7 Offbeat European Festivals

Each is a colourful window into local culture

European festivals have a joie de vivre all their own. Many of these boast a long tradition, binding communities together for centuries. We picked 7 that sent us dreaming.

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Oktoberfest Munich (3-Star Hotel Senator)

4 Days | Start and end in Munich

1. Valfino al Canto (Mad for folk), Italy

Offbeat European festivals- Valfino al Canto
When: August
Highlight: The evening banquet celebrating the Abruzzo speciality, lamb stew simmered in large vats in the square all day, then served on trestles for everyone

The three-day festival is a celebration of folk music. If you’re looking for a taste of local culture, it doesn’t get more melodious and vibrant than this. Musicians from all over Italy converge here, and the medieval hilltop village of Arsita in the Abruzzo region transforms into a stage. Expect to be in the company of bands, buskers and dance troupes. And because you are in Italy, those wine barrels will be full and flowing all through! Any wonder that it’s tops on our list of offbeat European festivals!

 2. Busójárás, Hungary  

2. When: The end of February

Highlight: Masquerading around the town in masks and the burning of a man made of straw in a large bonfire, which is called the Burial of Farsang.

As Farsang (Carnival) season arrives every February, the Hungarian town of Mohács bursts into a six day celebration with the festival of Busójárás. Traditional carved masks adorn the Busós as they parade through the town, to scare away the cold weather, while also celebrating the coming of spring, fertility and rebirth. Accompanied by folk music, dancing, and a rich supply of alcohol, the fun and games carry on for around one entire week . If you’re planning to head to Mohács to enjoy the festival as an uninvolved bystander, think again- it’s almost impossible to attend Busójárás without becoming a part of it yourself. From getting dusted with flour to receiving a drink from a Busó, attending the fest equals becoming a part of the action!

3. Corso de la Lavande, France

Offbeat European festivals- Corso de la Lavande

When: From the end of July till the beginning of August

Highlight: Don’t miss the sight and experience of the firework display over the river and the nightly ball.

The city of love continues to captivate us with its traditions and culture. And true to it’s enchanting power, it attracts travelers to the Corso de la Lavande. A week long festival, unique to the traditions of France, where processions of floral floats, take to the streets to mark the arrival of spring and present the onlookers with a visually appealing sight. Expect to be greeted with fireworks decorating the skies, with parades and marching bands keeping you company in a lavender hazed atmosphere. An elegant nightly fairytale ball awaits you, to conclude the festivities within the realm of Frances aesthetics. A signature of French sophistication, the Corso de la Lavande festival is one that should not be missed. 

4. Klapa music festival, Croatia 

Offbeat European festivals- Klapa Music festival

When: Between 29 June to 21 July

Highlight: The men’s highly spirited final on 21 July

Croatian culture goes way back, just like the ancient stones that Dalmatia, the stunning coastal part of Croatia, sits upon. The “klapa” singing is a slice of old Croatian culture, that perfectly captures the vibes of sun, coast, and islands. It’s the reason behind the awesome Klapa music festival, that takes place in the mind-blowing medieval town of Omis. With overlooking the Cetina river the fest, includes different singing groups go head-to-head, belting out emotional a cappella music every few days until the winner is crowned. These love-filled and heart-tugging songs just resonate beautifully along the Adriatic and is an event that is not be missed!

5. Largs Viking Festival, Scotland

Offbeat European festivals- Largs Viking Festival
 When: From 1 September till 9 September

Highlight: Travelling back in time to a Viking village

The Largs Viking festival was born to embrace the cultural and historical links that connect Scotland and Norway and celebrate their intertwined heritage. One of the largest and longest festivals in Scotland, it gives the travellers a chance to experience the Viking culture. The festival kicks off with a parade and is surrounded by crafts and farmers markets, entertainers, and musical events. The event concludes with a torchlight procession and fireworks, making it an unforgettable Scandinavian experience that you should not miss out!

6. Amsterdam Light Festival, Netherlands

Offbeat European festivals- Amsterdam Light Festival
When: Late November till mid January

Highlight: The innovative and interactive light installations that decorate the city in vibrant colours. 

Held in Netherlands, the Amsterdam light festival is an annual winter event . From late November to mid-January the city is transformed into a mesmerizing open-air light art exhibition. Various artists and designers from around the world come to the festival to create stunning light installations and artworks, which is displayed along the city’s famous canals. The main focus of the festival is to use light as a medium to showcase art, culture, and creativity. Each year, following a different theme, the artists create their light artworks and enhance the city’s beauty during the dark winter months while also fostering a sense of community engagement and creativity. You definitely shouldn’t miss out on this incredible showcase of art!

7. Oktoberfest, Germany

Offbeat European festivals- Oktoberfest

When: From mid to late September till the first Sunday in October 

Highlight: There are three main highlights in Oktoberfest: beer, food, and tents.

Annually held in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, Oktoberfest stands as one of the world’s most renowned beer festivals. It draws millions of global visitors, celebrating Bavarian culture, beer, and traditional cuisine. The main venue, Theresienwiese, transforms into a large open space, hosting numerous beer tents and fair rides. Get ready to join the festivities as a grand parade opens Oktoberfest, showcasing horse-drawn beer wagons, traditional costumes, and lively music.With music, dance and a freshly brewed chilled beer, a toast to this lively festival is must! The vibrant atmosphere of Oktoberfest is something you simply can’t overlook.

Research: Stuthi Nair

Also read : Hidden Gems of Europe

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