Festival season in the UK and Europe is drawing ever closer, so we’ve broken down the best of the best for 2023, from legendary events that have shaped the history of music to lesser-known celebrations in remote corners of Europe. We’ve picked the music festivals with the best line-ups, locations and atmosphere for unforgettable live moments, whether you’re a fan of rock, pop, electronic or jazz, as well as considering sustainability initiatives. So get stuck in, and book tickets for your favourite event while they are still available.
When: 29 May – 4 June
Where: Barcelona, Spain
Price: Weekend pass 325 EUR / 344 USD
Nothing says the start of Europe’s festival season like Primavera Sound in Barcelona. For the last 21 years, the festival has transformed the Parc del Fórum into a week-long musical extravaganza, and since 2012, has expanded its offering with a festival in Porto the following weekend. This year, another in Madrid will join Porto for the first time too. Primavera has been pioneering a 50/50 gender and pronoun split for its line-ups since 2019, and is the only festival in the world to be co-signed by the United Nations for its sustainability efforts: all on-site vehicles are powered by electricity, there’s a stage powered entirely by renewable energy, and single-use plastics are banned from the site. With headliners including Kendrick Lamar, Rosalía and Depeche Mode, alongside performances from Darkside, NxWorries (Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge) and Four Tet, you know it’s going to be a good one. There is no camping at Primavera, so take your pick from Barcelona’s excellent selection of hotels, hostels and Airbnb rentals.
Meadows in the Mountains
When: 1-5 June
Where: Smolyan, Bulgaria
Price: Weekend pass 186.14 GBP / 223.13 USD
Meadows in the Mountains has what is possibly the most beautiful setting for a festival right now: a private plot of land up in the Rhodope mountains of Bulgaria, with far reaching views over wildflower meadows, mature woodland and rolling hills. The festival is also one of few championing regenerative environmentalism in the industry, having built solar power infrastructure, water treatment schemes, rainwater retention landscapes, compost-to-biogas converters and ‘manure-heated shit-hot showers’, as well as a ‘food forest’ and reforestation plans. The festival itself is kept intentionally small to foster a genuine sense of community – you’ll very likely make new friends and continually bump into them throughout the weekend. The organisers offer a few free tickets each year to guests that make the most effort to arrive at the festival without flying, so start researching train routes, or strap some panniers to your bike and get peddling.
When: 8-11 June
Where: Ferropolis, Germany
Price: Weekend pass 189 GBP / 199 USD
Another music festival in an unusual location – this time, in a former coal mining site filled with decommissioned machinery near Gräfenhainichen in Germany, a two-hour drive from Berlin. MELT curates performances from more than 150 acts over the course of the weekend, and this year includes Bicep, Joy Orbison, Interplanetary Criminal, FKA Twigs, and Amsterdam-based Turkish psych rockers Altin Gün. And if pitching your tent beneath a coal excavator doesn’t appeal, don’t fear – there’s fields, forests, and a lake nearby where the camping takes place.
When: 15-17 June
Where: Barcelona, Spain
Price: Weekend pass 215 EUR / 227 USD
Two weeks into festival season and Barcelona is blessed with another weekend of music, specialising in all things electronic. It’s also a city festival, which means gigs occur across various venues, and there’s no camping included, so make sure to book a hotel, hostel or Airbnb rental nearby. The line up is split into day and night programming, and covers a swathe of artists, from big hitter DJs like Peggy Gou, Honey Dijon and Bicep to MCs like Little Simz. This year also marks Aphex Twin’s return to the stage after four years away, which is sure to get the crowd going. Elsewhere OFFSónar, the series of parties that runs in parallel to the festival itself, has a lineup as exciting as the main event.
