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No-fly festivals: 4 fabulous summer music events in Europe you can reach by train

If you’re looking for a summer festival alternative, hop over to the continent and you’ll find a wealth of vibrant, creative events.
If you’re looking for a summer festival alternative, hop over to the continent and you’ll find a wealth of vibrant, creative events. Copyright Nqobile Vundla
Copyright Nqobile Vundla
By Rebecca Ann Hughes
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You can reach all these music festivals by train from London.

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Glastonbury, one of the UK’s most acclaimed music festivals, is just around the corner. But an unadventurous and male-dominant line-up has some fans skipping the gig this year.

If you’re looking for a summer festival alternative, hop over to the continent and you’ll find a wealth of vibrant, creative events.

Lots are reachable by train, too, so you can do your bit for the environment.

Here are our top picks for summer music festivals in Europe.

Party for free at the Donauinselfest, Vienna

23-25 June, 2023

Austria’s capital has long been one of Europe’s major centres for music. Alongside its classical prowess, Vienna hosts several contemporary music events.

This year, the city will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Danube Island Festival, the largest open-air music festival in the world attracting around three million visitors over three days. It is also completely free to attend.

You can expect K-pop, Afrobeats, lots of Austrian acts and Bonnie Tyler at the 11 different outdoor stages over the weekend.

The festival also promotes social cohesion, affordable city living and mutual respect.

How to get to Vienna by train:

There are various options for getting to Vienna from London. By day, you can take the Eurostar to Brussels and then an ICE train to Frankfurt where you change for Vienna.

For an overnight journey, you can take the mid-afternoon Eurostar to Brussels and then hop on the Nightjet sleeper service to arrive for breakfast in Vienna the next morning.

Chill out by the coast at CoolJazz, Cascais

8-29 July, 2023

The fishing town of Cascais in Portugal, located 30 minutes from Lisbon, is known as the ‘charm of the Atlantic Coast’.

Throughout July, the seaside destination becomes a hive of live music. Stages are set up in the Marechal Carmona park, once the pleasure grounds for royalty and aristocrats.

The gardens were built at the peak of romanticism and have sculptures of ancient gods and contemporary artworks amongst ornamental flower beds (and a few ducks and chickens).

Arthus Edelmans
Lots of festivals are reachable by train, too, so you can do your bit for the environment.Arthus Edelmans

The al fresco soirees have a stellar line up this year including Norah Jones, Lionel Ritchie and Van Morrison.

The festival also puts an emphasis on lesser known jazz styles including contemporary acts, new wave artists and electronic experimentalists. You can expect to hear traditional Portuguese fado music, too.

The event also has an on-brand sustainable pledge. Each year, it promises to completely offset its carbon footprint including the travel of all performers.

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How to get to Cascais by train:

The route from London to Cascais is a long but scenic journey. Start by taking the Eurostar to Paris. From here, change onto a TGV Duplex to Barcelona.

Another high-speed train, the AVE-S103 will take you to Madrid, where you take the first of three regional trains to Lisbon. Once in the Portuguese capital, a 40-minute train takes you to Cascais.

Find festival freedom at Sziget, Budapest

10-15 August, 2023

Budapest’s Óbuda Island, also known as the Island of Freedom, becomes the site of a six-day-long music festival in August.

Sziget Festival will feature stand-out acts including Billie Eilish, Lorde, Florence and the Machine and Sam Fender this year.

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If you want a multi-day experience, you can camp for free or pay for a camping upgrade for a little more comfort.

The event has a packed programme of workshops, too, from yoga to didgeridoo classes.

How to get to Budapest by train:

It’s a no-hassle train journey to get to the festival. Take the Eurostar to Brussels and then change onto a sleeper to Vienna where there are hourly trains to Budapest.

Discover the alternative Lollapalooza, Berlin

9-10 September, 2023

The US edition may be more famous, but since 2015 Berlin’s Lollapalooza has been making a name for itself.

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It has blockbuster line-ups each year, with this event featuring performers including Imagine Dragons, Aurora and Rina Sawayam.

There’s plenty going on besides the music, too. You can nosy around the fashion market and stop at the DIY station to create your own sparkling festival outfit or visit the green oasis of sustainability to learn about eco-projects and campaigns.

How to get to Berlin by train:

The journey to Lollapalooza is a breeze. After zipping to Brussels on the Eurostar, you can board the new European Sleeper train straight to Berlin, arriving energised and ready to party.

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