It’s hard to imagine a world without music festivals. While the modern music festival evolved out of events like Woodstock in the 1960s and 1970s, music festivals actually have a much longer history. Some folk music festivals in Italy originated in the 1400s!
Things have likely changed a lot in the last 600 years or so, and music festivals have become a staple of the summer experience. Over time, certain festivals have grown and become icons in their genre. Some are known for their theatrics, while others are renowned for bringing in the biggest headlining acts. Some combine music with arts and performances to create all-encompassing festivals of culture.
Many music festivals are boosted by international travel. As a festival’s reputation grows, more people flock to see what all the buzz is about. Nowadays, people will travel all over the world to attend some of the largest and best music festivals anywhere on the planet.
There are many festivals, so it can be difficult to know which ones to choose. These destination festivals come from around the world and showcase musicians in a variety of different genres. Some are free, while others will cost you a pretty penny to get in. Each of them offers something unique, making them good picks for your bucket list.
Miami’s Ultra music festival has made something of a name for itself over the last 20 years. Each year at the end of March, Ultra invites world-class DJs and EDM artists to showcase their talents. Many often choose to introduce new songs they’ll be playing on the festival circuit for the rest of the year, making Ultra something of a “sneak peek” for fans.
Ultra’s attendance has been capped at 165,000 for the weekend. In 2013, the festival attracted 330,000 people, because it was held over 2 weekends. If we looked at total attendance across a branded series of music festivals, Ultra would definitely rank higher. It’s inspired events all around the world, including China, Europe, South Africa, and Brazil.
Snowglobe isn’t an enormous festival like Coachella or some of the other entries on this list. The festival has grown steadily, however, and now attracts around 60,000 people each year. That’s a very respectable number when you realize the festival takes place at the end of December, when South Lake Tahoe, California, is freezing cold and covered in snow!
This annual EDM festival celebrates both the arrival of winter and New Year’s Eve. This year’s event will take place from Saturday, December 29, to Tuesday, January 1, 2019. If you want to get your festival season started early, Snowglobe is for you.
Splendour in the Grass might seem like an odd name for one of the world’s largest music festivals, but that hasn’t stopped this Aussie event from growing year after year. Founded in 2001, the festival has been through 16 editions now and shows no signs of slowing down as it gears up for its July 20, 21, and 22 engagement.
Byron Bay has welcomed the festival and hopes to make the grounds a permanent concert venue with a capacity of 50,000 people. Splendour in the Grass is likely to sell out almost all 3 days, meaning you’d be reveling in the grass with nearly 150,000 other festival-goers. This year, you’ll be treated to performances by Lorde, Khalid, and Kendrick Lamar.
Most of us think of music festivals as a summertime event. It makes perfect sense. Huge crowds are easier to manage in outdoor spaces, and the weather is much more inviting. New Orleans, of course, is far enough south that the summer heat can be almost unpleasant. And the city is also famed for its “creepy” vibes. Think of the bayou and voodoo.
What other city would offer up a music festival on Halloween weekend? There’s big fun to be had from October 26 to 28, as 100,000 people will gather in City Park to take in the sounds of some of their favorite performers at Voodoo Music + Arts Experience.
Japan loves rock and roll, and the island nation shows it every year with the annual Fuji Rock festival. The festival started in 1997, when it was held at the base of Mount Fuji. Two years later, the festival moved venues to Naeba Ski Resort, where it’s been held ever since.
Fuji Rock is the largest outdoor music event in Japan and one of the largest, most recognized music festivals in Asia. It attracts nearly 40,000 people per day, or around 200,000 people per year. Past performers include Wilco, Sigur Ros, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and others. The festival takes place July 27 to 31, 2018.
Downtown Las Vegas, Nevada, takes the motto “life is beautiful” to heart. Each fall, it hosts a 3-day festival with that name! The Life Is Beautiful festival is designed to celebrate music, but it’s also so much more. The event organizers combine music with food and art, transforming the city’s downtown core into a visual wonderland.
An outdoor gallery is created from massive murals and other art installations, which forms the backdrop for performances from artists like Florence + the Machine, Death Cab for Cutie, Arcade Fire, Travis Scott, and more. The Cirque de Soleil also performs during the festival.
At first glance, Kaaboo might look like just another music festival. Taking place at the Del Mar Race Track and Fairgrounds in California, it attracts some great headliners, but seems relatively run of the mill compared to some of the other festivals on this list.
Kaaboo prides itself on being a “traditional festival,” harking back to Woodstock and the pioneers of the 1960s. The festival prioritizes attendees’ comfort, focusing on the “sound voyage” they take over the course of the 3-day festival. With ample seating and usually pleasant weather, it’s a great option for seeing some of the world’s top acts, like the Foo Fighters, Imagine Dragons, Wiz Khalifa, and more.
For a single weekend each year, the second largest city in Serbia is transformed by the world-famous Exit festival. The festival, which started in 2000, has occurred every year in Novi Sad’s Petrovaradin Fortress. The festival features an eclectic mix of musical genres, including electronic, rock, metal, hip hop, rap, reggae, and punk music.
