliffs of Scandinavia, why not plan this next year’s vacations around some of the best arts and culture festivals Europe has to offer?
Not just for teenagers looking to party all night, Europe is home to a large collection of festivals that speak to its rich artistic and cultural heritage. From groundbreaking celebrations for cultural and ethnic identities, to festivals that showcase innovative artistic methods in the digital and media world, there is a festival for every whim and fancy.
This year, FlightNetwork has hand-picked our top 20 across the continent—and they’re happening everywhere. So step away from the beaten tourist track and immerse yourself alongside the locals, to learn about their vibrant cultures and complex legacies.
Spend 3 heavenly days getting to know the art and culture of Portugal at the Lisbon festival of Music. Within the charming Parque Eduardo VIi, get ready for “an experience to waken the senses.” From 2 PM to 12 pm lose yourself in a secret magical sound garden, where the bounds between reality and fantasy are blurred. This festival is perfect for the music aficionado, someone thrilled to discover new underground artists while simultaneously exploring the picturesque city of Lisbon. Based on merging the concepts of leisure and pleasure, this festival is a special place to groove out, with plenty of time to explore the capital city.
Prague museum night is a special opportunity to visit any of Prague’s 50 incredible museums, galleries and cultural institutions for free. One of the most popular festivals, this night is a chance to stroll through some of the world’s finest museums and art shows, dabbling through awe striking photo exhibitions to thought engaging historical displays. Had one glass of wine too many? No fear- transportation is free and provided between the different programmed events. This event is an opportunity for anyone to visit some beloved cultural attractions that they would otherwise have to pay for. Prague Museum night takes place on the 9th of June. Information tents will be set up around the city in the days leading up to the event, filled with schedules and programs so you can plan your own perfect evening.
The Holi Festival of Colors is a rejoiced cultural phenomenon that is celebrated worldwide by hundreds of thousands of people. Originally a celebration of the changing from winter to spring and the commitment that good will always overcome evil, Holi is a colorful affair. Get ready to revel in a landscape of colors as all the festival attendees are encouraged to exclaim their happiness through throwing piles of colored clay dust in the air. In 2012 the first commercial Holi Festival occurred in Germany as a music festival, and since then throughout Europe every summer crowds gather to celebrate this special event. The Holi Festival Of Colours takes place in cities all over Europe, including Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, London, Barcelona, Rome and more. Cost for entrance is 19,99 EUR.
An incredible phenomenon of the arts, the Festival of Contemporary European Theatre and Dance is in its 28th year. This diverse event will feature many iterations of theatre and dance, including some of the highly known companies as well as lesser known off-scene artists. Hosting an incredible 12 guest performances from 10 countries, the festival will hold 25 shows at 8 venues. This year’s theme is “stage, sound, worlds” honoring a commitment to the relationship between live music and the stage. This special motto will inspire a range of performances, from spoken theatre and dance to children’s programs. While the line up will be announced officially in the beginning of July, the festival will take place from November 06th – November 11th 2018.
Held every spring in Estonia for the last 10 years, the Tallinn Music Week (TMW) is a celebration of diversity, talent, freedom and equality. Initially a music industry event, this week long festival has expanded to an all encompassing city festival, including arts, design, food, city space and even an impact conference. One of the most acclaimed city festivals and economy conferences, the TMW Creative Impact Conference was the first international conference in Estonia to reach a gender balance among speakers. Struck by the success of the festival, the TMW transformed Viru Square into a pedestrian space, reconceptualizing the potential of city experience.
The number 1 festival in Europe for traditional folklore arts, the Stara Planina fest “Balkan Folk” is the highlight of the Musical Feasts “Euro folk”, which includes over 45 festivals devoted to the magic of folklore. Every year the Stara Planina fest features around 15,000 worldwide performers including musicians, singers and dancers. A delightful 10 days of all things folk- including folk choirs, ensembles, orchestras and dancing clubs, perfect for all ages. Whether you’re a folk whiz or a newbie, this is a place to get lost among the rich cultural hubbub of folk. And if you are a whiz, the festival is accompanied by a full program of the folklore forum, featuring parades, delegation meetings with the Mayor’s Office of the Municipality of Veliko Tarnovo, and historical photo exhibitions.
