Lifestyle & Culture

New! Dispatches’ 2018/2019 list of Europe’s best fall and winter party destinations

It’s that magical time of the year when the final summer, sun and sea events are winding down, but you really should be thinking about where you’ll go this fall and winter to party.

As usual, we have a couple of ideas ….

Our Spring Break and Summer Party Destinations post was one of our best-read ever. It’s our personal challenge to top that with our secret sauce – finding the events across Europe that include a lot of different experience, all in one memorable trip.

A couple of helpful hints.

• Some of the big alpine events such as Rave on Snow sell out early. Ditto for mega-parties such as Transmission in Prague. If you wait till the last minute to get tickets/passes, you’ll end up on a waiting list. A LONG waiting list.

• Many of the events including Oktoberfest are in cities or resorts where hotels and accommodations can dent your budget. But there are usually alternatives, and we’ll include whatever organizers and travel sites suggest.

If you have a suggestion or want us to list your event, email Dispatches at:

Now, on with the show.

• September

Berlin – Red Bull Music Festival Berlin: The Austrian energy drink giant does events big, from Formula 1 to music. And Red Bull Music Festival Berlin is their biggest yet, starting 8 September and running through 12 October. So there’s still plenty of time to go.

Per the Red Bull festival format, which is actually 20 years old, events will be held at various venues across Berlin. And it’s all done in conjunction with Red Bull Music Academy, which works to put more avant-garde acts in the public eye. (This is a big deal and you can read more about the overall concept here.)

Unlike some of RB’s more esoteric festivals, the lineup for Berlin has familiar names including the ubiquitous Nina Kraviz, Janelle Monáe and Underground Resistance founder Jeff Mills in a special event with percussionist Tony Allen.

This is really more a series of concerts, seminars, experiments and conversations – we counted a total of 28.

Those include:

• S3KTOR UFO – 30 Years of Techno in Berlin with Nina Kraviz, DJ Rush and other DJs and live acts.

• the German premiere of Serbian composer Marko Nikodijevic and German computer music artist Robert Henke’s composition for large ensemble, electronics and LED light sculptures.

• Polyphonic Popcorn with various artists.

• Berlin stalwart Dixon with Ylia, an emerging DJ in the Barcelona electronic scene.

Tickets are not too crazy expensive. Tickets for the Techno in Berlin event with Nina Kraviz et all starts at 27.50 euros.

Check out the website for all details – it’s actually user-friendly.

Munich – Oktoberfest: If there’s any happening you need to experience once in your life, then Oktoberfest in Munich needs to be on your list. Quite simply, Oktoberfest is the largest fun festival in the world, fueled by liters and liters of the finest beers in all of Germany.

Oktoberfest’s roots can be traced back to a wedding party held on 12 October 1810, celebrating the marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig (later known as King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The party was such a hit that a year later, the festival that would come to be known as Oktoberfest was born.

Today, Oktoberfest welcomes millions upon millions of guests from all over the world to visit the many large and small tents to drink millions upon millions of litres of beer, one Mass (litre) at a time. If this sounds like a wonderful time to you, then all you need to do is mark off 22 September through 7 October on the calendar, put on your best lederhosen and dirndls, and head over to the grounds of the Theresienwiese for 16 days of rides, dances, brats, and, of course, beer on this, the 185th anniversary of the greatest festival ever.

Thanks to Casey Lewis for sending us a reminder that Stoke Travel has a camping deal for Oktoberfest, which you can see here.

Portimão & Lagoa, Portugal – BPM Festival: This festival, along with the final Ibiza parties in September, marks the end of summer. Sad face.

But, no better place – and no better festival – to bring the summer party season to an end. Underground dance music in Portugal’s Algarve region; four days and nights on the beaches and coves, hidden caves, towering cliffs, all part of one of Europe’s most inspiring landscapes. And clubs in two different seaside towns a few kilometers from each other.

BPM Festival started in Mexico as an industry get-together, with DJs, producers and industry insiders. (BPM stands for BPM, “Bartenders, Promoters, Musicians.”) Now it’s a global event.

From the BPM release:

BPM will once again host Lee Burridge’s beautiful All Day I Dream, Art Department’s esteemed label celebrating 10 Years of No.19 Music, Jamie Jones’ global party brand Paradise, and Chus & Ceballos’ Iberian powerhouse Stereo Productions. Making their BPM showcase debut, The Martinez Brothers present their innovative label Cuttin’ Headz while Nicole Moudaber will bring her techno-driven festival event takeover MoodZONE, plus the BPM Portugal debut of world-famous Ibiza party brand Circoloco and Paco Osuna’s deeply rooted Spanish techno imprint Mindshake Records.

