We're getting into the thick of the Summer which means that, among many other sunshine-filled outdoor activities, music festival season is well under way. Europe hosts a hell of a lot of festivals throughout the Summer months and these provide a fantastic reason for visiting some great places. Why not nip off to a new city for a few days and join a few thousand other fun-lovin' peeps to bounce around in a field to the sounds of Summer. Here's our top festival picks to consider; some are well-known, big-name artist weekenders drawing huge crowds while a few are lesser known, smaller domestic festivals but more than worthy of feeding your festival appetite. Enjoy.
Sziget – Budapest, Hungary
We start with a pretty famous one Sziget, one of the largest festivals in Europe attracting hundreds of thousands of international revellers across 7 days to Óbuda Island on the Danube to stomp to the melodies of more than a thousand acts on numerous stages. It has won a shit-load of prestigious awards over the past few years and, as I learned from an Aussie gal in Budapest last year, there's even special party trains to the festival from other cities throughout Europe – Trains with djs, bars and 900 or so Sziget-bound dancing care-free fun-lovin' people. So there's not really a satisfactory excuse not to do this if you can afford it. As a big festival with big-name headliners it's not necessarily cheap but is quiet reasonable in fairness compared to similar-scale festivals elsewhere and Budapest is relatively cheap, beautiful and absolutely brilliant! If it's not on your bucket list yet find a pen now.
Knockanstockan – Wicklow, Ireland.
We are blessed in Ireland to have two of the three fundamental components for making amazing music festivals; seriously good music and amazingly beautiful locations. The third is uninterrupted, reliable decent weather and climate but hey, two out of three aint bad. That said, in all my years attending Knockanstockan I don't remember the typical Irish downpour even once – then again there's lots I don't remember from Knockanstockan.
If you're not from Ireland chances are you won't have heard many if any of the 150 Irish acts which make up this brilliant festival but that doesn't matter. Knockanstockan is everything a festival should be – with the truly beautiful Blessington lakes as the ideal backdrop you can discover some of your new favourite artists. The dates of this festival always causes headaches for us HostelCulture crew in Dublin as a good 70% of our tour guides insist on being at Knockanstockan which means scheduling tours is a cumbersome task. In fact one of our guides, who shall remain nameless here, was once photographed by national newspaper at Knocanstockan alone in the middle of a cow field eating a dried cake of cow-shit. On Monday. The festival finished Sunday. So you know it must be a good one!
Run by a collective of musicians, artists and community members who volunteer to make this non-profit festival a wonderful success, Knockanstockan delivers a really nice, genuinely friendly, liberal and loving vibe with a relatively small group of 3,000 or so good people and seriously amazing, diverse music at an impressively high standard. Long may it continue. About an hour from Dublin with regular buses. Get yer asses to Ireland people!
Wacken – Wacken, Germany
This one is for the Metallers. Wacken (pronounced with a 'V' sound rather than 'w' for any of us non-German/Scandinavian sounding kids) hosts around 85,000 fans of different Metal genres. I haven't been since 2013 for fear that nothing will ever equal Anthrax followed by Lamb of God in one evening but with Sepultura on the bill this year I may be venturing back again. If you're a fan of the heavy stuff then you could do a lot worse than be in a field in Wacken for three days at the beginning of August. It does get very messy though so if you love moshing in mud you'll be as happy as a pig in shit!
Calling – London, UK
For those of you with less aggressive tastes and prefer your classic rock the one day Calling festival in London might be for you. This year sees former Oasis man Noel Gallagher and his high flying birds headline while Modest Mouse and The Hives are near the top of the bill too. I've never been so can't really tell you much more than that. I have been to Glastonbury though.
Glastonbury – Glastonbury, UK
With a ridiculous number of stages and more artists than you may ever care to count, the line-up reads like an opticians wall-chart such is the amount of bands that those nearing the bottom can only be seen with a magnifying glass, but this is a good thing - you simply cannot be disappointed by Glastonbury no matter what music you're into. It's a massive event, in scale and reputation and is arguably one of the most, if not the most famous festivals on the international circuit today and has been so for a remarkably long time. Indeed it enjoys legendary and cult status similar to Woodstock as an element of a wider counter-culture movement, the original versions of each occurring in 1970 and '69 respectively. Again, another one for that bucket list if you haven't made the journey yet.
Longitude – Dublin, Ireland
Another mention for Ireland, this relatively new festival is another fine reason for hitting up the Emerald Isle for a party. Started in 2013, Longitude takes place in Marley Park near the city centre over three music and fun-filled days. With a fantastic line-up of home-grown talent, such as Hozier, and international acts such as the legendary The Chemical Brothers this year’s Longitude is looking likely to be a nice little number indeed.
That's it boys and girls. Enjoy your Summer of Festivals and remember; put your tent up before you start drinking, bring toilet paper as well as beer and baby wipes will be the most wonderful things in the world. And try not to end up like this guy....
By Mike Wrach