When: 21-25 June
Where: Pilton, UK
Price: Weekend pass 335 GBP / 400 USD
This wouldn’t be a guide to the best European festivals without mention of Glastonbury. As one of the longest standing festivals (the first one was held in 1970), it’s contributed to the blueprint of what makes a good music festival like few others. The iconic Pyramid stage, the rolling fields of Somerset grass (or mud), an endless array of stages, performances and experiences, and the mad rush for tickets – all of these are intrinsic parts of the experience. Tickets are currently sold out for 2023’s edition, and only one headliner has been announced so far (Elton John), but a small batch of resale tickets are to be released in April, so keep your eyes peeled.
When: 24 June – 2 July
Where: Roskilde, Denmark
Price: 2400 DKK / 339 USD
Roskilde is one of the largest and best festivals in Europe, and the largest in the Nordic countries, with more than 130,000 festival-goers each year. It’s been held south of Roskilde city since 1971 and continues to draw top line-ups, with music running for a full week. Blur, Burna Boy, Christine and the Queens, Lil Nas X, Rosalía and Queens of the Stone Age are all headliners this year. Book your tickets, pitch your tent, and head down to the Orange Stage.
North Sea Jazz Festival
When: 7-9 July
Where: Rotterdam, Netherlands
Price: Day tickets from 244 EUR / 258 USD
Running since 1976, Rotterdam’s North Sea Jazz Festival is the biggest indoor jazz festival in the world. A pantheon of jazz and soul greats have passed through in that time, and continue to do so – Stanley Clarke hits up the stage this year, as does Van Morrison and Marcus Miller. Younger masters are also making an appearance, like Alabaster dePlume and Mononeon. The curators have been paying attention to what’s been happening in the London music scene recently, with Ezra Collective, Kokoroko and Yussef Dayes all booked this year. But crucially, it’s not all jazz on offer – neo-soul queen Jill Scott is making an appearance, as is grime star Stormzy, which should not be missed. There are only deluxe day tickets left for this year’s edition, but with a lineup like this, it’s bound to be worth it.
When: 27-30 July
Where: Malmesbury, UK
Price: Four-day pass from 260 GBP / 312 USD
Womad festival is proudly international in its outlook, attracting as many artists as possible from across the world to perform in the rolling countryside of Wiltshire each year. This hasn’t got any easier with recent visa problems preventing international acts from travelling to the UK, so it’s all the more vital that Womad continues to push the importance of an international cultural exchange. Afrobeat legend Femi Kuti & The Positive Force, indie classic Bombay Bicycle Club and rave jazz trio The Comet Is Coming are this year’s headliners, with Dele Sosimi’s Afrobeat Orchestra and synth percussion experimenters Nihiloxica joining elsewhere. Womad is much more than a line-up though – it’s more a constant series of joyful discoveries as the weekend unfolds. Get your tent pitched and keep your ears and eyes wide open.
When: 2-6 August
Where: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Price: Four-day festival pass 225 EUR / 238 USD
Dekmantel week is a great time to visit Amsterdam. There’s not just the main camping festival in the lush surroundings of Amsterdamser Bos to the south of the city, there’s also a whole music programme on the Wednesday and Thursday scattered across industrial venues along the Ij river, which reflects Amsterdam’s pumping music scene. The festival curates a great combination of DJs and electronic acts with exciting left field live bands. This year has Ben UFO, Helena Hauff, Shanti Celeste holding down the decks, and Shygirl, Flohio and jungle legends The Bug ft Flowdan on the mics. Three day weekend tickets at Amsterdamser Bos are currently sold out, but there’s still tickets available for the full four day festival, so snap them up before they go too.
When: 10-16 August
Where: Budapest, Hungary
Price: Six-day pass 349 EUR / 369 USD; weekend pass 240 EUR / 254 USD
Sziget, which means ‘island’ in Hungarian, is just that: an island in the middle of the Danube, on the outskirts of Budapest. Each year around half a million people populate it for a week of music and dancing, with some of the biggest names in pop, electronic and rock topping the lineups. 2023 is no exception, with Billie Eilish, David Guetta, Florence and the Machine, Imagine Dragons, Sam Fender, Foals and Jamie xx announced so far. But if you prefer to keep away from the mainstream, the festival is so massive you’re sure to find something to your tastes, with alternative stages, tents and hidden venues catering for everything from reggae to techno. Sziget was an early adopter of electronic passes so there’s no need to carry around a wallet, and the island is almost entirely forested so there’s plenty of shade to camp under – and even a riverside beach for cooling swims.
