A few years ago when I was ringing out my t-shirt, wondering how our tent was going to withstand the final night of high winds and sat hunched in my tent with a soggy bacon bap with rain lashing down, it got me thinking that despite (in my opinion) the up having one of the best music scenes in the world, maybe I needed to combine my love of music and festivals and take it abroad.
Over the last five years I’ve been to some great festivals in Europe. To many it sounds really lavish but to be honest it works out cheaper/the same as going to one in England as flights and tickets especially are so much cheaper. Also, food and drink on site is an absolute steal compared to buying a £9 burger at Glasto.
One of the best things about going somewhere warm for a festi is the weather – being guaranteed that the sun will be out really affects your spirits. It also affects what you bring – not having to take wellies, macs, and big warm jumpers makes such a difference.
You might think ‘ermmm how will I get my tent there. Well, never fear, I recommend either buying a cheap pop up for £20 in Argos and carrying it on the plane or you’ll find most sites sell tent rental with the ticket at only a few quid more. Depending on location, you may find that renting a cheap apartment is easier – not just for comfort but owing to the fact that tents get so hot in the sun.
Don’t get worried about travelling to a festival overseas as there’s lots of support on hand. Most of the festivals themselves are really helpful with tips, transfers and helping you find accommodation. If not there are some specialist companies that can help you.
So here is a rundown of my top ten:
Love International, Croatia
June 28 to 5th July 5
£100 for a full week ticket including club pass.
For a full review of the festival see my article here http://spicenotsugar.co.uk/love-international/ however for a snapshot I can tell you that Love International is a laid back festival nestled in the beautiful town of Tisno Croatia. Over the last nine years it has attracted some of Europe’s best dance music DJs. The dusty festival site is almost boutique. You’ll never feel crowded and can chill at the champagne bar (£12 for a bottle of prosecco), have fresh juices on the beach while listening to tunes on the beach stage or go off on a fabulous boat party where you can dance to your favourite DJ on the Adriatic. After 10pm you can retire to bed or a late dinner or party the night away at the open air club Barbarellas until sunrise.
Secret Solstice, Iceland
£165 with camping
Secret Solstice Festival places a multi-genre lineup against Iceland’s breathtaking natural backdrop. Electronic, indie, urban and folk artists travel from all over the world to celebrate the height of summer in a spot where the sun never does down.
Now into its third year, Secret Solstice festival is not only a musical treat with something for everyone, but it’s also a great chance to visit one of the most unique countries in the world.
96 hours of sunlight drench the festival in a magical charm that is almost impossible to find anywhere else. Even as a recent addition to the European festival scene, Secret Solstice has quickly cemented its place on every festival fan’s bucket list. More of a band style festival; SI attracts the likes of Radiohead, Bjork and Deftones
Meadows in the Mountains, Bulgaria
£115 with camping
As a carpet of cloud rolls in from the surrounding hills, an intimate gathering of newly formed friends huddles to watch the sun rise. It’s an eclectic crowd that travels into the Bulgarian countryside to boogie in the Rhodope Mountains. An unlikely scene that sees folk music by day lead into raucous raving until sunrise signals the descent into the town below to be welcomed into the rustic homes of locals. Appreciate your surroundings, bop ’til you drop, nap on the grass, practice yoga. Whatever you’re here for you’re bound to find it. Apparently there’s even downhill bobsleighing – just be careful.
Bilbao BBK, Spain
£100 with camping
In the mountains of Spain’s Basque country, Bilbao BBK has grown in stature since the festival’s inception in 2006. This year it delivers a humdinger of a line-up that mixes old and new, with Pixies and New Order on the bill alongside contemporary juggernauts such as Arcade Fire, Foals and Tame Impala. As with Primavera, Bilbao’s secret weapon is that you can wander around the cobbled streets of the old town, eating grilled octopus or looking around the latest exhibition in the dazzling Guggenheim Museum, before the day’s first act has appeared on stage. And at £93 for a three-day ticket, Bilbao BBK is a steal.
