20 great boutique music festivals in Europe for 2019
20 great boutique music festivals in Europe for 2019

Small but mighty, here’s our pick of the best music and arts festivals around Europe this summer
 Tell us about your favourite small European festivals

A DJ performs in front of a crowd at the Meadows in the Mountains festival, Bulgaria, in the distance the sun sets on the mountains.

 Spinning tops … Meadows in the Mountains festival, Bulgaria

Meadows in the Mountains, Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s Rhodope mountains, close to the Greek border, make an atmospheric setting for this multi-genre music festival. It’s a scenic escape with four stages showcasing underground electronic music and acoustic bands, plus zip-lining, a giant hammock in the forest, yoga and other wellness activities – along with hillside gatherings for sunrise. The resident choir from the local village of Polkovnik Serafimovo (around 100km south of Plovdiv) also performs in traditional dress with Kukeri dancers. 
 6-9 June, €150.50 (plus camping for €6.50pp),

Awake, Romania

Awake Festival, Romania


Awake is a rural party in Transylvania, in the grounds of Teleki Estate, an 18th-century baroque castle with more than six hectares (16 acres) of gardens beside the River Mureș. Music spans drum’n’bass, hip-hop, indie, soul and punk, including Pussy Riot, JP Cooper and Netsky. There’s also a cinema, a forest library, talks from the “feed your mind” programme, wellness activities, interactive theatre and outdoor artwork across the site.
 15-18 August, £38,

Sacred Ground, Germany

In the countryside just north of Berlin, in the village of Trampe, DJs, bands and artists come together for a weekend of spontaneous creativity and collaborative performance. It’s the fifth time the event has taken place, curated by Berlin producer and Pacha resident Frank Wiedemann and Australian musician RY X. Mixing electronic, acoustic and experimental sounds, the event has a free-spirit vibe and flexible timetable. There is a main stage during the day and a dance tent at night, “secret sessions” in the old church, local food, plus art and light installations around the farmland and meadow site. 
 12-14 July, €139,

Secret Solstice, Iceland

Secret Solstice, Iceland


 Photograph: Tobias Stoffels/Neon Photography

Celebrating the arrival of summer solstice, this festival keeps the party going for three days under the midnight sun. The lineup includes Rita Ora, Morcheeba and Patti Smith, performing in the park spaces of the Laugardalur area of Reykjavík. There are add-on parties taking place at glaciers and lava fields, and a new kids’ zone for this year, running beatboxing and disco-dancing workshops.
 21-23 June, adult £127, youth (13-17) £70, under-12s free,

Uprising, Slovakia

Zlaté Piesky, a natural lake and summer resort in Bratislava, hosts the laid-back weekender Uprising, with a lineup of reggae, dancehall, ska, latino, hip-hop, jungle and drum’n’bass, and features Lauryn Hill and Jo Mersa Marley. It takes place in late August, marking the anniversary of the second world war resistance movement, the Slovak National Uprising of 1944. Beyond the music, bikers and skaters perform in the half-pipe, plus yoga, capoeira (Afro-Brazilian martial art) and dance workshops, street art and Jamaican food stalls. The lake provides a swimming pool, alongside boat rental, water-skiing and wakeboarding. Campsites are on the lakeside “beach” and at a grassy region inland. 
 23-24 August, €50, ticket and hotel package from €81, under 10s free, (plus camping from €10pp),

Instytut, Poland

Instytut Festival, Poland.


Polish techno brand Instytut has been throwing parties for two decades, and now, for the second year, it brings this festival to three stages (main, rave and underground) around Modlin Garrison, a 19th-century fortress in Nowy Dwór, east-central Poland. It sits at the confluence of the Vistula and the Narew rivers, and is one of the longest buildings in Europe, with much of it abandoned and crumbling. Richie Hawtin, Ben Klock and Dasha Rush are part of the lineup, and there’ll be art installations and audio-visual displays around the historic space.
 21-22 June, £53 (plus camping pass, £16),