When: 10-13 August
Where: Norfolk, UK
Price: Weekend pass from 250 GBP / 300 USD
Houghton is for the woodland ravers, set incongruously in the grounds of the neoclassical 18th century manor house Houghton Hall in Norfolk. Normally visited by art fans for its sculpture garden, the estate takes on an altogether different atmosphere on this particular weekend in August, when techno and house heads party in the woods non-stop for the whole three days (seriously, there’s a 24-hour music licence here). It’s one of the UK’s newest festivals, and each year the lineup is like an A to Z of the best electronic artists active right now, so have a read if you must, or just turn up and get dancing.
We Out Here
When: 10-14 August
Where: Dorset, UK
Price: Weekend pass at 194 GBP / 245 USD
If you’re a fan of the current wave of young jazz artists coming out of the UK, then you probably already know about We Out Here. Curated by Radio 6 DJ, record label owner and all-round tastemaker Gilles Peterson, the festival packs in all the best jazz and jazz-adjacent acts coming up in London and the rest of the UK, with the odd international act thrown in too (2021 had a surprise set from Thundercat on the Friday night). 2023 sees the festival move location from Cambridgeshire to Wimborne St Giles in Dorset, where ravers can have a breather by the lakeside, or take some time out in the hot tubs in the wellness area. And that’s just the daytime: when night falls, things kick up a notch in the woods with a serious lineup of DJs keeping things ticking into the morning.
Rock en Seine
When: 23-27 August
Where: Paris, France
Price: Weekend pass 175 EUR / 185 USD
Have you ever been to a festival in a classified historic monument? Rock en Seine is held at Domaine National de Saint-Cloud to the west of Paris, inside a 460-hectare garden designed by André Le Nôtre. The day festival hosts some of the biggest names in rock and pop each year, and 2023 sees Billie Eilish, Florence + The Machine, Placebo, The Strokes, Foals, Wet Leg and many more take to the stage. You can buy single day tickets if your favourite bands are concentrated on one day, or get the full weekend pass and stay nearby in Paris. Forgo roughing it in a tent and book a nearby hotel or Airbnb rental.
When: 24-27 August
Where: Lincolnshire, UK
Price: Weekend pass 260 GBP / 328 USD
Held in a private woodland near Lincoln, only a few thousand revellers come to the boutique UK festival Lost Village each year, bringing an intimate, community atmosphere to the weekend. There’s a huge emphasis on the experience here, with outlandish stage designs, roaming actors, and secret areas obscured in the woods all contributing to the mystique. There’s also genuinely good food and drink, with brands like Patrón and Żubrówka hosting their own bars and serving proper cocktails, and a lineup from some of the UK’s and London’s best restaurants and chefs. On top of all this, Lost Village still manages to book some of the best artists in the electronic world, with Ibibio Sound Machine, Jamz Supernova and Honey Dijon all performing this year. Tickets are currently sold out, but final ticket runs are due to be released soon.
When: 31 Aug – 4 September
Where: Tisno, Croatia
Price: 160 GBP / 192 USD
The 2023 edition of Dimensions returns to Tisno Garden Resort on the Dalmatian coast, and it’s set to cement its position as one of the best festivals in Europe. There’s the usual lineup of festival classics, B2B exclusives, label parties, and debut sets, from DJs spanning house, techno, electro, breaks, minimal, D&B, and disco. If you’re looking for the gritty sounds of Chicago, Detroit, London and Berlin, but would rather experience them under the sun beside the azure waters of the Adriatic, then Dimensions is exactly where you need to be.