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2017 Europe's best summer music festivals
2017 Europe's best summer music festivals

Turn a festival into a holiday at one of the following (hopefully) sun-blessed shindigs

Turn a festival into a holiday at one of the following (hopefully) sun-blessed shindigs CREDIT: PHOTO: [ SANDOR CSUDAI ] . WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/CSUDAISANDOR

In the last decade, the traditional field plus stage set-up of the festival has evolved to include glamping parties in “secret” locations,  family-friendly, glitter-filled camps dedicated to learning and urban weekenders with restaurant pop-ups and fringe pool parties.

Sitting alongside the headline acts in Europe this summer is another new breed of festival, one that puts wellbeing at its centre. Obonjan, in Croatia, is in its second year and takes over a whole island, not just for a weekend, but over an entire summer.

“Festivals do a good job of keeping people happy for a few days - and we love them - but Obonjan is taking things in a slightly different direction,” said Dan Blackledge, co-founder of the festival.  “It’s an evolution of the festival idea, with all the things people love in one place, in a beautiful natural setting, but with more of an emphasis on wellbeing and relaxation. We want guests to leave feeling as restored as they are entertained.”

While there is music, from Gilles Peterson, Roy Ayers and others, with 73 days of festival to fill there is also a vast and varied programme of art, talks, yoga, meditation and fitness. Different types of accommodation, from bell tents to forest lodges, are available across the island, which features a decked terrace for stargazing and a stone amphitheatre.

Perfect for a long holiday then, as are the following music festivals, our pick of the best in Europe this summer. We start with a few that you’ve probably never heard of, followed by a host of classics.

Relaxing on the terrace at Obonjan in Croatia

Relaxing on the terrace at Obonjan in Croatia CREDIT: ALL RIGHTS RESERVED/JUSTIN GARDNER

Little-known festivals you’ll love

Secret Solstice, Reykjavik, Iceland

June 16 - 19


This party never sleeps - without a pair of sturdy blackout blinds that is. Iceland celebrates the summer solstice under 72 hours of daylight and makes the most of the country’s dramatic landscapes in doing so. This year for the first time it will stage a couple of intimate gigs from Icelandic artists in a multi-coloured tunnel made entirely of lava. Others take place inside a glacier.

Midnight sun boat parties leave past timber-clad houses from Reykjavik’s harbour to watch the sun kiss the horizon and bounce back up again. The festival also has an admirable carbon neutral status. International artists this year include Foo Fighters, The Prodigy and Chaka Khan.

Music inside a volcano at Secret Solstice

Music inside a volcano at Secret Solstice

WOW Air has travel packages available with both camping and hotel options. We’d advise you also stay on afterwards for a soak in the Blue Lagoon and to visit the country’s waterfalls and black sand beach.

Northside, Aarhus, Denmark

June 9 - 11


Aarhus, Denmark's second city, is a European Capital of Culture this year. Go for Nordic cuisine, the medieval streets of the Latin quarter, to explore the industrial dockside and visit the ARoS Museum - an art gallery with a rainbow walkway that provides views of the city through a kaleidoscope of colours. Northside festival began in 2010 with all Danish acts. It's a short hop from the city centre and has since gone international, with a knockout lineup this year - including Radiohead, Frank Ocean and Agnes Obel. There's no camping so skip the mud, book a hotel and enjoy the city. 

We Love Green, Paris, France

June 10 - 11


In its sixth year, this festival is just a short hop from Paris but little-known outside France. It has eco-roots and a focus on sustainability and changing behaviour, getting its power from solar panels and recycled oil generators and making a green “think tank” its centre, for the discussion of ideas presented by “change-makers” such as thinkers and activists.

View from the stage at eco-friendly We Love Green

View from the stage at eco-friendly We Love Green

A Tribe Called Quest, Solange and Perfume Genius are among the artists performing. Packages with hotels and apartments are available, with the weekender taking place in Bois de Vincennes, at the confluence of the Seine and Marne, on the eastern edge of the capital.