Ypsigrock, Sicily

Beats and guitars flow through alleyways and piazzas at the foothills of the Madonie Mountains, at this four-day festa bellissima, with the National, Spiritualized and David August on the bill. The hill-top village of Castelbuono – close to the north coast and a 90-minute drive from Palermo – is home to the mixed-genre music festival, which has been running for 22 years. Live music takes place in and around the castle and its piazza, in the baroque church, and other gigs pop-up around town. Overnight camping is available in the nearby Madonie Park. 
 8-11 August, three-day festival ticket (9-11 Aug) €99, camping pass (8-11 Aug) €39pp,

Mandrea, Italy

Mandrea Music Festival, Italy


 Photograph: Nico Caravaggi

Get back to nature at Mandrea, a dub, reggae and folk festival with an atmospheric location near the Alps in Trentino, close to Lake Garda’s northern shore. Now in its eighth year, the festival also includes indie films, performance art, artisan crafts, workshops, plenty of local Italian food and a shisha tent. A regular shuttle bus takes festivalgoers to the beach and mountain lakes for swimming and to other locations for biking, rock climbing and canyoning.
 11-14 July, €130, tent and campervan rental available,

Love International, Croatia

The town of Tisno, on the Dalmatian coast, hosts several festivals over the summer, including Love International, the sister event to Bristol’s Love Saves the Day. Electronic music takes the lead over the eight days, with stages under the trees, on the beach and in a large open-air disco. Acts include Horse Meat Disco, DJ Harvey, Shanti Celeste and Ben UFO, plus sunrise sessions and a series of boat parties (around £20-£30 each). Taking place in the Garden Resort, a private bay offers time to cool-off in the Adriatic, or the site makes a good base for day trips to Zadar (40-minute drive) and Split (one hour). 
 3-10 July, £140 (camping pass £15pp pn, onsite three-person apartments from £69 a night),

Horst, Belgium

Horst Festival, Belgium


 Photograph: Olmo Peeters

This festival of beats and art is moving to a new site for 2019, along the River Zenne in Vilvoorde-North. This new location, known as Asiat, is a former military site with six hectares of urban space: different-size warehouses, a maze of corridors, green spaces and two cooling towers. This year’s lineup includes Joy Orbison going back-to-back with Craig Richards, plus Marcel Dettmann, Objekt, and lots of fresh talent. Plus, there’s a new series of design, art, architecture and music workshops called The Lab. Previously based at Horst Castle in Holsbeek, the festival’s ambition goes beyond the event, with the aim of developing spaces (and talent), including the regeneration of the Asiat area into a vibrant part of the city. An exhibition, including various site-specific artworks, will take place from July in the run up to the festival to encourage visitors.
 13-15 September, €118, camping pass including three brunches €48pp,

Evasion, France

A lineup of house, techno and electronic acts converge by the private beach of L’atol in Grand Parc Miribel Jonage (just outside Lyon). Stages are set up on the sandy shore, under the trees and in the meadows, with sets from Mount Kimbie, Ace Ventura, Courtesy, Marc Rebillet, and more. There are food trucks, cocktails and swimming (until 10pm), but no onsite camping, with shuttles taking the crowd to and from Vaulx-en-Velin metro station.
 5-7 July, €

Parallel, Spain

Paral·lel Festival, Spain


 Photograph: Didac Ramirez

This (let’s be honest, tiny) festival in the Pyreneesis a 90-minute drive north of Barcelona and has a boundary-pushing programme of experimental, ambient, and techno music over three days on a single stage. Now in its fourth year, it keeps the vibe intimate, with a capacity of 1,000. A series of workshops and creative sessions related to electronic music will run alongside, which in previous years has included computerless music production, an introduction to synthesisers, and building solar-powered sound machines.
 30 Aug-1 Sep, €82, camping is free, two-person glamping tent €220 for three nights,

Unum, Albania

Unum is a new festival hoping to put Albania on the festival circuit, following the success of Kala’s debut in 2018, among others in recent years. Top DJs, sandy coastlines and cheap beer continue to draw crowds to the Albanian Riviera, this time to Rana e Hedhun beach, with a backdrop of mountains and pine trees, near Shëngjin in the north-west. Alongside raving to the likes of Joseph Capriati, Craig Richards and others, there will be art workshops, local crafts and food stalls, lots of hammocks, yoga and beach volleyball.
 31 May-3 Jun, £120 (apartments via the Unum site from £17pppn inc shuttle service),

