Europe's best festivals
Considering a summer festival but don’t fancy slogging through a muddy field? Then look no further. From circus tricks in the Scottish capital and brass bands in Germany to a music festival with a strict no camping rule, we've found the festivals that are a whole lot more fun without the wet and the wellies.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh
August in Edinburgh can feel like a circus, so act like the ringleader and get in the centre of it all. Stroll along any one street and you will be ducking flaming swords thrown by jugglers, cheering cabaret from the cobblestones and having the best of the bard bestowed upon you at a bus stop.
Of course, you’ll want to send in the clowns. The Fringe is famous for its comedy and you'll find a stage for stand-up across every pub back room, narrow alleyway and vacant street corner of the city. Many of the performances won’t be in the programme, but most will be worth your while.
For those who enjoy a more regimented experience, Edinburgh also hosts the Royal Military Tattoo during August. Under the lights of the famous castle, bagpipers, military bands and fireworks deliver an unmissable spectacle.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe takes place across the city from 5-29 August. Event prices vary.
Longitude Festival, Dublin
Headlined by hip hop’s hottest act Kendrick Lamar, indie royalty The National and the genre-busting Major Lazer, Longitude is fast becoming one of Europe’s most talked about festivals - and with good reason. Located a short bus ride from Dublin, this is the festival for those who want to just rock up and rock out.
Need a little more convincing? Consider this: there is no camping. So spare yourself the carry-on of tent poles and roll mats, sleeping bags and torches, and stroll straight to the main stage to sing along to the likes of Courtney Barnett, rap upstart Tyler, the Creator and electro pop powerhouse, Chvrches.
Only after your voice is hoarse, head back into Dublin for a soothing whiskey, unbeatable after hours’ entertainment and crucially, that comfortable bed and reviving morning shower.
Longitude Festival takes place 15-17 July. Weekend tickets start from €159.50.
With dress codes ranging from leather-friendly to the extremely sparse, and with rib-cage crushing techno and vast industrial spaces hosting Weimar-era debauchery, it’s no wonder that Berlin night owls are wide-eyed. Those who do manage to divert their gaze will find it looking towards the city’s Treptower Park and the first rate Lollapalooza line-up.
Billed to play this September’s event are rock heavyweights Kings of Leon and a rare appearance from a returning Radiohead. For fans of beeps and bleeps, the line-up includes James Blake and Martin Solveig, while Years & Years and Jess Glynne are two chart-topping acts who will do more than catch the eye.
Not forgetting those who like an early night, Kidzapalooza is the festival’s dedicated children’s area and features a circus, make-and-do workshops and its own stage complete with a line-up that might just keep them up past their bedtime.
Lollapalooza Berlin takes place 10-11 September. Weekend tickets start from €139.
Oktoberfest needs little introduction: this is Germany’s premier festival. Come September, for every techno DJ in Berlin there is a brass band in Bavaria.
Held across 14 gigantic beer tents, the celebration sees six million sizeable beer steins sunk in just two weeks. Sup your first in Schottenhamel, where the mayor of Munich taps the festival’s opening keg, but don't miss Armbrustschützen-Festhalle for its crisp Paulaner beer and crossbow competition. For sustenance, feast at Schützen-Festzelt, famed for its suckling pig and warm potato salad.
As well as beer, tradition is at the heart of festival. Expect dirndl dresses and lederhosen alongside plenty of brass bands. Each tent boasts its own and on the last Sunday they all come together for one huge closing concert. The spectacle sounds out beneath Munich’s large Bavaria statue at 11am.
Oktoberfest takes place in Munich from 17 September – 2 October. Event prices vary.
Pitchfork Music Festival, Paris
Pitchfork, an online music magazine renowned for its influence and impeccable taste, has spent the past few years putting its own head above the parapet with its peerless Paris festival.
When its tastemakers curate a line-up, you can guarantee it has been agonised over, and early signs prove promising: Daphne is set to bring his intelligent house music to the French capital, whilst the baritone R&B of Chet Faker, the hard-hitting Moderat and the spectral sounds of Bat For Lashes are also on board.
It’s not only the exceptional talent that makes this a very special festival. The main event is staged in former slaughterhouse, Grand halle de la Villette, which has been re-purposed as a magnificent glass-fronted concert hall and is as much a poser as any of the bands themselves.
Pitchfork Music Festival takes place 27-29 October. Tickets start at €100.
Veranos de la Villa, Madrid
For a festival that offers flexibility, travellers should make for Madrid. Veranos de la Villa is rich in performance, art and cinema and runs for a full two months over July and August.
Previous editions of the city’s summer arts festival have seen acclaimed performances by international acts such as the Jazz Ballet of Montreal and the Buena Vista Social Club, but the main draw is the musical theatre and flamenco: a showcase in the very best of Spanish culture.
Taking place across the city, from the abattoir-turned-arts-centre, Matadero Madrid, to the stone courtyard of the Conde Duque and celebrated Circo Price theatre, the venues are as varied as the programme. For the finest events in the most prestigious location, head to Sabatini Gardens inside the Royal Palace.
Veranos de la Villa takes place in venues across the city 1 July – 30 August. Event prices vary.