From Belgrade to Bratislava, here’s a look at six obscure summer festivals that take place in Eastern Europe.
Visitors to the Balkans will most likely have heard of Croatia’s burgeoning festival scene. The sun-drenched Adriatic coast forms the backdrop to some of Europe’s most exciting summer festivals. Yet the Balkans and Eastern Europe host plenty of exciting festivals that are lesser known than those that take place on the Croatian coast.
From Riga to Bratislava there are music festivals to cater to all tastes. Whether you want a single day festival or a long weekend away, electronic music in the countryside, or world music in the heart of the city, there are plenty of options on this list. Most of the following festivals take place in former Soviet countries, and so we have extended the remit to include a bonus entry on the former Soviet republic Uzbekistan’s newsiest electronic festival, which takes place on the dried-out bed of the Aral Sea. Outside of Europe yes, but definitely worth checking out for the breathtaking landscapes.
1. Outlook Festival
One of the most well known Croatian festivals, Outlook began in 2008 and takes place at the stunning Fort Punta Christo outside Pula. The capacity of the venue is only 3,200 so tickets sell out quickly. In 2019 Gentleman’s Dub Club, Andy C and Shy FX performed.
2. Dekmantel Selectors
A lesser-known festival on the Croatian coast, Dekmantel Selectors is partnered with the Dutch Dekmantel brand and sees DJs such as Young Marco and Andy Votel spin at boat parties all night long.
3. Bratislava’s World Music Festival
Bratislava might not be the most obvious choice as a location to host a world music festival. Closed off as part of Czechoslovakia until the 90s, the country has since opened up and is embracing world music. Venues include Atelier Babylon, Véčko and the Zichy’s Palace as well as the city’s great underground bars.
4. Black Sea Jazz Festival, Georgia
Batumi is an odd coastal city, where Soviet architecture brushes up against some gruesome casinos. Noticeably less hip and exciting than Tbilisi, the city has for a long time been associated with gambling, sun-soaked holidays and its excellent food. Whilst you’ll see adverts for Batumi on noticeboards throughout Eastern Europe, it’s not jazz that most people are thinking of when they book a holiday here. The Black Sea Jazz Festival is set to change that and is creating a scene again in this once-thriving city.
5. Guca Trumpet Festival
Croatia’s neighbor Serbia cannot offer stunning Adriatic coastlines. It can, however, offer the Guca Trumpet Festival in August. A short drive outside of Belgrade, the capital, the small town of Guca is slowly making a name for itself.
The Stihia festival takes place in the dried-out bed of the Aral Sea, where rusting ships stand incongruously against a backdrop of the expansive steppe. A Soviet irrigation plan, which was meant to boost the cotton harvest, went terribly wrong and now only 10% of the lake remains. The Stihia Festiva not only brings awareness to the plight of this landscape but also provides a venue to promote electronic music in Uzbekistan.
Our list of six festivals in Europe you may have missed is by no means exhaustive, but is, we hope, thought-provoking. If you know of any unusual festivals in Europe, or farther afield, let us know in the comments.