Into the Valley, various locations

June 29 - July 1, Estonia

August 10 - 12, Sweden


Where would you prefer to party - in a partly flooded quarry and former prison outside Tallinn; an abandoned industrial silo outside Stockholm, or in a 17th-century fort in Cape Town? All intriguing locations, we’re sure you’ll agree, and all sitting under the banner of Into the Valley festival.

This electronic music festival began in a quarry in Sweden in 2015 and grew to take on more unique venues. They may sound isolated but the festival organisers have designed accommodation packages for each one, to make visiting and extending your stay a breeze. The Black Madonna and Nina Kraviz perform in Estonia, with Andrew Weatherall appearing in Sweden. African DJs are expected to feature in South Africa event, not happening until January.

Bluedot Festival, Jodrell Bank Observatory, Cheshire, England

July 7 - 9


Taking place in the shadow of the iconic Lovell Telescope and nestled in the rolling Cheshire hills, Bluedot is a place where old-school Manc ravers mingle with new-age music fans, with a troupe of sprightly scientists and space nerds (led in 2016 by Professor Brian Cox) on hand to give context to this out of this world experience.

It sounds like a far-fetched concept, and it very much is - but it works. Expect interactive installations, live art projections and experimental musical performances - last year’s highlight came in the form of a chorus of bees set to rhythm - soundtracked by a carefully curated lineup of interstellar musical performances.

Whilst very much in its infancy (now in its second year), Bluedot ticks all the boutique-but-brainy-festival boxes - and looks set to be equally otherworldly for 2017 with a lineup featuring Nightmares on Wax, the aptly named DJ Yoda, Goldfrapp and “space-rock survivors” Hawkwind confirmed. 


Mandrea, Lake Garda, Italy

August 16 - 21


Folk and reggae vibes make for a relaxed atmosphere at this amazingly-situated festival, strung out along a cliff ledge high above Lake Garda in the foothills of the Alps. There’s a slightly hippy, DIY-feel here that has been lost at other festivals, plus Italian food such as stone-baked pizzas and campari cocktails.

During the day, rock climbers take to the cliff face or go canyoning, while anyone wanting to cool off or explore Garda can drive down to the lovely pine and shingle beaches found at Riva del Garda at the bottom of the mountain. Toots and the Maytals, and General Levy play this year.

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OFF, Silesia, Poland

August 4 - 6


Poland’s biggest alternative music festival is still not a house name among Britons, despite the nearby lakes that make this an inviting oasis in the middle of industrial Silesia.

Poland's OFF is one of the summer's more affordable festivals, PJ Harvey tops the bill

Poland's OFF is one of the summer's more affordable festivals, PJ Harvey tops the billCREDIT: ADAM JEDRYSIK / JEDRYSIK.COM/ADAM JEDRYSIK / JEDRYSIK.COM

With PJ Harvey topping the bill this summer though, this could be the year to change that. Drinks and food are cheap and the crowd is arty with a social conscience, attending a programme of films, talks and lectures.

Discover a reliably friendly atmosphere and a host of Polish bands you had never heard of before. Industrial revolution tourism is the thing here and if you’re interested, you can stay on a day and take Torun 1 Day Tour from Warsaw

The Great Estate, Cornwall, England

June 2 - 4


New this year, The Great Estate is painting itself as a garden fete gone wild, in a Cornish country house. Scorrier House offers walled gardens, wild meadows and ancient woodland, plus Echo and the Bunnymen and Craig Charles’ funk show.

There will be burlesque, a silent disco in a forest glade and a wellness area with treatments, massages and hot tubs. A vintage fair and camel racing completes a picture reminiscent of the first ever Wilderness. Hobbit huts are available to stay in and cyclists are being encouraged to reach the house via the Mineral Tramways Coast to Coast trail.


Positivus, Salacgriva, Latvia

July 14 - 19


Visit Salacgriva promises fields of dandelions all the way to the beach at this “undiscovered pearl of Latvia.” It’s enough to get us dreaming of a few days spent listening to a diverse bill of indie and rock combined with some beach time and perhaps a little messing about on the region’s pretty rivers.

