Europe’s major cities show off their best side when festivals are held. Just think of the atmosphere and experiences when we ourselves offer the Øya Festival, Moldejazzen, or the Bergen Festival. Here are ten of the best folk festivals you can take with you on your next city break.
Venice Carnival – påskeferie in Venice
The Carnival of Venice is one of the most famous festivals in the world. Probably the origin of the carnival is associated with the celebration of a dispute between the city-state and the Catholic Church in 1162. The carnival was later decided to be a public celebration. The oldest document showing this is dated 1296. In modern times, the festival has become one of the largest folk festivals in Europe. The number who visit Venice during the party is about 3 million.
The colorful festival takes place during the two weeks leading up to the start of the Easter celebration. Visitors can attend a number of great open events, including gondola parades, concerts and various shows in Venice’s piazzas. There are also many closed events you can buy tickets for. The Carnival of Venice is also a well-used arena for weddings and engagements, or other celebrations that require a little extra flair.
The masks are the most central element in Venice’s carnival . In the city there are several renowned artists and craftsmen who make your completely personal mask, just as they were made many hundreds of years ago. For those who want to go a step further, there are also all kinds of costumes you can rent, and in all price categories.
La Tomatina – Augustferie in Valencia
Bunol is a small village located just outside the exciting city of Valencia . Where organized La Tomatina each year on the last Wednesday of August. Originally, this was a parade through the streets, where an accident led to some young boys starting to quarrel among themselves. The vegetable traders in the square were thus robbed of ammunition, and thus the tomato war was underway. That bit was obviously so much fun that Bunol’s residents let tomato growing develop into an annual tradition.
There are about 50,000 visitors to Bunol when La Tomatina kicks off. Participants pick about 150 tons of tomatoes in a row, before reconciling over a glass or two of wine. Although it may sound a bit violent, this is innocent and well-regulated fun. In addition to expecting the clothes to go through a 60-degree wash, it is enough to equip yourself with sunglasses or swimming goggles if you want to join the party.
The festival is held every year on the last Wednesday in August. You can get from the center of Valencia to Bunol in just over half an hour, depending on whether you drive yourself, take the direct train or bus.
St Patrick’s Festival – vintertur til Dublin
March 17 is Saint Patrick’s Day, Irene’s National Day. Then the guardian angel is celebrated all over Ireland, and everywhere where the Irish have settled. In many ways, this is similar to our own May 17 tradition, if we disregard the fact that all Irish people dress in iridescent green on St Patrick’s Day. In Dublin , the festival has been significantly expanded in recent years, and is now considered one of Europe’s best festivals.
All over Dublin there are all kinds of fun competitions, awards, parades and shows. Most of it is linked to Irene’s many traditions, especially on the food and music front. Dublin’s nightlife is basically very good, especially if you like traditional pubs with good live bands. In the time around St Patrick’s Festival , the nightlife is absolutely exceptional. The festival still caters to the whole family, with many events aimed at all age groups.
Normally, it all takes place over a three- to four-day period, which thus culminates in the actual national day. If you want to see Dublin at its best, March 13 or 14 is a perfect arrival date. Make sure you stay there long enough to attend the March 17 parade.
Iceland Airwaves – November in Reykjavik
Reykjavik is growing in popularity as a destination for city breaks, largely due to the exciting art and cultural life in Iceland. One of the cornerstones in this respect is Iceland Airwaves , a music festival that focuses on new international and Icelandic artists. Originally, Iceland Airwaves was just a stand-alone show held in a hangar at Keflavik Airport. Today, the festival involves every nook and cranny in Reykjavik. The concerts are held in bars, music shops, churches, cafes, restaurants and concert halls. In addition, some concerts are held in the small town of Akureyri on the north side of Iceland.
Iceland Airwaves is referred to as one of the hippest festivals on the planet, and is the event where you can see tomorrow’s world stars. The music festival usually runs over four days, and is held annually in early November. Then it is also the right time to experience the northern lights in Iceland.
Tulp Festival – Amsterdam in April
The headline is not a typo, the first part of the festival’s name is actually Tulp. April is the month to go on a city break to Amsterdam . Then the annual tulip festival is arranged, which makes the canal town even prettier than usual. There are not many extra events, but it does not matter. Amsterdam is a lively and exciting city no matter what. The focus of the festival is to honor one of the Dutch’s most important and beautiful merchandise of all time.
The tulip essays can be seen officially in 85 different places in the city. In addition, the inhabitants themselves are more than moderately eager to decorate their houses and gardens during this period.
Take Keukenhof Castle and Park with you while you are there. Keukenhof is a key ingredient in the Dutch love affair with flowers. About 7 million tulips bloom there when spring comes. The number of varieties of the flower type is over 800. It is no more than 30 km from Amsterdam to Keukenhof, and you can get there both quickly and cheaply by both local train and bus.
