Urban Adventures. Quite simply, the Best. Day. Ever.
If you’re visiting Europe this summer, go beyond the typical tourist attractions and catch some of the amazing festivals taking place. From theatre and design, to techno music, to celebrations of dragons or wine, these cultural events will show you another side of Europe.
There are so many festivals in Krakow over the summer, but if we had to choose the best ones, we’d recommend The Lajkonik Parade, which takes place on June 7, and The Dragon’s Parade on June 2, 2018. Both festivals are connected to symbols and local legends, and are extremely colourful and deeply rooted in tradition.
Don’t miss the important Jewish Culture Festival, which takes place from June 22 to July 1, 2018. The festival shows the huge diversity of the Jewish community in Krakow, which was predominately Jewish before WWII.
Krakow also hosts the Crossroads Etno Festival in July, where participants are taken on an incredible journey to discover the richness of traditional folk music.
If you’re visiting Krakow in August, you can try Poland’s national dish during the famous Pierogi Festival. Taking place from August 11 to 15, the Small Market stages a huge competition between local restaurants, all selling their best pierogis from wooden stalls.
Our favourite autumn festival is the Dachshund Parade. It started many years ago as an idea by famous surrealist writer, Slawomir Mrozek, who, being the owner of a Dachshund himself, wanted to make a joke and convince people that dachshunds have mystic powers.
Prague, Czech Republic
Picking out the most important cultural events in Prague isn’t easy. For lovers of classical music, there’s a three week-long festival, Prague Spring. The 71st edition of this festival will gather the best classical musicians from around the world.
Another music festival you shouldn’t miss is the Metronome Festival on June 22 and 23. Named after the red pendulum on Letná Hill, headliners like The Chemical Brothers, Massive Attack or Tom Odell will play at the Holešovice Exhibition Grounds. There’s also another music festival focused more on local artists, the United Islands of Prague. Expect a great atmosphere and thousands of locals enjoying music in the Karlín area. Entry is free.
There’s also the opportunity to admire modern art during Prague Design Week. The fifth international design festival takes place at Hybernska Campus. As well as introducing works from Czech and international designers, there are also workshops, lectures and special installations.
Athens and Crete
If you’ve seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding (and if you haven’t, we can guarantee two hours of laughter), then you would have noticed that Greeks love celebrating! We’re not sure if any other country has so many celebrations and festivals as the Greeks do.
The Athens & Epidaurus Festival is one of the oldest performing arts festivals in Europe. For June and July, Athens is packed with theatre, music and dance. Don’t miss the spectacular performances that take place at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus.
If you love rock music, then the world-famous Rockwave Festival is for you. More than 300 international and Greek artists have participated in it since 1996. Placedo, Evanesence, Lana Del Rey and The Prodigy are just a few of the bands that will have you dancing until the early morning.
Wine is sacred to the Greeks, and you might have guessed we celebrate this blessed liquid. One of best festivals is the Rethymnon Wine Festival, which takes place in June, in the picturesque city of Rethymnon in Crete.
During the last week of June, check out the Miaoulia festival with concerts, exhibitions and naval battles on the car-free island of Hydra.
Are you up for some good eating and dancing in the grass in one of the most authentic districts of Venice? Head to San Pietro di Castello for the annual festival in honour of Saint Peter. Enjoy food stalls and concerts and be sure to get there at sunset for a glass of Prosecco along with fresh deep-fried fish. Then it’s dancing time.
Ask any Venetian to pick their favourite festival and most will say Festa del Redentore! Nothing is more Venetianity than this festival, with boats, food and wine, topped with a fireworks show in front of Saint Mark’s Square. Yes, we know that July is the hottest month (not only the temperatures, but also for the crowds), but if you really want to enjoy the city’s fun spirit, this is the must-do festival.
A great way to keep the Redentore vibe going is to enjoy a meal at the San Giacomo dell’Orio festival, a local non-profit organisation that puts on food stalls and a charity lottery for everyone to enjoy. One of the most picturesque squares is filled with tables and benches, where you can enjoy a barbecue with a refreshing beer.
To say goodbye to summer and get in the mood for autumn, we love to spend the last few sunny days of October sipping wine at the wine festival in Sant’Erasmo, also known as the Most Festival. Taking place the first Sunday of October, visitors can experience local specialities and watch the annual regatta.
There are numerous cultural events in and around Budapest during the summer and autumn, but the first event that comes to everyone’s mind is probably the Sziget Festival. The week-long festival welcomes about 400,000 people each year and showcases pop-rock giants, as well as alternative circus and theatre acts.
