9 of the Best Summer Music Festivals Around the World

May 30, 2014 by

Festivals & Events, Places to Go, Things to Do, Travel Advice & Inspiration

It’s that time of year again, when music concerts swap sticky dive bar floors for well-tramped grass and enormous open-air stages. 2014’s festival season is finally upon us and to get in the mood, here are 10 of the world’s best. From America to Australia via Europe and Japan, just about every artist you can think of, is bringing their music to the great outdoors this year and the only question is, which one do you go to first?

1. Leeds & Reading Festivals, UK

Leeds Festival

A performance from Leeds Festival 2007. Photo credit: Sam Saunders via Flickr

Britain’s annual mud-baths-cum-music-festivals are as notorious for their riotous performances as they are for their unfortunate abundance of rainfall. Among the most popular are the Leeds & Reading Festivals.

Held simultaneously at two venues in the North and South of the country over the final bank holiday weekend of the summer (late August), with a rotating cast of bands, the two festivals have quickly reached legendary status among world rock fans. The audiences, renowned as one of the craziest festival crowds, make the festival, with the last evening routinely turning into a chaotic display of alcohol-fueled debauchery, as the festival campsites turn into one enormous party with campfires, fireworks, and impromptu mud sliding.

2. Lollapalooza, Chicago

Lollapalooza in downtown Chicago

Unashamedly meshing the mainstream with the indie, the bill for Chicago’s renowned Lollapalooza Festival reads like the ultimate record collection, with everything from little-known gems to major acts joining the party. Started up back in 2005, what Lollapalooza lacks in history it makes up for in sheer popularity with music fans from all over the country descending on downtown Chicago in early August to sate their musical appetites.

2014 looks set to have a little bit of something for everyone! Including big name performers like blink-182, Paramore, and the Arctic Monkeys. Other acts include Foster the People, Jimmy Eat World, Papa Roach, You Me At Six, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and Imagine Dragons.

3. Roskilde, Denmark

Roskilde

Crowd at Roskilde. Photo credit: Wouter Kiel via Flickr

Northern Europe’s largest open-air festival, Roskilde in Denmark has been running annually since 1971 and attracts over 90,000 music lovers over its 4 day run. A mere 30km outside of Copenhagen, the festival brings fans from Europe and all over the world to enjoy the mix of rock, pop, hip hop and electronica, mixing local bands with world renowned artists playing over 7 stages.

The festival has played host to everyone from Bob Marley to Nirvana over it’s 40 year reign, and this year’s headliners are set to continue making history with Bjork, Bon Iver, Jack White, and Bruce Springsteen all taking to the stage.

Read more: Tips for Attending Roskilde Festival in Denmark

4. Splendour in the Grass, Australia

Natural amphitheatre at Splendour in the Grass

It may be winter in Australia but the sun is bound to be shining for the annual Splendour on the Grass festival, a short trip from hippie haven Byron Bay and one of the world’s largest eco-friendly festivals. The New South Wales concert stretches over 3 days and draws fans from all over the country for possibly the most chilled out rock concert known to man. It’s not just about the music here, there’s a natural beauty spa onsite, a kids relaxation area, and a shopping area nick-named the ‘very small mall’.

5. Benicassim Festival, Spain

Benicassim

Festival Internacional de Benicassim. Photo credit: Rafael Tovar via Flickr

In July, Spain’s East coast will become a hub of international music, as the Festival Internacional de Benicassim (FIB) descends on the unassuming coastal region. Attracting a massive 50,000 festival-goers over its 4 days, this is one festival that covers all bases when it comes to music genres.

This year’s line-up offers up eclectic acts such as M.I.A., Lily Allen, Of Montreal, and Ellie Goulding.

6. Bonnaroo Festival, Tennessee

Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival

The Southern cousin of Lollapalooza and another favorite on the US Festival roster, Bonnaroo in Tennessee pits itself as more than just a music festival, with a vast array of arts and cultural programs. There’s certainly no shortage of entertainment over the festival’s 4 days, with 150 acts performing, an adjourning film festival, a silent disco, art installations, and live comedy capturing the attentions of over 80,000 campers. There are even free yoga classes, a complimentary hair salon, and the Broo’ers mini festival celebrating micro-brewed beers from all over the country.

This year’s line-up brings big time names Elton John and Kanye West, with dozens of the world’s best loved bands spanning rock, pop, country, and even some hip hop and electronica thrown in for good measure.

7. Summer Sonic Festival, Osaka, Japan

Large enthusiastic crowds at Summer Sonic

Musicians have long pegged Japan as one of their favorite places to perform, due in no small part to the wild enthusiasm of the crowds. Held simultaneously in Osaka and Tokyo over a weekend in mid-August, the Summer Sonic Festival is the biggest event on the calendar for Japanese music fanatics. There are no bounds to great music here, with a roster of rock, punk, hip hop, and pop keeping the crowd bopping well into early hours.

The 2014 line-up looks like its been lifted from the 1970s with performers like Robert Plant and Queen featuring Adam Lambert as lead vocalist. Not to worry if classic rock isn’t your thing, other music acts include Avenged Sevenfold, A Great Big World, Ellie Goulding, and The 1975.

Read more: Things to Do in Tokyo in Summer

8. Sziget, Budapest, Hungary

Sziget Festival

Sziget Festival 2009. Photo credit: opethpainter via Flickr

Eastern Europe’s coolest music festival, the Sziget Festival in Hungary has rapidly risen to the ranks of festival stardom, becoming one of the most exciting dates on the European calendar. The mammoth 7-day extravaganza leaves few left standing by its close. Hosted on an island on the river Danube in the center of Budapest, the festival is nothing if not unique—pitch your tent on the riverbank, stock up on €1.50 beers, and head to one of the infamous Hungarian bathhouses to spruce yourself up in between acts.

As for the entertainment, expect to be spoilt with variety—around 60 stages feature everything from rock to classical and there are film showings, art exhibitions, sports, all-night parties, and even a fairground; you can even learn to belly dance or go bungee jumping.

10. Rock Werchter, Belgium

Rock Werchter

Belgians might be better known for sipping beer and whipping up some of the world’s most delicious chocolates, but these rock fans know how to get down and dirty in the mosh pit come festival season. Forget the cultural and artistic ethos of modern festivals; the Rock Werchter Festival in Belgium has been all about the music since it started up in the 1970s so expect some sweaty, beer-fuelled crowds connecting over a shared love of all things loud. It’s not all rock’n’roll though—the festival features everything from indie, pop and rock, to hip hop and dance, so there’s something for everyone.

Read about more festivals around the world

-Zoë Smith

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