One of the surest ways to squeeze in value on a trip and an easy excuse to travel is to center your travel plans around attending a festival. Traveling for a unique event like an annual festival offers your trip a ‘purpose'(as if you need one) and memories and stories to last a lifetime.
Festivals are in general synonymous with summer and most particularly summer festivals in Europe! Their genres can range from music, food, theater, art, dance, to regional which honor local traditions, such as running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. They are no longer just a celebration but have become the center point to plan a vacation around and to indulge in integrating culture, arts and fun. Attending a European festival is a magical way to combine the local traditions and customs with great entertainment making for a wonderful artistic extravaganza. It is no wonder that Europe provides some of the largest and most diverse types of Festivals in the world.
For over 63 years in Spoleto, Italy The Festival of the Two Worlds (Festival dei Due Mondi) has entertained thousands of on-goers. Gian Carlo Menotti, an Italian-American music composer, had a vison to unite American and European culture through music and created the festival in 1958. The festival since its early beginnings has expanded to include dance and theater performances, ballet, painting, art exhibitions, lectures and roundtable discussions. The likes of Rudolf Nureyev, Al Pacino, Nino Roti, Ezra Pound and so many more have preformed here over the years. Come visit June 25 through July 11, 2021 for some outstanding entertainment.
Traditional folk dancing is the highlight of the Zagreb Folk Festival held in Zagreb, Croatia from July 21-25, 2021. It has been held since 1966 with the purpose of supporting the cultural importance of local traditions. There are lots of folk-dance recitals and shows all adorned with native costumes, live music, plus church choir shows, art exhibitions and many different workshops enhancing the importance of local traditions. Local bands as well as those from around the world come to present their folklore culture.
The Carnival of Venice annual festival is held in Venice, Italy. The world-famous festival so well know for its decorative and elaborate masks, starts two weeks prior to Lent and ends with the celebration of Lent (the day before Ash Wednesday on “Martedi Grasso” or better known as Mardi Gras). In the year 1162 it is legend that the festival started in celebration of the victory of the Venetian Republic over the Patriarch of Aquileia. The baroque festival was celebrated to its fullest in the 17th – 18th Centuries. In 1797 the Holy Roman Emperor outlawed the festival and outlawed the use of masks. In the 19th Century it reappeared and was geared more towards private feasts. The Italian government in 1979 brought back the festival to help celebrate its history and culture. It now draws more than three million tourists annually. Masks began to be made again and tourism during this time blossomed. “La Maschera piu bella” or the most beautiful mask – contest is a highlight of the festival and judged by a group of international fashion and costume designers. This festival is for pure fun. If you are ready to engage in masquerade balls, watch the myriad of street performers incredibly costumed, acrobats, jugglers, singers or watch the parade of candle-lit boats cruise the canals, then this the place to be. Enjoy the parties and fun as this is a magical and unique festival.
Anyone interested in being chased by a bunch of running bulls down windy Spanish streets? In Pamplona, Spain the Sanfermin Festival will offer you that chance should you be adventurous. The festival is an annual 9-day event held in the beginning of July 2021 that has so much more to offer than putting your life in danger in front of the bulls. The festivities begin with a wonderful display of fireworks where at the end the townspeople sing a traditional song – ‘Pobre de Mi’ to end the evening. Then the fun begins with many competitions of rural sports such as stone or hay bale lifting, woodcutting, jai jal ball games and the annual procession, with dancers and street performers, where the townspeople parade as they carry the 15th century statue of Saint Fermin through the streets of Old Pamplona. Another night the Riau-Riau is held where the Austrian waltz is danced in the streets. There is another long parade day where over 150 big heads and giants are paraded through town to music playing. Let’s not forget the run of the bulls. Tourists and locals gather to be chased through a half-mile course by a pack of running bulls.
Talking of festivals, we cannot leave out the famed Cannes Film Festival held (usually in May) in Cannes, France held annually since 1946. It is an invitation-only event held in the Palais des Festivals et des Congress. This world-renowned film festival previews films of all genres for all over the world. It draws high-profile celebrities and newcomers to the film industry as well. Always wanted to spot your favorite actor or director, then this is the most likely place to see the high-profile celebrities for sure! The marinas up and down the coast fill with the most outrageous yachts and getting an invitation to any of the outrageous pre, during and post-festival parties in highly sot after. This small quiet resort town for 12 days in May turns into a frenzy of film industry personalities and the town swells to numbers of 200,000 people and more. This is the best star-gazing festival of all where wearing couture is also the norm.
Who doesn’t love the smell of sweet lavender? The Corso of Lavender held in Digne-les-Bains, France since 1929, is the first festival to celebrate the production of Lavender. It is for five days at the end of July into the beginning of August when Lavender is at its peak of season. There are parades with floral decorated floats, the townspeople dress in native costumes, beautiful fireworks fill the sky, there is an international folk-dance event and even a Grand Ball at the end to attend. Throughout the festival there are public serenades and musical demonstrations. Of course, what kind of lavender festival would it be without small sachets of the sweet and fragrant lavender being given to all?
Ready to kick up your heels and click away? Try visiting Andalusia, Spain from June until September where so many events and fairs take place honoring the Flamenco dance. Often held in the town square or in open fields they start in the evening and last until daybreak as is the common times for parties in the gypsy world. The major festivals are found in Granada, Malaga, Rhonda, Seville and Torremolinos. These events are meant to promote the art of flamenco dancing in its traditional form and to introduce a variety of new forms of the flamenco art of dance. The center of attraction is always the costumed flamenco dancers, a guitarist and a singer. Nothing more is required for a full night of exciting entertainment.
