Got a bucket list wish to travel the world listening to great music and experiencing other cultures while you’re at it? Here’s a list of the top music festivals you can find around the globe.
There’s a little something for everybody, including gatherings where those over 35 won’t feel ancient and others that are great to take your kids along to. Dance, electronica, alternative, pop, rock, hip-hop, country, jazz, classical, world music? Take your pick.
A note on my choices: While there are great festivals out there that include music concerts along with art, food, culture, media, and more, we’re sticking to festivals where music is the primary or sole focus. So no South by Southwest, Burning Man or Art Basel will be found here.
This ranking is entirely subjective, based on where the most unique array of acts is appearing today in the most distinctive venues with the best missions. How would you rank them?
26. Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival
Where: Indio, California
The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival turned 20 in 2019. Due to its location, it’s easily one of the most well-attended festivals by Hollywood types and other celebrities. It has consistently sold out since 2004, lately in the first hours of tickets going online. It’s also consistently been named the best outdoor music festival in North America. The fest has been able to grab huge names from a wide range of musical genres over the years, including headliners like Prince, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Paul McCartney. It also includes dozens of up-and-coming bands every year during its two whole weekends of entertainment.
Where: Manchester, Tennessee
Bonnaroo is one of the biggest festivals in the eastern United States and takes its name from Creole slang for “good stuff.” Its founders chose its moniker because of their love for New Orleans and its music. Today it’s a camping centric four-day festival in Tennessee.
Where: Multiple Locations
Lollapalooza started off as a farewell tour for Jane’s Addiction and lasted as a multi-city, alternative music fest from 1991 until 1997. It was revived in 2003. During those first years, it was a touring festival until it settled down in 2005 as a single-destination destination festival in Chicago’s Grant Park. It has since expanded to many cities around the world, in countries like Germany, Chile, Brazil and Argentina. It’s one of the oldest regular festivals in America and remains a favorite for music fans.
23. Glastonbury Festival
Where: Glastonbury, Scotland
Best known for its music scene (and maybe its muddy conditions), Glastonbury Festival is considered a performance arts festival and is probably the best-known festival of its kind in the U.K. In recent years, acts like Ed Sheeran, Adele, Kanye West and U2 have headlined Glastonbury. In addition to attracting huge acts, it has a much-loved, pyramid-shaped main stage. Just bring some rain boots.
22. Untold Festival
Where: Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Set in the region known as Transylvania, Romania, Untold is a new-ish electronic music festival that brings 20-somethings together in droves. (But seriously, try to spot anyone older than 30 in videos taken at the event.) Acts like Diplo, The Prodigy and Ellie Goulding have each played sets at Untold in the past four years. A festival bracelet also gets you into major attractions in Romania for free, like Bran Castle, the home of Dracula.
21. Governors Ball Music Festival
Where: New York City
The Governors Ball Music Festival is set on Randall’s Island in Manhattan. And its central location makes it a draw for both talent and attendees. The acts are eclectic and have included the likes of Vampire Weekend, Outkast, Jack White and Chance the Rapper in recent years. This festival is also known for its great food!
20. Cartagena International Music Festival
Where: Cartagena, Colombia
If you love classical music, the Cartagena International Music Festival is for you. As the official festival site describes the event, “Its current most distinctive characteristic is its approach to music from two different visions: one European, the other Latin American.” In addition to classical, instrumental performances, this festival also includes some opera performances as well. Its festivities last for 10 whole days. This image, shared on Instagram by the festival’s official page, shows that this is a bit more cultured than other music festivals.
19. Life Is Beautiful Music & Art Festival
Where: Las Vegas
Life Is Beautiful may be a “cultural” experience with other arts showcased along with food, but music is at its core. Since it started in 2013, the festival has brought in major musical groups to Las Vegas. The 2018 roster included Arcade Fire, The Weeknd and Florence + the Machine. “This is the ultimate international city-based experience for festival lovers who want all the magic but none of the mud,” as Conde Nast Traveller put it.
