This Summer: Quirky Festival-Hopping in Europe!

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Must Love Festivals

I’m finally able to reveal it to you all — my big summer plans involve festival-hopping all over Europe!

Must Love Festivals

Must Love Festivals is a campaign highlighting quirky, unusual, lesser-known festivals in Europe. You won’t see us running with bulls, throwing tomatoes, or hitting up the festivals that get all the attention. Instead, you’ll see a different side of Europe — a side where regions celebrate their music, their food, their arts, their culture, their sports, and much more. Festivals that are mysteriously absent from pop culture.

Must Love Festivals is the brainchild of my dear friend Kash Bhattacharya, the Budget Traveller.

Members of the team include myself, Frankie Thompson of As the Bird Flies, Michael Turtle of Time Travel Turtle, Victoria Watts and Steve of Bridges and Balloons, Bethany Salvon and Randy Kalp of Beers & Beans, Peter Parkorr of Travel Unmasked, Dylan Lowe of The Travelling Editor, Sophie Collard of Sophie on Track, Abigail King of Inside The Travel Lab, Sebastian Canaves-Börner of Off The Path, and Alex and Ben of Hejorama.

Dylan and Peter will be diving into Asian culture in The Hague. Frankie combined the best of comedy with a dose of snowboarding in Austria. Kash will be eating all of the oysters and Guinness in Galway.

Altogether, we’ll be visiting more than 40 festivals this summer!

For more details, check out the Must Love Festivals website. You can also become a fan of Must Love Festivals on Facebook and follow the hashtag #mustlovefestivals on social media to see the latest updates.

Must Love Festivals is brought to you by the Budget Traveller with lead partner Expedia and in association with Visit Finland,, I Feel Slovenia, Rotterdam Festivals, Malta Tourism Authority, Germany Tourism, Eurail, Den Haag Marketing, Austria Tourism, Puglia Events, Generator Hostels and Meininger Hotels.

Dancing in Shetland

Why Festivals?

It’s been more than two years and I’m still raving about Up Helly Aa, the Viking fire festival in the Shetland Islands, to everyone I meet. Dancing to traditional Shetland music with a bunch of “Yarrr!”-yelling Vikings until 8:00 AM was one of the most exhilarating nights of my life and one of my most cherished travel memories.

Songkran, a water-throwing festival celebrating the new year in Thailand, was three days of sheer fun and madness. Las Fallas in Valencia, Spain, was a crazy celebration of fire with explosions and music around the clock. Mardi Gras in New Orleans was a melange of music and beads and beignets and debauchery.

And on a hometown level, I love spending Marathon Monday and the Fourth of July in Boston, when everybody seems to be in a great mood.

Joining a festival is a way to get to know a community, let them show off their best assets, and feel like a local, if only for one day. Simply put, festivals rock!

L'entrée du Parlement ( Ljubljana)

So, where am I going?

I’m scheduled for five festivals and I’ve attended one so far. Here’s the lowdown:

In Limerick, Ireland, I attended several events in Limerick: Ireland’s 2014 City of Culture. I saw so much modern art, a beautiful flamenco ballet performance of Carmen, climbed castles, marveled at architecture, and learned that Limerick is not remotely the bleak environment as which it was portrayed in Angela’s Ashes.

I’ll be writing about Limerick soon, but let me tell you for now that I am so impressed at the beauty that can emerge when a city chooses to invest generously in the arts.

Next, in early July, I will be attending the Ana Desetnica Street Theater Festival in Ljubljana, Slovenia. I have fervently wanted to visit Slovenia since I was in college and I’m so glad the time is finally now! I look forward to seeing performances, gaping at the architecture, and falling under the spell of a city that has claimed several of my friends’ hearts.

In late July, I will be attending the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival in Kuhmo, Finland. Now, this is a special festival — every year, some of Europe’s finest classical musicians convene in Kuhmo, a rural town in Finland’s lakes region, where they perform exquisite music in an environment absent of urban noise. It sounds fantastic and peaceful.

This is my first time in Finland, and I’m ready to explore its natural beauty, saunas, and chocolate.

In early August, I will be attending the Carpino Folk Festival in Puglia, Italy. While Italy is my favorite country in Europe and I visit a few times a year, I haven’t been south of Rome in nearly a decade (!). Puglia is the heel of the boot and, many have told me, the best culinary region in the south.

I’ve been to several events catered by Puglia Tourism in the past few years, and if their food is a fraction of what lies ahead, I will be extremely happy.

