Whether it’s two weary royals consciously uncoupling from their family, or the whole country pulling up the drawbridge as part of the Brexit saga, the UK has been gripped in a wave of exit terms and conditions recently.
But making an exit needn’t have a cloud of negativity overhead. Over the past decade, British music fans have been travelling in greater numbers to European festivals for great escapes — combining quality line-ups with local culture, sightseeing and one-off memorable experiences.
After a few years of upheaval in the UK, most of us need a break, and to quote the launching mission statement of one award-winning festival, to “EXIT out of the madness”.
From partying in a 17th century Serbian fortress, an Icelandic glacier or a psychedelic Dutch Wonderland, to beach raves or pool parties, there’s a European festival to satisfy your wanderlust.
Plan your perfect exit strategy with any of these magical weekenders…
SEA STAR, CROATIA
22nd – 23rd May (opening party on 21st and closing party 24th)
Line-up so far: Amelie Lens, Dubioza Kolektiv, Meduza, Umek, Farrago, Insolate, Kuku$, Tijana T, Vojko V
With the team behind the award-winning EXIT festival on board, you can be sure Sea Star in neighbouring Croatia is in safe hands, and it has already been nominated for Best Medium Festival and Best New Festival since launching in summer 2017.
For its third edition, Sea Star is returning once again to the Stella Maris resort in the city of Umag for the festival season opening, where you can party in the enticing Mediterranean sun, while taking gorgeous time-outs among the city’s quaint cobbled streets, celebrated Renaissance and Baroque architecture and al fresco bars and restaurants.
The music policy is pop, techno, house, electro, hip-hop and many more, dancing off the delicious seafood and cocktails, while the dazzling blue lagoon and golden sands maintain the idyllic beach holiday vibes over the four days — if you opt in for the opening and closing parties.
It’s billed as a way to kick off the EXIT 20th anniversary celebrations — so raise a toast on the beach.
EXIT FESTIVAL, SERBIA
Date: 9th – 12th July
Line-up so far: David Guetta, Tyga, James Arthur, Fatboy Slim, Boris Brejcha, Sepultura, Meduza, ARTBAT and Zhu
This summer, EXIT in Novi Sad, Serbia is celebrating 20 years as one of Europe’s most unique and special festivals. It has won many awards, such as Best Major European Festival title at the European Festival Awards 2013 and 2017, as well as Best European Festival title at the UK Festival Awards 2007, helped by its unique setting in the majestic 17th century Petrovaradin Fortress.
EXIT began in 2000 on the banks of the river Danube as a student protest aching for political change in the region, and the state soon embraced this positive activism. The festival’s mission statement has been clear from the beginning – to achieve social change with music. Social responsibility is still the key aspect of the festival activities, with the main focus on environmental and humanitarian activities, the creative industries development, as well as regional cooperation.
EXIT undoubtedly has the most eclectic line-up of any European festival, from techno, to reggae, metal and punk, leftfield pop, rock, hip-hop, with more than 1000 artists who play at over 40 stages and festival zones. The party kicks off at night and it continues into the early hours all over the vast site — surrounded by ancient walls, cobbled paths, courtyards and underground tunnels. The four-day festival provides an all-night rave for thousands that finishes when the sun comes up in a castle moat. A truly spectacular sight to behold.
SECRET SOLSTICE, ICELAND
Date: 26th – 28th June 2020
Line-up so far: Cypress Hill, Lil Pump, Primal Scream, TLC, Meduza, Regard
Iceland has some of the world’s most stunning landscapes, and five years ago someone had a very bright idea to throw a three-day party around the summer solstice — when the Sun doesn’t set for 72 hours. Secret Solstice combines cutting edge and blockbuster acts with bucket list day trips and one-off shows in spectacular natural spaces.
Dozens of US, European and local acts form an eclectic line-up performing at the main festival site just outside the capital Reykjavik, while you can dig deeper with raves in a glacier or a 5,000-year-old lava tunnel, making your own light show among the stalactites with a torch and hard hat.
The ability to seamlessly mix a more familiar outdoor festival vibe with magical excursions is Secret Solstice’s wild card. On a typical day you can catch globally-renowned acts on the Valhalla main stage, dance and swim to DJs in naturally heated lagoons and carry it into the early hours at boat parties in the midnight sunshine. And in between, you’re only a short ride away from dramatic waterfalls, black sand beaches and vast volcanic fields.
DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE, HOLLAND
Date: 3rd – 5th July
Line-up so far: Tyler the Creator, Disclosure, Beck, FKA Twigs, HAIM, Kacey Musgraves, Wilco, BANKS, BICEP (Live), Big Thief, Black Pumas, Bombay Bicycle Club, Cage the Elephant, Charlie XCX, Girl in red, Idles, Jenny Beth, Kate Tempest, Loyle Carner, Stickey Fingers, Thomas Azier, Tierra Whack, Tones and I, Two Door Cinema Club
With a name inspired by the adventures of Alice, Down the Rabbit Hole truly is an eclectic and psychedelic Wonderland of a festival.
Realising that the weary festival-goer wants more than a line-up of bands to tick off, DTRH embraces the wonder of nature — from its glorious lakeside setting in the forest park De Groene Heuvels in Beuningen to its stages named after bunny breeds.
It can all get curiouser and curiouser with parties and meditation in the forest, swimming, gigs in barns, converted boat houses, inflatable stages and art installations in every corner.
And all this surrealism doesn’t mean organisation goes out the window — Down the Rabbit Hole has won numerous prizes for best logistics in festival awards — which is really saying something, considering the mega-high standard of festivals elsewhere in the Netherlands.
Date: 21st – 23rd August
Line-up: Announced in February
The full name of ‘A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise’ is a bit of a mouthful, but then again, Lowlands is one of Europe’s most full-on festival experiences. For a start, it doesn’t do day tickets, so once you walk through the gates in rural Biddinghuizen you’re there for a whole Thursday-Monday morning lost weekend.
Lowlands has been running since 1993 — with its origins in a free love 1967 edition — and for years it’s been the Dutch answer to Glastonbury. It has won numerous awards, and this year it’s been nominated for Best Line-up and Best Major Festival at the European Festival Awards.
As well as inviting the world’s biggest artists alongside an impeccably curated underground line-up, it doubles as a vast, shapeshifting installation, with stunning sculptures, visual artworks and performance art at every turn.
While there are 250 acts over 12 stages (all covered in case it rains), you can also take a time-out at any point and indulge in artisan food, theatre, comedy, film, workshops, debates, or even some healing yoga if your Campingflight batteries are running low.
And if you’re used to grim bar, food and toilet lines at half-assed UK festivals, marvel at the Dutch organisers’ genius method of making sure there aren’t any queues — simply hire enough staff to make sure it’s the smoothest running big festival in Europe. Who would’ve guessed…
SEA DANCE, MONTENEGRO
Date: 28th – 30th August
Line Up: TBC
Sea Dance in Montenegro is another festival under EXIT’s wing — so no surprises when it was voted Best Medium Sized Festival at the European Festival Awards after it first launched in 2014. It also shares some of the magic of EXIT’s dance stages, especially the No Sleep Novi Sad stage, which has grown into its own festival in recent years.
The festival is located on the Montenegrin “Buljarica beach”, a 2-mile long sandy cove with spectacular views to the surrounding mountains facing some of the best sunsets in the Adriatic coast, while the official campsite is tucked in the century old olive trees, right next to the beachfront and all of festival’s five stages.
Sea Dance captures the all-night vibes and international flavour of EXIT, and repackages it into a golden beach holiday with a 4/4 beat that carries through over one magic weekend — with 60,000+ fans from over 40 countries dancing together on the beach. And if the Adriatic looks too inviting to merely dance beside, there are plenty of watersports on hand if you’ve any energy left after the rave the night before. Keep an eye out for another stellar programme for 2020
AMSTERDAM DANCE EVENT, NETHERLANDS
21st – 25th October
Line Up: TBC
Another iconic festival marking a big milestone in 2020 — for 25 years Amsterdam Dance Event in the Dutch capital has been the world’s premier meeting of electronic music minds, from artists to industry leaders, academics and discerning fans. Every year, some 400,000 people arrive for ADE, with an exhaustive programme of 1,000 events hosted by 2,500 artists and 600 speakers around 200 venues.
The ADE parties are legendary — taking over celebrated venues such as Melkweg, Gashouder, Claire, Shelter, Paradiso and the NDSM Dockland. But apart from early-hours raves, ADE offers an even more immersive experience with its forward-thinking and inspirational conference programme. Give your dancing shoes a break during the day by pulling up a chair and participating in seminars, workshops and DJ and tech classes, or easing into film screenings, art exhibitions, artist interviews or networking events. You can even enrol at ADE University. Yes, Amsterdam Dance Event is the only five-day rave that’ll send you home smarter than when you arrived.