In total, at least 150 acts from 20 to 23 September at 30 parties providing house, techno and showcase events for different global brands at two locations on Portugal’s southern coast. There are some emerging acts – it’s Calvin Clarke, not Calvin Harris – as well as locals. And there are “names” including Acid Mondays, Pillow Talk and Ibiza favorites the Martinez Brothers.

Single access tickets start at 30 euros, and all-access tickets start at 268.95 euros. You can get them here.

Ghajn Tuffieha, Malta, The Bubble 2018 – A Festival of Life: Can you do good and have fun? Yes, if you let yourself live and think outside The Bubble, a summer-ending celebration of life.

This music festival and consciousness-raising event, run by an NGO, takes place over a full week, 17 thru 23 September in Malta. This is another chill all day, party all night event, but way beyond the typical music-and-molly experience at EDM festivals.

From the website:

The Bubble will sweep you out of the city and into a stunning natural environment, immersing you in an atmosphere of learning, creativity, fun, relaxation, charity, sharing of new ideas and awakenings to what’s going on outside your Bubble!

Let’s start with the music: You’ve never heard of any of the dozens of performers, which run mostly from garage bands to nouveau folk singers. There’s an Indian dance show, jams and lots of percussion. But the reason you came is you’re seeking the company of people who believe in the things you do – sustainability, tranquility and a stellar yoga session overlooking the sea.

There are workshops, food and art. And here’s another reason you’ll want to go … all the money raised goes to environmental and humanitarian efforts. Last year, that tallied 16,500 euros.

Tickets start at 25 euros for a weekend pass (remember, this is a full week) and camping starts at 45 euros and goes up to 240 euros for glamping.

Paris – Red Bull Music Festival Paris 2018: From the Austrian energy drink that brings you Formula 1 and other extreme sports comes the Red Bull Music Festivals. This version in Paris is their biggest, a full week of events including music, films and presentations from 24 to 30 September. And a couple of things we’re not all that sure about including Hyperstation, which is billed as “10 hours of tenderness and brutality.”

In fact, Hyperstation is a collection of edgy EDM artists such as Aurora Halal that — as far as we can tell — defy categorization. If we had to use one word to describe RBMFP, it would be “quirky.” Which can be good.

There’s also:

  • Brooklyn, Paris: an event bringing together California producer The Alchemist with French-speaking rappers.
  • Exquisite Corpse: improvised duets by 15 musicians from different backgrounds
  • Moodyman plays Prince: Detroit-based DJ will play his collection of rare Prince recordings
  • Diggin’ in the Carts: a celebration of video game music and gaming culture

Basically one event every day.

We usually recommend events with outside activities as well as camping and food. But hey, Paris is definitely a destination! Go to Airbnb, rent a space in the Funky 14th for a week and call it a party.

You don’t have to do the entire festival because each event is ticketed, and they’re staged at different venues across Paris. Just go the website and go a la carte.

You can see all the ticket options here, and some events are already sold out.

A note:

These festivals started out 20 years ago under the Red Bull Music Academy moniker. The 20th Anniversary event will be in Berlin from 8 September to 12 October.

You can see the details here.

• October

Amsterdam – Amsterdam Dance Event: The nights may be chillier (or they may still be warm due to climate change; who knows), but that only means you can chill at “the biggest club festival in the world for the whole spectrum of electronic sub-genres” known as Amsterdam Dance Event.

Held this year from 17 thru 21 October, ADE draws nearly 400,000 fans to see more than 2,500 performers wub it up at 450 Amsterdam nightclubs and venues.

Experience Ibiza without the sunscreen at ADE:
Analog Kitchen • Benji de la House • Cairo Liberation Front; David Guetta • Hardwell • Nina Kraviz • Midnight Society • Orbital • and many more

Tickets to the many shows at ADE can be purchased or reserved here.

Prague – Transmission Festival: Need more wubs? Then check out the 13th edition of the Transmission Festival 27 October, held in one of the most modern multi-functional venues in Europe, the O2 Arena in Prague.

Transmission’s sets itself apart from other dance festivals “its exclusive theme related story line which guides the visitors on a journey through out the whole night and by it’s spectacular laser and light show and huge Funktion One sound system.”

Meet these laser-guided storytellers at Transmission 2018:
Above & Beyond • Grum • Paul Van Dyk • Thomas Coastline • Vision Impossible • and more to come

Tickets to the 2018 Transmission Festival are 56 euros (soon to be 59.50 euros) for access via the main entrance to the main floor, 185 euros for fast-lane access to the luxury area with bar and the best view of the show. Don’t sleep on this, though, as the second-tier VIP ticket has already sold out.

PS – See expat Charlie de Wilde’s recommendation for other stuff to do while you’re hanging out in Prague.

• November

Paris – Pitchfork Music Festival; For whatever reason, the fall seems to be the time for avant-garde and emerging-artist festivals. (Maybe everyone is spent from the summer?) Not Pitchfork. Not Paris.

