Music festivals in Europe are almost innumerable, from small local events to gigantic international happenings, and appeal to every imaginable musical taste.
The European Festival Association promotes performing arts festivals of artistically high quality across Europe. The EFA site has an extensive calendar and festival list well worth perusing to pique your hunger for great European music events.
First launched in France, every summer solstice (June 21st) this pan-European musical event involves thousands of music lovers. Unlike festivals that focus on one composer or a type of music, European (and International) Music Day welcomes both professionals and amateurs to promote cross-cultural, cross-generational, and cross-genre musical appreciation. The festival is free and open to anyone who wants to perform traditional, pop, jazz, rock, rap, techno, or any other kind of music! Experience the day in Spain, Germany, Hungary, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Luxemburg, Italy, Belgium, and the Czech Republic!
As Mozart’s birthplace, Austria naturally hosts one of Europe’s most prestigious cultural events, the Salzburg Festival. Other music festivals of exceptional quality are Schubertiade in Schwarzenberg, the Haydn Festival 2009 in Eisenstadt, and Vienna Festival Weeks. In Germany thousands flock to the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival Schleswig-Holstein to hear classical music performances in eclectic settings including with breathtaking castle, palaces, churches—and impressive shipyards!
Belgium has everything from the world music of Couleur Café to the refined classical performances of young artists at the Queen Elizabeth Competition – not to mention the International Adolphe Sax competition for young saxophone players! You can find it all in France: the International Accordion Festival in Lille, hip hop in Clermont Ferrand and jazz in Nancy! The Prague Spring International Music Festival in the Czech Republic is only one of many ways to enjoy performances in this musically inclined city.
A Roman amphitheatre is the site of the Verona Opera Festival in Italy, one of many festivals in a music-rich country. Slovenia hosts well-known international festivals and lively events in even the smallest villages. Rock Otočec is a huge open air festival promoting peace through music. Widen your horizons at Druga Godba’s International Festival of Alternative and Ethno Music; listen under the stars in a 400-year-old synagogue or on a floating stage on the Drava River during the Maribor International Summer Festival!
Slovakia hums at Bratislava Jazz Days, a major central European jazz event; the Bratislava Music Festival is its most prestigious music festival, while the Music Festival Bažant Pohoda, held in Trenčín, is an enormous open-air festival featuring a wide variety of music.
The Song and Dance Celebration in Riga, Latvia dates back 135 years, and is listed together with traditions from Lithuania and Estonia on UNESCO’s Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage roll. Finland holds festivals of every size and description; attend Finland Festivals for jazz, rock, and classical music. Ruisrock in Turku features indie favorites, Faces Etnofestival in Billnäs is the leading multicultural event for world music, and the medieval castle of Olavinlinna provides a superb setting for the Savonlinna Opera Festival.
In northern Greece enjoy the Thessaloniki Song Festival, a great celebration of Greek song, song writers and singers. Each year the Classical Music Festival in Nafplion (Peloponnese) honors a different country with performances held at superb historical sites. Cyprus offers live performances from rock to opera at events such as the European Festival in Limmasol and the Pafos Aphrodite Festival. Malta resonates with music: the midsummer Malta Jazz Festival, where world-renowned jazz musicians play below the bastions of the 16th century city of Valletta and next to the Grand Harbor; The Malta Arts Festival, and the National Folk Singing Festival, a unique mixture of Maltese and Mediterranean folk music staged at Valletta’s Argotti Botanical Gardens, also featuring craftwork and traditional food and drink.
Enjoy a concert in a majestic natural setting, attend a recital in a Renaissance palace, see a show in an emblematic place like the Alhambra in Granada, take master classes with musicians expert in their disciplines, or enjoy an improvisation session in a night club: these are only a few of the options available at the different music festivals held in many places in Spain during the summer. Portugal hosts several great musical events, such as "Music Days" at the Belém Cultural Centre in Lisbon, a fresh approach to promoting classical music, and Rock in Rio-Lisbon, heaven for rock music lovers!
The United Kingdom hosts scores of musical events, among them Womad, a fantastic world music festival, and the Bath International Music Festival, 17 days of every kind of music made, including special family and free events. Denmark is wild for music festivals in all genres, but especially well-loved are the Copenhagen Jazz Festival and Roskilde Festival. The North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland attracts Grammy-winning musicians and the biggest names in jazz. Rock fans will love Germany’s biggest rock festival, Rock am Ring.