Held annually in 4 Bulgarian towns, the World Championship of Folklore “World Folk” speaks to the growing future of folk. Attended by an increasing number of young people from across the globe, this festival serves as a vibrant connection between the rich history of folk and the future generations entrusted to guard the identity and traditions of their people. Organized by the European Association of Folklore Festivals – EAFF, the festival highlights the diverse manifestations of folk, from music and craft to dance. The main objective of “World folk” is to preserve and popularize traditional folklore arts through the stewardship of coming generations. This is the perfect place for history lovers and music fanatics alike!
A unique festival that showcases the oil-bearing rose picking season in Bulgaria, the Rose festival is a cultural jackpot drawing over 100,000 tourists and locals alike. “Where the scent of roses meets history,” immerse yourself in folklore dancing and music alongside rose picking rituals and Thracian history. Set upon the beautiful backdrop of blossoming velvet roses, this is a romantic festival that encourages you to explore the many offerings of the Rose Valley. This year also celebrates the 50th year from the Rose Queen’s first Coronation and will hold a special commemoration of this event. Drape yourself in the smell of roses, grab a lover, and enjoy the bounties of the Kazanlak valley.
A very special PRIDE festival, Budapest Pride stands up to the oppression of the hungarian government alongside dozens of NGOs against its oppression of minority groups to promote the message of solidarity, democracy and diversity. Growing in popularity and attendance, this festival has become a month long cultural event with programs and NGO’s acting as event organizers, aiming to unite everyone. The slogan of the festival, “dare to dream big,” accurately represents the incredible work it has done for marginalized groups. The festival also holds a LGBTQ theatre festival, including 10 plays and 4 premiers. Ending with the iconic pride march and an enormous closing party at Budapest Park, this event not only holds important political influence but also is a great time to celebrate the diversity of life!
This is a one of a kind, truly life changing event for the women who flock to this festival every year. Set in the magnificent seaside town of Sappho in Greece, named after the famous lesbian poet, the landscape echoes the beauty of the strong women coming together. A quirky and unique festival, Eressos hosts international acts and artists for participants from all over the world. Whether you are interested in DIY and want to develop new creative skills, engage in alternative holistic treatments, listen to world famous performers or just take a breath and spend some quiet time on the beach, there is a place for you. Taking place from the 8th of September until the 22cd, this festival costs 65 euros for a full ticket.
Immerse yourself in one of the most historic events in the world. The running of the bulls in Pamplona is a 9 day festival from July 6th through the 14th with a tradition of over four hundred years. The origin of the event comes from when the bulls needed to be transported to fields outside the city. Now, every year the small city welcomes over 1 million visitors from around the world to celebrate this iconic event, where the bulls take the streets. While the actual running of the bulls may get all the fame, the festival holds over 400 scheduled cultural events, including music, art, outdoor sports, and enough wine and tapas for any foodie. Come walk the cobblestone streets, eat some leche frita and be part of an important historical legacy.
The MIRA festival blurs the boundaries between art and music, creating a state of the art audio visual sensory experience. Playing into the emerging field of sound art, the seminal MIRA festival has had 8 successful years of cutting edge art that has firmly placed in on the underground art scene in Europe. Featuring 360 degree installations, from virtual reality to robotics and immersive experiences, this is for the adventurous connoisseur of the arts who isn’t afraid to try something new. MIRA not only functions as an engaging festival experience but also provides new avenues for artists of collaboration, bridging the gap between art and technology. MIRA takes places in beautiful Catalonia spain over the months of August, September and October.
