Here's how you can combine a holiday with a music festival abroad

WE Irish know how to put on a music festival, and this year sees the return of our favourites, from city runs like Live at the Marquee to the annual highlight of Electric Picnic. 

But, with hedonism the name of the game, we peek further afield to see what the continent has to offer. 

After all, the pick’n’mix assortment of line-ups could come closer to our dream bill, there’s near-guaranteed sun, and it’s a commendable use of precious annual leave, combining the extravagance of festivals with the chilled ‘vacay’ time. 

And did we mention the sun?

While international audiences cause many fests to sell out well in advance, we present you with the very best of Europe’s summer calendar. 

So, even if this year is a no-go, you’ll know which ones to mark in the diary for the next, safe in the knowledge you can leave the wellies at home.

Glastonbury, UK

June 22 to 26

Needing no introduction, Glastonbury is the big momma of all festivals. Every year, its 135,000 tickets sell out quicker than you can say ‘pac-a-mac’, not only because of its colossal size and range of fun, but also because of its line-up — always a definitive snapshot of music that year.

The Glastonbury Festival, held annually at Worthy Farm, Pilton, from June 22 to 26, has sold out its 135,000 tickets.
The Glastonbury Festival, held annually at Worthy Farm, Pilton, from June 22 to 26, has sold out its 135,000 tickets.

Consequently, Adele is 2016’s big draw, with the hundreds of thousands of fans who missed out on her arena shows now revving up to see her headline. The coup also proves that the Eavises haven’t lost their touch, of late. 

Despite a dodgy booking in the form of Kanye West — his naff performance their own fault for rewarding his egotistical behaviour — no-one’s going to bet against Ms Adele causing the Pyramid stage audience to simultaneously swoon, as she lets out belter after belter.

There’s no worry about Glasto forgetting where it came from and becoming a corporate sell-out, either. 

Its indie bill, of Muse, ELO and PJ Harvey, is still world-class, and its artistic nooks and crannies are given as much TLC as ever. No wonder it’s sold out.

Really, start making plans for next year.

Flights from Cork: Aer Lingus fly to Bristol for around €100

Flights from Dublin: Aer Lingus fly to Bristol for around €38

Primavera, Spain 

June 2 to 4

With PJ Harvey, and Radiohead, and LCD Soundsystem headlining, and Richard Hawley, Sigor Ros, and Brian Wilson in the mix, it’s as if the Primavera bookers worked out Ireland’s musical palette and painted it for a Barcelona crowd. 

Sorry, Primavera, we’re coming over and reclaiming our awesome music tastes: expect a good percentage of the 35,000-strong crowd to be from Ireland, a number that’s been growing since the Celtic Tiger days, when going abroad for festivals first came into the realms of possibility.

Primavera is one of the most visitor-friendly fests, too.

With music kicking off in the late afternoon, it leaves early birds the chance to take the obligatory tour of La Sargada Familia and to check out the incredible tapas the capital has to offer.

Plus, its location, at the edge of Barcelona’s centre, means there are plenty of accommodation options, none of which involve camping in a sweltering tent, only to get up and act spritely until 5am the next day (times three).


Getting to Barcelona

From Cork: Flights with Aer Lingus are around €152

From Dublin: Flights with Ryanair are around €127

Way Out West, Sweden 

August 11 to 13

With long, sunny days, a good-looking nation, and Europe’s second-best sense of humour, Sweden is already ripe for ‘festivalling’. 

Ellie Goulding at last year’s Way Out West rock festival.
Ellie Goulding at last year’s Way Out West rock festival.

It capitalises on its good fortune, with Summerburst, and Bravalla, now regulars. 

For travel fiends, Way Out West is the best of the bunch, especially as it takes place on the outskirts of Gothenberg and encourages festival-goers to make the most of the city, with Stay Out West, their after-hours club schedule.

The festival itself is set in the scenic Slottsskogen Park, and as one of the most eco-friendly weekenders, is totally vegetarian. 

