Summer Music Festivals
Right now the dollar may lack serious purchasing power overseas, but for travelers venturing to Europe this summer, it's good to know that the continent's music scene and diverse lineup of alfresco festivals is far from devalued.
Quintessential to the European experience everywhere from Denmark to Spain, music festivals are inextricable from the fabric of good living during the celebrated summer months. Whether you're looking to kick back with a little wine and Wagner in classical surrounds or you prefer to work up a mosh-pit sweat with hordes of heaving heavy-metal lovers, we've sourced a teaser of 5 events to give you a sampling of just how diverse Europe's summertime music scene is.
Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts
Set in pastoral surrounds east of the town of Glastonbury in Southwest England, Glasto, as fans call this massive music fest, revolves in its own free-loving universe for 3 days at the end of June. Nearly 100 stages host musical and performance acts of all genres and close to 200,000 people turn out to take it all in. Known as the largest green-field (rural) music festival in the world, the event plays out in several socio-geographic spheres set in beautiful farmland that blossoms with tents. Musical venues include everything from high-energy dance stages and a big-production pyramid-shaped stage for commercial bands, to more chilled-out New Era venues where you can peace out with acoustic music and spiritual chanting. Overall Vibe: Crunchy to the max -- they even pass out packs of 10 free biodegradable tent pegs to revelers to preserve the area's au naturel vibe. Sleep deprivation guaranteed.
Montreux Jazz Festival
Europe's premier jazz festival takes place in the Francophone part of Switzerland every summer on the shores of Lac Leman. More than 200,000 people pour in during the Montreux Jazz Festival's 2-week run, and headlining acts (announced late April) perform at the Miles Davis Hall and Stravinski Auditorium. While the festival's 1967 roots are pure jazz, the lineup has expanded exponentially in recent decades to include blues, rock, funk, soul and more. Perhaps even more of a lure than the headliners is the festival's overall atmosphere -- boats blaring everything from salsa to gospel to samba create a carnival atmosphere on the lakeshore while enticing festivalgoers for boozy pleasure cruises. Even if you don't get tickets to the biggest shows, you can look forward to more than 300 free acts performing in venues as varied as wine bars and city parks across Montreux. Overall Vibe: Uber-cultured and civilized, with an edge of let-loose quirkiness.
A hardcore hell-raising throwdown, Hellfest (as the name suggests) is not for everyone. But this annual homage to heavy metal, which takes place every June in the starkly contrasting farm-like surrounds of Western France, is further evidence that there's a European summer music festival for every fetish. Overall Vibe: Intense and aggressive at times, but nothing less than passionate about rocking out.
Roskilde in Denmark may be Scandinavia's biggest music festival, but for something slightly less mainstream, make tracks for Seinäjoki, Finland, about 225 miles northwest of Helsinki. You've never seen a people more worshipful of fine weather and sun than the Finns, and when the weather cooperates Provinssirock's communal mood is simply sublime. Dubbed the "party of the people," the festival takes place on a riverbank, and swimming -- clothing optional -- is standard. More than 55,000 people usually turn out. As for the overall vibe? This line from the festival's official website sums up the laid-back attitude: "If you see a drunken person in the river, grab him/her back on the shore!"
Not really into the dreadlocked or head-banging crowds? If a classical scene is your calling, tap into more than a month's worth of music and theatrical performances in one of Europe's most captivating music capitals. Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, is a symphony for the senses, with the city's Baroque architecture backed by alpine views. And when you add the Salzburg Festival's continuous lineup of classical music to the equation, the city positively sings. Operas by the town's prodigal son as well as Dvorak, Bartok and Verdi will be performed. And world-class orchestras in attendance include the Berlin Philharmonic and the Cleveland Orchestra. Naturally, the Vienna Philharmonic stars, with 4 opera productions and 5 classical concerts to be performed over the festival's run.