There is no better way of adding a little extra ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ spice to a European vacation than by making a pitstop at one of the continent’s plethora of festivals.
In fact, visiting a festival is one of the best European travel tips out there.
While there is destined to be a slice of the continent alive with the sights, sounds and smells of a fun fiesta no matter which time of the year you visit, things really get cranked up during the summertime. The following are some of Europe’s most sizzling (and sometimes even a little quirky) summer festivals to check out this year.
Festa de São João; June 23-24
Have you ever daydreamed about meandering around a gorgeous Portuguese city with wine in one hand and a plastic hammer to bop complete strangers over the head in the other?
Even if that thought had never crossed your mind (until right now), Porto’s Festa de São João (Festival of St. John) is one worth visiting. The hammering hijinx originated as a light tap from a leek for good luck, before evolving to the plastic hammers used in modern day versions.
Street parties rage throughout the city during the night of the 23rd, with the festivities all topped off by fireworks followed by beach parties to welcome the sunrise on the 24th.
Glastonbury Festival; June 21-25
The greatest of all music festivals, Glastonbury Festival has been rocking out since the 1970s. The four-day fest is a sensory-overloading outdoor experience set in an especially mystical section of the English countryside. You aren’t too far from Stonehenge or other spiritual sites in this section of Somerset County, and the New Age vibe of the region permeates the festival.
Attendees buy a ticket that lasts all four days and camp out under the stars listening to a very eclectic roster of performers that number in the hundreds. This year’s headliners are Radiohead, Foo Fighters and Ed Sheeran.
La Tomatina; Last Wednesday in August
Even if you didn’t know this festival’s proper name, you have likely seen highlights from it on your local news. (It was probably the last thing aired before the anchors signed off, and the video showed people throwing tomatoes at each other.)
Yes, La Tomatina is the famous ‘tomato fight’, and it takes place in Buñol, Spain each year. What started as two Spaniards’ attempt at a political protest has grown to a global gathering of tomato-tossing tourists. And while it only lasts an hour, the memories (and the tomato stains) will be with you forever.
Il Palio di Siena; July 2 & August 16
The town square of a romantic Tuscan town may not seem like the setting for a fast-and-furious horse race, but one trip to Siena for Il Palio will have you convinced otherwise.
Siena is divided into 17 districts called contrades for the two annual contests, with each one represented by a jockey. The bareback horse race may only last 90 seconds, but the buildup starts early and the partying goes on until late during both dates. While the winning neighborhood gets bragging rights, all who attend are guaranteed a good time.
Ibiza Closing Parties; Weekends in September
Ibiza is known the world over for being a party island (just ask Mike Posner), and after a long summer of soirees, they go out with a bang in September. Yes, the nightclubs, world famous DJs, and beach bars of this island save their best for last and squeeze every last ounce out of summer in the process.