Primavera Sound, Barcelona
Forget Sonar and Benicassim: Primavera Sound, held in an industrial park by the sea, is Spain’s best festival, attracting not only 70,000 discerning punters over its three-day run, but also the biggest names in rock, pop, dance and indie. From Radiohead (playing their first live shows since 2012) and LCD Soundsystem (reforming after a five-year hiatus) to PJ Harvey and Suede, you’d be hard-pushed to find a stronger, more tantalizing line-up in Europe. Then there is the obvious attraction of Barcelona itself: because the festival doesn’t get under way until the late afternoon, you have time to sample the city’s tapas restaurants and delight in the Gaudi architecture. Or you can simply recover on the beach. As with BBK this is a definite festival to not camp at as people that did left their tents and booked into hotels on the second night, as it was so hot.
£166 for five days with camping
Set on an island on the Danube, this festival allows you to stay in Budapest, exploring the city and its “ruin” pubs before catching a tram or river ferry to this arty spectacle that draws a mixed international crowd of 90,000 a day. Over seven days, expect to see a range of musical genres but also lots of international rock and pop acts, including Rihanna, Bloc Party, a live set from UNKLE, Jake Bugg and Muse. There is a heavy lean to local bands on the smaller stages as you’d expect and you’ll find less English people here than some of the other festivals but that’s even more reason to check it out! There are also yoga, capoeira and art exhibitions when you need a break from the glitter and noise.
Finnish hipsters bring colour to an industrial power plant at this reliably great festival, where the capital’s best restaurateurs compete to whip up some of the most divine organic food it is possible to produce in a van. Another promising musical line-up this year includes Scandinavian acts as well as Iggy Pop, Massive Attack, The Kills and Jamie XX. When the lights go down on the headliners, seek out a party in one of the city’s saunas. This is a beautifully chilled out festival that combines music with art and even some political talks. Maybe a bit too hippy for some but worth it to experience something different.
£93 with camping
As the longest running electronic music festival in the world, Mysteryland Amsterdam is ready to return its unique patch just 20 kilometers from the capital, this August. Award winning for its sustainability, Mysteryland weaves between trees, flanking the rivers and lakes that map out the festival. Snake across bridges to discover stages offering everything from dubstep to disco and transformative techno. Afrojack, Gorgon City and Seth Troxler have played there so it’s a bit more mainstream than some dance festivals and on a much grander scale with partner festivals in the USA and Chile. Camping is recommended but the festival also offers advice on nearby hotels for the faint hearted; though my advice is that nothing in Amsterdam is for the faint hearted.
£108 for two days
One of America’s most famous music festivals, Lollapalooza is a moveable feast. It wows crowds in Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo either side of its second European residency in Berlin. Last year’s airfield makes way for a new venue however: Treptower Park, alongside the River Spree in the city’s trendy east. Top of the bill are Radiohead and Kings of Leon, who follow the likes of James Blake. More of a Reading/V type vibe – this is for your lovers of uber bands.
Fresh Island, Croatia
£50 for three days
Fresh Island is one of the few hip-hop music festivals held at Zrće beach near the city of Novalja in Croatia. Founded in 2012 and usually held in mid-July the festival focuses primarily on hip hop culture along with r&b and grime. The festival takes place in 3 different venues on Zrće beach: Aquarius, Papaya and Kalypso. It also offers daily boat parties and pool parties, excursions and extreme water sports. Since 2012 Fresh Island became the biggest hip-hop & urban beach festival in Europe featuring musicians, DJs and MCs from all over the world.
July 24 to 26
I feel I need to give Tomorrowland a mention despite it going against everything I have said in this article about festivals abroad being cheap and easy. Tomorrowland gets a mention as it is the Glastonbury of dance music and attracts people from all over the world. The festival means ‘peace love and happiness’ and everyone there is just that. Expect your BIG Ibiza main stream DJs such as Guetta and Aviici but also a whole mix of ultra cool DJs that will take you out of your comfort zone. It’s big, lavish and full of beautiful people but worth every penny.