Europe’s Summer Music Festivals

The European Summer music festival tradition is old and its basic formula is well known: an open air stage, lots of campers and a famous band playing at top volume. But there are festivals for all kinds of audiences all around this continent — for those who don’t want to miss out, a musical journey is also an opportunity to get to know Europe.
The South

The Iberian Peninsula is one of the continent’s most pleasant holiday destinations, and also a popular summer festival region. A trip to the amazing city of Barcelona will give you access to Sónar Barcelona, a huge festival dedicated to all kinds of electronic music. This is also where you can catch major alternative, indie rock and hip-hop acts at the famous Primavera Sound — a major international event that also takes place in the neighbouring country, in the city of Porto

Speaking of Portugal, this is also a place where we find many musical attractions, from pop/rock by the river at Lisbon's Alive festival and the alternative sounds of Primavera Sound and Paredes de Coura in the North, to the FMM - World Music Festival, which takes place inside a castle in the Southern seaside city of Sines.
Central and Eastern Europe

In Paris, a city of culture par excellence, massive summer crowds gather at Rock en Seine — an event that welcomes major national and international artists on its stage and which has the distinction of taking place at the charming gardens of Château de Saint-Cloud. The French capital’s offer is too massive to describe in this space, but it includes events such as the Django Reinhardt Festival and Jazz à la Vilette for jazz junkies.

Neighbouring Belgium is also alive and kicking during this season with the Brussels Jazz Marathon (starting in May) and the Botanique venue where the Les Nuits Botanique rock festival takes place. You can also fly over the Alps, land in Geneva, and attend the Montreux Jazz Festival. But should you decide to fly north, make landfall in Amsterdam, catch a train to Rotterdam and enjoy performances by jazz greats at the renowned North Sea Jazz Festival.

In historic Berlin, you will be able to enjoy the uncanny experience of going to concerts and shows inside an old airplane hangar at Tempelhof Airport. This unusual venue is home for the Berlin Festival, dedicated mostly to electronic dance music (very much enjoyed by Germans) and the Lolapalooza Berlin rock festival. Those who enjoy more aggressive sounds and strong vibrations should fly to Hamburg, catch a train or rent an automobile (and a tent), and head for Wacken Open Air: Europe’s biggest heavy metal festival, with a programme that always includes the genre’s main stars.

However, lovers of orchestras and operas are also not immune to the Summer festival fever: they usually go to Vienna, a city well known as a capital of classical music. The Vienna Festival takes place in several of the city’s venues, usually between May and June. From here you can also head for the Salzburg Festival and enjoy an opera at Mozart’s hometown. Or, you can go to Graz to attend the Steirischer Herbst Festival — an event focused on both visual and performance arts, its programme includes classical, contemporary and avant-garde music. 
If you decide to travel eastwards, you should stop by quaint Bucharest and enjoy the George Enescu Festival, one of the main classical music events in the region.


Journeying to the land of large, cold fjords during the summer might seem a bit counter-intuitive — but Scandidavian people are known for their intense musical activities. Near Copenhagen, in Denmark, we can enjoy the huge variety of Roskilde Festival, another unavoidable event for big names and stars of popular music and its many genres.
Up north, in Oslo, we can attend explore Oya Festival, (Norway’s main international pop/rock summer event) or enjoy this country’s major recent contributions to modern jazz: in other words, don’t miss the Oslo Jazz Festival.

During August, Helsinki Festival is yet another reason to pay a visit to this rather chilly corner of the world. The programme has variety and quality, and also many free events, encompassing classical, experimental and world music, as well as the occasional pop/rock and jazz surprise.

British Isles

But a tour of European summer festivals would not be complete without a flight to London: after all, the United Kingdom and its music industry have an old history and an immeasurable influence. In the UK, there is no shortage of both quantity and quality, but some of the stand out events include the Reading and Leeds festival (taking place in venues on both cities, it is geared towards alternative rock and punk) and Download Festival, for heavy metal fans. 

Classical music audiences flock to the traditional London Proms, taking place throughout the summer season at the Royal Albert Hall, and culminating in a huge popular celebration with soundtrack provided by one of the world’s major orchestras.
There are also some classics directly from the 1960’s and 1970’s era: the Isle of Wight Festival has been recently revived, and the world famous Glastonbury Festival is widely regarded as one of Europe’s most important musical events — a sort of British Woodstock where available tickets can run out in a matter of minutes (over 100 thousand people attend each year) and where the audience is treated to performances by major stars from pop, rock, hip-hop and other genres.

Let the music begin!

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