Pitchfork Music Festival covers three days – 1 thru 3 November – and has some rising stars. But it also promises a bunch of biggish names including Bon Iver, DJ Koze, Mac Demarco and Kaytranada. This is also a more eclectic festival with both live folk acts and EDM. And then there’s Kaytranada, R&B/rap meets synth.

Kinda crazy. But hey, this is Paris.

The main event is at Grand Halle de la Villette in the 19th, and the 19th has has a lot of music venues. So the after-parties spread out to neighboring clubs.

Tickets are 50 euros and you can get them here.

PMF Paris is produced by American music platform Pitchfork, which also puts on an avant-garde music event in Paris on 30 & 31 October and other shows.

Reykjavik – Iceland Airwaves: What? You’ve never been to Iceland? Well, here’s a great excuse.

Iceland Airwaves is a HUGE event that’s scheduled at a, ah, rather interesting time of the year in Reykjavik. That said, Iceland Airwaves is part music, part music industry and all indoors as far as we can see.

There are 220 acts scheduled from 7 thru 10 November. These are most emerging acts, but Iceland becomes a stage for all the world, with local acts as well as acts from the UK (lots!), US (lots!), Norway, Republic of Ireland, France, Belgium, Austria and Greece. So there’s bound to be something or someone who blows you away.

You can see the full list here.

Tickets start at 21,900 Iceland Krona. Which sounds insane, right? But that works out to about 172 euros for four days and four nights of fun, though not much sun in the middle of an Icelandic winter.

You can get your ticket here. (VIPs are sold out.)

Iceland Airwaves includes a huge conference for musicians and music industry professionals and is held in partnership with Iceland Music.

You can also attend as an industry player or volunteer. Be sure to check out the website before you go.

Munich – Tollwood Winter Festival: For 11 years, the biannual Tollwood Festival has been bringing concerts, performances and exhibitions to the center of Munich, one of Europe’s most exciting cities.

The music and arts festival occurs in the summer and winter, the latter occurring from 23 November through 31 December, with a winter market open through 23 December.

There’s not much info about the winter festival at the moment, though the big draw for 2018 is Circus Oz. The Australian company will bring to light “the myths of modern Australia with their new show ‘Model Citizens’… which explores what it really means to be a model citizen in today’s ‘model kit’ society.”

Ticket to see Circus Oz at the Tollwood Winter Festival start at 38 euros. More info to come soon.

Ischgl, Austria – Ischgl Ski Opening. This is one of the most popular ski destinations in Europe. So naturally, they’re bringing in a major American R&B star to get the party started for the 2018/2019 season.

Jason Derulo is in concert 24 November at the Top of the Mountain Opening Concert.

And this is really a decent deal … you get a Platinum-selling artist and a day of skiing for 65 euros.

You can get your ticket here.

Of course, there’s lots to do after the concert as this is one of the premium winter outdoor activities destinations in Europe. So an excellent start to that winter break you so richly deserve after a productive fall.

Verbier – Polaris Festival: The year may be drawing to a close, but the music doesn’t stop because of it. Grab your skis and your lift tickets, and head up to Le Mouton Noir ski resort in Verbier, Switzerland for the 2018 edition of the Polaris Festival, set for 29 November through 2 December.

Polaris gives new meaning to “joining the mile-high club,” as its location in the Swiss Alps is a mile above sea level, with plenty of room to experience the wubs and dropped beats. A magnificent backdrop with plenty of skiing to be had in the day, followed by “a tightly curated dance lineup that goes from house legends to in-the-moment techno icons” at night.

No lineup for 2018 has been announced yet, though passes are available from 190 Swiss francs (166 euros).

Coming up later this year:

Rave on Snow, 13 through 16 December in Saalbach, Austria – Not only is one of Europe’s biggest music/ski events, 2018 is the 25th anniversary of one of the biggest music/ski events. We wouldn’t wait to get tickets. You can get them here.

Rise, 15 through 22 December, Les Deux Alps, France: One of the largest ski/music/wellbeing events of the year on Europe’s largest skiable glacier, or what’s left of it after Global Warming. Rise brings together people who party with people who work out and people who follow Goop. An odd combination, but it works.

Hogmanay 19, 30 December through 1 January in Edinburgh, Scotland – The best New Year’s Eve Party ever? Well, the longest, at any rate. This year Franz Ferdinand is the headliner. Hogmanay has multiple events around Edinburgh and of course you can get package deals for accommodations.

Groove CairnGorm, 23 & 24 February in Cairngorms National Park, Scotland – Maybe we’ve binge-watched too much “Outlander,” but this looks pretty cool (literally). Snow, DJs and live music in middle-of-nowhere Scotland at Groove CairnGorm south of Inverness. This is the only snow/music festival in what the United Kingdom. And it’s a festival with a cause, benefiting a local charity that provides respite care. This is the winter version of a larger summer festival.

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