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3 years, 10 months ago

Europe’s Best Summer Festivals

Find a different festival every day all over Europe this summer and you won’t be within a sodden metre of a rain swept tent once. Here’s the rundown of our highest recommendations for food, odd goings on, Spain’s best feria, month long art parties and anything else worth celebrating – with a high chance of sun and nice, soft beds as standard.

Art & Culture All Over the Place

Greenwich & Docklands International Festival, London June 24th to July 2nd
Nine days of free performance using every possible part of Royal Greenwich makes this Europe’s biggest outdoor festival. Everything from fire-eating and acrobatics, dance, circus, music, theatre, pyrotechnics and even interactive bee-keeping went on last year. 2016 has over 150 performances lined up and basically, if it can be done outside, it will be done. GDIF London

Granada International Festival of Dance & Music, Granada June 17th to July 8th
The Alhambra and Generalife Gardens are the venues for most of the performances during the festival. So even if you’ve misplaced your soul and can take or leave astonishing music and dance, you can’t fail to be moved by the setting. Coincidentally, ‘emotion’ is the theme for 2016, so bring tissues and get ready to share. Festival de Granada

Salzburg Festival, Salzburg July 22nd to August 31st
Mozart’s birthplace is also the home of the world’s most famous classical music festival and it’s not all glittering galas. There’s a fantastic range of events for 4 – 17 year olds, dozens of new works, an eclectic choice of programmes (look out for offers on rehearsal and afternoon tickets) and the starriest performers playing and singing their hearts out – even in the streets. If you need a bit of quiet, Europe’s most magnificent Baroque city is surrounded by ridiculously good spas too. Salzburg Festival

Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh August 5th to 29th
Fringe events everywhere from delis to dungeons, books on Charlotte Square, theatre (or so they say) on every street corner and the usual parade of haunting tales, kids’ shows and incredible fireworks, if it’s August it has to be Edinburgh. The world’s best loved art’s festival should be seen and done at least once and this year will be as entertaining as any. Edinburgh International Festival

Best for Food & Drink

Taste of Amsterdam, Amsterdam June 2nd to 5th
Trust Amsterdam to throw the most innovative and best value food festival of the summer. For four days and nights, the city’s best chefs, top restaurants, food trucks, cantinas and cafés, invite you for breakfast lunch or dinner and charge no more than €7.50 for a meal. The entire event’s in enormous Amstelpark, the music is great, there are markets, competitions, loads for kids and, even if you just go to eat, you’ll never have eaten so well for so little. Taste of Amsterdam

Bordeaux Wine Festival, Bordeaux June 23rd to 26th
This year’s Bordeaux Wine Festival coincides with the opening of the city’s new Wine Museum. The audacious design is supposedly inspired by a splash of Burgundy swirled in a glass and pundits are already calling it the, ‘Guggenheim of Wine’. So if you needed another excuse to eat and drink for four days in one of Europe’s loveliest cities, now you have it. Bordeaux Wine Festival

Spain’s Sensational Summer Feria

San Fermín, Pamplona July 6th to 14th
Don’t be distracted by the legendary Encierro: getting trashed and running with bulls is a very small part of San Fermin. Unless you’re Basque born and bred, we won’t try to convince you it’s a perfect family event – like all the Spanish feria, San Fermin is loud, rowdy and pretty relentless. But the atmosphere is total party, unforgettable and it’s easy to avoid seeing a single bull all week. San Fermin

Aste Nagusia, Bilbao August 22nd to 30th
The last of the season and, arguably, the most outrageous, Aste Nagusia is the feria all Spain seems to descend on for a week. There are huge firework displays every night, enormous street parties, more dress-up than is entirely necessary and as much Basque food and wine as you can manage – that’s a fair bit. This one is wonderful for kids, just make sure you have a good idea of what’s happening where and plan ahead. Aste Nagusia

Not for the Fainthearted

Sziget, Budapest June 10th to 17th
Every other summer music festival manages to last a few wild days, Sziget goes all out for a week. Held on the Danube island of Óbudai-sziget in the heart of Budapest and, sometimes described as ‘Europe’s Burning Man’, the event attracts bigger and better headliners every year, crowds of thousands and – as we mentioned – doesn’t know when to stop. Good news is, you can go cool off in the gorgeous city when it gets too, too much. Sziget Festival

Weird & Wonderful

Summer wouldn’t be summer in Europe without a sprinkling of ‘what were they thinking?’ events in the festival mix. This year, honourable mention for plain strange goes to: Las Nieves’ Festival of Near Death Experiences in Galicia – if you don’t absolutely adore coffins and tall tales, avoid this one; El Colacho (the baby jumping festival), in Spain again, this time it’s Castrillo de Murcia; and, if you’re not weirded out enough, the World Bog Snorkelling Competition and attendant festivities is back in Wales on August 28th – thank goodness.

Like the sound of a summer festival? You and hundreds of thousands of others. Our advice is book everything now and get your accommodation organised fast. Events like Salzburg, Edinburgh and the Bordeaux Wine Festival are unbelievably popular and smaller festivals pull bigger and bigger crowds every year. Even jumping over babies in Spain is reliably mobbed. Have fun.

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