10 Of The World's Greatest Music Festivals

Reading Festival 2007 | © Mark Freeman/WikiCommons
Picture of Sarah Lumley
Updated: 10 January 2017
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Whether you’ve been doing a bit of soul-searching lately or just looking for a new, music-filled experience to break up the daily routine, here’s a guide to 10 of the best music festivals across the world.
The Main Event: Burning The Giant Wooden Effigy

Burning Man Festival, Nevada

Every year, thousands of people come to Nevada to create a city dedicated to art and self-expression. By the time Burning Man is over, there’s no trace of it left.

The festival started in 1986 when two friends burned an improvised wooden ‘man’ on the Summer Solstice while a curious crowd watched. In the following years, more people came out to watch the two men burn bigger and bigger wooden effigies. Eventually, the festival evolved into a music and arts community.

Each year, there is a theme. Some are common themes, such as Good and Evil, but others are more bizarre, like ‘The Body’ and ‘Rites of Passage.’

Two Art Installations From Coachella 2014: ‘Lightweaver’ by Stereo-bot [Left], and ‘Escape Velocity’ by Poetic Kinetics [Right]

Coachella, California

Coachella is held in the California desert at the Empire Polo Club. The festival was inspired by a Pearl Jam concert held at the club in 1993, which was part of a Ticketmaster venue boycott. The first Coachella was held in October 1999, only three months after Woodstock 99, a historical disaster of a festival.

Over two days Coachella showcases not only popular and established rock and indie acts, but also hip-hop and EDM music. Notable past appearances include AC/DC, Arcade Fire, Wu-Tang Clan, Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Daft Punk, Madonna, and Jay-Z. In addition to the musical acts, art installations are featured. Many of the installations are interactive, which provides a unique experience for concertgoers.

The Main Stages at Reading Festival in 2007 [Top] and at Leeds Festival in 2006 [Bottom]

Reading and Leeds Festivals, United Kingdom

This festival is actually two festivals held simultaneously in Reading and Leeds, England. The Reading festival is the original and is the world’s oldest music festival still held today. These days, the festival is dominated by punk, alternative, metal, and hardcore bands.

Reading and Leeds have hosted some of rock’s most memorable performances, including Nirvana‘s last UK performance. Kurt Cobain was brought onto the stage in a wheelchair and medical gown, parodying critical speculation of his mental health.

The festival’s stunning amount of music and friendly atmosphere make it a perfect first-time festival. Other notable previous acts have included Pixies, Blur, Metallica, Smashing Pumpkins, My Chemical Romance, and Green Day.

Glastonbury Pyramid Stage
© Paul Holloway/WikiCommons

Glastonbury Festival, United Kingdom

A five-day musical extravaganza in England, Glastonbury was inspired by the hippie and counterculture movements of the 1960s and ’70s. The festival began the day after Jimi Hendrix died in 1970. The festival founder, Michael Eavis, was inspired by seeing Led Zeppelin at an open-air blues festival.

One of the festival’s most well-known trademarks is the Pyramid Stage. It’s now in its third incarnation, following construction in 2000. Glastonbury is one of a few festivals specifically known for gigantic stages. It is inspired by the supposed power of a pyramid shape — its apex directs energy upwards, while energy is drawn downward from the stars. This stage hosts the main acts of each Glastonbury festival which, over the years, have included the likes of Radiohead, David Bowie, Coldplay, Paul McCartney, Oasis, The Smiths, and The Cure.

Oasis at Festival Internacional de Benicassim, 2009

Benicassim International Festival, Spain

The Festival Internacional de Benicàssim is an up-and-coming music festival hosted in Spain. It is now famous for its stages that are close to beaches, its late-day acts (5pm to 8am), and its party-oriented atmosphere.

The festival’s nocturnal nature comes from the heat of its location, which is just outside the city of Barcelona. It’s great for people with diverse music taste, with past acts that have included Depeche Mode, Beck, The Stone Roses, Lou Reed, Placebo, The Chemical Brothers, and Sigur Ros.

Fuji Rock Festival 2005

Fuji Rock, Japan

This festival got its cool name because the first one, held in 1997, was at the base of Mount Fuji. It is now held at Naeba Ski Resort in Japan.

At this festival, concert-goers get an unrivaled, picturesque experience. The walks between stages, which tend to be somewhat long, are complemented by trails that cut through lush forests and beautiful streams. The largest gondola ski lift in the world, dubbed ‘Dragondola,’ carries attendees up the mountain to overlook the festival site.

Tomorrowland Festival 2015

Tomorrowland, Belgium

Hosted in Belgium, Tomorrowland is one of the world’s biggest and most celebrated EDM music festivals. Although it is one of the newest music festivals on the circuit, having started in 2005, it now has a reputation across the world. In fact, the festival has been so successful that spinoffs have been created in Georgia and Brazil.

Axwell Performing at Sunburn Festival In Its Premier Year, 2007

Sunburn Festival, India

Begun in 2007, Sunburn Festival is held in Goa, India, and has become a significant contributor to the EDM festival scene in that area of the world. It is currently Asia‘s largest music festival, and it is known for its amazing light and sound quality, as well as a powerful fusion of visual and auditory performances.

Past acts include Baauer, Oliver Dollar, Micheal Koma Head Hunter, and Danny Avila.

Hold Steady Performing at Hideout Festival 2013
© pmonaghan/Flickr

Hideout Festival, Croatia

For EDM fans interested in 24/7 partying on the beautiful beaches of Croatia, this festival, held in the city of Zrće on a Croatian island, is a dream. The festival features unique parties in pools and on boats. It rose to prominence in 2011, when it was placed on The Guardian‘s Best Festivals list. As its website boasts, the festival possesses a ‘true hedonistic spirit,’ and it is a ‘party where you could find your soul without even hearing a beat of music.’

Sziget Festival 2008

Sziget Festival, Hungary

Held every August in Budapest, Hungary, Sziget festival has been established as one of the most prominent in Europe.

What started as a student event in 1993 has grown to be an internationally revered festival that rivals Burning Man. It has been described as ‘an electronically amplified, warped amusement park that has nothing to do with reality.’ It even has a ‘party train’ service that picks up concert-goers from all over Europe.

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