Lifestyle & Culture

Dispatches’ list of Europe’s best music festivals for May 2018

The music festival scene in Europe is massive, to say the least.

From New Year’s Day through New Year’s Eve, there’s at least a handful of festivals happening somewhere on the continent. Whether you’re banging your head to Accept and Carcass; losing yourself in the wubs of Diplo and David Guetta; dancing in the moonlight with Clan of Xymox and Psy’Aviah; or bouncing around to the sounds of Ghost and Kendrick Lamar, there’s a festival for you.

There are so many festivals to see and experience in the summer of 2018 that we’ve decided to break up the calendar into a month-by-month rundown between May and August, starting with May 2018; September through December will be covered in its own volume, continuing the original plan for coverage in 2018.

And if there’s a music festival you want us at Dispatches Europe to know about, please email us at:

  • cameron@dispatcheseurope.com
  • terry@dispatcheseurope.com

Barcelona – Primavera Sound: Barcelona’s Parc del Fòrum will come to life with the 2018 edition of Primavera Sound, scheduled for 28 May through 3 June 2018.

Since 2001, Primavera has blown the minds of many with the vast collection of pop, indie, and electronic sounds to have graced the festival’s stages including: Front 242; The Afghan Whigs; Queens of the Stone Age; Nine Inch Nails; LCD Soundsystem; and Mazzy Star.

Primavera’s 200-plus lineup always has it all, this year included:

Arctic Monkeys; Björk; Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds; The National; Lorde; Migos; A$AP Rocky; Jane Birkin; Art Ensemble of Chicago; Mike D; Watain; CHVRCHES; Tyler, The Creator; Shellac; The Breeders; The Black Madonna; Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein; Fermín Muguruza eta The Suicide of Western Culture; and many more

Tickets to the 18th edition of Primavera Sound are €215, €400 for the VIP treatment. And as always, don’t sleep on this if you want to go; Primavera sells out sooner than you think every year.

Copenhagen – Distortion: Celebrate 20 glorious years “of massive daytime street parties, underground nightclub events and the grand two-day finale Distortion Ø” when the annual Distortion celebrates its 20th anniversary 30 May through 3 June in the heart of Copenhagen.

For a whole week, Copenhagen will be party central, pushing the limits of street life and party culture as it has always done since it first began in 1998 as “an experimental party project.”

Two decades of wubs needs a lineup like this:

Big Freedia; Charlotte de Witte; Injury Reserve; Johannes Brecht; Lehar; Sandy B; Stimming; and Solomun

A festival pass to the 20th anniversary of Distortion is DKK 550 (€74). Passes to the grand finale, Distortion Ø, range from DKK 300 to DKK 500 (€40 – €67).

Derbyshire – Forbidden Forest: Twenty-four-hour party people, are you ready to spend 12 hours of your life in the forest? You will be when Forbidden Forest takes over the Donnington Park Forest in Derbyshire, England 6 May.

Assembled by its organizers as a response to “the stagnation of the dance music festival and clubbing circuit in the UK,” Forbidden Forest promises “a hedonistic experience in the heart of the Derbyshire woods.”

And every hedonistic experience should have the best wubs and dropped beats:

Solardo; Hannah Wants; Wilkinson feat. MC AD-APT; DJ Q back-to-back with Jamie Duggan; Skepsis; A.M.C.; and many more

Final-release tickets to the paradise of Forbidden Forest are £47.50 (€54); drink tokens and return bus tickets also available.

Frankfurt – W-Festival: Formerly known as the Women of the World Festival, Frankfurt’s W-Festival celebrates women in music in the heart of the Germany’s financial capital every year since 2012.

Every evening from 9 through 11 May, expect to see one to four full performances by artists who are fronted by a woman at a minimum, if not boasting lineups consisting solely of women. The festival’s aim is to “present women beyond any cliché or emancipation debate” in a space which acts as “an extraordinary cultural magnet for the Rhine-Main region and for the whole of Germany.”

Lilith Fair never died; it just became a German citizen:

Ute Lemper; Morcheeba; Selah Sue; Lisa Stansfield; Anna Depenbusch; Miriza; Wallis Bird; Alin Coen Band; Dota & Band; and Kinga Glyk

A full festival pass to the 2018 W-Festival is €83.60. Tickets to each artist’s performance are also available.

Leipzig – Wave-Gotik-Treffen: Germany is home to both the biggest metal festival in the world — Wacken Open Air in Wacken — and the biggest dark music festival in the world, Lepizig’s Wave-Gotik-Treffen.

The first WGT was held in 1991, following the reunification of Germany. Today, the annual festival draws around 18,000 over four days to see over 150 performers play during the Pentecost weekend (Pfingsten auf Deutsch) in May, spread out over 50 venues in Leipzig. Markets, Renaissance fairs, film premiers, literary events, and late-night dance clubs make up the rest of the programme at WGT.

