I’ve curated my dream summer European festival road trip, visiting incredible locations for hidden parties, arts experiences, genre-spanning musical offerings, delicious food and a smattering culture.
There is something extra special about smaller festivals, a kind of sense of community and, if you’re really lucky, a chance to come away feeling like you’ve been privileged to experience something quite unique… Combine that with visiting a festival somewhere you’ve never been before and it gets even more exciting!
This list compiles a combination of camping festivals and multi-venue city festivals – but there are a few things that all of these European parties have in common; they are small, unique and boutique and you might not have ever heard of them! You won’t find any big corporate arena festivals here… these are the best I could find in independent and intimate festival gatherings across the continent over ten weekends in summer 2021!
Hungary – 23rd- 26th June 2021 [Back-up date; 11th-14th August]
The setting? Deep within a forest in the Buda Hills outside Budapest, Kolorádó is a maze of secret paths and hidden venues.
What to expect? An exciting, out-there arts programme including activities, talks and workshops with names like “Mediocre Drag Performance’ and ‘Escape Room with the Thought Generator’. An eclectic musical programme from Hungary and beyond featuring similarly excellently named artists like ‘Disco Nap’ and ‘Nunki Bay Starship’.
Italy – 2nd-4th July 2021
The setting? In the woodlands and grounds of a beautiful rural palace, Villa Arconati, just outside of Milan.
What to expect? An ‘experimental and sustainable‘ festival, Terraforma provides three days of music, lectures & workshops. It’s in its sixth year and in that time has created the balance between being a space to dance as well as a thought-provoking experience – and also worked towards some very impressive eco-credentials in the meantime.
Croatia – 14th-20th July 2021
The setting? The quaint Croatian seaside town of Tinso. Love International takes place within a private pebbled beach cove in the serene turquoise waters of the Adriatic… various parties set sail on ‘The Argonaughty’ and ‘The Martina’ boats all day long and the late nights are taken care of in legendary outdoor nightclub Barbarellas.
What to expect? With nearly 24-hour musical programming across the space of a week, Love International is a house and techno lover’s paradise and can be whatever kind of experience you want it to be; a relaxing beach holiday, an all-out hedonistic escape or somewhere in between…
I went in 2018 and have a heap of thoughts and tips to share so look out for my post before the festival this year!
Albania – 1st -8th September 2021
The setting? Scattered in a number of venues on the pristine Albanian coastland with a sheer cliff edge backdrop this festival is the first of its kind in the country.
What to expect? Kala soundtracks its idyllic and intimate Balkan location with an eclectic mix of live music and DJ’s from the smooth soulful stylings of the legendary Jocelyn Brown to DJ sets from the likes of Palms Trax, Jayda G and Optimo.
Utrecht, Netherlands – 4th September 2021
The setting? Perched on the side of a lake in the Netherlandic city of Utrecht, Lief Festival’s big colourful stage designs make it resemble pocket-sized Tomorrowland.
What to expect? This isn’t a party that takes itself too seriously, juxtaposing it’s big colourful stage designs with playful activities and quirky sights in-between the big musical areas. The festival has a strong focus on techno but pulls in a diverse and inclusive crowd for this end of summer fiesta.
Unfortunately, after the year that we’ve all had, things are still looking uncertain in the festival landscape. Here are some of my top picks that have had to postpone for 2021 or haven’t quite announced their plans yet, stay tuned we’ll update you if things change!
Meadows in the Mountains
Bulgaria – POSTPONED until 2022
The setting? Literally above the clouds in the mystical Rhodope Mountains in rural Bulgaria… all the stages and structures are made from wood as part of a completely plastic-free site with beautiful woodland clearings looking over fairytale meadows.
What to expect? Affectionately dubbed ‘hipsters on the hill’ Meadows blends an underground line-up with a wholesome programme of wellness and workshops within its Mummar Mountain area. Its awe-inspiring location is complemented by the range of art pieces and structures built into the mountain – all ready to explore!
I went for three years in a row and you can read my full guide to Meadow in the Mountains festival here.
Pete the Monkey
France – Postponed until 2021
The setting? Pete The Monkey is by the fishing town of Saint-Aubin-sur-mer in rural Normandy.
What to expect? Named after a dishwashing monkey turned YouTube sensation (yep really), this gloriously silly weekender is all in aid of its namesake’s family in a monkey sanctuary in Bolivia! The family-friendly festival’s has a fact dress theme every year and attendees are encouraged to get fully stuck in!
Crato, Portugal – 2021 Event TBC
The setting? The small festival site is on the edge of a shimmering lake near the medieval Portugese town of Crato.
What to expect? A unique festival in a stunning location, Waking Life promises an otherworldly and transformational experience with a soundtrack of house and techno.
Take a look at my guide for The Best Music Festivals in the World for more ideas on where to explore!
France – 2021 TBC
The Setting? Taking place in an exquisite new location every year – this year Chateau Perche is within France’s oldest private arboretum in the grounds of a palace…
What to expect? The descriptions on the website are so off-kilter they make me question whether this is even a festival at all!? From what I gather it’s a completely magical four days, each day with its own fancy dress theme (!!!), combining workshops, performance music and merriment to create an intimate, experimental and environmentally conscious event.
Some of these are definitely making it onto my festival bucket list! Have you got any suggestions I’ve missed or plans for European festival getaways yourself this summer? Let me know in the comments!
Looking for more festival inspiration? Check out my ultimate list of The Best UK Festivals Happening in 2021