The 14 best music festivals in Europe, from Nos Alive to Montreux Jazz Festival


As we inch ever closer to summer (even if the weather isn’t playing ball), there’s still plenty of time to book an exciting getaway.

For music fans, that could mean skipping over to Spain for some fun in the sun, whether at Mad Cool or Bilbao BBK Live, or perhaps you’d prefer the dramatic industrial backdrop of Germany’s Melt Festival or Flow in Finland.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re looking for an event with all the trimmings or one that’s simply all about the music. There’s something for everyone, from the rock’n’roll of Rock Werchter to the cultural and historical surroundings of Nos Alive, Lisbon.

Grab your passport, let’s go!

Roskilde

The Orange Stage at Roskilde (Flemming BoJensen)

Where: Roskilde, Denmark

When: 29 June – 6 July

Consistently booking one of the most formidable yet eclectic lineups of the year is Roskilde, named after its host city on the Danish island of Zealand. It’s why you’ll get to witness the awe-inspiring Heilung – the Germanic-Nordic group known for their lavish costumes, throat singing and instruments made from bones and animal skin – playing on the same bill as Atlanta’s hip-hop heavyweight 21 Savage and rapper Doja Cat. Want more? Try Jessie Ware, Kim Gordon, Jungle, PJ Harvey, Ice Spice, Jane’s Addiction, SZA, Foo Fighters… the list goes on and on.

Roskilde wants you to feel a part of its community, and so also has its popular Dancefloor, where you’ll be taught by instructors in the art of whacking (a style popular among drag queens that originated in the American club scene of the Seventies). Prepare to be moved by activist youth movement Flor, which invites you to reflect on the connection between humans and landscapes. Or, for something livelier, go and watch one of the festival’s jaw-dropping wrestling matches, and choose your champion! Roisin O’Connor

Open’er Festival

LA’s Doja Cat tops the billing at Open’er 2024 (2024 Invision)

Where: Gdynia, Poland

When: 3-6 July

Held outside the historic coastal city of Gdynia, this hip-hop, rock and electronic music festival is one of the biggest in Poland. The lineup this year befits a crowd that usually skews on the younger side – rap sensation Doja Cat and dance-pop hitmaker Dua Lipa, and a bill that also includes top talent such as Noname, Loyle Carner, 21 Savage and Skrillex. For those after something a little more guitar-focused, Foo Fighters are also headlining.

Those looking to sightsee will likely enjoy the location; the site is erected on the spacious grounds of Gdynia-Kosakowo Airport, while the festival is within easy travelling distance to both Gdynia and the Polish capital of Gdansk. Louis Chilton

Rock Werchter

Foo Fighters are headlining Rock Werchter this year (Getty for Harley-Davidson)

Where: Werchter, Belgium

When: 4-7 July

One of Europe’s biggest rock festivals has branched out in recent years to take in a touch more indie, pop, and even – dare we say – some dance music. Of course, it hasn’t abandoned its roots, so this year you can watch Foo Fighters, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, HotWax, Idles, Greta Van Fleet, Maneskin, Lenny Kravitz and Jane’s Addiction tear up the stage. If you prefer less thrashing but no less thrilling, check out Michael Kiwanuka’s bold soul, Limerick band Kingfishr’s Irish-leaning folk-pop, or Jungle’s Seventies-inflected dance.

A word of caution: if you’re looking for a festival with all the trimmings, Rock Werchter probably isn’t for you. It’s got great facilities, including a shuttle that will ferry those who prefer to stay in hotels to and from the festival site (wear sensible shoes, the bus stop is a bit of a walk). There’s typically a great range of food and drink on offer, from artisan pizza to vegetarian noodles and a bratwurst or two. But that’s about it: no spa, no soundbaths, no yoga and certainly no gourmet chefs. Rock Werchter is all about the music. ROC

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You’ll be able to watch Michael Kiwanuka perform at Nos Alive 2024 (Getty)

Where: Lisbon, Portugal

When: 11-13 July

As if you needed another excuse to visit the beautiful city of Lisbon, Nos Alive somehow manages to produce one of the best festival lineups each and every year. In 2024, you’ll be able to groove to Jessie Ware’s disco-infused pop, South African star Tyla’s sensuous rhythms, and Michael Kiwanuka’s bold, expansive soul.