Špancirfest’s is an intriguing new model of street festival that combines all different forms of artistic expression for a unique cultural-tourism event in Varazdin, Croatia. What stands out about this special festival is it’s impressive musical programming which is the backbone of the entire event, dedicated to showcasing world music and up and coming street performers alongside their well known counterparts. During the 10 days of Špancirfest the streets truly come alive, pulsating with the rhythms of global music and overflowing with the boundless energy of miraculous street performers. Špancirfest takes place from the 17th to the 26th of August and entrance to the festival is free.
Do you love the ocean? All things nautical? Do you own boat shoes and dream about your next time on a sailboat? Look no further than the Cork Harbour Festival, a week long celebration of Ireland’s rich maritime heritage. Set in the second largest natural harbour in the world, the festival is a 9 day celebration of the ocean and our interactions with this diverse ecosystem. From directly getting wet by swimming, surfing, paddling or kayaking to more dry experiences such as guided harbor walks and sailing, this festival encourages engagement with the marine environment. Kicking off on the June Bank Holiday, from 2nd – 10th June 2018, with Ireland’s premier rowing race Ocean to City – An Rás Mór, the festival is a quirky expression of Ireland’s deep appreciation of its nautical roots.
Addicted to surfing? Love kicking it on the beach, beer in one hand, toes in the sand? Then this is the festival for you (and 150,000 others!). Inspired by the freedom, adventure and creativity of the fusion of surfing and music, the Boardmasters Festival fosters a special place bringing like-minded souls together for a unique festival experience. The 5 day event is located in two beautiful locations in Cornwall, Fistral beach where world surf competitions are battled out every year, as well as Watergate Bay, a favorite for watching live music. This year headliners will include Catfish and the Bottlemen, The Chemical Brothers and George Ezra. The event takes place from the 8th-12th of August, with a full weekend ticket costing £179.
Are you the kind of traveler that likes having a loose plan, drifting from place to place, from festival to festival, living off the vibes of life? If so, then the festivals held in Sweden should be on your radar. Each year, over 50 different festivals are held across the small country, each with a unique flavor and focus. Some are new, some are old, some are big, others are large, but they all carry the same enthusiasm and fun that make festival goers flock to them every year. Whether you’re in the mood in February or in July there is a festival waiting for you in Sweden.
The Reykjavik Arts Festival has a mission to surprise, be present and visible in their city– and with their bold artistic statements this isn’t hard for them to achieve. A biennial event, this family friendly festival focused on bringing the arts to their community, the Reykjavik Arts Festival also manages to maintain a global presence, bringing world renowned acts to the icelandic city. This year big names such as Bill Murray with New Worlds and Robert Wilson with his play EDDA and all female mariachi band Flor de Toloache will grace this festival’s stages. Since in 1970 inception, this festival has remained committed to the creative intersection of the arts, featuring classical and modern performances in tandem on its unconventional stages. The festival takes place June 1-17 2018 and many of the main events are free of charge.
Every July the small medieval city of Galway is turned upside down for 2 weeks with the arrival of the incredible Galway International Arts Festival. The festival prides itself on featuring a large range of critically acclaimed works across the genres of street, theatre, music, circus, opera, visual arts and talks. 25% of the programme is free of charge which makes it an event that locals and international visitors cherish together. Voted one of the Top 5 Summer Festivals in Europe by The Guardian in 2017 and One of the Top 20 Theatre Festivals Around the World by American Express Essentials, this is a festival you won’t want to miss. The festival takes place from 16-29 July 2018 and entrance fees depend on the type of ticket purchased.
Are you a burning man devotee? Then look no further than to Houghton Festival, one of the only UK summer festival to fuse art, music and sculpture. One of the fastest selling festivals in the UK, if you are lucky to snag a ticket you are in for a treach of bespoke sound systems, fantastic food and extended DJ sets. After it’s incredible opening year, with arguably one of the most successful festival debuts in the last decade, this popular festival returns in August with a feisty line up and a promise for magical summer nights. The festival is held 9 Aug 2018 – 12 Aug 2018 and tickets are 202.09 £ for the entire weekend.