18. Rock am Ring / Rock im Park
Held at two different stadiums in Germany at the same time, Rock am Ring and Rock im Park are huge and well-established rock and metal festivals. The June 2019 concerts have already sold 150,000 tickets between the two of them as of April 2019. The legendary metal band Slayer will be making an appearance at this year’s festival on its final tour.
17. Montreux Jazz Festival
Where: Montreux, Switzerland
Switzerland for jazz? Yes, indeed. The Montreux Jazz Festival has been around for a long time and now includes all musical genres. It’s one of the world’s most classic music festivals, attracting legendary acts like B.B. King, Miles Davis, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bob Dylan over the decades it has existed.
16. SXM Festival
Where: St. Martin
Set on the beautiful Caribbean island of St. Martin, the SXM Festival took a break in 2018 after Hurricane Irma’s devastating impact on the island. If you’re looking for a luxury beach music fest, this is it. The 2019 edition of SXM Festival, which happened in March, saw dozens of DJs and other types of acts descend onto the small island for a wild time. The SXM Festival’s Instagram page shared this photo snapped at one of the recent festivals, showing how relaxing this event can be.
15. Austin City Limits Music Festival
Where: Austin, Texas
Inspired by the long-running musical TV show of the same name, the Austin City Limits Music Festival takes place in the hip Texas city each fall. Artists will now often appear at the festival and on the series. The festival reaches across all music genres and has now led to spin-off festivals in Auckland, New Zealand and Sydney, Australia. Past headliners have included diverse acts like Jay Z, Metallica, Radiohead and Drake.
Where: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Festicket describes Dekmantel as “your favorite DJ’s favorite festival.” Electronic music is spread across multiple stages in an Amsterdam park from which festivalgoers can take their pick. One person who attended the 2019 Dekmantel festival snapped this photo, which shows just how crammed full of fans a DJ set can get. Instagram user @karangoesdancing called it a “dream come true.”
Where: Wiltshire, United Kingdom
This U.K. festival got off to a rough start, nearly folding for lack of funds until Genesis and Peter Gabriel’s first and last reunion helped get WOMAD back on its feet. The strange title is actually an acronym that means World of Music, Arts and Dance. WOMAD is world music at its best, and it’s a family-friendly festival on top of that.
“If you want to bring your teenage brood to a festival and let them loose, knowing they’ll be safe, this is the one,” Conde Nast Traveller said of WOMAD.
12. Splendour in the Grass
Where: Yelgun, Australia
At Splendour in the Glass, attendees get to hear world-class alternative, indie, hip-hop and electronic music in stunning outdoor locations that have been in various places across Australia. Because it’s the winter season in Australia in July, you won’t be burning up — but you may need to bring some layers for the mild Aussie chill.
11. Fuji Rock Festival
Where: Naeba, Japan
Fuji Rock is so named because the first festival was held at the bottom of Mount Fuji in 1997. There was a typhoon that year that cut the two-day event short. But the festival survived. Now, it takes place during the summer at a ski resort by Mount Naeba. It’s become the biggest outdoor music festival in Japan and features a huge array of mostly rock, alternative and hip-hop bands.
10. New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Where: New Orleans, Louisiana
You’ve got to be in the birthplace of jazz to experience the jazz festival with the deepest roots. And Jazz Fest in New Orleans is the big one. Twelve stages with a range of jazz genres and related music like gospel, zydeco and R&B bring extra excitement to the city in late April and early May. Of course, Jazz Fest is far from just a jazz festival these days, as artists like Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Buffet and even Pitbull have graced its stages.
9. Balaton Sound
Where: Lake Balaton, Hungary
Dance and electronic music festival Balaton Sound was created by the founders of Hungary’s more alternative music festival, Sziget. Balaton Sound takes place on the beach banks of Lake Balaton. Concertgoers enjoy house, DJ, electronic and dance performances and then hang out partying on boats or sunbathing in the Hungarian summer heat. Renowned dance artists like David Guetta, The Chainsmokers and Kraftwerk have headlined the festival.