This is a low-key festival where locally-made clothes from Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian designers are sold next to craft stalls. But its lineups have been getting it noticed. This year sees Maximo Park, Pixies and Alt-J take to the stage on the wooded site.


Positivus is a low-key festival in Latvia

Positivus is a low-key festival in Latvia CREDIT: LINAS ZEMGULIS

Worldwide Festival, Sète, France

July 3 - 9


The brainchild of 90s DJ and BBC 6 Music host Gilles Peterson, this festival, held on the beach in Sète attracts a cool crowd of Frenchies and international revellers. Taking place between July 3 and July 9, festivities will centre around the ‘Theatre de la Mer’, a beach-side amphitheatre, hosting parties in the day and live acts and DJs into the night.

The whole event lasts a week, so you’ll need stamina to stick it all out, but the site is small, so you won’t need to do any Glasto-style tramping around. This year’s line-up includes Devendra Banhart, The Cinematic Orchestra and Sampha.HM

UVA Festival, Ronda, Spain

June 2 - 4


UVA festival is small, friends -of-friends gathering, a celebration of music and visual art in an extraordinary location. Descalzos Viejos is a bodega and vineyard with beautiful views of Ronda’s cliffs, from a 16th-century monastery.

As a festival site it is a labyrinth of ancient walls and secret hideaways and a magical place to lose yourself. Music, in the form of spiritual and soulful dance, comes from Antal, Nu Guinea and Donna Leake, among others.


The dramatic setting for UVA in Ronda

The dramatic setting for UVA in Ronda CREDIT: GABRIEL-M/GABRIEL-M

Meadows in the Mountains, Bulgaria

June 9 - 11


Held on a mountaintop, above fields full of cows and wildflowers a three-hour drive from Plovdiv, this tiny, family-run festival gets everything right.

The people are the kind who offer massages and face paint to new friends, the music is under the radar but essential, and the setting as isolated as you could wish for.

In mid-afternoon, when indie and folk bands perform intimate sets at the modest main stage, mist rolls in. By the time beats kick in at the DJ stage, it has formed a blanket beneath ethereal sunrises.

You can either camp in the village below the festival or stay in basic rooms let out by villagers, who might also give you a lift up to the festival site in a horse and cart. The whole site is lovingly handcrafted. When night falls, large campfires are lit and become a hub for revellers in feathered headdresses and glitter.


Lost Village, Lincolnshire, England

August 24 - 27


Hidden amongst the trees in rural Lincolnshire lies an abandoned village concealing an array of questionable characters. A wander in the woods will uncover a variety of stages enlivened by DJs and festival-fanatics throwing shapes. But this is the era of intimate festivals which offer much more than just music.

Learn the story of the paint-clad forest dwellers, enjoy undiscovered comedy in the Lost Theatre, sample global street food and or simply revel in the time-warp created by this pocket of English countryside. Take heed of the rumours; 2017 is a year not to be missed. The 2017 lineup includes Hot Chip, De La Soul, Jackmaster and Dusky.


Classic festivals to turn into a holiday

North Sea Jazz Festival, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

July 7 - 9


Though this is the largest indoor music festival in the world, never has it registered so highly on the calendar of British revellers as this year, when a stellar line-up has left Rotterdam drained of almost all the available beds. Erykah Badu, Gladys Knight and Usher in collaboration with The Roots, are all set to wow at the crowds over one weekend.

The festival has an illustrious history, beginning in 1976 in The Hague. The Rotterdam show involves more than 1,000 musicians from the worlds of jazz, blues, funk, soul, r&b, hip-hop and pop. Either side of the festival, there is time to explore Rotterdam’s maritime history and hip quayside eateries.

Primavera Sound, Barcelona, Spain

June 1 - 3


Primavera has done the impossible this year: improving upon a 2016 line-up that included Radiohead and LCD Soundsystem. Cementing its reputation as Europe's finest festival, this three-day endurance test held in an industrial park by the sea plays host to, among others, Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, The xx and Grace Jones.

