Europe’s many diverse cultures mean there’s no shortage of incredible festivals happening this autumn in towns and cities, from Scotland to Spain. Whether you’re into music, art or outdoor games, there’s something for everyone. Here are a few that we think just might be worth experiencing…
Aarhus’ City Festival, Denmark
Since its inception in 1964 it has become one of the biggest cultural events in Scandinavia, hosting a vast array of events from theatre, music, gastronomy, literature and visual arts. Throughout the festival there is a special effort made to make events affordable for students and to include children in the 200-300 events that take place across the city in various venues, locations, restaurants and cafes. For the ten days of the festival the city streets are taken over by exhibitions of talented artists, musicians, writers, poets and many more. This year will be the 50th anniversary of the festival and the theme this year will be Same but different.
The Braemar Gathering (Highland Games), Scotland
The Highland Games is a series of traditionally quirky Scottish sporting events in the unique rugged setting of the Scottish highlands to celebrate Celtic and Scottish culture and heritage. The original games date back as far as the 11th century however, the modern games are largely a Victorian invention. The events range from the Caber Toss which, is when a long tapered log is tossed by an athlete as close to the 12 o’clock position as possible, to the Sheaf Toss where a competitor tosses a sheaf of wheat of varying weight over a pole with a pitchfork. The games are not only a show of Scottish strength but also a display of traditional dance and music, like the Massing of the Pipes unleashing thunderous renditions of traditional Scottish numbers like, Scotland the Brave or innumerable Highland dancing competitions for all ages. There are many scions of the Highland Games across the country throughout the summer months but the Braemar games in Aberdeenshire, are attended by the British Royal Family.
This award-winning festival promotes a smaller, more unique and boutique experience in comparison to its counterparts on the mainland. It’s no surprise that the festival is renowned for its eco-friendly, diverse and non-corporate attitude while also leading the way in terms of innovation with the erection of an inflatable church for couples to marry and light refreshments provided by the WI. Due to its astounding reputation, it is inevitable that the line up at Bestival rivals any other festival across Europe, with names like, Elton John and Snoop Dog taking to one of the many stages. For the ultimate festival experience this September (4–7th September 2014), stay in the campsite, try the range of different foods and listen to Paloma Faith, Outkast, Busta Rhymes and best of all, you’re only two hours from London!
Venice Regata Storica Festival, Italy
One of Europe’s oldest festivals, the races originally began in 1274, then a festival was held exhibiting the power and strength of gondoliers in 1458 to honour Caterina Cornaro. Traditionally, the race begins with a parade of boats decorated in the style of the sixteenth century all powered by men dressed in period garb. The race begins at the Castello region then heads west to the former convent of Santa Chiara before turning around down to the finishing line at Ca’ Foscari, where a platform is erected for the occasion for VIPs. The event is a cascade of colour, plethora of design and cacophony of cheering. For visitors to the city for the occasion the best advice is to climb the bell tower of the Campanile for a spectacular birds-eye view of the warren of canals. The festivities kick off on the first Sunday of September.
Festes de le Mercé, Barcelona, Spain
Every year close to the end of September, Barcelona holds its annual and largest street party- Festes de la Merca which, is dedicated to the city’s patron saint, Mare de Deu de la Mercé. The five-day festival bids farewell to the summer with a bang and welcomes the summer months. The programme of events is not released until about a fortnight before the event so this makes planning travelling to the city difficult however, find yourself in Barcelona during this time and you won’t be disappointed. The city turns itself over to a host of culture, traditional food, music and dancing. The festival itself has become a benchmark for all Catalonian festivals and showcases the best Catalonia has to offer.
Oktoberfest is the world’s largest funfair, annually held in Munich, Bavaria and attended by almost six million people from all over the world. The festival itself is about 200 years old with a tradition dating back to 1810. The festival traditionally runs for 17 days since being modified in the aftermath of German reunification so that October 3rd (German Unity Day) is included. On the first Saturday, the action begins in the Schottenhamel tent when the Mayor of Munich taps the first keg at noon. The festival is held in Theresienwiese in the centre of Munich. Be sure to don your dirndl, and enjoy the amusement parks, side stalls and games as well as an abundance of traditional food.
Waves Festival, Austria
The Waves Festival is the oldest music and showcase festival of its kind in Vienna. Every October the city’s most famous clubs host a plethora of international music acts and music lovers flock to the city to enjoy a distinctive collection of music in the most unique and remarkable venues and public spaces that the city has to offer. With over one hundred acts on show across four days, there is something for every music fan. The motto of the festival ‘East meets West’ has both attracted acts from east and west Europe while also positioning Vienna firmly on the European stage for dynamic, interesting and unique musical performances.
Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival, Hungary
The programme for the Arts Festival in Budapest varies from year to year but always offers wide range of music, theatre and dance every year. Events generally include anything from a jazz marathon to theatrical performances, and all galleries stay open all night offering free night time tours. During the festival, art comes to life on the streets of Budapest, as the city celebrates local, national and international talent while also offering anything from fine arts discussions to children’s programmes. Popular venues include retro cafés and pubs like; A38 and Jedermann. A visit to Budapest is always worth it at the best of times but during the arts festival is purely magical.
Frieze Art Fair, UK
The Frieze Art Fair is an international contemporary art fair based amid the stunning surroundings of London’s Regent’s Park in mid- October organised by the publishers of Frieze magazine and features more than 170 contemporary art galleries from all over the world and over 1,000 artists. Aside from features in galleries, there are also specially commissioned artist’s projects, talks programme and artist-led education schedule. Although the purpose of the fair was originally focussed on selling works, it has since become a cultural entertainment event and is visited by over 50,000 people each year. For the admission fee of £15 the 2014 line up promises to be innovative, dynamic and unprecedented; what better way to take a stroll in the park?
Iceland Airwaves Festival, Reykjavik, Iceland
The Icelandic Airwaves Festival began its life as a one-off event in an aeroplane hanger at Reykjavik airport, however, following the number of attendees, journalists and industry people that attended, it became an annual occurrence spanning five days in November and is often touted as a premier showcase of new talent as well as the best event in the music festival calendar. The event is renowned for its intimate and spirited atmosphere as well as hosting some of music’s most well-known performers ranging from The Kills to Fatboy Slim to Kaiser Chiefs. There is much more to offer aside from just the music like a geothermal lagoon, sunset over Tjornin and not to mention the chance to see the Northern Lights.
This film festival is named in honour of the Lumiere brothers who invented cinematography and has been held in Lyon since 2009. For one week, all things film and cinema are honoured and celebrated. The programme varies from year to year but there is always a smorgasbord screenings and showings. Each year an award is offered and this years winner was renowned Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, the idea of the award is to honour a filmmakers skills in the very place where the cinematography was invented- hence Lyon’s close association and passion for the cinema. The opening and closing ceremony parties are renowned for being spectacular and there is a specially designed programme for children. There is absolutely no better way to fully appreciate and engage with cinematic arts than in the very home of cinema itself.