Towering cathedrals, picturesque villas, and warm citizenry. Images that pop into mind at the word ‘Europe’. Piercing sound waves rippling across thousands of screaming faces? Not so much. But Europe takes its music festivals seriously and goes all out in fetching the biggest up-and-comers to headline their massive sets. Attendance can range in the hundreds of thousands, and the musical celebrations go for days. They’re doubtlessly worth a flight overseas to attend, so get yourself acquainted with Europe’s most bumpin’ music festivals.
Nearly half of the festival’s 400,000 enthusiasts come from outside of Hungary to witness the glory that is Sziget. Every August, from the 10th to the 17th, an island on Budapest’s Danube gets morphed into roaring phantasms of heavy rock power chords. Though softer genres are on the menu as well, with recent years seeing a jazz and blues section. And variety is to be expected with 50 venues and hundreds of daily programs. As the winner of the European Festival Awards in 2012 and 2015, it’s no wonder ticket-less mobs risk swimming the river to sneak in.
Novi Sad, Serbia
Exit is a music festival rooted in raising awareness for freedom and democracy for Serbia and the Balkans. Since inception as a humble college campus rock fest, it’s since moved to grander settings in the Petrovaradin fortress. Each year sees the main stage set front and center in the photogenic keep with enough space for over 30,000! Five other stages lay scattered about including the Explosive Stage—a haven for metal and punk—and the Dance Arena—a place for new electronic artists to throw howling raves.
Named after the city of its inception, Roskilde has drawn music lovers since 1971. Starting as the brainchild of two high school students, the Roskilde Foundation hooked onto their idea and has been running it non-profit since. The festival sports over 180 bands spread across a four-day run which in turn draws well over a hundred thousand from Scandinavia, Germany, and the odd Australian. Over twenty thousand volunteers are needed to run an event of such magnitude. But the effort pays off with upcoming hotshots from contemporary genres brought in every year.
Slovakia’s biggest music festival became so outrageously huge in 2009 with over 33,000 people piling in each day that they’ve since put the cap at 30,000. Genres slide all over with rock, pop, and hip-hop sharing their usual limelight with the dance music, techno, plus D&B. They also include workshops for acting and other arts like poetry and literature. It’s set on the premises of the Trencin airport, so expect dapper August weather and surrounding mountain ranges providing unmatched ambiance.
1989 marked the first Dour music festival in the French-speaking town of its namesake, setting stages for French-speaking bands. Decades since, Dour’s lineup has gone international, though over half its attendees hail from Belgium. Impressive to say the least considering 150,000 people attend this five-day event each year. Their headliners partake in the whole spectrum of genres even including rarer additions like reggae and metal sets.