If the bill doesn't sway you, though, the city itself will: wander around Barcelona during the day, basking in its bohemian bonhomie, gorging on fresh calamari and goggling the Gaudi architecture. Too hungover for all that? Just head to the beach. Barceloneta’s strip  of sand and its clutch of seafront restaurants is just a short walk from the festival site at the Forum.

Flow, Helsinki, Finland

August 11-13


Forget grassy fields and mud-caked misbehaviour: this petite festival takes place around an industrial power plant and shimmers with urban cool. While the music is consistently good - this year's line-up includes Frank Ocean, Aphex Twin and Ryan Adams - it's with its food that Flow really comes into its own, attracting some of the capital's most avant-garde restaurateurs.

Dishes from Richard McCormick last year, one involving smoked rainbow trout with new potatoes, chanterelle mushrooms, dill and cucumber pesto, were some of the best food that you can eat standing up. Punters can also check out several art galleries, and party, weirdly, in some of the city's saunas. This is a city too that's great for cycling, so one morning you could hire a bike, another you could take a ferry to one of the many islands that dot the harbour.


Flow's power plant site at night

Flow's power plant site at night

NOS ALIVE, Lisbon, Portugal

July 6 - 8


Combine this festival with a day or two in the lively city of Lisbon followed by some R&R on beaches that are ten minutes drive away.  NOS has long been one of Portugal's, if not Europe's, premier festivals (previously known as Optimus Alive), and keeps things simple - expect bands, a dance tent and a bar or two.

There are, however, a nice variety of accommodaton options that make this one to consider, including festival camping, glamping or a stay in a city hotel. A nearby four-star camping ground recommended by the festival also offers bungalows and a swimming pool. Check the website for details. Depeche Mode, Royal Blood and Bonobo appear this year, among others.

Isle of Wight, England

June 8 - 11


Despite Bestival's presence over the years, the Isle of Wight Festival has continued to entice a solid fan base. Now Bestival has packed its bags and left the island, it's the Isle of Wight Festival's time to shine.

In recent years the festival has won awards for it's family-friendly attitude but with a glittering resume featuring the likes of The Rolling Stones, Amy Winehouse and David Bowie, it's safe to say its target audience are simply those with an appreciation of quality music.The 2017 lineup includes David Guetta, Rod Stewart and Arcade Fire.

Electric Castle, Banffy Castle, Romania

July 12-16


What you see is what you get from Romania’s largest festival of music, technology and art, set in the grounds of the impossibly picturesque 15th-century Banffy Castle. But if electronic music-infused transylvanian architecture doesn’t immediately grab your attention, that’s not all that's on offer - the four stages across this festival are suitably eclectic for the music they play host to.

The four stages, which are to be found buried in woodland, are draped around a tranquil lake and nestled on a “secret” island. There’s a 24-hour music policy, too, so guilt-free afternoon naps can be taken without the fear of missing out on something somewhere (although, you probably will be).  

When the time comes for a break from the pulsing Romanian sun and outrageously cheap beer, there is also a host of wholesome activities on offer like hot air balloon rides, yoga lessons and - new for 2017 - a series of TEDx Talks for those who fancy their entertainment a little more highbrow. 

Rock Werchter, Werchter, Belgium

June 29 - July 2


Don’t let the name put you off if riffs aren’t your thing; there is plenty this festival brings to the usually sleepy village of Werchter other than rock and roll (and 150,000 revellers to boot). Radiohead, Agnes Obel and Soulwax are amongst this year's typically varied line up.

Crowds near the usually sleepy village of Werchter

Crowds near the usually sleepy village of Werchter CREDIT: © JOKKO/JOKKO

It’s really all about the music, but whatever your vibe, the impeccable sound systems - closer to concert halls than festival tents - have escalated Werchter’s acclaim over the last four decades. Opt for a VIP experience by staying nearby at “Rock Village” and you’ll while away the in-between hours under blue skies with poolside prosecco, massages, a complimentary breakfast buffet and a jovial game of pétanque with your new-found festival friends.