Everyone from Wiz Khalifa to David Guetta to Ziggy Marley have played this festival in past years. It’s little wonder an estimated 75,000 people attend the festival each day. That’s about 225,000 attendees each year! From July 12 to 15 this year, you could be one of the lucky festival-goers who experience the Exit festival.
Rock al Parque is just what the name implies: a rock ‘n’ roll festival in a park. It’s held annually in Simon Bolivar Park, to be exact, in Colombia’s capital city, Bogota. The festival started in 1995, and it’s been rocking steady ever since. Today, the 3-day festival attracts about 88,000 people per day. That makes it Colombia’s largest music festival and arguably one of the largest festivals in South America.
The festival showcases many rock and metal groups from around South and Central America. It’s also attracted its share of international acts, including the Dead Kennedys, NOFX, POD, and Pennywise, among others. This year’s festival takes place August 18, 19, and 20, and better yet, admission is free.
Any list of the largest music festivals would be remiss not to include the infamous Glastonbury festival in the UK. And that takes into account the fact the festival won’t have a 2018 edition. Glastonbury is unique in that it has “fallow years,” when the festival takes a break. Attendees, organizers, and even the land get some much-needed respite.
Glastonbury will return in 2019, however, bringing around 275,000 spectators to Pilton, Somerset, England. Over 5 days, festival-goers will be treated to theatre performances, circus acts, cabaret, and more between headlining music acts. If you haven’t started planning already, there’s no better time to get started.
While the Northern Hemisphere is celebrating the start of winter, the Land Down Under is celebrating the start of their summer season! The new year in Australia almost always gets underway with the iconic Sydney Festival. This year’s event is already over, having taken place from January 6 to 28, but it will be back next year.
The festival is about more than just music. It boasts more than 1,000 artists working in a variety of mediums and genres. There are around 450 performances and 150 events, spread across 46 venues around the city. Whether you like classical music and opera or new wave and jazz, you’ll find something here.
Lollapallooza has an interesting story. It started in the early 1990s, organized by the band Jane’s Addiction as a farewell tour. It was so successful that it returned every year until 1997. The festival was revived in 2003, and it’s been going strong since 2005.
Lollapallooza’s hometown is Chicago, Illinois, but it now travels to other countries as well, including Chile, Brazil, and Argentina. The festival has expanded to include artists performing in many different genres, and around 100,000 people per day show up to the 3-day event. The 2016 edition brought a record 400,000 people for the 25th anniversary celebration.
Rave culture gained steam in the 1990s and then quieted down in North America in the early 2000s. Not so in Europe, where the scene continued strong. Many of the largest festivals are now based in Europe. The Electric Daisy Carnival, originating in Las Vegas, wanted to bring that “classic rave” feeling back to North American shores.
So they did. EDC is held annually in May. This year’s edition has already passed, but it will return in 2019 on May 17, 18, and 19. The festival has been steadily growing, attracting more than 400,000 since 2016. The Sundance Film Festival film EDC 2013 brought the show to prominence, and it’s now traveled to Puerto Rico, New York, and Mexico.
Travel to the tiny town of Boom in the scenic Belgian countryside during the last two weekends of July and prepare for something magical. The area is transformed as more than 400,000 people flock to see some of the biggest names in electronic dance music. It becomes the magical, almost otherworldly Tomorrowland, which brings music fans from around the world together under one flag.
Tomorrowland started small in 2005 and has been gaining steam ever since. Past performers include Tiesto, Martin Garrix, deadmau5, Oliver Heldens, Axwell ^ Ingrosso, and many others. This year’s festival happens July 20 to 29. Each year, the festival has a new theme, which keeps people coming back again and again.
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival does just what the name says. It celebrates jazz and African-American culture and history. The festival’s line-up usually pays homage to jazz, blues, and gospel singers. It might also be one of the oldest and most prestigious festivals on this list. After all, past performers have included Lionel Richie, Aerosmith, Rod Stewart, and, in 2017, Stevie Wonder.
With such a wide range of acts, it shouldn’t be a surprise this festival can attract around 425,000 people each and every year. This year’s event is already over, but it will return April 26 to May 5, 2019.
Essence Festival is yet another music festival in New Orleans. It’s also another festival that celebrates African-American culture and history. It was launched in 1994 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Essence, a magazine by, for, and about African-American women.
Today, Essence Festival is the largest festival celebrating African-American culture in the United States of America. It’s held annually. This year, the dates are July 5, 6, 7, and 8. The 2018 line-up features Janet Jackson, The Roots, Erykah Badu, and more, who will perform for a crowd of around 450,000 people. Past performers include Lionel Richie, Solange, Dianna Ross, and Prince.
