Rail Europe has released its top ten picks of Europe’s Wild and Wonderful Festivals for 2014. With the aim to inspire adventurous travellers seeking out new experiences beyond the usual hotspots to enhance their next European trip, the list is in order of the calendar months and include festivals that are cultural, musical and downright unusual.
- Battle of the Oranges in Turin, Italy (2-4 March)
Taking place in the ancient town of Ivrea in Turin, this free-to-watch annual event attracts over 100,000 spectators. A re-creation of a historic fight between the town’s people and a ruling tyrant, the event sees competitive teams battle with oranges. Turin is an hour’s train ride from Milan on the high-speed Trenitalia Frecciarrosa service. Click for suggestions on a travel itinerary within Piedmont.
- Lass Fallas in Valencia, Spain (19 March)
A celebration that dates back to the middle-ages where excess winter supplies are burnt, today’s rendition is a musical and explosive pyrotechnics celebration of Spain’s history and culture. Revelers dress in traditional costumes dance and dance to fiesta beats and gunpowder explosions. The best way to get to Valencia is on the high-speed AVE train from Madrid, which takes 1.40hrs or 3.00hrs from Barcelona. Travellers can also visit Rail Europe Connexion for travel ideas in the Valencia region.
Las Fallas Festival
- Oerol in Terschellings, The Netherlands (13-22 June)
1982 saw the island of Terschellings turn into a venue for art installations and the performing arts. Requiring three train rides and boat journey from Amsterdam, this artistic haven attracts hundreds of artists and thousands of visitors to the island over the 10 days each year. Amsterdam is about 3.30hr from Paris on the Thalys.
- Roskilde Festival in Roskilde, Denmark (28 June - 6 July)
One of the largest music festivals in Europe, the Roskilde Festival features 180 performers on a dozen stages entertaining more than 100,000 music revelers. With all genres of music available, the festival donates all profits to humanitarian and cultural causes. The best way to get to Roskilde is via the 20minute train ride from Copenhagen. Click on the Rail Europe Connexion site for suggested itineraries in Denmark.
- Tomorrowland in Boom, Belgium (18-27 July)
With more than 20 stages that transform into different storybook themes, crowds are transported into whimsical worlds where they dance to beats by world-renowned DJs. Attracting music revelers from more than 85 countries around the world, Tomorrowland is an extravagant two-weekend event. The journey to Boom is an hour on a train from Brussels. Click for itineraries around Brusells and Flanders.
- Secret Garden Party in Abbots Ripton, England (24 – 27 July)
One of the most sought-after summer festivals in the UK, the annual party carries a theme each year where party go-ers fancy dress, play, watch performances, compete in games and parade to summer tunes. From camping to glamping, this event draws in crowds from all societies. The train journey from London to Huntingdon is 55 minutes. Itineraries around that region of England can be found on Rail Europe Connexion site.
- Sziget in Budapest, Hungary (4-11 August)
Known as Eastern Europe’s ‘Burning Man’, Sziget is a music festival that runs around the clock with non-stop music, performances, cultural experiences and food. With over 1,000 performances during the week-long fest, the event set on the island of Obudai-Sziget in the Danube river attracts about 400,000 fans. Budapest can be reached via leisurely overnight trains from many countries in Europe including France, Switzerland and Germany. From Budapest, travel to other parts of Hungary is only a short train ride away.
- Zurich Street Festival in Zurich, Switzerland (2 August)
Zurich’s annual Street Parade Festival sees 30 love mobiles, a handful of stages and more than one million people dancing and partying to electronic tunes spun by 100s of volunteer DJs from around the world. Along with the free parade, more than 100 smaller parties sprout around Zurich over the parade weekend. Zurich is a 4hr train ride from Paris. Travelling around Switzerland is best with a Swiss Pass.
- La Mercè in Barcelona, Spain (20-24 September)
A four-day end of summer celebration all around Barcelona, this is the best time to see the city alive with non-stop entertainment, events, free concerts and free entries to museums. Each day starts with a parade of mythical characters that fill the streets. The Thalys high-speed train service links Paris and Barcelona in about six hours and onward itineraries can be found on Rail Europe Connexions.
- Hogmanay in Edinburgh, Scotland (29 December – 2 January)
Originally an ancient pagan song and fire celebration to ward off winter spirits, today, Hogmanay is a five-day fest in and around Edinburgh with performances, parades, open houses, firework displays, concerts and more. Edinburgh is leisurely 4.30hr train from London.
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