music festivals paradise city castle

With summer on the horizon, music lovers everywhere are dusting off their flower crowns and boho garb for the start of festival season. But if you’re looking for something a little edgier than Coachella and Glastonbury, we’ve sought out some of the best-kept secrets on the festival circuit. From a journey through the Sahara to a creative gathering in East Sussex, these are the fields you’ll want to be frolicking in this summer.

UVA, Ronda, Spain

With an eclectic combination of techno soundboards, jazzy ballads and 70s pop, Moody Collective and Morning Fever present UVA as a taste of whimsical musical experimentation and visual arts deep in the Spanish countryside. Indeed, the cliff-side setting and rustic ruins of Ronda are half the draw of this boutique festival, providing the perfect backdrop for a weekend spent immersed in the sounds emerging artists and sipping wine in the shade of mountainous chestnut trees. It’s hard to believe this magical enclave is less than a two-hour drive from Malaga, and with only 500 people attending it feels more like a private party than a hectic disco pit. Be sure to get stuck into some local Andalusian paella while you’re in town too.

Mandrea Music FestivalLake Garda, Italy

16-20 August

Set in the beautiful hidden valley of Lake Garda, Italy, this dub and reggae music fest boasts the perfect summer getaway. Taking place over five days in mid-August, Mandrea Music Festival embraces the landscape with hammock-strewn trees, a campsite in the meadow and a secret cinema nestled into the mountainside. From a “zen station” to mountain biking, this festival offers something for everyone.

Træna Festival, Norway

6-9 July

Based on a collection of small islands 65km north of mainland Norway, the sun almost never sets on Træna Music Festival. Focused on the cultivation of community spirit and run by the island’s inhabitants, these isolated islands provide the perfect backdrop for an off-the-grid musical experience. The jagged mountain peaks seem to rise straight from the ocean, basking in the golden light of a sunset and sunrise only one hour apart. Stages are set into an acoustic mountainside cave, a church with blacked out windows and various tents promising fun for all ages.

Flow Festival, Helsinki

11-13 August

Situated in a disused power plant in central Helsinki, Flow Festival stands at the cutting edge of music festivals worldwide, combining the best of music, food and design in three days of unprecedented energy. Flow Festival drifts between decades amid an otherworldly setting – the roof of one of the stages is a massive pressurised balloon. Mixing pop culture and experimental arts, the festival is a work of art itself, presenting the best Helsinki – and the festival scene – has to offer.

Into the Valley, Estonia

29 June – 1 July

Behind this quirky festival held in the Rummu Quarry of Estonia – a location set amongst green hills, blue water, and the crumbling buildings of an old prison – are seven principles among which emphasise unique locations, advanced electronic music, innovative art and social equality. The quarry walls and crumbling buildings provide the perfect acoustic backdrop for the impressive line-up of advanced electronic music.

Paradise City, Belgium

23-25 June

Take me down to Paradise City, where the grass is green…and so is the festival. Based on the grounds of the Castle of Ribaucourt just 15 minutes from Brussels, this music festival is dedicated to the best in underground contemporary and electronic music with the initiative to create the lowest environmental footprint possible. Promising energetic dance floors and stunning castle views, Paradise City is a good choice for anyone looking to party greener.

MS Dockville, Hamburg

18-20 August

With headliners like Flume, Glass Animals and Mura Masa in their lineup, there’s no question of this festival’s dedication to the best of the electronic landscape, but MS Dockville promises more than big names and big crowds. The festival grounds are designed by a slew of visual artists whose works in the past have boasted a large wooden head and projected murals that cover the entire side of a building. Located in a section of Hamburg, MS Dockville lets you experience Germany’s infamous alternative scene in a landscape that blends visual and interactive art with some of the world’s electronic, indie and pop heavyweights.

Distortion, Copenhagen

31 May – 4 June

Imagine the chaos of thousands of people descending on the streets Copenhagen, amid the synth of electronic music echoing off the brightly coloured buildings that line these iconic streets. Distortion Denmark is an annual citywide celebration of electronic music. Street raves, concerts and nocturnal partying overtake the city where, for a week, a hangover is a well-earned badge of honour. If you thrive in an atmosphere of “orchestrated chaos”, this festival is a must for your start of summer plans.

Houghton Festival, Norfolk

11-13 August

The brainchild of tech house DJ Craig Richards, Houghton Festival is making its debut in Norfolk this August. This three-day art and music festival will carry some of the best talent in electronic music. The lineup? All performances will be by artists close to Richards’ “heart and record box.” Joining the meticulously curated lineup is an equally impressive collection of art and sculpture, where work will accompany the venue’s already established Sculpture Park. Not to be missed, Houghton will prove an impressive event come August for music and art lovers alike.

Brainchild, Sussex

7-9 July

Founded by a group of students with the aim of bringing creative people together, Brainchild is a three-day festival that turns the fields of East Sussex into a canvas for young artists to showcase their work. In a careful stitching of live music, spoken word, film, theatre, instillation art and more, the line between artist and festival-goer is eliminated. A self-proclaimed “meeting of the minds”, Brainchild welcomes you with open arms and a playful spirit with the promise of an intimate experience celebrating the movers and shakers.

Meadows in the Mountains, Bulgaria

9-11 June

True to its name, Meadows in the Mountains takes you to a grassy plain in the Rhodope mountain range right in the heart of Bulgaria. The small Bulgarian village of Polkovnik Serafimovo is home to this festival that embraces the rich history of the mountains and invites you to embrace the spirit of escapism as you embark on a three day festival of culture, community, and conservation. Focused on a “leave no waste” mission and community building, festival goers will leave the meadow and the village, better than they found it. Delve into the spirit of the landscape in an enchanting weekend that celebrates not only music but the heart and soul of the Rhodopes mountains with its striking scenery and friendly locals.

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