European Festivals

The Take 12 Trips Challenge is a travel initiative encouraging you to satiate your wanderlust by taking a trip away each month. While the Take 12 Trips creators claim you don’t necessarily have to go any further than your own doorstep, we’re focussing on European getaways on our blog.

One of the most popular getaways for young travellers is to head to a festival, whether that’s to celebrate food and drink, or music and culture, and there are so many fantastic festivals all across Europe that you’re sure to find something you love. We’ve collected a few of our favourites below to give you the inspiration you need to plan a trip to a brilliant European festival.

Jordaan Festival

Jordaan is one of Amsterdam’s proudest regions, with a strong local heritage from its working-class roots, as well as a colourful and diverse style from its history as a popular region with immigrant workers. Jordaan festival celebrates the folk tradition of the region, with popular ballads about life in the region, known as levensliederen performed by local and national artists at concerts throughout the weekend. Some of the most famous levensliederen come from artists such as Johnny Jordaan and Tante Leen, who sing in thick Amsterdam accents.

Aside from the folk songs, there are drum bands, flea markets, games and events for children, cabaret and opera performances, plus much much more. Jordaan festival is a celebration of one of Holland’s liveliest and most vibrant neighbourhoods, so it’s no surprise that the festival is a party to match!

Amsterdam Pride Festival

Amsterdam is famously one of Europe’s most progressive and liberal cities, and for this reason the Pride festivals in the Dutch capital have passed into legend and are attended by thousands of people each year, including many from outside Amsterdam.

Amsterdam’s Pride Festival is – as has come to be the tradition with LGBT events – colourful, lively, inclusive and above all, great fun. There are a huge number of shows, events and parties occurring throughout the weekend.

One of the highlights of Amsterdam Pride is the Canal Parade, which sees the city’s famous canals lined with rainbow balloon displays as wonderfully decorated canal barges pass through. The International Drag Queen Olympics are sure to entertain, while the closing party on Rembrandtplein is a night to remember.


Dutch people love their dance music. So it’s no surprise that the biggest annual event in the Dutch musical calendar is Mysteryland, which takes in genres such as house, techno and electro, as well as more niche offerings such as hardstyle – something of a phenomenon in Holland.

You can choose to camp out at the festival, book a day ticket, or – if the thought of sleeping outside terrifies you – book a hotel and stay in comfort and cleanliness. Whatever you choose Mysteryland is the ideal way to see off the summer, taking place at the end of August each year.

Amsterdam Fringe

The continental cousin of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Amsterdam Fringe turns the whole of the Dutch capital into a stage, with performances, routines and concerts from artists, musicians, theatre companies and more. These performances range from takeovers of pubs, bars and cafes, to open-air theatres in streets and parks or living-room houseparties.

Taking place in early September, Amsterdam Fringe is as big a festival as you can imagine, and an ideal way to soak up the last of the early autumn sun before the nights begin to set in.


Tomorrowland is a huge name in electronic music, particularly in the currently buoyant EDM scene. Taking place late July each year in Belgium’s wonderfully named Boom, it takes in the best artists, DJs and producers from all over the world and brings them together for a weekend of celebration.

The festival is also a completely cashless event. You can top up money into an online account and use your entry wristband to pay for food, drink and merchandise at the festival.

Antwerp Summer Festival

On the banks of the River Schelde each year, the Antwerp Summer Festival sees a huge range of artists from a similarly huge range of genres pack out one of the city’s large green spaces to smash it for a weekend.

Mainly dance-music-based, it’s sure to keep you moving, with high-energy sets and performances from some of Belgium’s biggest artists.

Les Ardentes

Taking place in Liege, Les Ardentes is a week-long celebration of electronic and rock music each July. The festival is located in Astrid Park, near the city centre, and celebrated its 10th anniversary this year.

The festival attracts large numbers of people each year thanks to its fantastic line-ups which have included megastars such as 50 Cent, Calvin Harris, Groove Armada, Dizzee Rascal and Marilyn Manson.

Ghent Festival

Known locally as Ghentse Festeen, Ghent Festival is a music and theatre event which kicks off on the Friday before July 21 (a Belgian national holiday), lasting 10 days, and has a reputation for wildly fluctuating atmosphere. Some years are huge parties, while others are fairly low-key. What you are guaranteed each year, however, is a great time.

The shows at the festival are free, however there are also a lot of side-festivals which organise one-off events such as the Jazz Festival, the Comedy Festival and more.

Cologne Carnival

Kicking off annually on the 11th minute of the 11th hour of November 11th, Cologne Carnival is designed to celebrate the “5th season” of the year. It suspends itself for Christmas and Advent, but is picked back up from 6 January.

While there are official parades, balls, concerts and other events throughout carnival time, the best events in the city are often organised ad-hoc by locals and take place in bars, taverns and clubs. Cologne Carnival is one of the largest street festivals in Europe and its Rose Monday Parade regularly attracts up to a million revellers.


What more is there to say about Oktoberfest that hasn’t already been said?

Perhaps the world’s most legendary beer festival, for many the image of Leiderhosen-clad drinkers with steins of Oktoberfest beer and bratwurst sausages are synonymous with German drinking culture.

For 16 days from mid to late September, Bavaria drinks, dines and parties to its heart’s content, with over 7.7 million litres of beer consumed annually. Oktoberfest is one of Europe’s ultimate Bucket List parties, and something everyone should experience at one point in their life.

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