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!
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!
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 and unique and you’ve probably never 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 2019!
Meadows in the Mountains
6-9th June 2019
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 here.
12th-19th June 2019
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? Now coming into its second year, Kala soundtracks its idyllic and intimate Balkan location with an eclectic mix of live music and DJ’s from the smooth soulful stylings of New Zealand’s Jordan Rakei to the house music of Chicago’s Miss Honey Dijon.
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 great named artists like ‘Disco Nap’ and ‘Nunki Bay Starship’.
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 fifth 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.
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 last year and have a heap of thoughts and tips to share so look out for my post before the festival this year!
Pete the Monkey
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 theme this year is Mother Nature and attendees are encouraged to get fully stuck in!
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.
The Setting? Taking place in a 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.
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.
13th-15th September 2019
The setting? Nova Batida takes places in two lofty urban spaces 20 minutes from the heart of the vibrant city of Lisbon. You can choose to stay within the city or embrace the great outdoors with a variety of camping options.
What to expect? A huge line-up across a spectrum of music – highlights for me include Jayda G, Akala, Nubya Garcia, Slowthai and Awesome Tapes from Africa… I could go on! How’s that for diverse?? Extracurriculars include activities spanning supper clubs, wellness, museum tours, workshop and debates that come together to create a fully culturally immersive experience.
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!