There are thousands of festivals in Europe so it’s easy to only attend the commercial behemoths. If you’re keen to head a little further leftfield, though, we’ve rounded up the continent’s best events that fly under the radar; from an electro-pop beach festival in Normandy to a Faroese island jam.
The best European festivals you’ve never heard of
1. Cappadox, Turkey
From sunset walks to fifteen-course gastronomic banquets to sunrise yoga, Cappadox is a festival of abundance. Taking place in the sun-parched, fairytale-like mountains of Cappadocia, its focus is on a wider experience than just music – though there’s enough space jazz, Turkish folk, experimental rock and DJs to ensure the most picky of attendee will find something to wiggle to. It’s practically a mantra that you experience a hot air balloon ride the area is famous for.
DJs performing against Turkey's iconic Cappadocia backdrop © Cappadox
2. Kala, Albania
This is Kala’s first year and it's also Albania's first international festival. Taking place in Dhërmi, a village in Vlorë County on the so-called Albanian Riviera, Kala’s emphasis is on curating a diverse, summery line-up of soul, jazz, disco and house. Food is a key focus, with beach barbecues and pop-up restaurants celebrating a local cuisine that exists in the sweet spot between Italian, Turkish and Greek.
Dhërmi is the beach location for Albania's first ever international festival © Kala
3. Kallida, Wales
Kallida is a collaboration between visual artists, musicians, DJs and party-starters in the sprawling country pile of Baskerville Hall in Hay-on Wye. Guests can camp or stay in one of the plush rooms on site and, amongst the immersive experience (served up a with hedonistic soupçon) you’ll find the most exciting names in techno.
Musician on stage at Kallida Festival © Kallida
4. Cabourg Mon Amour, France
Taking place on the sands of this chic Normandy seaside town, Cabourg Mon Amour is a boutique festival with a history of booking impressive acts that bely the festival’s diminutive size. The likes of Shame, Loyle Carner and Cigarettes After Sex have played to the mostly French crowd, who cook on the beach by day then boogie by night.
June 29–July 1
Revellers at Cabourg Mon Amour in Normandy © Simon Gosselin / CMO
5. G!, The Faroe Islands
If remoteness is your jam, a weekend in G! will give you the escape you crave. Taking over the seaside village of Syðrugöta – population 400 – on the island of Eysturoy, it’s framed by the verdant Faroese mountains. The stages themselves are built on the beach and local football pitch, and you can expect to party with the famously hospitable locals whose houses look out onto the festival.
Revellers enjoying the music at G! in the Faroe Islands © Ólavur Frederiksen / G!
6. Brainchild, England
Brainchild thrives through a DIY spirit and offers a vast artistic output to go with its musical acts. It focuses on being a hub for new ideas – whatever your art form – and you’ll feed your brain with live acts, spoken word, DJs, talks, workshops, film, theatre and installation art. Capped at just 2,000 people and entirely not-for-profit, it’s one of the most worthy – and reliably friendly – festivals on the continent.
Art is as important as music at Brainchild © Hollie Fernando / Brainchild
7. Boom, Portugal
Boom takes place on the banks of Idanha-a-Nova Lake, in the dustlands of central Portugal. It exists in a similar stratosphere to Burning Man with a focus on creativity, community, art, sustainability and lashings of psytrance. Expect a mixed crowd of artists, neo-hippies, families, young ravers and good old-fashioned acid casualties. Average temperature that time of year is 34°C so come prepared to sweat (and not do much in the daytime).
Boom Festival tent packed with partygoers © Jakob Kolar / Boom
8. OFF Festival, Poland
OFF’s commitment to underground culture is renowned within the festival scene. Just south of Katowice and ensconced in deep lakeside woods, it’s a haven of the loud and the leftfield; previous acts include Brian Jonestown Massacre, My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain and a host of other names that bequeath its impeccable indie credentials.
OFF Festival is known for its underground culture © OFF Festival
9. Ypsigrock, Sicily
Ypsigrock is one of the great curiosities of the European festival calendar. Taking place in the Sicilian town of Castelbuono, some two hours’ drive from the capital Palermo, it manages to book some of the most progressive rock and alternative acts on the planet. Belle and Sebastian, Dinosaur Jr. and Primal Scream have performed in recent years, on the main stage flanked by the 14th-century Castelbuono Castle.
Ypsigrock's main stage is flanked by a 14th-century castle © Andreas Hornoff / Ypsigrock