Way out West, Gothenburg, Sweden

August 10 - 12


In the green and pleasant grounds of Slottskogen Park, this is one of Europe’s biggest festivals. At night, Stay out West is a sister event, with gigs taking place all over the city. Festival goers cannot camp at the site but have access to Gothenburg’s raft of hotels and campsites.

Lana Del Ray, The xx and Chance the Rapper feature at this year’s event, which continues to be meat, fish and even milk-free.

However, Gothenburg is home to Scandinavia's largest fish auction in its harbour and the fish restaurants here are well worth a look, with Sweden’s second city almost matching its capital in the  gastronomy stakes.

Sziget, Budapest, Hungary

August 9 - 16


Ensconced on an island in the middle of the Danube, you could forget you’re a short ferry ride from the centre of Budapest. Perhaps it’s down to being cut off by the river, but, unusually for a city festival, Sziget feels like its own crazy, self-contained world, with plenty going on late into the night.

The bridge across the Danube to Sziget

The bridge across the Danube to Sziget CREDIT: WWW.BALAZSMOHAI.COM

With mini-stages dedicated to everything from reggae to jazz, a dance tent named after the city's A38 riverboat club and crazy visual installations in the trees, it's easy to get lost and even easier not to care. Highlights this year include The Kills, Interpol and Mac DeMarco.

Bilbao BBK Live, Bilbao, Spain

July 6 - 8


Growing in stature under the radar, Bilbao BBK is a real gem, combining consistently strong line-ups with beautiful surroundings. Set in the mountains of Spain’s Basque country, the festival is now in its 11th year, and is something of a bargain at 100 pounds for three-days.

Topping the bill this summer are synth-pop behemoths Depeche Mode, Las Vegas indie rockers The Killers and Beach Boy Brian Wilson. Away from the festival there is the obvious attraction of Bilbao, a city that revels in its modern architecture. Heading to the Guggenheim Museum before the day's first acts is a must.


Lowlands, Biddinghuizen, the Netherlands

August 18 - 20


The Dutch answer to Reading and Leeds, Lowlands is celebrating its 25th anniversary edition this year and is a much cleaner and more pleasant experience than either of them. The acts feature a well-known mix of indie, rock and dance spread across 12 stages.

The festival’s other big draw is that it is around an hour’s drive from Amsterdam - ideal for combining a festival with a city break. Plus its camping grounds are some of the neatest you’ll ever see. Catch Michael Kiwanuka, Moderat and London Grammar this year.


Lowlands - like Reading but cleaner

Lowlands - like Reading but cleaner

Outlook, Pula, Croatia

September 6 - 10


Providing sun, sea and a soundtrack to end the summer, festival giant, Outlook, is back this September for its 10th year running. Having started life as a subsidiary of Leeds event SubDub, Outlook, which sold out in 2016, it is now one of Croatia's most popular festivals (along with its sister festival Dimensions).

The dynamic lineup showcases everything from reggae and hip-hop to drum & bass and grime. Over 16,000 bass fanatics are expected to flood to Pula's 19th-century abandoned fort this year to sizzle in the sun. And with a 10th notch on its belt, word on the street is this festival is only getting better with age. The 2017 lineup includes Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, Giggs, Goldie and DJ Marky.

Green Man, Brecon Beacons, Wales

August 17 - 20


In the velvety Brecon Beacons, Green Man is a folky affair with a consistently well-curated line-up, a science garden and a huge bar hosting Welsh Beer and Cider Festival, complete with plenty of picnic benches so you can take the weight off while you sit and sup.

The Green Man himself is a giant made of straw and stuffed with fireworks who is set alight on the last night. Future Islands, The Shins and Ride perform this summer. Take a week out and go hunting for waterfalls in the Beacons afterwards.

Festival previews by Natalie Paris, Belinda Maude, Patrick Smith, Zoe Johnson and Hannah Meltzer


The green man is set alight to mark the close of the festival

The green man is set alight to mark the close of the festival CREDIT:© JENNA FOXTON / FANATIC 2016/JENNA FOXTON

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