As central to summertime as a beach day, music festivals are an industry unto themselves in the warmer months. Spreading into every corner of the country, from the oceanside to the mountain tops, it never truly feels like the season has begun until you’ve spent three days matted with glitter, sleeping in a tent and dancing the night away under the stars (or, in England’s case, sometimes in the torrential rain).
Glastonbury may be the most famous, but within the country and nearby in Europe we have access to some of the most incredible festivals in the world. Lineups read like a grammy nominee list, you can find anything from techno-specific raves, to top 40 pop-extravaganzas to hidden dance parties under the trees in secret forests. Recent years have seen food take main focus at festivals as attendees have gotten a little more discerning, and now it’s almost as common to see top chefs billed alongside international artists, long-table meals getting as much hype as a main stage headlining set.
Grab your tent, pack your portable charger and crack out the sequin garbs, festival season is back, and Escapism is here to guide you through the best festivals either in the capital or easily accessible from it.
Best music festivals in the UK
If you were to think about the crossover between food and festivals, it’s likely Wilderness that would come to the forefront of your mind. The quintessential food-oriented music festival, Wilderness has become a firm favourite thanks to its sell-out long-table banquets, whimsical pond-side setting and overall laid back atmosphere. Managing to curate music and food lineups that rival each other in both quality and notoriety, Wilderness is a festival that is as good for the taste buds as it is the ears, attracting gourmands and musos alike.
A new festival on the scene, Bigfoot is unique in its strong beer focus. As dedicated to spotlighting some of the UK’s best breweries as it is offering an enviable food selection and party-worthy music lineup, the festival promises to be a weekend of epic frivolity. You could start your evening dining on Acme Fire Cult’s flame-coaxed food, head to the Signature Brew tent for a couple of pints of Hackney-made lager and finish up having a boogie to Caribou under the summer sky – it doesn’t get much better than that.
Pub in the Park
While, yes, Pub in the Park is taking place in London, it will also be travelling around the country to places including Bath, St Albans and Brighton alongside a series of dates around the capital. The brainchild of Michelin starred chef Tom Kerridge, the festival centres as much around music as it does food – although the latter is, unsurprisingly, seriously impressive. Expect to be serenaded by the likes of Kaiser Chiefs, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Natalie Imbruglia and Craig David while feasting on dishes from Angela Hartnett’s Cafe Murano, Ruth Hansom’s The Princess of Shoreditch, Karan Gokani’s Hoppers and Mursal Saiq and Josh Maroney’s Cue Point.
Dorset and Shropshire
Located on Dorset’s majestic Jurassic Coast in the grounds of Lulworth Castle, Camp Bestival is a truly joyous weekend. The perfect all-ages festival due to its family friendly approach, there are as many extra-curricular activities as there are dance opportunities. For the food-inclined, celebrity maitre d Fred Sirieix will be curating the vendors at The Feast Collective which will be chockablock with street food, independent chefs and special events. Perhaps one of the biggest draw cards is its proximity to some of the country’s most beautiful beaches, meaning you can easily pop out for a morning swim or extend your trip to explore the coast.
The Big Feastival
The clue is in the name of The Big Feastival – this is an event where the chef line up is given as much kudos and fanfar as the music lineup. Hosted on the farm of Alex James, former bassist of band Blur turned cheesemaker, it is almost an amalgamation of the James’ two primary interests and his unique career path. Initial lineups see beats coming by the way of Sugababes, Anne-Marie and Jake Bugg to name a few and food courtesy of James Cochran, Ixta Belfrage and Ravneet Gill.
You would be hard pressed to find a better setting for a festival than this: perched above the waves along the rolling white sands at Watergate Bay. Boardmasters is everything you want from a summer festival and the lineup is seriously impressive, transcending genres and decades with acts like Kings of Leon, Disclosure, Joy Crookes and Bombay Bicycle Club. Given you’re also in one of the most food-oriented areas of the country it should come as no surprise that the culinary offerings are almost as sweet – what other festivals have a dedicated pub for pints and pasties?
The sort of intimate festival that sums up the true escapist nature of music festivals, Lost Village is a unique three-day experience set amongst the forest in Lincolnshire. As focused on daytime entertainment as it is after-dark experience, the festival has a whopping food setup that includes long-table banquets, The Eating House which focuses on London eateries and a street food offering to rival most major markets. The lineup is equally as good, with Bonobo, Jamie XX and Tom Misch headlining.
The best music festivals in Europe
Not known as the Island of Freedom for no reason, Sziget festival is an absolute powerhouse of a festival, offering up six days of fun and frivolity on an island in the middle of Budapest. The lineup boasts some of the biggest names in music including Arctic Monkeys, Dua Lipa, Justin Bieber, Lewis Capaldi, Calvin Harris and Stromae, and the location smack bam in the middle of the Danube makes it perfect for adding on a couple of days of Budapest sightseeing to your trip.
There is arguably no city better for a festival than Barcelona. Set on the waterfront in the city’s Parc del Fòrum the location makes for some pretty jaw-dropping dance spots – sun setting over the buildings of Barcelona in the background and seagulls flying overhead. Spread over two weekends with a series of venue-specific events littered throughout the city as well, Primavera Sound is a massive event. It should come as no surprise, then, that the lineup is suitably huge, with headliners including Tame Impala, Beck, Lorde, Megan Thee Stallion and Jorja Smith.
Set on the outskirts of Lisbon, Nos Alive is a riverside festival that lets you build a city break into your itinerary. You can book an entire weekend ticket or just pick and choose days to allow you to explore Lisbon as you go. The lineup features some major heavy hitters including Florence and the Machine, Stormzy, Metallica and The Strokes.
While the Scandinavian cities might not be a place you immediately associate with major music festivals, Øya is an epic five day event with a lineup that includes Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Florence and the Machine, Gorillaz and Michael Kiwanuka. The festival has a strong environmental focus – it has been run on renewable energy since 2009, all food and drink packaging is either compostable or reusable, and waste is handsorted which allows 60% of it to be reused – which extends to the food, to: in 2018 over 40% of the portions sold were vegetarian and 90% of it is organic.
La Prima Estate
Lido di Camaiore, Italy
Tuscan and seaside are two words that should be music to any hardened traveler’s ears. Add in the terms ‘music festival’ and ‘Anderson.Paak and Bonobo on the lineup’ and you have, in our opinion, the perfect excuse to book a flight. Running for five days from 21 June, La Prima Estate is unique in the sense that it allows you to truly explore the surrounding area while making the most of the incredible lineup. With the music not kicking off until 6.30pm every day, you have the chance to make the most of the daylight hours – vineyard tour anyone?