Europe’s finest and biggest music festivals are also some of the heaviest hitters in the world. Tomorrowland and Glastonbury lead the way, with behemoths like Creamfields, Ultra Europe, Sziget, Primavera Sound and Rock am Ring heading up the chase.
Here’s our run-down of 20 European bucket list festivals, in no particular order…
Headliners (2016): Calvin Harris, Avicii, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Martin Garrix
One of the two or three most prestigious dance festivals on the planet, Creamfields is always full to bursting with worldwide stars. Whatever flavour of electronic music you’re into, you’ll find more than you could ask for at Creamfields.
When & where: 24-27 August 2017, Daresbury, UK
Headliners: Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, Frank Ocean, The xx
Indie King and forceful supporter of new music, Primavera Sound prides itself on pushing the alternative scene forward. Creativity is paramount, with headliners often standing out from the festival crowd.
When & where: 31 May – 4 June 2017, Barcelona, Spain
Rock am Ring & Rock im Park
Headliners: Die Toten Hosen, System Of A Down, Prophets of Rage, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
If rock and heavy metal are your game, then Germany’s Rock am Ring needs no introduction. Along with sister festival Rock im Park, it pulls unparalleled lineups year after year, and can lay claim to being one of the best-attended weekends in the world.
When & where: 2-4 June 2017, Mendig and Nürnberg, Germany
Isle of Wight Festival
Headliners: Arcade Fire, Rod Stewart + more to be announced
Isle of Wight Festival is renowned for exclusive, legendary headliners – Fleetwood Mac, The Stone Roses, Bruce Springsteen – and eclectic lineups that pay homage to its own incredible history. Approaching 50 years from the original edition, IOW is as strong as ever.
When & where: 8-11 June 2017, Isle of Wight, UK
Headliners (2016): David Guetta, Alesso, Armin van Buuren
Transported across the Atlantic from Miami’s glamourous city centre, Ultra Europe wasted no time in establishing itself as a worthy successor to the original UMF. The biggest DJs in the world bring Croatia’s stunning Adriatic coast to its feet.
When & where: 14-16 July 2017, Split, Croatia
Headliners: Radiohead + more to be announced
Sold out in minutes and so respected that artists fall over themselves for the chance to play, Glastonbury continues to set the standard in rock, pop and urban festival experiences. Old heads and fresh young superstars line up side-by-side at some of the continent’s most varied and diverse stages.
When & where: 21-25 June 2017, Glastonbury, UK
Headliners (2016): Muse, Rihanna, David Guetta
Sziget is one of those festivals that could never spend another cent on marketing and still sell out every single year. Its reputation precedes it by almost a decade, and Budapest makes an incredible host city.
When & where: 9-16 August 2017, Budapest, Hungary
Headliners (2016): Calvin Harris, Chase & Status, Kygo
Urban music and EDM form the perfect partnership at Wireless Festival, creating a distinctive weekend that embodies one of London’s many subcultures with perfection. Wireless pretty much hand-picks its headliners each year.
When & where: 2017 dates to be announced, London, UK
Headliners (2016): Ellie Goulding, Bastille, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, The Prodigy
Titans of dance are scattered with the occasional note of pop – or even heavy metal, in the case of Motörhead in 2015 – at Serbia’s EXIT Festival. Sister festival Sea Dance keeps the party going at the beautiful beach-side location of Budva, Montenegro.
When & where: 6-9 July 2017, Novi Sad, Serbia
Headliners: Arcade Fire, Foo Fighters, Justice, Moderat/Modeselektor
Naked runs and wild campsite parties don’t define many modern music festivals, but Roskilde’s deep sense of history brings people back year upon year for much more than just the music.
When & where: 24 June – 1 July 2017, Roskilde, Denmark
Headliners (2016): deadmau5 & Eric Prydz , Axwell ^ Ingrosso, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Martin Garrix
Tomorrowland is, simply put, the biggest electronic music show on earth. Massive lineups cherry-picked from any artist they could want, allied to an intense attention to detail, create a unrivalled wonderland that keeps on mesmerising the world.
When & where: 21-23 July 2017; 28-30 July 2017, Boom, Belgium
Headliners: Kygo, Hardwell, Robin Schulz, Blasterjaxx
A varied dance lineup sets off the shores of Lake Balaton in impressive style, marking one of the highlights of Europe’s summer festival calendar. Balaton Sound was voted 3rd best festival in the Electronic/Dance category of the Festicket Awards 2015, behind only Tomorrowland and Ultra Europe.
When & where: 5-9 July 2017, Zamárdi, Hungary
Headliners: System of a Down, Biffy Clyro, Aerosmith, Slayer
The grandfather of rock and heavy metal festivals around the world, Download represents the high water mark of many bands’ careers. A brand new edition in Paris could make 2016 a big year for Download.
When & where: 9-11 June 2017, Derby, UK
Headliners (2016): Major Lazer, LCD Soundsystem, Run The Jewels, Jungle
Nestled in the centre of London, Lovebox champions creative programming and a positive sense of fun. Just like with Wireless Festival, it’s no surprise that urban and electronic music have found such a good home in the UK capital.
When & where: 14-15 July 2017, London, UK
Headliners (2016): Sven Väth, Nina Kraviz, Loco Dice, Adam Beyer
Awakenings’ iconic Gashouder venue in the heart of Amsterdam is left behind for the yearly festival, morphing the luscious Dutch countryside into an all-out natural dancefloor.
When & where: 24-25 June 2017, Spaarnwoude, Netherlands
Headliners (2016): The Cure, Major Lazer, Wiz Khalifa & Sean Paul, Hot Chip
Madcap adventuring and spectacular themes are Bestival’s calling cards. If you’re looking for a huge musical lineup, you’ve come to the right place; though Bestival’s really all about endless side-performances.
When & where: 7-10 September 2017, Isle of Wight, UK
Reading & Leeds Festivals
Headliners (2016): Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foals, Disclosure
Reading Festival rightly sits among the world’s genuine rock elite. Along with Leeds Festival – its northern English little brother – Reading has diversified somewhat over the last decade, but still packs a heavy punch each August.
When & where: 25-27 August 2016, Reading and Leeds, UK
Super Bock Super Rock
Headliners: Red Hot Chili Peppers + more to be announced
Lisbon’s kingpin festival boasts seriously impressive headliners every year, though its worldwide profile remains a little lower than it rightfully deserves. SBSR is also an unbelievable excuse to see one of Europe’s most breathtaking cities.
When & where: 13-15 July 2017, Lisbon, Portugal
Hellfest Open Air
Headliners: Deep Purple, Aerosmith, Linkin Park, Slayer
Every sub-genre of metal in existence carves out its own corner of Hellfest, adding up to the darkest and heaviest festival on the planet. Not for the faint-hearted, but steeped in overdriven beauty.
When & where: 16-18 June 2017, Clisson, France
Headliners (2016): Madness, Damian Marley, Leftfield, Parov Stelar Band
Incredible music laying down a soundtrack for an entirely purpose-built, wild-west themed city – BoomTown Fair takes the idea of a unique festival to a whole new level. Lave your civilian clothing at home and buckle up for a wild ride.
When & where: 10-13 August 2017, Winchester, UK