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The ultimate European boutique festival guide

The ultimate European boutique festival guide

The ultimate European boutique festival guide

Missed your chance on the Glastonbury resale? With cheap ticket prices and guaranteed sun, Europe’s boutique festivals are your answer


The Garden Festival

Croatia, 1-8 July

To the extent that some describe it as a serious rival to Ibiza and Miami, Croatia has become a hotbed of dance music festivals, with one pretty much every week from June until September. The amazing thing is that it took so long to happen on this scale, and the second most amazing thing is that it is continuing to happen on this scale with an absence of David Guetta and Maguluf-style, 24-blowjobs-for-a-beer-type behaviour.

The one that started it all is The Garden Festival, which this year is “going out with a bang” after 10 seasons in the village of Tisno on the Adriatic coastline. It lasts a week, and there are boat parties, secret island parties, open-air club parties and beach parties that go on as long as you need them to. Even better: you can choose from camping, posh camping or a proper apartment, or the beach (you didn’t hear this from us). Basically, it’s not to be missed, and this is the last year in which you can miss it.

Biggest acts: Nightmares On Wax, Crazy P

Price: £120

Everyone loved the new lighthouse design

MS Dockville

Germany, 21-23 August

Three-dayer in a hipster district of Hamburg – easy and cheap to get around. Good if you’re too old for camping.

Biggest acts: Interpol, Caribou, Dan Deacon (pictured) and a lot of local talent

Price: From £42, rising to £71 nearer the time

The Pulp Fiction reboot opted for a different aesthetic


Latvia, 17-19 July

The tiny port of Salacgrīva boasts the kind of quaintness you’d expect of a town whose population is just over 3,000. There is a huge food court, an ‘arts and nature’ stage (theatre, dancing), a vintage market and a leftfield cinema.

Biggest acts: Kasabian, Robert Plant, Placebo

Price: From £47

Wally must be here somewhere

OFF festival

Poland, 7-9 August

A nice green valley in the city of Katowice provides the backdrop, and there’s a larger percentage of local attendees and local bands than there are at most European fests these days, which is obviously a plus point, as Polish people – and Polish bands – are brilliant.

Biggest acts: Ride, Patti Smith, Sunn O))), Run The Jewels

Price: From £78

Secret Solstice

Iceland, 19-21 June

Runs in tandem with summer solstice: based on Norse religion and mythology, so things promise to get weird. 

Biggest acts: Wu-Tang Clan, Kelis, Haim (pictured below)

Price: £93 (plus £45 for camping)


These are our happy faces


Amsterdam, 29-30 August

After spreading to Chile and the US, this Dutch dance date still offers the best in electronic music and goes in hard on the extras: Mad Hatter tea parties, Day Of The Dead DJ, Zen gardens and oversized balloon parties.

Biggest acts: Nero, Alesso, Knife Party

Price: Day tickets start from £44, weekend from £86

Purists hated the Windsor Castle refurb


Gozo, Malta, 3-5 July

Claiming to be ‘Europe’s most intimate island festival’ – not hard given that Gozo’s population is about a third of Glastonbury – this Ramla Bay affair is back for its second year. By day, it hosts the likes of painting workshops. At night, it transforms into a pit of drum’n’bass, house and techno revelling.

Biggest acts: Fabio, Grooverider, Livio & Roby

Price: From £46, with standard camping from £14

Weekend at the Edge of the Lake

Switzerland, 26-28 June

You could go to the Edge Of The Lake 9.3 times for the price of one Glastonbury ticket. That name isn’t a con designed to lure you in, either: camping is actually next to the idyllic Geronde Lake in Sierre.

Biggest acts: Bonobo, Fakear

Price: Just £24 for three days

They were sure the University boat race would go past soon

Meadows in the Mountains

Bulgaria, 12-14 June

Lush, rolling hills above fields of wild flowers and misty sunsets. On top of a mountain. In the middle of nowhere. But if you stay in the village below it’ll be a 850m trek up (there’s also the shuttle bus/cart and horse). Offers art, music and lost-in-the-woods weirdness. 

Biggest acts: Resurgent UK garage queen Kele le Roc will be making the trek alongside Binh, Mo Kolours and Quantic

Price: £150 for three days, death slide and zip-line included

I thought remote controls were supposed to be getting smaller

Southern Soul Festival

Montenegro, 25-28 June

Somehow sick of Croatia? Montenegro is your answer. Now in its third year, you’ll get more bang for your buck at this sun-drenched festival. Two stages look onto the Med’s longest sandy beach.

Biggest acts: Fatima & The Eglo Live Band, Romare (no, us neither, but everything from soul to jazz, funk, house and disco is on offer)

Price: From £46

Jedi Knights love to party

Don't Forget The Big Boys

Benicassim, 16-19 July

Fancy 40-degree heat in your tent and a 10-minute walk to the beach? Blur, The Prodigy and Portishead headline Spain's answer to Reading and Leeds.

Exit, 9-12 July

For the history-loving festival-goer: the Balkans' answer to Glastonbury is housed in Serbia's 17th century Petrovaradin Fortress - the perfect setting for pounding electronica.

Primavera Sound, 28-30 May

Set in the heart of Barcelona, there's tapas, sunshine and the likes of The Black Keys and Alt-J at this year's show.

Open'er, 1-4 July

Polish behemoth in a military airfield with Drake, The Libertines and Alabama Shakes bringing noise.

(Images: Khris Cowleyn/David Bowen/Frank Hamilton/Pearcey Proper/Aubordeleau/Aaron Klein)