The best way to avoid the mud and rain this festival season
If you love live music but can’t face the thought of spending a weekend up to your knees in mud, European festivals make a perfect alternative to the soggy fields of Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds. Even better, why not head to one of the Continent’s finest cities for a much-deserved nice long soak in a hotel bath and some sightseeing for a few days afterwards?
All of this is possible by travelling by rail to Europe from the UK. All destinations mentioned are easy to get to by train – the carbon friendly and relaxing way to travel across Europe. So go green and party at European music festivals without worrying about the environment.
We’ve rounded up 12 of the best European festivals to reach by rail, from the sun-kissed beaches of Benicassim in Spain to the Balkan beats of Serbia’s Exit festival.
Cutting edge sounds in Catalonia
Primavera, Barcelona, Spain – 25 – 28 May 2011
A festival for music fans who like their sounds a little off the wall, Primavera boasts a huge line-up including acts like Belle & Sebastian, The Flaming Lips, the hotly-tipped Male Bonding and, perhaps best of all, an appearance by the newly reformed Pulp. The Primavera Festival takes place right in the middle of Barcelona, meaning you can wander off to take in the sights of the city if nothing on stage inspires you. Still not convinced? Well, it’s all on concrete, so there’s no need to pack your wellies.
Go Supersonic in Spain
Sonar, Spain – 16 – 18 June 2011
Located on the same central Barcelona site as the Primavera, Sonar Festival sees acts of a more electronic bent heading for the Catalan capital for three days of experimental music and film. It’s still early days, but acts confirmed for 2011 so far include Dizzee Rascal, MIA, Cut Copy, Underworld, Magnetic Man, A-Trak, Hype Williams and Mary Anne Hobbs, with many more to be added between now and June.
A splash of Couleur at Europe’s most eclectic festival
Couleur Café Festival, Brussels, Belgium – 24 – 26 June 2011
It may be one of Europe’s smaller states, but Belgium punches well above its weight when it comes to putting on music festivals. Another highlight of the calendar is this vibrant, hugely eclectic three-day Couleur Cafe Festival where expect to hear the best in R&B, hip-hop, reggae, dancehall – and a whole lot more. Artists confirmed so far this year include Patrice, Janelle Monáe and Band of Gypsies 2.
Belgium’s biggest rock festival
Rock Werchter, Belgium – 30 June – 3 July 2011
PJ Harvey, Kings of Leon, Iron Maiden, Elbow, Black Eyed Peas and Coldplay are just a few of the big names set to grace the stage at Belgium’s biggest music festival – Rock Werchter. 80,000 people are expected to make a pilgrimage to the small town of Werchter, just 30km south of Brussels, and it’s a doddle to reach by rail. Just head over to Brussels on a Eurostar service, then take a train to Leuven where you can pick up a free festival bus by showing your ticket. The whole return trip can cost you as little as £80.
Rave on in Roskilde
Roskilde, Denmark – 30 June – 3 July 2011
Kings of Leon, MIA, PJ Harvey and Iron Maiden are just a few of the acts confirmed so far for Denmark’s Roskilde festival, with many more to come before it all kicks off at the end of June. It’s easily reached by rail from the Danish capital Copenhagen – the festival even has its very own train station! Oh, and you can have a riotous weekend safe in the knowledge that you’re doing a whole lot of good too – 100% of the profits from the Roskilde Festival are given to charity.
Speed your way to Les Ardentes
Les Ardentes, Belgium – 7 – 10 July 2011
Cementing Belgium’s reputation as the festival capital of Europe, Les Ardentes has attracted the likes of Missy Elliot, N.E.R.D, Mogwai, The Gossip, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Pavement and Cypress Hill since its inception in 2006, and although this year’s line up has yet to be announced, it’s certain to be stellar. Les Ardentes takes place in the city of Liege, just 45 minutes away from Brussels on a high speed Thalys service.
Serbia’s fortress festival
Exit, Novi Sad, Serbia – 7 – 10 July 2011
Few festivals take place in a setting more dramatic than Serbia’s Exit festival. For one weekend in July, Novi Sad’s 18th century Petrovaradin Fortress on banks of the River Danube plays host to the crème of international rock, pop and dance acts. Exit started in the year 2000 as a festival of protest against the Milosevic regime, soaring in size and stature in the decade that followed. Acts lined up for 2011 include Arcade Fire, Portishead, Pulp, Fedde Le Grande and Tiga.
Novi Sad can be reached by heading to Budapest and taking the InterCity Avala service to Belgrade.
Bask in the Benicassim sun
Benicassim Festival, Spain – 14 – 17 July 2011
Thanks to its picture perfect location between Barcelona and Valencia on the sunny Costa Azahar, the Benicassim Festival has grown and grown since it began some 15 years ago. Headliners this year include Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys, Portishead, The Strokes and Primal Scream. Best of all, it’s the perfect festival to reach by rail. Benicassim station is a couple of hours from Barcelona, or just an hour from Valencia. The main stage is just a short walk from the beach, so a suntan’s more or less guaranteed!
Benicassim can be reached via Barcelona (2 hours) or Valencia (1 hour).
Rock around the Ring
Rock am Ring, Nürburgring, Germany – 14 – 17 July 2011
Germany’s famous Formula 1 track is overrun with rock kids once a year when the Rock am Ring festival turns the amplifier up to 11 for three solid days. This year’s line up includes System Of A Down, Kings Of Leon, Coldplay, The Kooks, Social Distortion, Interpol, Korn and Funeral For A Friend. Be sure to stick around in Koblenz, a stunning medieval city on the banks of the Rhine, for a few days afterwards.
Bern Baby Bern
Gurten Festival, Bern, Switzerland – 14 – 17 July 2011
The 27-year-old Gurtenfestival is undoubtedly one of the most scenic festivals in Europe. It takes place high in the woods of the Gurten hilltop, just a short hop from Bern, the stunning Swiss capital. This year’s line up includes Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian, Beady Eye, Kaiser Chiefs, Noah & The Whale and The Streets. Combine your trip with a couple of days sightseeing in Bern, one of Europe’s most easy-going capital cities.
Sample some Metal Machine Music
Melt!, Ferropolis, Gräfenhainichen, Germany – 15 – 17 July 2011
Ferropolis, the dramatic setting of the Melt Festival, is a million miles away from the muddy fields and overflowing toilets of Glastonbury. Also known as “The City of Iron”, it’s a huge, open-air museum dedicated to rusting, obsolete mid-20th century machinery. The line-up leans heavily on dance and electro sounds, with 2011’s big draws including Robyn, Cut Copy, The Streets, DAF, Miss Kittin and the newly reformed Pulp.
Ferropolis is easily reached by taking a CityNightLine service to Berlin, and then connect with a local service to Dessau. Ferropolis is a 20-minute bus ride from there.
Pack your bags for Pukkelpop
Pukkelpop, Hasselt, Belgium – 18 – 20 August 2011
The wonderfully named Pukkelpop is Belgium’s second biggest festival. The party takes place just outside the city of Hasselt, and bands who’ve graced the stage over the last 25 years read like a ‘Who’s Who’ of alternative rock and pop: Faith No More, Sonic Youth, Metallica, Neil Young, Iron Maiden, Ramones and Nick Cave are just a handful of legends who’ve treaded the Pukkelpop boards. Oh, and if you’re wondering about that name, pukkel is Flemish for “pimple”.
The festival is easily reached by taking a train from Brussels to Hasselt or Kiewit, which takes around 90 minutes.