Are you going on a city break to Amsterdam in October instead? Check when the residents organize Tulip Planting Day. The flowering that takes place in April is largely a result of all the tulip bulbs that are planted in the ground in October.
Fiesta de San Isidro – spring holiday in Madrid
Bring your dancing shoes and go to Madrid when the Fiesta de San Isidro is held. The festival is in memory of San Isidro, Madrid’s protective weekend. Then the inhabitants really wake up to life, put on chulapo and goyesco costumes, and dance their way through the streets until well into the wee hours of the morning. In the parks they settle down and have a picnic, eat the traditional donuts Rosquillas, and show how the dance Chotis should be done.
The folk festival starts with a parade on 14 May every single year, and usually lasts until the 18th. The actual day in which San Isidro is honored is 15 May. These days there are concerts and shows all over the city, especially in places like the Plaza Mayor, Las Vistillas, and the Pradera San Isidro park. The latter is also the scene of the official celebration which will be held on the morning of 15 May.
Sziget Festival – Budapest in late summer
This is the Hungarian version of our own Øya festival, except that in Budapest most of it actually takes place on an island (sziget means island in Hungarian). The music festival is held on Obuda Island, in the middle of the river Danube which divides the city in two.
Sziget Festival was originally a small student party focusing on rock music. Today’s version is far more comprehensive in terms of genre, with, among other things, separate scenes for jazz, blues and world music. There will be big bands and artists from all over the world, in addition to what the Hungarians themselves will show off. The festival attracts about half a million visitors. Many of these arrive with their own trains from neighboring countries, where the train journey will be part of the party, and include their own DJs and live bands.
If you want to spend your city break in Budapest, and combine it with one of Europe’s best and largest music festivals, August is the month you look at when booking hotels and flights. The Sziget Festival usually lasts a full week until about mid-August.
Copenhagen Jazz Festival – Copenhagen in July or February
Delicious Copenhagen is not a stupid place to go on a city break. It is easy and cheap to get there, easy to find, we speak almost the same language, and the Danes can arrange this on a large scale. Copenhagen Jazz Festival is among the best music festivals in Europe, and also one of the most visited.
You can see the jazz concerts almost everywhere. It is played in the squares, in the parks, in the streets, in the theaters, in the concert halls, and of course in the jazz clubs. In total, there are more than 100 stages in the swing, and about 120 of the events are completely free. You do not have to be educated in the genre. Most people who like music will find something they appreciate. There are even separate jazz concerts for children.
Copenhagen Jazz Festival usually kicks off at the beginning of July every single year, and in 2018 the festival will be held for the 40th time. If you are addicted to jazz, you can also consider visiting the Danish capital at any time in February. Then it’s Winter Jazz on the program all over the country, also on the stages in Copenhagen.
BBK Live! – Bilbao in the middle of summer
The cultural mecca Bilbao is the venue for perhaps the most exciting music festival in Europe, BBK Live! Almost all concerts during the festival are held in a separate area in Kobetamendi, Bilbao’s largest park located on one of the city’s hillsides. In addition, a small number of special concerts are held in Gran Via, the main street that runs through the center of Bilbao. The format of the geographical conditions makes the festival an intimate affair. It is easy to get to the concerts you want to attend, at the same time as the rest of Bilbao can be experienced between the battles.
BBK Live! wins awards for both the music that appears on the program, and the other elements around the concerts. For example, a lot of honor and effort is put into the food you get served at the many outlets. It is arranged for easy transport to and from, the toilets are of a good standard, and concert-goers can enjoy many other art and cultural experiences once they are there.
Make the trip to Bilbao in mid-July, when BBK Live will be arranged !. The program features many of the hottest DJs and artists in rock and pop music.
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo – Edinburgh in August
You have probably seen this festival on TV. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is visited by a couple of hundred thousand people, in addition to which up to 300 million get to see the shows at the box office around the world (NRK broadcasts annually from the festival). The music and drill company of our own His Majesty the King’s Guard is one of the more or less regular features.
The shows take place daily on the esplanade in front of the impressive Edinburgh Castle, but tickets for this can be difficult to find. However, the trip to the Scots capital is not in vain if you do not enter the arena itself. Many of the orchestras also play in the streets or on other stages.
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is also only part of an even larger festival, the so-called Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The Fringe is in turn the world’s largest culture and art festival. It includes over 3000 shows of various kinds. It all lasts for about 3 weeks, every year in August.
Be out in good time!
Good festivals are tourist magnets. Therefore, it can be a challenge to find both flights and hotels that fit, and not least at the right price. In addition, many of the festivals require that you have tickets to what you want to bring with you. In some places packages are sold, while at other festivals it is best to fix everything on your own.
It always pays to plan well in advance, and be out well in advance (read more here about how the city break can be cheaper ). Read on the festival’s website for updated dates. As a rule, these are announced one or two years in advance.