A couple of months ago, I joined the wonderful tour operator Stoke Travel on a trip to Spain. After getting covered from head to toe in red wine at the Haro wine fight, I stayed in their castle in Barcelona and spent one evening on their party boat. I also took a guided tour of the main attractions in Barcelona.
I’d been excited about the trip, but it far exceeded expectations. The Stoke Travel team were exceptionally good at keeping everyone entertained and encouraging everyone to be sociable, the free-flowing beer and sangria certainly helped to lower inhibitions, and who could complain about time spent in the Spanish sun celebrating the best alcoholic drink there is?!
My experience inspired me to pay more attention to the festivals and events that are happening near me, and I’ve since had an amazing time checking out street art in Bristol, and surfing and music in Newquay.
If, like me, you get the occasional twinge of #FOMO and want to make sure you hit up one or two of the best festivals and events in and around Europe in the coming year, here are my top picks based on Stoke Travel’s offerings.
AUGUST: LA TOMATINA
Running from August 29 to September 2 this year, La Tomatina is a huge tomato fight in the streets of Buñol in Spain. The Stoke Travel campsite is right by the sea, so once the fun is over you can wash yourselves off and have a splash around while enjoying the sunshine and unlimited booze.
August is also a great month to get involved with the arts, although you’ll now have to wait for 2017. The Edinburgh Fringe festival showcases all things theatrical, comedic and performance based between August 11 and 17, while in Budapest, Hungary, the Sziget Festival celebrates life, freedom and creativity alongside lots of music.
Taking place each year in Munich is one of Germany’s most famous festivals. Oktoberfest brings together huge numbers of party-crazy beer lovers dressed in lederhosen. Why not extend your trip by exploring Amsterdam or Barcelona beforehand?
NOVEMBER: TAGHAZOUT SURF
Although it runs all year round, the Marrakesh City and Taghazout Surf Tour/Morocco Surf Camp is a great option during the winter months. Usually uncomfortably hot, Morocco becomes bearable in the winter and offers a great alternative to it’s nearby European neighbours. Explore the high Atlas mountains or take surf lessons before basking in the setting sun at the Surf Palace.
DECEMBER: CHRISTMAS/NEW YEAR
Stoke Travel isn’t currently advertising any specific festivals in December, but this is a fantastic time of year to visit Europe. Many of the cities look beautiful under a blanket of snow and decorated in fairy lights, and souvenir markets are all the rage. Grab yourself a steaming mug of glühwein and stroll at your leisure while being serenaded by carol singers. You should be able to find a great city square for a New Year’s Eve street party too.
JANUARY: ROOTS SURF FESTIVAL
The Roots Surf Festival takes place in Morocco from January 4 to 10, and combines live music with surfing, yoga, camel riding and exploration of the gorgeous coastal scenery. It’s a great addition to the Taghazout Surf package if you’ve got the patience to wait until January to go.
FEBRUARY: ANDORRA SNOW BREAK
Running January to March, this exciting tour is an awesome opportunity to shred some snow while spending your evenings hanging out with likeminded party animals in the Pyrenees. They have slopes for all levels, with top-quality powder.
MARCH: LAS FALLAS FESTIVAL
Las Fallas is a street festival with a big focus on setting fire to things. In a similar way to Guy Fawkes in the UK on Bonfire Night, hundreds of puppets made from paper, cardboard, wood and paper machè are burned to the ground while fireworks decorate the sky. It takes place in Valencia, Spain, from March 15 to 19 to welcome in the spring.
APRIL: KING’S DAY
Few European festivals are as fun as the orange-mad celebration of Holland’s royal family. Although it takes place across the country, the biggest and best party is in the capital, Amsterdam. The already liberal Dutch really relax on King’s Day, with all-day drinking in city squares, barge parties on the canals, and plenty of live music. The dates for 2017 are April 26 to 28.
MAY: ROCKAVARIA ROCK FESTIVAL
May sees the return of the ever-popular Rockavaria Festival, which takes place in Munich. The 2017 lineup is set to include some big names, like Iron Maiden, Iggy Pop, Anthrax, Ghost and Garbage. The Stoke package also includes a massive campsite party fuelled by Stoke’s signature beer and sangria bar.
JUNE: SAN VINO
With the European summer in full swing, there’s heaps happening in June, including Sonar Festival in Barcelona, Ascot in the UK and the San Juan Festival in various locations across Spain. The best one by far, though, is San Vino – more traditionally known as the Batalla del Vino. It follows the style of La Tomatina, but instead of lobbing squashed tomatoes, your weapon of choice is gallons and gallons of red wine. Dates for 2017 are June 28 to 30.
JULY: RUNNING OF THE BULLS
July is another busy month, with plenty of music festivals including BBK Live and Benicassim. Perhaps the most well-known European festival this month, though, is the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. One of the world’s biggest street parties, you can mingle with locals, take in some culture and party to your heart’s content every evening. Even if you’re not a fan of the bull action, it’s still a great excuse to get together and have lots of fun. Next year, it will take place from July 4 to 15.
Plenty of smaller parties and events run on a frequent timetable throughout the year, so it’s always worth checking out the Stoke Travel website to see what else you could tag onto your trip. A lot of the top festivals have the option of adding on a short city break in one of Europe’s most exciting destinations.