Only the darkest music will do during Pfingsten in Leipzig:

Aeon Rings; Cesair; The Eden House; Eivør; Front Line Assembly; The Jesus And Mary Chain; Modern English; Oomph!; Sarin; Teho Teardo & Blixa Bargeld; Tiamat; Trisomie 21; Zeromancer; and many more

Tickets to the 27th edition of WGT—scheduled for 18 through 21 May—are €120.

Lisbon – Eurovision Song Contest: Shortly after the end of World War II, the nations of Europe vowed they would never allow themselves to dive headfirst into the abyss of humanity’s darkness ever again. The European Broadcasting Union found one way to unify the continent in 1955 with an international song contest based on Italy’s Sanremo Music Festival. The contest would be transmitted live to all member states of the EBU on television through the Eurovision Network.

And thus the Eurovision Song Contest was born, with the first contest held in late May of 1956 in Lugano, Switzerland.

Over 60 years later, ESC has become an annual celebration of wild costumes, fan service, songs that are really good or really awful, and lots of bloc voting between groups of nations, all for the chance to win the contest and host the following year’s Eurovision. And, of course, causing Americans to wonder what all the fuss is about every May.

Having won the contest in Kiev, Ukraine last year, Portgual will host this year’s Eurovision in Lisbon’s Altice Arena 7 through 12 May. Tickets to the contest range from €5 to €140, though current sales cover the semi-finals only.


Oberhausen – New Waves Day: If you need more darkness in your life as the summer’s heat approaches, head up to Turbinenhalle in Oberhausen, Germany 26 May 2018 for the second edition of New Waves Day.

You’ll be making new waves on this dark day:

Fields of the Nephilim; The Damned; Clan of Xymox; Trisomie 21; Chameleons Vox; Der Fluch; and Holygram

Tickets to the 2018 New Waves Day are on sale now for €56.80.

United Kingdom – The Biggest Weekend: Every five years, the famed Glastonbury Festival takes a fallow year to let the grounds recover. As 2018 happens to be the latest fallow year for Glastonbury, the BBC has stepped up to take the festival’s place with one of its own, The Biggest Weekend.

The Biggest Weekend is set for 25 through 27 May at four separate locations in the U.K.: Belfast, Northern Ireland; Perth, Scotland; Swansea, Wales; and Coventry, England.

And it is, indeed, big:

Taylor Swift; Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds; Manic Street Preachers; the BBC Concert Orchestra ; Billy Ocean; First Aid Kit; The Breeders; Ed Sheeran; Orbital; Simple Minds; Snow Patrol; Tears For Fears; UB40; Demi Lovato; Bastille; Liam Gallagher; Goldie; Franz Ferdinand; and many more

Tickets to The Biggest Weekend — of which there will be over 175,000 available — are £18 (€21) no matter which venue you visit. Swansea’s lineup is already sold out (and has been for a while), as is the Sunday lineup in Coventry.

Upminster – We Are FSTVL: For five years, the We Are FSTVL has rocked the party in Upminster, England, growing bigger every year to the monster it will be this year, when the sixth edition dominates the scene 25 through 27 May.

How big is this edition of We Are FSTVL? Try 300 acts spread across 30 venues in Upminster and Greater London.

From trance to techno to EBM to gabber, whatever makes you move will be there:

Skepsis; Hannah Wants; Mall Grab; The Shapeshifters; Bongo Ben; Eric Prydz; Artikal; Osi & Wag; and many more

Two-day tickets to We Are FSTVL are £149.50 (€172), £169.50 (€195) for the VIP treatment, and £375 (€430) for the hyper-exclusive treatment. Single-day tickets for Saturday and Sunday, camping tickets for Friday, and more are also available.


Vlieland – Here Comes The Summer: Get ready for the summer when Here Comes The Summer returns to its Wadden Sea home of Vlieland 4 through 6 May.

Organized by the same group behind the oft-sold-out Into The Great Wide Open, Here Comes The Summer is a small, intimate festival with two stages, dancing parties under the starry skies, and more, all in beautiful arboreal beach setting.

Here comes the summer, and with these artists, it’s alright:

Alexis Taylor; Anna Burch; EUT; Hannah Williams & the Affirmations; Hollis Brown; Johan; Korfball; Kristoffer Bolander; Nana Adjoa; Sons of Kemet; The Mauskovic Dance Band; U.S. Girls; Warhaus; and more to come

Tickets to Here Comes The Summer are sold-out, so you’ll have to put this one down for 2019.

To Top

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive the latest news and updates from Dispatches Europe. Get lifestyle & culture, startup & tech, jobs and travel news dispatched to your inbox each week. Keep up with what's going on in Europe. Everything Expat.

You have Successfully Subscribed!