In late August, I will be attending the Cologne Music Festival in Cologne, Germany. This will be interesting because I’m not a concert-hopper at all — I’ve been to about six major concerts in my life, mostly the Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls. My music taste could not be more mainstream. So I’m wondering if I have what it takes to blend in with a crowd of German hipsters! I’ll be staying at the Meininger Hotel in Cologne on this leg of the campaign.

I’m also going to be using Must Love Festivals as an opportunity to stay a bit longer and visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the surrounding regions. As I write this, I’ve just visited the incredible Skellig Michael in Ireland, my 80th World Heritage Site, and I’ll probably visit about 10 more sites around the festivals.

Altogether, this is a very exciting project, and I hope you enjoy it!

Have you been to any of these festivals? Have any suggestions? Let me know!

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48 thoughts on “This Summer: Quirky Festival-Hopping in Europe!”

  1. Wow, this sounds like funnn!
    I went several times to the Southside Festival in (the south of) Germany –
    It is located in the middle of nowhere, at an old army airport area. Super nice location, great atmosphere, good music (mostly indie / rock).
    I’d love to go on a “festival trip” around Europe like you are planning to do! Maybe next year.
    Enjoy!! 🙂

  2. The classical music festival in Finland sounds fantastic! I really enjoy classical music – I find it rather relaxing – and listening to live performances in rural Finland sounds incredibly idyllic. Can’t wait to read about it 😉

  3. I love going to festivals, and these are ones I haven’t heard of. It sounds like this is going to be a fun summer for you. Can’t wait to read more.

  4. This sounds like such a genius idea. I can’t wait to read more about the lesser-known festivals of Europe. I think at the moment I’d struggle to name 5!

  5. That’s great! )

    what about Sonar Music Festival in Barcelona?? It’s incredible! Was rocking it front row at Pet Shop Boys concert a year ago. Sonar Festival is a must in Summer if you’re planning on visiting that incredible city! 12, 13, 14 June I believe.

    let there always be a road..

  6. Wow! You’ve got some brilliant festivals in your corner. Well done! I haven’t heard of any of them except for the Cologne Music Festival but they all sound absolutely awesome!
    I live in Germany and there are many fantastic festivals to go around most tastes. In June alone, there is the Festival of Cultures in Berlin, the Fête de la Musique, and our own Mardi Gras: Christopher Street Day.
    Thanks for sharing Kate. 🙂

  7. So envious of Puglia! I’m going to Italy in October and REALLY wanted to get to Puglia for the food, but with the more limited (from my understanding) public transportation I don’t think I’m going to make it. But maybe your posts will convince me otherwise!

  8. This sounds like an amazing project! It’s so nice to hear that lesser known/ frequented festivals will be taking centre stage for once. We will be following this closely – looking forward to the stories!:)

  9. A couple years ago, I travelled around England and Wales based my itenerary on the upcoming festivals. I would recommend the Great British Cheese Festival in Cardiff and strictly speaking, these are not festivals but my number one event was the Oxford Open Doors happening in mid-September and the Agatha Christie Festival in Devon around the same time.

  10. Sooo cool!!! Around how much will this whole thing cost you? Can we have an idea so we can prepare to follow your footsteps? 🙂

  11. Festival hopping sounds like a perfect way to spend a summer in Europe. I’m especially excited to hear about the one in Italy, since it’s also my favorite European country!

  12. I’m going to be in Ljubljana in early July, and I am planning on staying at Hostel Celica! I will be leaving on the 3rd or 4th so just there for the beginning but I hadn’t really researched this part of my trip so I had no idea that I had planned a trip to Ljubljana during a festival! Oops but awesome? 🙂

  13. Finally, someone decided to comply it all in one place! There are so many awesome things going out in each country, yet just the locals usually know about it 🙁 I’m planning to hit Jazz Under The Apple Trees festival in Normandy this summer!

  14. That’s so awesome. The Viking festival sounds pretty awesome and I love that you consider marathon Monday like a festival- it really is in New England. It will be super interesting to hear about these festivals.

  15. Great idea! Festivals are a great way of knowing a country – its culture and traditions. Looking forward to some colorful pictures on your blog. 🙂

  16. I am a huge fan of festivals too, gives you a wonderful insight in to the local culture. And you experience the best food around festivals!!

  17. The spring/summer festivals is what I like most about being in Europe during that time of year. There are so many, one more crazy/interesting than the next. I haven’t heard of any of the festivals mentioned above. Sounds like a solid plan!

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