30 thrilling festivals for a sizzling summer

Whatever your passion in life, there’s a festival in Europe just waiting for you and your friends to get together and enjoy. Whether you’re craving the chance to dance your nights away to world-class acts, sample the best in food and drink, take an art odyssey, or discover local colour and customs, we’ve rounded up some of the region’s top events. Upgrade your festival-going experience with our insider tips and a holiday rental perfect for your whole group.

Swing in style at the Sziget Festival, Budapest, 10–17 August 2016

With a deliriously gorgeous location on an island in the Danube, complete with its own sandy beach, this quirky event brings more than 1,000 rock, pop, electro, jazz, blues, and world music performances to the heart of Hungary’s capital over a full seven days and nights of partying. Among the headliners this year are Rihanna, Muse, and David Guetta, but there’s plenty to do when you’re not catching one of your favourite acts, from viewing dance performances, street theatre, and art installations to playing beach volleyball. Kids get a look in too, with funfair rides and activities. If you’ve any energy left, there are masses to explore in Budapest, including stately Buda Royal Palace, or make a beeline for one of the city’s famous Turkish-style baths to recuperate after your excesses.

sziget festival budapest Photo credit: Sziget.hu

Get into the groove at 5 more merry music festivals

1 Glastonbury Festival, Somerset, England, 22–26 June 2016: Music and performing arts
2 NOS Primavera Sound, Porto, Portugal, 9–11 June 2016: Rock, pop, and electro
3 Rock en Seine, Saint-Cloud (near Paris), France, 26–28 August 2016: Rock music
4 Sónar Festival, Barcelona, Spain, 16–18 June 2016: Electro music and multimedia arts
5 Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland, 1–16 July: Jazz

Go gastronomic at Taste of London, UK, 15–19 June 2016

What makes this event a foodie’s paradise? Taster plates from more than 40 of London’s hippest restaurants (including Duck & Waffle and Sea Containers). Live demos by Nathan Outlaw and other celebrity chefs. Plus the opportunity to get your own culinary kicks in a tempting range of interactive workshops. Held over five days in lovely Regent’s Park in the heart of the British capital, Taste of London also offers up free tastings of wine, whiskey, and craft beers, complimentary champagne and food pairings, and a market with more than 200 boutique stall-holders luring you with artisan products. Also running in the park during the festival is Shakespeare’s “Henry V” in the delightful Open Air Theatre.

taste of london festival Photo credit: Taste of London, IMG Arts & Entertainment

Feast at 5 more tasty food festivals

1 Copenhagen Cooking & Food Festival, Denmark, 19–28 August 2016
2 Taste of Stockholm, Sweden, 2–6 June 2016
3 Sardine Festival, Portimão, Portugal, 3–7 August 2016
4 Dorset Seafood Festival, Weymouth, England, 9–10 July 2016
5 Swiss Food Festival, Zermatt, Switzerland, 12–14 August 2016

Bottoms up at the Berlin International Beer Festival, 5–7 August 2016

The world’s longest beer garden (2,200 metres) is just one of the attractions of this annual weekend dedicated to one of Germany’s most famous products. Held along Karl-Marx-Allee, renowned for its socialist architecture, it draws around 800,000 beer lovers from around the globe to taste the offerings of 340 breweries from 87 countries. All this accompanied by live folk and other music on 20 stages. Entrance is free; invest in a festival kit with a beer glass on a strap-holder to tour the stalls, divided by region. The surrounding Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district is one of the city’s most fascinating, with must-sees including the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall and the Jewish Museum.

berlin beer festival Photo credit: Frank-Peter Bürger, 20. Internationales Berliner Bierfestival

Summer sipping at 5 more drink festivals

1 Bordeaux Wine Festival, France, 23–26 June 2016
2 Sea of Wine Festival, Burgas, Bulgaria, 1–31 August 2016
3 Budapest International Wine Festival, Hungary, 8–11 September 2016
4 The Great British Beer Festival, London, England, 9–13 August 2016
5 Õllesummer (Beer Summer), Tallinn, Estonia, 6–9 July 2016

Saddle up at the Palio di Siena, Tuscany, 2 July and 16 August 2016

Italy’s world-renowned horse race brings thrills and medieval pageantry to the city’s main square, stunning Piazza del Campo, twice each summer. After a parade in historic costumes, accompanied by lots of flag waving, 10 bareback riders, each representing a city ward, vie for speed over three circles of the piazza, lasting around 90 seconds—many taking a tumble due to the tight cornering. While you’re in this stunning city, don’t miss the cathedral and adjoining Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana with its artworks and views of the Tuscan countryside, or a mooch through the charming historic centre.

palio sienna festival

Take part in the traditions of these 5 local festivals

1 Tomatina Festival, Buñol, Spain, 31 August 2016: Giant food fight involving tomatoes
2 Festa de São João, Porto, Portugal, 23–24 June 2016: Street festival with concerts and fireworks
3 Fiesta de San Fermín, Pamplona, Spain, 6–14 July 2016: Folklore festival best known for the Running of the Bulls through the streets
4 Les Fêtes de Bayonne, France, 27–31 July 2016: Series of festivals with street performances, traditional dance, and fireworks
5 Notting Hill Carnival, London, England, 28–29 August 2016: Caribbean-inspired street party

Festival Avignon, France, 6–24 July 2016

Europe’s largest theatre festival puts contemporary performing arts at the fore in the Provence city for a lively and thought-provoking three weeks, with atmospheric venues such as the courtyard of the vast 14th-century Papal Palace. The official “In” festival is shadowed by an “Off” program of performances in theatres, schools, and streets. Capital of Christendom during the Middle Ages and with a UNESCO-listed historic centre, Avignon is a fabulous place to simply wander, with medieval monuments, including the Pont d’Avignon, the cathedral, and 4.3km-long ramparts that encircle the city.

avignon festival

Enjoy entertainment at 5 more art and culture festivals

1 Festival Grec de Barcelona, Spain, 1–31 July 2016: Theatre, dance, music, and circus
2 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Scotland, 5–29 August 2016: Theatre, comedy, dance, circus, cabaret, musicals, opera, children’s shows, and more
3 White Nights of St. Petersburg, Russia, 27 May–31 July 2016: Classical ballet, opera, and music
4 Museumsuferfest, Frankfurt, Germany, 26–28 August 2016: Art, theatre, dance, and music
5 Upfest—The Urban Paint Festival, Bristol, England, 23–25 July 2016: Street art and graffiti

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