Meanwhile, you’re just a stone’s throw from some truly fascinating landmarks, from the Torre de Belém to the colourful Pena Palace at Sintra. Lisbon is also a thriving cultural hub with incredible nightlife: stroll down the neighbourhood of Bairro Alto in the evening to enjoy fresh cocktails and the traditional fado music played live in nearby restaurants. ROC

Mad Cool

Dua Lipa is headlining Mad Cool 2024 (Gareth Cattermole/Getty)

Where: Madrid, Spain

When: 10-13 July

Want a sun-soaked festival without trekking to Coachella? Mad Cool is, in fact, mad hot, with glorious Madrid weather that you can bank on. Complete with a lineup in competition with this year’s Glastonbury – headliners include Dua Lipa, Pearl Jam and The Killers – it’s an action-packed schedule.

This year’s offering has a heavy dose of nostalgia: find yourself moshing along to 2010s Avril Lavigne hits or embrace an emo throwback during Bring Me the Horizon’s set. Meanwhile, newer acts like US hip-hop sensation Sexxy Red, Nigerian popstar Rema and British jungle artist Nia Archives will transport us back to the present. It’s got us feeling bonita. Ellie Muir

Melt

Industrial complex: scenes at Melt Festival (DDP/AFP/Getty)

Where: Gräfenhainichen, Germany

When: 11-13 July

Prepare yourself for one of the most awe-inspiring festival sites around: the abandoned quarry and open-air museum of Ferropolis, about an hour south of Berlin. There are five dormant coal excavators, all fondly known by individual names (Big Wheel, Medusa, Gemini, Mosquito and Mad Max) that loom large over festivalgoers. It looks pretty spectacular at night, we can tell you.

Against this backdrop of sleeping giants, lush forests and a serene lake, you’ll discover a carnival of dance, electronic, house, hip-hop and soul. This year, expect fiery bars from British rap stars Stormzy and Little Simz, soothing soul from Sampha, and full-blown Nineties nostalgia from the Sugababes. ROC

Bilbao BBK Live

The mesmerising Grace Jones will delight fans at Bilbao BBK (Getty)

Where: Bilbao, Spain

When: 11-13 July

As with many European festivals, Bilbao BBK Live kicks off later to spare you from coming down with heatstroke. We’ve found that this tends to work in our favour, however, as you have time to enjoy the beautiful port city of northern Spain – from its famous Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim museum to its many parks, galleries, shops and restaurants – before a siesta and a shuffle over to the festival site.

There’s a hedonistic theme to this year’s lineup, thanks in part to the dark, immersive sounds of dance-friendly headliners such as Massive Attack, The Prodigy, Grace Jones and Underworld. With up to 11 different stages, you’re free to explore – and enjoy the park’s gorgeous views over the Basque Country. ROC

Montreux Jazz Festival

Fans watch bands perform by Lake Geneva at Montreux Jazz Festival (Emilien Itim)

Where: Montreux, Switzerland

When: 5-20 July

“Where’s the jazz music?!” naysayers tend to cry when they see this festival’s lineup. Yes, Montreux was founded as a jazz festival back in 1967 and has, over the decades, played host to greats such as Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald. It only took three years after it launched to start moving with the times, enticing rock legends like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Prince and David Bowie.

Today, Montreux is as brilliant and eclectic as ever, with the recently announced 2024 programme surely one of its best. Deep Purple are returning to the place that inspired their immortal rock classic, “Smoke on the Water”, while soul queen Dionne Warwick is making her Montreux debut. Canadian jazz crooner Diana Krall sits alongside French electronic duo Justice, trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack, and Nigerian star Tems. What’s more, organisers have found an even better way to enjoy the dramatic backdrop of Lake Geneva and the Swiss Alps: a brand new stage built over the water. Sunsets in Montreux have never been more spectacular. ROC

Primavera Sound

Mitski is playing Primavera Sound 2024 in both Porto and Barcelona (AP)

Where: Barcelona, Spain; Porto, Portugal

When: 29 May – 2 June

Europe’s biggest party returns for some sensational music in two of its most diverting cities. Always one for the big names, this year’s Porto lineup will welcome Lana Del Rey, The National, SZA and Pulp to its main stage, plus the enigmatic Mitski and French dance-electronic duo Justice. In Barcelona, they’ve got all of that and more, throwing Charli XCX, Troye Sivan, Vampire Weekend and FKA twigs into the mix.

