7 of the best music festivals in Europe

Grab your passport and swap the British summer for sea and sand

Roisin O'Connor
Friday 26 May 2017 10:24 BST
Germany’s Melt! festival offers a huge selection of electro, dance and alternative indie acts
Germany’s Melt! festival offers a huge selection of electro, dance and alternative indie acts

Headliners at festivals in the UK felt considerably dull this year, but around Europe there’s an absolute smorgasbord of talent lined up in some stunning locations – where the weather is almost certainly guaranteed to be better than it is in a muddy Somerset field.

With festival season right around the corner, we’re rounded up a few of the best and biggest festivals outside of the UK that are definitely worth considering. Get your passport ready!

Oya​ Festival

US jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington mesmerises the crowd at Oya Festival (Johannes Granseth)

Where: Norway

When: 8-12 August

It’s quite a culture shock to arrive at Oya Festival if you’re used to tramping around a field somewhere in the UK.

Set in the heart of Oslo in the beautiful Middelalderparken, Oya is one of Norway's biggest music festivals and consistently attracts a wealth of talent from across the board - from heritage rock to jazz to hip hop and grime.

This year Lana Del Rey is set to headline where she will undoubtably be performing material from her forthcoming album Lust For Life.

Also performing are *(deep breath*) Ryan Adams, Pixies, Sampha, BADBADNOTGOOD, Car Seat Headrest, Cosima, Sigrid, Young Thug, Mac DeMarco, The xx and Chance the Rapper, plus a wealth of up and coming talent from around the world.

For those who want to enjoy music and drinks while also feeling like they're being good to the environment, organisers at Oya have also been going to great lengths to make the event as green as possible: Oya was the first Norwegian festival to get the gold certification for organic food, by serving 97 per cent organic food to around 2,500 volunteers, 500 artists and 70,000 visitors.

On top of that, all of the festival waste is hand-sorted and recycled, saving 40,000 tonnes of CO2 (equivalent to the annual emissions of 15,000 cars). If this isn't a feel-good festival, we don't know what is.

Rock Werchter

Where: Belgium

When: 29 June-2 July

Four days of some of the best music from around the world.

Kings of Leon, Arcade Fire, Radiohead, James Blake, Linkin Park System of a Down, Foo Fighters and Alt-J are headlining, then you’ve also got Lorde, Prophets of Rage, Agnes Obel, Mura Masa, Savages, Cigarettes After Sex, Royal Blood, Birdy, Dua Lipa, Jain, Bonobo, Milky Chance, Charli XCX, Jimmy Eat World, Glass Animals, Soulwax, Rae Sremmurd, Noname and Cage the Elephant. And that should be enough for anyone.

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Where: Denmark

When: 24 June-1 July

Seriously, look at this year’s line-up. Just look at it. This is the epitome of “something for everyone”. Foo Fighters, Arcade Fire, The xx, Moderat, Solange, Blink-182, Bonobo, Bryson Tiller, Father John Misty, Future Islands, Gucci Mane, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Lorde, Nas, Royal Blood, Slowdive... it just goes on. Then you have the added bonus of it being set in absolutely stunning surroundings.

And Roskilde isn't just a music festival – here the camping and socialising tend to take priority. Because the festival begins a few days in advance of the artist performances, you get a chance to settle in and make some new friends. One of the favourite activities is beer bowling – a Danish game that sees participants sit in camping chairs and try to knock over their opponents beer bottles.

Flow festival

Where: Helskinki

When: 11-13 August

This leading boutique arts festival takes place in Finland's exquisite southern capital and will likely feel like a world away from what US and UK festival fans are used to.

Expect music from The xx, Lana Del Rey, Moderat, Young Thug, Vince Staples, Ryan Adams and Danny Brown. There are also stages for experimental music and the festival's renewed Bright Balloon 360 stage.

Primavera Sound

(Primavera Sound/Cecilia Diaz Betz))

Where: Barcelona

When: 31 May-4 June

Primavera has a huge role in supporting new music but still, every year without fail, manages to draw some of the biggest names around as well.

This year is no different. Primavera boasts one of the summer’s most impressive headline acts with Frank Ocean, Bon Iver and Montreal rockers Arcade Fire hitting the Barcelona stage. Other artists set to thrill include Run the Jewels, Solange, Teenage Fanclub and Slayer.

Capping the event will be a rare festival appearance from icon Van Morrison, whose renowned track “Brown Eyed Girl” will undoubtedly be a sun-soaked highlight.

NOS Alive

Where: Lisbon

When: 6-8 July

We’re heading out to this festival in Portugal for its beautiful setting and the equally beautiful line-up, where The Weeknd, The xx, Foo Fighters and Depeche Mode are all performing.

Considered one of the best music festivals in the world, Nos Alive takes place at Passeio Maritimo de Alges in Lisbon.

Last year an Independent critic said its 10th anniversary line-up featured "the best headliners of any festival in Europe", with rare performances from Radiohead and Arcade Fire.

You might think that'd be hard to top, but this year is just as epic. Along with the aforementioned headliners you can also see Royal Blood, Glass ANimals, Warpaint, Ryan Adams, Blossoms, Savages, Benjamin Booker and Local Natives.

The festival site is 15 minutes from the beach and the first bands don't start performing until 3pm, which gives you plenty of time to fit in some surfing, swimming, or just lounging on the sandy beaches.


Where: Gräfenhainichen

When: 14-16 July

Die Antwoord, Bonobo, M.I.A, Sampha, Soulwax, Kamasi Washington, Glass Animals, Warpaint and Sohn are all performing at this great festival in Germany that offers a huge and rather refreshing selection of electro, dance and alternative indie acts.

The festival location will make you feel like you're on the set of Mad Max – it’s a former open-air mining operation that was nicknamed the “city of iron” thanks to the 30-metre cranes towering over the site.

This one might mess up your sleeping pattern for a while, but if you're a night owl then it's absolutely ideal.

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