Guilt-free enjoying of Massive Attack, Chvrches, The Last Shadow Puppets, and Sia? Ja, tack!

Getting to Gothenberg

From Cork: Indirect flights with Ryanair are around €161

Flights from Dublin: Indirect flights with Ryanair are around €111

Seziget, Hungary 

August 10 to 17

A fixture on calendars since 1993, Seziget’s convenience, its sturdy line-up, and — dare we say the word — vibe (shudder) mean it’s become one of Europe’s biggest draws.

Hungarian rock band, Quimby, performing on the main stage at the Sziget Festival, on Hajogyar (Shipyard) Island, in Budapest
Hungarian rock band, Quimby, performing on the main stage at the Sziget Festival, on Hajogyar (Shipyard) Island, in Budapest

This year’s bill is eclectic, if nothing else, with headliners including house’s hero, David Guetta, and returning indie kings, Muse, with Crystal Castles, Sum 41, and our own Roisin Murphy playing over the weekend.

That’s why it attracts a good range of clientele, from festival first-timers to seasoned pros.

The site is just as all-encompassing, as it takes place on Obuda Island, situated in the middle of the Danube River. 

While, technically, it’s isolated, the fest is just minutes away from the centre of Budapest, giving the option of abandoning all good camping intentions, in favour of a shower and bed, which is worth its weight in collected beer cups.

Getting to Budapest

From Cork: Indirect flights with KLM are around €367

From Dublin: Indirect flights with Lufthansa are around €187

Secret Solstice, Iceland 

June 16 to 19

As much as Body & Soul, in Ballinlough, does a fabulous job of marking the summer solstice, it still can’t offer the natural curiosity of midnight sun — we’ll leave that to Secret Solstice. 

Taking place in Laugardalur, a suburb of Reykjavik, it’s well-serviced by accommodation, but, for the diehards, camping is an option, too, which allows guests to make the most of the 96 hours of daylight.

Now in its third year, it’s quickly become a music fan’s favourite, due to its intelligent mix of acts from every discipline — don’t expect cheesy festival chants and yells, or to raise your hands in the air like you just don’t care at this weekender. 

That’s why the ubiquitous Radiohead are the perfect headliners, and they’ve an able supporting cast, in Of Monsters and Men, Deftones, and Die Antwoord.

Away from the main site, if you have a spare €1,770, you can also witness the festival put on the world’s first public show inside a volcano.

If not, the country itself has enough unique features to keep you occupied; from watching the original geyser throw water high into the air like a circus trick, or enjoying a massage in the Blue Lagoon, the festival is only half of the attraction.

Getting to Reykjavik

From Cork: Indirect flights are around €565

From Dublin: Flights with Wow Air are around €223

Fusion Festival, Germany 

June 29 to July 3

If the infamous Burning Man is appealing, but the Nevada desert is just a little too far away, Germany’s Fusion Festival is a good alternative.

Ideal for those who want to opt out of usual society, Fusion takes place on an abandoned airfield, 150km north of Berlin, and offers a liberal environment, where the food is vegetarian, booze is BYOB, and clothes are optional.

Such is its draw that, without the help of advertising, it’s grown from a small gathering, in 1997, to a 60,000-strong event, with tickets being allocated to registered fans only.

In keeping with its non-conformist ways, it doesn’t announce the line-up beforehand, in order to attract open-minded crowd, but expect a leftfield bill of mainly electronic acts: recent acts include Austra and DJs like Andhim, Lexer, Pan-Pot. 

Expect much more besides: everyone’s invited to bring their own instruments and to express themselves freely, while a film programme and sculptures around the site help to make this an all-encompassing artistic experience.

Not to be confused with the Fusion Festival, in the UK, which Ed Sheeran and McBusted headlined last year.

Getting to Berlin

From Cork: Indirect flights with KLM are around €270

From Dublin: Flights with Ryanair are around €109


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