Where: Novi Sad, Serbia
Novi Sad is Serbia’s second largest city, and the Exit music festival started there in protest of then-Yugoslavia’s bloody ruler, Slobodan Milosevic. Now it’s become one of the biggest and most eclectic music festivals in Europe. Exit now lasts for four days every July. A distinctive feature is that all of the concerts take place after dusk and just past dawn to avoid the Serbian summer heat.
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OUR FARMILY 🌿 • Thank you so much to everyone who engaged on Earth Day and let us know what they like to do to keep their Shambhala experience as environmentally friendly as possible. The winners (chosen at random) are Ella Raganbold, Halle Whitfield and James Mclaughlin. Head to our previous post to read all about how your Farmily helps us take care of the Salmo River Ranch. • PS. Who has experienced the Opening Ceremony at The Grove? ✨💜 • 📸@Reza.Assar
Where: British Columbia, Canada
Shambhala, also sometimes know as Shangri-La, is a mythical kingdom in Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism. So keep that inspiration in mind when you head to the music festival of the same name in Canada. It takes place on a working farm/ranch and focuses on electronic music. Since launching in 1998, Shambhala has become one of Canada’s biggest outdoor concerts. DJs and music producers, including Diplo and Mark Ronson, are part of the 2019 lineup, which takes place in August.
6. Rhythm & Vines
Where: Gisborne, New Zealand
You’ll be among the first in the world to ring in the New Year if you head to this Dec. 28-31 annual festival in East Cape, New Zealand. It takes place at a vineyard (hence the Rhythm & Vines name). From a small event held at one of the organizer’s family’s vineyards to a three-day extravaganza, Rhythm & Vines has become a unique way for a younger crowd to celebrate the start of a new year.
5. Roskilde Festival
Where: Roskilde, Denmark
Roskilde is the biggest music festival in Northern Europe and one of the oldest (it was first called the Sound Festival). It’s also become known for an accompanying event called the Naked Run — which is exactly what it sounds like — and for being 100-percent nonprofit, with all proceeds being donated. Progressive music dominates the festival but it certainly doesn’t discriminate against other genres. Roskilde goes down every year in late June/early July. The 2019 slated headliners included Bob Dylan, Cardi B, Chance the Rapper, Travis Scott, Vampire Weekend, The Cure and Janelle Monae.
Where: Rabat, Morocco
The largest music festival in Africa, Mawazine (which means “rhythms” in Arabic) takes place in Morocco and was started with the goal of promoting that country as a welcoming and accepting nation. Its concerts have moved from a more world-music focus toward including a wider range of genres. For example, Justin Timberlake and Rihanna have headlined Mawazine in recent years, along with Pitbull, Demi Lovato, Sting, Rod Stewart and Jennifer Lopez.
3. Rainforest World Music Festival
Where: Sarawak, Malaysia
This Malaysian music festival takes place at Sarawak Cultural Village, in a rainforest near a beach, which sounds like the most out-of-this-world location for a concert setting. It’s gone from tiny (300 people) to huge (more than 20,000) in the 21 years it’s been around. In a change from some other festivals, families are actually welcomed to the Rainforest World Music Festival, too. This is one of the most diverse and authentic of the music festivals you’ll ever go too. And because of its venue, it’ll never get overwhelmingly large.
Where: Gräfenheinichen, Germany
Since 2000, the venue for the Melt Festival has been Ferropolis, an old coal mining site that only shut down in 1991. So its name references the music fest’s industrial history. And the venue itself makes this popular festival worth the trip. It’s on Lake Gremmin and backs onto a giant forest, with activities, light shows and a nonstop dance floor. That’s all before you get to the big name rock, metal and electronic music acts Melt pulls in.
Where: Boom, Belgium
Tomorrowland is one of the most notable electronic dance music (EDM) festivals in the world. It takes place over two weekends in Belgium in July and sells out quickly. As you can see below, the sets built for the festival are a sight to behold. The 2019 lineup includes a diverse artist group including The Chainsmokers, DJ Snake, Afrojack, Armin van Buuren, Bebe Rexha and Vini Vici. Elaborate and fantastical stage setups add to the magic of Tomorrowland.