When planning your European adventure, figuring out your exact itinerary can be overwhelming – unless you have a specific destination in mind. My suggestion for deciding where to visit would be to see if there is a festival in Europe that you want to go to and then plan your holiday around it.
There are so many cheap flights and deals to different European cities right now, so what are you waiting for?
1. La Tomatina
Like to get dirty and have a bit of fun? Book yourself a trip to the village of Buñol, 40km west of Valencia in Spain for a city-wide tomato fight – La Tomatina!
Held on the last Wednesday in August each year, this festival sees crowds of locals and tourists swimming in, wading through and throwing tomatoes.
While most revellers come just for the day, for the full La Tomatina experience, I would stay in Buñol for the week-long celebration, which involves music, dancing, parades and fireworks.
Book your flights to Spain early for this one to get a deal as usually, 20,000 people descend on the town to take part!
No European festival list would be complete without mentioning Oktoberfest in Munich.
What began as a royal marriage celebration in 1810 is now the biggest folk festival in the world. Yep, it’s not just about the beer.
The big brewing tents are obviously a massive draw for the millions of people visiting, but Oktoberfest is like a huge carnival and the festival fairgrounds offer something for everyone, like rides, yodelling competitions and of course, beer tasting contests.
Don’t forget to pack your Lederhosen or a Dirndl and fully immerse yourself in the experience like we did!
3. Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Every August, the world’s largest arts festival – Edinburgh Fringe - arrives in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh.
With more than 57,000 performances and more than 3,500 shows including street performers, art exhibitions, stand-up comedy, dance performances, cabaret, spoken word and live music, you will want to pack your stamina for this three-week extravaganza!
You won’t go hungry or thirsty on this trip, as come Fringe-time, street food stalls and pop-up bars spring up all over the city, adding to that overall festival feeling.
While you’re there, escape the madness and enjoy the sights outside the centre. We loved our trek up to the top of Arthur’s Seat for a view over the town.
4. Amsterdam Light Festival
See the canals of Amsterdam in a whole new light.
For just over two months each winter, the ‘Venice of the North’ becomes a canvas for a spectacular light art display.
Artists from all over the world contribute to 25 installations that reflect in the ripples of the canals. You can walk along and enjoy them or get an even better vantage point from the water on a boat.
The light art installations illuminate every day from 5 pm until 11 pm.
When you aren’t out basking in the lights, Amsterdam Light Festival also has a rich program of artist talks, readings, workshops, and concerts happening around the city. You could also make time to visit the Rijksmuseum or Anne Frank House like I did.
5. Art Basel
Europe is full of amazing art galleries but when you are on holiday and stretched for time, you might not be able to visit them all.
Enter, Art Basel.
The nickname of ‘ the art world Olympics’ should give you an idea of what to expect when you visit the Swiss city of Basel in June.
More than 300 leading galleries flock from all over the world to show works by some 4,000 artists. On display are paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, prints, video and multimedia art as well as performances. It is a veritable feast for the senses – all set in the beautiful city of Basel on the banks of the Rhine River.
Art has always been in the heart of this lovely medieval city, this festival just cements it in place. I recommend refuelling between art people watching with a pretzel sitting on the banks of the river.
Who says festivals have to be in summer? In Mayrhofen, Austria, the best live bands and DJs from around the world set up on the slopes for an epic snow party. It is a week-long whirlwind of fresh air, blue skies, powder days and hot parties. Every year gets bigger and better.
Held in April each year, spend your days skiing and boarding or enjoy music on mountain-top stages before heading down for some of the best après ski on the planet.
For this festival you will want to love listening to tunes and have some endurance - there is only about four hours a day when there is no music or DJ scheduled to appear. That’s a lot of dancing and skiing but I loved every minute.