Last year’s weather was a bit of a washout (the now-cancelled Madrid edition was forced to shut down on opening day due to heavy rainfall) but so far, Barcelona and Porto seem mercifully sunny. Fingers crossed it holds out for just a few more weeks. ROC

Sziget

A visitor walks through an art installation at Sziget Festival in Budapest (EPA)

Where: Budapest, Hungary

When: 7-12 August

Sziget is an island takeover, where for six days you can roam around sandy beaches, a historic castle or even a river boat, before returning to watch performances from its astonishing colosseum stage. The music’s pretty good too: check out Janelle Monáe’s dazzling set with songs from her recent, euphoric album The Age of Pleasure, and RAYE who is continuing on her rocketing trajectory after the release of her debut, My 21st Century Blues.

There’s plenty more where that came from but if you do get bored of the main stages, you could step outside the island and experience an exclusive daytime techno party with panoramic views from the terrace of the Fisherman’s Bastion in the Buda Castle district. Need we say more? ROC

Way Out West

The National are playing Way Out West 2024 (Getty)

Where: Gothenburg, Sweden

When: 8-10 August

Held in Sweden’s second-largest city, Way Out West prides itself on its ethos. That involves everything from its food (the festival went fully vegetarian in 2012) to sustainability; organisers also offer a number of programmes to support the festival’s LGBT+ and female-identifying communities.

Music-wise, too, WoW goes above and beyond to secure a diverse, inclusive lineup that represents artists from all backgrounds. Tune into the gorgeous Americana of Hurray for the Riff Raff or dance along to Nigerian artist Tems, or some moody rock courtesy of The National and Thom Yorke’s The Smile, all while surrounded by the trees and nature of one of Gothenberg’s most beautiful parks. ROC

Ypsigrock

A performance in the medieval town of Castelbuono, Sicily (Roberto Panucci/Ypsigrock)

Where: Castelbuono, Sicily

When: 8-11 August

For one weekend in August in the romantic, medieval town of Castelbuono, the cobbled streets are teeming with young people. This is Ypsigrock, a fantastic little gem of a festival that never books the same act twice, where the location is as much of a draw as the music (this year will host acts such as rock band Explosions in the Sky, spoken-word artist Kae Tempest, Brooklyn indie quartet Beach Fossils, and New York singer-songwriter Julie Byrne).

By day, you get terracotta rooftops baked in the Sicilian sun; the clink of ice in a Campari spritz sipped in the piazza; the eerie but beautiful calm as locals take their afternoon siesta. By night, it’s the thump from the speakers placed around the castle courtyard where the main stage is set up; the sizzle of fresh mozzarella on pizza; the chatter and laughter from sun-drenched bodies gathered outside the gelateria in between performances. ROC

Oya

Fans watch the main stage at Oyafestivalen in Oslo (Steffen Rikenberg)

Where: Oslo, Norway

When: 8-12 August

Oyafestivalen might not be a beachside festival but it offers more than most European city festivals. Situated in the heart of Norway’s coolest city, Oslo, the festival takes place in a centrally located park, just down the road from the town centre, which has urban swimming at the Sørenga fjord pool and a swimming pier.

Take a quick dip and visit some of its impressive museums during the day, and by nightfall, cue the eclectic lineup ranging from bands like Pulp, Queens of the Stone Age and Janelle Monáe. Be one the first to see André 3000 perform post-hiatus, while British pop acts RAYE and Jorja Smith will be there representing London. Norway is notoriously pricey, though, so come prepared with a bigger budget than usual. EM

Flow

Halsey is performing at Flow Festival 2024 (Getty)

Where: Helsinki, Finland

When: 9-11 August

Stepping onto the festival site at Flow is like walking into a film set. Surrounded by the looming, defunct towers of the old power plant at Suvilahti, Helsinki, you’ll find yourself as drawn to homegrown Scandi acts as you are to the big international names.

It helps that Flow is also a mere 20-minute train ride from the city centre, where you can experience its many art installations, restaurants and distinctive Nordic architecture. Back on site, this year you’ll be able to enjoy highlights from Finland’s thriving music scene – from rapper Turisti to pop singer Goldielocks – and stars including Vince Staples, Halsey and Jessie Ware. ROC



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