“Keep Austin weird” is the motto of Texas’s capital city, and most people would agree the city of Austin is a little quirky. It seems to be working, especially when it comes to the Austin City Limits Festival, which takes place annually in Zilker Park. For nearly 10 days, the city is transformed with large-scale art installations, an art market, and even activities like a silent disco.
The festival’s fame is such that it attracts some fairly big musical acts as well. This year, you can join 450,000 other festival-goers October 4 to 15 and discover everything ACL has to offer.
The Scandinavian countries are renowned for their love of metal and rock and roll. That’s probably what makes Roskilde, Denmark, a perfect location for one of the world’s largest music festivals. The Roskilde Festival originally focused on rock when it started up in 1971, but now includes pop, electro, reggae, and hip hop acts as well.
The 2018 festival takes place from June 30 to July 7, and will bring in an estimated 110,000 attendees per day. The line-up includes Bruno Mars, Gorillaz, Massive Attack, Stone Sour, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Nine Inch Nails. The festival originally attracted many Scandinavian attendees, but people now travel from around the world and many of them choose to camp!
Coachella is, at heart, a music festival. In fact, it still bills itself as indie and alternative. Over the last few years, however, this Indio, California, event has transformed into a major mainstream spectacle. It’s considered one of the biggest and best, attracting nearly 600,000 people over the course of 2 weekends at the end of April each year.
Coachella’s location is known to bring out celebrities, which makes it a prime place for fashion as well. It attracts huge names in addition to huge crowds. Past performers have included Lady Gaga and Kendrick Lamar. This year, Beyoncé stole the show with her performance.
Student protests in the city of Budapest have evolved into a massive island festival in Hungary’s gorgeous capital city. Sziget is one of Europe’s largest festivals, attracting nearly half a million people every year. Many of the festival-goers are Hungarians, but people travel from all around the world to attend. The festival takes place over the course of a week in August. This year, the festival will be held from August 8 to 15.
Despite the small venue, the festival attracts big-name acts in addition to huge crowds. Rhianna, Muse, Sigur Ros, and Sia have all performed in the past. The 2018 line-up includes Dua Lipa, Kendrick Lamar, Lana Del Rey, and Mumford & Sons.
This is one of the oldest festivals on this list, having started all the way back in 1985. Rock in Rio is something of a staple on the festival circuit, even though it moves cities. It’s been held in Rio, plus Lisbon, Portugal, and Madrid, Spain. In 2015 and 2017, the festival visited Las Vegas for its first US show.
This year, the festival took place in beautiful Lisbon, Portugal’s capital city. The festival has attracted a wide range of artists over the years, including Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, No Doubt, Metallica, Linkin Park, Rod Steward, Queen, Elton John, Bon Jovi, and Guns ‘n Roses. It’s little wonder South America’s largest music festival can attract nearly 700,000 people.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, probably isn’t the first place you think of when you think of summer. For the 800,000-plus people who attend Summerfest, the city is synonymous with summer. This annual music festival takes place over 11 days in late June and early July. This year’s dates are June 27 to July 1, and July 3 to 8.
Dubbed “the people’s party,” Summerfest is the largest music festival in the US and hosts more than 800 acts each year. Its 51-year history includes performances from Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Pink. This year’s line-up includes Imagine Dragons, Halsey, Florida Georgia Line, Journey and Def Leppard, The Weeknd, and Blake Shelton. It’s summer fun for everyone!
Poland has recently renamed its largest festival, which is now known as Pol’and’Rock Festival. When it started in 1995, however, it was known as Woodstock (Poland), in honor of the famous 1969 festival in New York state.
Even with the name change, Pol’and’Rock is a fitting tribute to the spirit of ’69. It features rock, pop, metal, and folk acts performing under the banner of “love, friendship, and music.” The festival offers free entry, which may explain why it keeps growing. It attracted 750,000 people in 2014, and attendance is nearly 1 million people today. You could join them August 2 to 4, 2018.
If you travel to Morocco, you may want to visit the city of Rabat. It’s home to the largest festival on the African continent, Mawazine, also known as the Rhythms of the World. This year, the festival took place from June 22 to 30.
The festival began as a way to celebrate Moroccan arts and culture, and it’s still heavily focused on promoting local talent. Nonetheless, the festival is known around the world and attracts millions of people every year. In 2015, 2.65 million people attended. Bruno Mars, Jamiroquai, French Montana, Wyclef Jean, Pitbull, and The Weeknd have all performed.
If you had to guess where the world’s largest festival was, you probably wouldn’t have picked Vienna (even though we just told you). It’s true though. Each year, Vienna plays host to the biggest music festival in the world, inviting nearly 3 million people to celebrate the summer solstice on an island in the middle of the Danube River.
The festival features 200 acts spread across 11 stages, and boasts a huge variety of musical acts. Perhaps best of all, this open-air festival is free. Although the 2018 edition of the festival is already over, you can bet Donauinselfest will be back again, bigger and better than ever in 2019.
Sources: Tripping.com, 28degreescard.com.au, Rock al Parque.gov.co, Forbes.com, Statista.com