The Best Summer Music Festivals in Europe

The summer season is kicking into high gear for much of the world, and that means sunshine, exposed toes, and the blissful sound of live music washing over open-air crowds.

If you’re hoping to follow your ears to your next vacation destination, but haven’t yet found a festival that calls your name, we’ve got a list of some of our favorites to help you plan your escape.

So read on, check your calendar, and start packing your bags. It’s time to get outside and enjoy!

> Roskilde Music Festival (June 27-July 4, Roskilde, Denmark)

Why go: Of Europe’s three mega music festivals (England’s Glastonbury, Hungary’s Sziget, and Denmark’s Roskilde), this one stands out not only for its impressive and eclectic line-ups, but for its mission-based approach (concert proceeds support humanitarian and cultural work programs). Roskilde engenders a relaxed and social vibe and has been likened to a “summer camp” for adults—complete with lake swimming and an on-site skate park. The festival site is a mere 30-minute train ride from Copenhagen, which is ideal for those who might prefer a hotel to tenting up among the unwashed masses.

This year’s musical highlights: Paul McCartney, Florence + the Machine, Muse, Kendrick Lamar, Hot Chip, Die Antwoord, and Kodaline.

> Førde Festival (July 1-5, Førde, Norway)

Why go: Førde is the largest festival in Scandinavia dedicated to traditional and world music. Another upside? It’s held in a beautiful small town surrounded by fjords, mountains, glaciers, and waterfalls. For travelers looking to escape the summer heat, Førde offers a welcome change of pace; average temperatures clock in at around 60°F in early July. This family-friendly event features acoustic concerts, workshops, exhibitions, and children’s activities that are hosted in both indoor and outdoor venues throughout the city.

This year’s musical highlights: Fiddle champion Gro Marie Svidal, folk singer Unni Lovlid, Annie Ebrel, and duo Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita.

> EXIT (July 9-12, Novi Sad, Serbia)

Why go: The setting for this popular and acclaimed festival (it took home top honors at the EU Festival Awards in 2014) is a major part of its allure. EXIT takes place in an elaborate 18th-century fortress built on a rocky cliff overlooking the Danube River (which provides great acoustics, by the way). Now in its 15th year, the festival was initially organized by university students to promote peace and democracy in Serbia and across the Balkans during the last gasp of the Milošević regime. And while today’s festival is more of a celebration, EXIT continues to be, like Roskilde, shaped by a commitment to social change.

This year’s musical highlights: Milky Chance, Emeli Sande, Motorhead, The Prodigy, and Manu Chao La Ventura.

> Wickerman Festival (July 24-25, Dundrennan, Scotland)

Why go: If you’re a fan of horror movies and embrace a left-of-center lifestyle, you’ll love Scotland’s premier alternative music festival, which takes place among the same undulating farmlands that provide the setting for key scenes in the 1973 cult classic The Wicker Man. The two-day festival, which features a diverse range of musical artists on several stages along with out-there arts and crafts and tasty concessions, culminates in the burning of a 30-foot-tall effigy built by local craftsmen. Another Scottish festival to set your sights on? T in the Park, which takes place July 10-12 in 2015.

This year’s musical highlights: Squeeze, Jimmy Cliff, Julian Cope, the Sugarhill Gang, and Neneh Cherry.

> Interceltic Festival (August 7-16, Lorient, France)

Why go: When most people hear the word “Celtic,” they think of Ireland. But this ethnolinguistic group is more far-flung, with enduring roots in Brittany, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, and the territories of Asturias and Galicia on the Iberian peninsula. And the world’s largest celebration of Celtic culture and music—in all its diverse forms—takes place each summer in the heart of the seaport town of Lorient in northwestern France. Rough Guides describes this ten-day festival as a place where “five languages mingle, and Scotch and Guinness flow with French and Spanish wines and ciders.” What’s not to like?

This year’s musical highlights: Duo Le Corre (Brittany), Aber Valley Male Choir (Wales), Alberto Coya (Galicia), and Banda bagpipes Barbuda (Galicia).

> Positivus Festival (July 17-19, Salacgrīva, Latvia)

Why go: Located on the Gulf of Riga, where the pine trees meet the sea, Positivus is the largest music festival in Latvia, attracting big-name stars across all major genres and giving up-and-coming artists a chance to shine. It’s also one of the most laid-back and accessible music festivals in the world, even for families with small children. Other pluses? Ticket prices are reasonable and the location, in idyllic coastal haven Salacgrīva, means you won’t be wanting for ambiance. Where else can you take a dip in the water or hang in the cool shade of the forest in the same day, all while listening to live music?

This year’s musical highlights: Robert Plant, Placebo, Kasabian, St. Vincent, Charlie XCX, and Lamb.

> Mysteryland (August 29-30, Haarlemmermeer, Netherlands)

Why go: If you’re into electronic dance music, you won’t want to miss Mysteryland. Not only is this Dutch festival a bellwether of EDM, its extravagant stage setups will blow your mind. What’s more, you can feel good about yourself while you’re rocking out; this is one of the most sustainability-focused festivals in the world. In addition to ubiquitous recycling stations and organic eats, attendees can plant trees to offset their carbon footprint in what has become a true forest over the years.

This year’s musical highlights: AfrikaBoomNada, AK, and Alesso.

Lisa A. Walker is a book production manager at National Geographic. Follow her story on Twitter @walkersvibes.

If we missed one of your festival favorites, please share the recommendation love by leaving a comment below.

Comments

  1. redfox
    June 1, 2015, 10:09 am

    and for Positivus, don`t forget to highlight Ewert & The Two Dragons!

  2. redfox
    June 1, 2015, 10:05 am

    Viljandi Folk Music Festival aka Pärimusmuusika Festival in Viljandi, Estonia
    http://www.folk.ee
    This years` theme: FREEDOM!

  3. TH
    Orlando
    May 30, 2015, 9:58 am

    Thanks for the Euro-festival update. Our favorite in FL is the “wanee” festival. Mid april on 600 acres riverfront forest. Brink your mountain bike and kayak. Jam bands and funk dominate the lineup.

  4. Ailie
    Scotland
    May 29, 2015, 11:19 am

    Wickerman is my favourite festival. Such a great vibe!! T in the park just isn’t worth mentioning. Full of chavs on legal highs, pissing and shitting everywhere. Same lineup for the past 7-8 years. Used to be amazing 15 years ago, until it became mainstream.