Lift your mug or stein of beer and come enjoy Oktoberfest which is scheduled to take place September 18 2021 with the traditional tapping. The festival which is one of the biggest beer and Bavarian culture festivals, takes place in the centrally located largest fairground in Munich (Theresienwiese), Germany. In order to get reservations in one of the “tents”, which range from extremely large to smaller ones, you must do it early. You will hear the music of brass bands, see party goers adorned in lederhosen and dirndls and indulge in delicious Bavarian food. With over 7,000,000 beers consumed over the time of the festival, be assured a good time has been had by all.
Speaking of beer why not move on and enjoy a festival dedicated to pizza and who doesn’t love a good Italian pizza? Let’s head to Naples, Italy (usually in September) for Pizzafest, the largest pizza festival of the world. Based on a major contest where famous pizzerias from all over the world compete against the renowned local pizzaili for the best pizza. It last from 5 to 7 days where you can wander the stands and tables to taste the different offerings and varieties. At the end of the week the best pizzaioli is awarded.
The Banffy Castle, located in a small village in Transylvania, Romania, hosts a highly adored music festival, the Electric Castle. The castle, owner by the Banffy family, was built in the 15th century, is an “architectural Baroque monument.” This festival has been awarded best medium-sized music festival in Europe and is scheduled for July 14-18, 2021. It is a blend of alternative arts and music from techno, rock, indie and hip-hop. An incredible array of artists has played on one of the ten stages on the grounds throughout the years. The first festival was in 2013 and they have opened for each consecutive year. Money is raised for the restoration of the Banffy Castle and recently the roof was fully repaired, and the local school benefited by having its sports ground refurbished and new furniture installed. The locals also benefit from an influx of funds to bed and breakfast, food venues and the like from the masses attending.
The International Festival of the Aegean, held on the Greek island of Syros, is a multi-disciplinary event. It was founded in 2005 by conductor Peter Tiboris. What better backdrop is there than being on a Grecian island, being able to enjoy extraordinary operatic recitals, choirs, famed conductors, theater plays and classical concerts, dance groups and also participate in workshops from poetry to dance to art? The Hall of Apollo in Hermoupolis- Syros, also known as La Piccola Scala, hosts the event which lasts for two weeks. The festival pulls many international know headlines such as actor Olympia Dukakis and famed Opera star Natalia Ushakova.
Held in two of the most ancient theaters in the world, the Herodion of Athens and the Epidvaros theater in Epidvaros, the Athens Epidavros Festival runs from June until October showing contemporary and ancient theater plays with well-known actors and budding actors alike. Catch Helen Mirren or Jeremy Irons acting in beautiful depictions of famous plays. The unique design and layouts of the theaters have been created in ancient times to offer exquisite natural acoustics so that even those in the last rows have a full-on experience of what is happening on the stage. Located in Athens and the ancient town on the mainland Epidavros (a 1.5 hour drive from Athens), these theaters are ideally situated for the traveler in Greece to enjoy a spectacular summer evening of culture under the stars, amdist the olive trees and even close to the sea.
There are festivals for all to partake in and this one is a little odd. The Tomatina Festival is basically the world largest and fun food fight! On August 25th just about 20 miles from Valencia in Bunol, Spain, tourists and townspeople alike start throwing tomatoes at each other from 11 am until 1 pm. The start of the fight begins with the firing of water cannons. For days prior to the finale of the fight, you can partake in paella making contests, live music performances, dancing and fireworks. After the fight ends, what a mess, and the locals pull out the fire trucks and hose down the streets with water direct form the local Roman aqueduct. The locals are a bit more interested in cleaning the streets than the visitors so be prepared to jump in the nearby Bunol river!
. If you are interested in pushing the boundaries of alternative music, then attend the Primavera Sound Festival on June 2-6 2021 in Barcelona, Spain, as it might be your perfect venue. All kinds of genres are represented from electronic and dance music to indie, rock and pop. They have already lined up (2021) these great performers: The Strokes, Tyler, the Creator, Tame Impala, Gorilla, Iggy Pop, Jorga Smith and Disclosure. Due to the variety and wide range of bands represented, this festival brings artists and spectators of all kinds and generation together. This is one of Spain’s most popular music events and its 2 and 5-days passes sell out quickly.
The Glastonbury Festival, held in Somerset, England lasts five days and celebrates contemporary British culture. Held in the English countryside, it is attended each year by 200,000 people plus. It offers a variety of great entertainment including music, theater, dance, cabaret and even a circus. Undoubtedly, as the big headliners such as: Dolly Parton, Jay-Z, Beyounce, Miley Cyris, Led Zeppelin, Lionel Richie to name a few, certainly attract the crowds. Due to being so popular many films and albums are recorded during the festival and there is allot of media coverage.
For fifty years and going strong is the Isle of Wight Festival, well known for hosting some of the most legendary headliners in the business. The likes of Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Springsteen and more have graced her stage. In 2021 the esteemed line up includes Liam Gallagher, Snow Patrol, Duran Duran, Tom Jones, Razorlight, Sam Fender and more. It will be held September 16-19 on the Isle Wight, UK.
You can spend most of your summer jumping from one festival to the next and enjoying Europe to its fullest. You will find some of the best performers in all forms of the artistic industry performing on elaborate stages or set in glorious countryside fields. Towns are transformed as the tourist pour in to enjoy the food, drink or try to star spot a celebrity. Don’t forget that all of these fabulous venues are located in or near wonderful towns and cities full of museums, architecture indigenous to the area, steeped in history and full of culinary wonders, and gardens, springs or rivers to explore. It doesn’t matter what your calling is as Europe has something for everyone from the food, music, cultural, dance or nature lover. Attend a festival, indulge in the experience and embrace the local culture and people. It is always fun to plan a wonderful holiday around a theme or purpose, so why not make attending a fun festival in Europe and go from there?