Forget rainy, grey British music festivals. Sunny summer festivities in Europe are so much more than trudging through mud in your wellies. From age-old agricultural celebrations to toasting to the region’s most delicious foods, here are some of the best festivals in Europe’s picturesque lakes and mountains.
Up in the mountains
Every September, the Austrian Alps come alive with the sound of cow bells when local farmers lead their cattle, embellished in carnivalesque headdresses, down the mountain to their stables for the winter. The celebrations are accompanied by live music, dancing and plenty of schnapps. Almabtrieb takes place in various mountain villages and towns including Achensee, Alpbach, Mayrhofen and Söll.
Mountain Film Festival
Each August, St Anton hosts a unique outdoor film festival showing visuals of global athletes in nail-biting scenarios amidst mysterious mountain scenery.
The Sound of the Dolomites
Musicians and visitors from around the world come together in natural outdoor theatres, in one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world, to express their passion for nature and music. Experience some of the outdoor concerts in Madonna di Campiglio and Val di Fassa.
Swiss Food Festival
Over three days in August, foodies can witness some of the Zermatt’s top chefs showing off their exquisite culinary skills at kitchen parties and street-market stalls. You can even have breakfast in the Matterhorn-Express gondola.
Bohinj Wild Flower Festival
An excellent and highly educational two-week event celebrating wildlife through music, Slovenian dancing, workshops (including how to make a bouquet) and delicious homemade produce.
Down on the water
Sardellata al Chiar di Luna (Sardine) Festival
To honour an age-old tradition that guaranteed the survival of local families, Garda dedicates 3 days in July to the lake fish (particularly sardines) with a delicious street-food festival along the promenade.
Sagra de San Giovanni
The last weekend of June sees one of the oldest festivals in the region celebrate the vibrant heritage of Como. From floating lamps and fireworks to a parade of boats decorated with flowers, it’s a party to be had by all.
Bandiera del Lago Bisse Race
24 teams representing different towns around Lake Garda race to defend their honour and win the ‘Flag of the Lake’ in flat-bottomed longboats that date back to the Republic of Venice. Bardolino, Garda, Gardone Riviera, Lazise, Malcesine, Peschiera and Sirmione race on different Saturdays between June and August.
Chiaretto Wine Festival
In June, Bardolino’s lakeside turns pink to celebrate the region’s famous Chiaretto DoC rosé wine. There are wine tastings, fireworks, dragon boats and even a parade of the Chiaretto brotherhood.
Montreux Jazz Festival
This 2-week festival began in 1967 and is still as lively as ever. Drawing more than 250,000 visitors a year, it’s one of the biggest jazz festivals in Europe and has staged the likes of Prince, David Bowie and Stevie Wonder.
See it to believe it
World Bodypainting Festival
Carinthia’s biggest art and music festival takes place on Lake Worthersee, full of colourful bodypainting art (in categories such as UV and special-effects make-up) and local treats from the Street Food Market.
Sirmione Festival of Puppets
In August, the summer capital of puppetry hosts a multitude of free shows using glove, stick, string and silhouette puppets to celebrate this creative and long-standing theatrical niche.
Brienz Lumberjack Festival
Interlaken is famous for its competitive competition where lumberjacks come from far and wide to compete in various wood-cutting events in categories such as team, amateur and elite.
Knödelfest (Dumpling Festival)
Witness the longest dumpling table in the world at 500m-long and featuring around 26,000 dumplings of different varieties as it winds its way through St Johann, accompanied by a fantastic atmosphere and great entertainment.
Gara della Cuccagno
The slapstick ‘Greasy Pole’ competition in Bardolino sees participants try to balance across a 12-metre-long tree trunk suspended above the lake to grab the small flag at the end. It’s guaranteed to have you on your knees with laughter.