Kolorádó, Hungary

Kolorado Festival, Hungary


 Photograph: Bence Szemerey

On the outskirts of Budapest, near the Buda hills, Kolorádó mixes nature and music in the forest: think hippy kids and DIY vibes, shoegazing bands and techno in a barn. This will be the festival’s fourth year, with music stages curated by local venues and community groups, alongside art and sound installations and experimental performance. The eclectic lineup includes folk, rock, electronic and world, with Kurt Vile and the Violators, Femi Kuti and the Positive Force, Ben UFO and more.
 19-22 June, £58, plus camping pass £9.50pp,

Body & Soul, Ireland

Modeselektor, IAMDDB and Santigold will help celebrate 10 years of Body & Soul, a music, art and wellbeing festival in Clonmellon, Westmeath. The revelry and recovery take place in the grounds of Ballinlough Castle, a 17th-century country house, just over an hour’s drive from Dublin. An onsite spa offers seaweed bathing and wood-fired hot tubs, and there are alternative therapies and massage available, plus immersive theatre, talks, art installations, and circus and crafts for young children.
 21-23 June, weekend camping tickets €217, this is an over-20s event (13-19 not permitted) though under-12s are allowed, with free admission as part of a family camping ticket,

Waking Life, Portugal

Waking Life Festival


 Photograph: Ruben Salgado Escudero

Two-and-a-half hours’ drive north-east of Lisbon, the likes of Four Tet, Seth Troxler and Move D, are performing at a stunning lakeside location near the medieval town of Crato, for six days of music and art. This, the round-the-clock event’s third year, boasts an electronic musical spectrum ranging from ambient sunrise rhythms to late-night deep house sets. The bill also includes large-scale art work, immersive performance, cinema, talks, alternative medicine, kung fu, yoga, meditation and other wellness activities.
 14-19 August, adult €135, children 3-13 free with an adult,

Sommerøya, Norway

Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2019, it’s good vibes and happy beats for the weekend in Hundesletta Ekeberg, just south of Oslo. This small electronic festival has an idyllic grassy setting with a forest backdrop and views of the sun setting over the Oslofjord. Both the music and the art programme are still to be announced but the back-to-back marathon and the improvised Megajam shows will return this year, the latter with around 30 artists from different areas and genres playing together.
 16-17 August, adult £86 (hotel + ticket packages from £295pp),

Week-End au Bord de L’eau, Switzerland

Week-end au Bord de L’eau, Switzerland


Otherwise known as Weekend at the Edge of the Lake, the dreamy alpine setting of Sierre in Valais canton is the site for this laid-back little festival by Lake Géronde. Alongside the DJs and live bands – from disco to latino – aquatic activities include kayaking, standup paddleboarding and flamingo peddle-boating, as well as petanque, film, visual arts and stalls selling local wine and raclette.
 28-30 June, three-day pass from £60, camping and festival package from £66, (under 18s free with an adult),

Nomads, Amsterdam

Underground DJs and producers at this small Dutch festival drop sounds from funk to techno across several stages, some hosted by local labels. The intimate two-day event takes place in Rhônepark, a green space in the north-west corner of the city, and also includes an organic market, creative stalls and a chill-out area. The tribe might disperse at 11pm but Amsterdam’s club scene can keep the party going all night.
 29-30 June, weekend ticket €57, ticket and hotel packages from €136,

Heartland, Denmark

Heartland Festival, Denmark.


Multi-genre music festival Heartland returns to the grounds surrounding Egeskov Castle on the island of Funen for a fourth year. Egeskov is one of Europe’s best-preserved Renaissance water castles and is surrounded by award-winning gardens, including an 18th-century maze. Among the many big names across the bill, there’s music from Solange, Hot Chip, Elbow, the Smashing Pumpkins; talks with Vivienne Westwood, Jonathan Franzen and Judith Butler; art by David Shrigley and Olafur Eliasson; and a host of Scandi chefs and restaurant banquets.

The Guardian

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