If you’re interested in seeing alternative local and international bands, head to the Buda hills for the Kolorádó Festival, the go-to event for the city’s vibrant alternative youth scene. For lovers of the more traditional aspect of our culture, the three-day event of Festival of Folk Arts is the perfect choice. At Buda Castle you can meet craftsmen selling their products, listen to great folk musicians and taste some authentic dishes that you might not otherwise find.
If you have time to leave the city, don’t miss some of the programs the country has to offer, like the Valley of Arts. You’ll be able to find authentic gastronomy, crafted products, exhibitions, theatre and lots of music. All in one of the most beautiful settings close to Lake Balaton.
If you’re visiting in the autumn, check out CAFe Budapest’s renowned multicultural festival. Over two weeks in October, Budapest is in its most vibrant form, with every aspect of music you can imagine — from classical and opera to jazz to electronic.
Bucharest and Brasov, Romania
Theatre lovers visiting Bucharest will enjoy the international street theatre festival, B-FIT in the Street, which takes place in July. Summer Well is another summer festival that takes place from August 11-12. The festival gathers an amazing line-up of good music, where you can meet funky locals and admire the beautiful Stirbey Domain. iMapp Bucharest transforms the massive People’s Palace into a dynamic show of sound, colour, light and optical illusions every September.
Brasov’s vibrate!festival takes place June 15-24 at the Tennis Arena and promises at great ‘match’ between jazz and classical music. If you’e into techno, don’t miss the Noise Festival, from June 30 to July 1 at Poiana Brasov.
Looking for something extreme? Then the Rockstadt Extreme Fest 2018 from August 2-5, will be the icing on your Brasov trip. And keep an eye on Amural Festival happening on August 30 to September 2 for some cool and contemporary visual art shows.
For Lisbonners, nothing says “summer is here” like the Festa de Lisboa in June. What started as a celebration of the most beloved saint of Lisbon, Saint Anthony, is now a celebration of the city itself. Every year we have all sorts of events, including outdoor cinema, concerts, exhibitions, family festivities, theatre and literature. The highlight is the official day of Saint Anthony, where traditional neighbourhoods are filled with grilled sardines, bifana sandwiches, beer, popular Portuguese music and dancing.
If music really is your thing, don’t miss Rock in Rio. Taking place over two weekends in June, the festival presents artists such as Bruno Mars, Demi Lovato, The Killers, The Chemical Brothers and Jessie J.
In July, the docklands of Lisbon will be the home to “one of the best music festivals in Europe” (The Independent‘s words, but we agree.). From July 12-14, Nos Alive offers an impressive lineup, including Arctic Monkeys, Pearl Jam, Jack White, The National, Nine Inch Nails, Franz Ferdinand, Bryan Ferry and Khalid.
On the other side of the city in Parque das Nações, you can enjoy Super Bock Super Rock from July 19-21 with The XX, Justice, The Vaccines and Lee Fields & The Expressions.
Every Sunday, from May until the end of September, Lisbon’s public parks are filled with jazz music. Every month in a different park, the Somersby Outjazz music festival gives everybody a chance to hear great bands and DJs for free.
For the past five years, normally over two days in September, Lisbon celebrates Fado in the older district of Alfama. The streets, plazas, museums and even churches become the stages for many different Fadistas (Fado singers), as they celebrate the authentic and traditional Portuguese music. (Pssst: You can also learn more about Fado on our Lisbon Sunset Fado & Dinner tour.)
Close to the sea and with an amazing infrastructure, Barcelona fills with music as the temperature rises. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Sónar combines new technology with music and creativity. The festival takes place on June 14-16, 2018 with art installations, conferences and multi-media. Party well into the night in Fira Gran Via, some of the biggest names in electronic and dance.
Cruïlla brings together a great selection of local and international artists in a variety of music genres each July. Taking place at Forum Park on July 12-14, 2018, this year’s festival features close to 40 live shows, including Jack White, Kygo and Justice.
Beautiful gardens, food and drinks, a good atmosphere and great music are the ingredients that go into making Festival Pedralbes a must-see summer event. The festival takes place throughout June and July, with a mix of local artists performing in the Pedralbes Garden.
The Barcelona Beach Festival (BBF) has been gaining popularity, bringing together a huge crowd of electronic music lovers each year. The festival takes place on July 14, 2018 on Forum Beach and el Parc de la Pau, and features The Chainsmokers, Armin Van Buuren and David Guetta.