Festivals worth the trip
No need to wait until your favourite acts do the festival circuit in Ireland. Get our continental drift? Lauren Murphy’s top 10 European festivals
Budapest’s Sziget music festival is on an island in the Danube River
Barcelona, Spain, June 12th-14th
There’s no shortage of music festivals to choose from in and around Barcelona, but Sónar might be the most convenient of them all, with both the ‘By Day’ and ‘By Night’ taking place in venues with easy access (by train, metro and designated buses) to the city centre. If you’re a dance fan, this year’s line-up is heaven-sent with acts like Trentemøller, Bonobo, FourTet, Todd Terje, Moderat, Caribou and James Murphy on the bill. If you need a breather from the beats, there is culture in other forms all around: check out the astounding Sagrada Família cathedral, or enjoy a sangria and a wander through the peaceful Park Güell, both designed by local boy Gaudí. An all-encompassing two-day ticket costs €210, but there are cheaper options available. See sonar.es Open’er Festival Gdynia, Poland, July 2nd-5th Spread across five stages and running from 4pm-4am each day, the Heineken-sponsored Open’er (hence the name) Festival is good value at €131 for a four-day ticket. Jack White, Foster the People, Interpol, Pearl Jam, Lykke Li, Phoenix, the Black Keys, Haim and Metronomy are just a few names on the impressive line-up. Ryanair flies direct to nearby Gdansk – a historic coastal city with beautiful architecture, which, like the comparatively modern city of Gdynia, was annexed by the Nazis during the second World War and is worth spending a morning exploring. The area is prone to mild summers and the odd thunderstorm, but forget the latter – did we mention the ace line-up?
Novi Sad, Serbia, July 10th-13th
A modern music festival held in an ancient fortress? What’s not to like? Founded in 2000, Exit is riding high after nabbing the ‘Europe’s Best Major Festival’ gong at this year’s EU Festival Awards. The line-up is good (Damon Albarn, Rudimental, Disclosure and somewhat bizarrely, Gloria Gaynor feature this year), but this festival all about location, location, location: the natural beauty of the backdrop alongside the crystalline acoustics will undoubtedly make for sets to remember. The city of Novi Sad is worth exploring by day – take a cruise down the Danube by day to see it in its full glory. Festival ticket, transfer and accommodation packages (including hostels of various star ratings) are available from €139, but it’s a 5½ hour trek by bus from Budapest, with no direct flights from Irish airports to nearby Belgrade.
T in the Park
Kinross, Scotland, July 11th-13th
Oxegen may have breathed its last, but fear not – its unofficial sister festival is still alive and kicking. If you’re looking for a good old fashioned musical hooley with big-name acts, look no further. Traditionally taking place on the same weekend as Oxegen and sharing many of the same artists, T in the Park has a line-up this year which includes Biffy Clyro, Ed Sheeran, Calvin Harris, Paolo Nutini, Arctic Monkeys, Pharrell Williams and Ellie Goulding. Shuttle buses run to the festival from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Perth; weekend camping tickets start at £194. Needless to say, it’s Scotland: do what your mum tells you and bring a raincoat.
Festival Internacional de Benicàssim
Benicàssim, Spain, July 17th-20th
Chart acts like Tinie Tempah, Ellie Goulding, Lily Allen and Paolo Nutini will rub shoulders with indie heavyweights Kasabian and the once-again-reformed Libertines for the 20th edition of this festival, situated on Spain’s beautiful Costa del Azahar. The last 10 years have seen a massive influx of British and Irish patrons to the beachside town each July, merging their cravings for music and guaranteed sunshine in a traditional beach holiday. The music kicks off late in the evening and runs ‘til the wee hours, giving you free rein to be a beach bum throughout the day on the town’s extensive sandy shores. A four-day camping ticket will set you back €149, but for €80 extra you can extend your stay around the festival from July 14th-21st. The nearest airports are Valencia and Reus, and Ryanair flies direct to both.
Budapest, Hungary, August 11th-18th
Sziget has marked itself out as one of Europe’s best value-for-money festivals in recent years – and there’s the added bonus of it being situated slap bang in the middle of one of the continent’s most picturesque cities. By day, explore the city’s historic area (Buda) and its modern equivalent Pest, with its hip bars, cafes and restaurants. By night, the festival site is within easy reach, situated on a leafy island in the centre of the Danube. This year’s line-up includes Blink-182, Queens of the Stone Age, Calvin Harris, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Skrillex, Bastille and OutKast. A week-long camping pass will set you back €229, but there are plenty of cheap accommodation options in the city if a long stretch in a tent doesn’t appeal. Both Ryanair and Aer Lingus fly direct from Dublin to Budapest.
Daresbury, England, August 22nd-24th
It’s the Big Daddy of ’em all: Creamfields, a rite of passage for the discerning dance aficionado. The town of Daresbury in Cheshire is best known as the birthplace of Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll (visit the visitor’s centre in his name, if you get bored) but it becomes a wonderland of a different sort each August. Avicii, Armin van Buuren, Deadmau5, Steve Aoki, Tiesto, Hardwell and Duke Dumont are some of this year’s big-hitters. Liverpool and Manchester are within easy reach by road, with shuttle buses running throughout the day and night to and from both cities. Or you could always camp: day-day standard camping tickets are £198 including booking fees.
Rock en Seine
Paris, France, August 22nd-24th
The weather in Paris can be unpredictable, even in August. We learned that the hard way last year, so bring a light raincoat if you’re planning a trip to Rock en Seine. Otherwise, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a ball at this riverside shindig, located within easy reach of the city centre by Metro. By day, hit the tourist trail and wander around the city’s buzzing Montmartre district, where artists will sketch your caricature for €5. By night, Arctic Monkeys, The Horrors, La Roux, Lana Del Rey and Portishead provide the musical draws. Cut down on Paris’s pricey accommodation rates by nabbing an on-site camping ticket for €60 for three nights for two people; for €20 extra, they’ll even provide breakfast.
Isle of Wight, England, September 4th-7th
While it’s true that English festival weather may not be as reliable as that on the continent, it matters less when you’re having a good time – and a good time is guaranteed at Bestival. Beck, OutKast, Foals, Basement Jaxx, Wild Beasts and Tune-Yards are just some of this year’s highlights. Free time? You won’t have any to spare with a programme of music, art and comedy colliding to fill every minute of this four-day, mini-Glastonbury extravaganza. The music alone runs from 11am-5am daily. Fly into London (Heathrow or Gatwick), where well-connected bus and train routes will take you to the ferry port at Southampton, Lymington or Portsmouth. Camping tickets are £195/students £180, and ticket and coach packages are available. Oh, and make sure to bring a change of clothes – Sundays are ‘fancy dress days’ at Bestival. You have been warned.
Rovinj, Croatia, September 8th-12th
Debuting in 2013, Unknown is a relatively new kid on the festival block – but a combination of factors make it an exciting prospect. Essentially a package holiday for people who want to combine sun, sea and stonking tunes, it’s located in the Amarin resort, near the small town of Rovinj – situated within boating distance of a 19-island archipelago for the more intrepid festival-goer to explore by day. The music takes place on the seafront and in wooded areas surrounding the resort, with ‘late night pool parties’ part of the itinerary. Disclosure, Chvrches, Mount Kimbie, Chic, London Grammar, Jamie xx and more head up a DJ-oriented bill. Ticket and accommodation packages range from €226 to €356. Aer Lingus flies direct to Pula, less than an hour’s drive from Rovinj.