Central Europe: Music Festivals Guide 2018

We round up some of the best festivals to be found just hours from the UK, from Best Kept Secret in the Netherlands to Hamburg's Reeperbahn festival

Feature by Tallah Brash and Peter Simpson & Nadia Younes | 29 Mar 2018

Best Kept Secret
Hilvarenbeek, The Netherlands, 8-10 Jun
2018 will see The Netherlands' Best Kept Secret festival celebrate its sixth edition, held on the grounds of an actual safari park. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Across the festival’s open air, tented and dance stages, this year’s line-up includes LCD Soundsystem, Chvrches, The National, a live Four Tet set, Father John Misty, Optimo, The Internet and Warpaint. 
Day tickets from £74; festival passes from £134. Fly: Edinburgh to Eindhoven via Ryanair. Visit: Bierbrouweril de Roos

Cactus Festival
Bruges, Belgium, 13-15 Jul
2018 will see Belgium’s Cactus Festival celebrate its 36th year in the beautiful surrounds of Minnewaterpark in the south of Bruges. The festival, which runs annually on the second weekend in July, features an eclectic line-up which so far includes Mogwai, Nils Frahm, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Slowdive, Sampha and Tune-Yards. 
Day tickets from £43; festival passes from £97. Fly: Edinburgh or Glasgow via Ryanair, Brussels Airlines or bmi regional to Brussels S. Charleroi. Visit: Choco-Story

Colours of Ostrava
Ostrava, Czech Republic, 18-21 Jul
Colours of Ostrava, aka Colours, is a multi-genre music festival and the biggest international festival in the Czech Republic. Held on a former ironworks, steelworks and mine, this listed heritage site makes for a truly unique festival setting and one which this year will welcome Grace Jones, Future Islands, Beth Ditto, Calexico, Oumou Sangare and Mura Masa among its line-up. 
Tickets from £95. Fly: Edinburgh via Ryanair or Glasgow via Wizz Air to Katowice. Visit: Landek Park

Electric Castle
Cluj, Romania, 18-22 Jul
Electric Castle is another festival in a unique setting, this time on the amazing site of Banffy Castle in Transylvania. It shakes up the way people interact with a festival by combining an eclectic musical line-up with arts and technology. Musical offerings this year so far include The Horrors, Wolf Alice, London Grammar and a night from Barcelona-based party-starters Elrow. 
Tickets from £104. Fly: Liverpool or Birmingham via Blue Air or London Luton via Blue Air/Wizz Air to Cluj-Napoca. Visit: Fabrica de Pensule

Salacgrīva, Latvia, 20-22 Jul
Latvia’s Positivus festival, launched in 2007, has been held every year since in the coastal town of Salacgrīva and is the largest music and arts festival in the Baltics. The 2018 line-up includes Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, The Prodigy, Mura Masa and Torres. 
Day tickets from £44; festival passes from £79. Fly: Glasgow International to Riga International via Ryanair. Visit: Art Museum Riga Bourse

OFF Festival
Katowice, Poland, 3-5 Aug
Since its debut in 2006, Poland’s OFF Festival has grown year on year and in 2010 it upgraded its location to Dolina Trzech Stawów which translates literally as the Valley of the Three Ponds, a luscious green area in the south of Katowice. The 2018 edition of the festival includes Brian Jonestown Massacre, Jacques Greene, Grizzly Bear and John Maus. 
Tickets from £61. Fly: Edinburgh via Ryanair or Glasgow via Wizz Air to Katowice. Visit: Silesian Museum

Budapest, Hungary, 8-15 Aug
Started in 1993, in its first year Sziget festival featured only Hungarian artists; now in 2018 it’s one of the largest music and cultural festivals in Europe which last year saw over 450,000 attendees descend upon Óbudai-sziget, aka Hajógyári Island or Shipyard Island, in the north of Budapest. 2018’s line-up includes Kendrick Lamar, Gorillaz and Lykke Li among others. 
Day tickets from £62; festival passes from £166. Fly: Edinburgh via Ryanair or Jet2 or Glasgow International via Wizz Air to Budapest. Visit: Rudas Baths

7001 Festival
Berlin, Germany, 17-19 Aug
Berlin’s newly launched 7001 Festival is set to take place this August at Honecker-Bunker, a former nuclear bunker making for what will surely be one of the coolest specialist festivals this summer. The techno and ambient festival’s first wave of acts includes François X, Stephanie Sykes, Shlømo and Jasmine Azarian. 
Tickets from £47. Fly: Edinburgh or Glasgow to Berlin Schoenefeld via easyJet. Visit: East Side Gallery

Hamburg, Germany, 19-22 Sep
Like most club festivals, Reeperbahn includes business and art programmes, but music is undeniably the focus. Last year’s fest covered dozens of venues in the St Pauli district; the line-up has yet to be unveiled, but be quick and you might also grab a ticket for sideshows at the world-famous Elbphilharmonie. 
Day tickets from £31; weekend tickets from £87. Fly: Edinburgh to Hamburg International via Ryanair. Visit: Miniatur Wunderland

Pitchfork Paris
Paris, France, 1-3 Nov
Festivals aren’t all about sunshine, which is where we turn to Pitchfork Paris. Taking place over the first weekend of November it’s set at the Grand Halle de la Villette in the science park in the north of the city. Two stages face each other and it’s back-to-back artists hand-picked by Pitchfork (the online mag) for three days – this year's line-up includes Bon Iver, Fever Ray, CHVRCHES, Blood Orange, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks and Dream Wife. Weekend tickets from £105. Fly: Edinburgh or Glasgow International to Paris Charles De Gaulle via EasyJet. Visit: Centre Georges Pompidou

Le Guess Who?
Utrecht, The Netherlands, 8-11 Nov

A club festival across one of the Netherlands’ prettiest cities, Le Guess Who? centres around the TivoliVredenberg multi-venue arts complex. It’s a music nerd’s paradise; not only are there chances to see indie and experimental heroes up close and personal, but the festival’s artist-curated bills always throw up genuine surprises. A must-attend. 
Weekend tickets £104. Fly: Edinburgh or Glasgow International to Amsterdam via KLM. Visit: De Haar Castle

Trans Musicales
Brittany, France, 5-9 Dec
A lovely pre-Christmas retreat in the northwest of France, the city of Rennes and Trans Musicales will both blow you away. You may not have heard of anyone who’s playing, but the production and staging of the festival is such that you’ll leave confused as to why you haven’t. 
Tickets TBC. Fly: Edinburgh or Glasgow via KLM to Amsterdam; Amsterdam to Rennes via KLM or Air France. Visit: Marché de Noël

Les 2 Alpes, France, 15-22 Dec
Rise is a snowsports, music and wellbeing festival set in the beautiful French Alps. Over the course of a week you can enjoy a massive mix of new music, as well as snowboarding, skiing, ice cave meditation, alpine yoga, snowmobiling, paragliding and more. 
Tickets and lift passes available from £199. Book now with a £50 deposit. Fly: Edinburgh via easyJet or Glasgow International via Jet2 to Alpes–Isère Airport. Visit: Lac de Monteynard-Avignonet

Eurosonic Noorderslag
Groningen, The Netherlands, 16-19 Jan 2019

Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) started in 1986 initially as a battle of the bands event between Dutch and Belgian acts. It is now a vital date in the annual festival calendar, providing an opportunity for the next batch of exciting European artists to be discovered by fans, agents and promoters alike. During the day, ESNS also hosts a specialist music industry conference. 
Tickets TBC. Fly: Edinburgh or Glasgow International to Amsterdam via KLM. Visit: Martinitoren