Expat Essentials

New for 2019 (updated): Europe’s best winter ski/music festivals and spring break destinations

This is the time of year everyone is planning for the spring adventures, and that’s when the majority of ski/music festivals happen in Switzerland, France and Austria. Moreover, it’s time to start adding the hot-weather events because just in the past week, we’ve gotten dozens of emails announcing the biggest Spring Break and summer concerts of 2019.

These festivals are selling out five months out, so our advice – don’t delay if you really want to go. Just dropping in really isn’t an option these days.

As we’ve noted before, there are more and more events every year and this year is no exception, with the debut of Tomorrowland Winter.

We’re shifting our focus a bit, hesitant this year to recommend mass-tourism events such as Carnival in Venice or festivals in countries such as Hungary and Turkey which pose political conundrums.

At least for us.

We’ll keep this listed updated every week, so we’re starting out with the ski events before we move into the spring break sun-and-fun events. This year, we’ll post events a few months out to give you time to plan … and save, because it ain’t cheap booking a flight, hotels, tickets and meals.

• MARCH

Alpe d’Huez, France – Tomorrowland Winter: Tomorrowland organizers are adding a winter event, renting out the entire ski resort of Alpe d’Huez, France from 9 March to 16 March for the expected capacity turnout of 30,000 attendees. (Check out the vid.)

Tomorrowland started out 13 years ago in Nowheresville, Belgium (Boom, an hour from our Dispatches global HQ) and has turned into a phenom. attracting first 50,000, then 100,000 then 200,000 people, with waiting lists in recent years in the millions!

Every major EDM DJ and act including Avicii, Faithless, Hardwell, Nina Kraviz, Swedish House Mafia, Carl Cox, David Guetta, Afrojack, Armin Van Buuren, Tiësto and Martin Garrix have come. So no surprise this first winter version 9 thru 16 March is sold out five full months out.

The lineup for Tomorrowland Winter is amazing:

• Afrojack

• Armin van Buuren

• Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike

• Joris Voorn

• Kölsch

• Lost Frequencies

• Martin Garrix

• Nervo

•Steve Aoki

You can get on the waiting list here.

How much money to these things generate? Well, enough that Tomorrowland Winter has multiple hi-res, high production-value vids for the inaugural event! And this whole Hymn of the Frozen Lotus marketing campaign. Okaaaay.

Les Orres, France – Fresh Mountain Festival: This is tough … two debut events at the same time, with Fresh Mountain Festival bumping up against Tomorrowland Winter from 9 thru 15 March. Fresh Mountain Festival is brought to you buy the same company that does Fresh Island Festival in Croatia.

Fresh Mountain is billed as the first urban festival on snow. Filling a giant void we didn’t even know existed ….

Fresh Mountain Festival will have four “party arenas” spread across the French resort of Les Orres, in the French Alps equidistant between Nice and Grenoble.

The list so far includes a strong lineup of acts from the UK including:

• Actor/rapper Not3S

• B Young

• Tim Westwood

• DJ Luck and MC Neat

Tickets start at 80 euros for three-day tickets for the music, and 100 euros for lift tickets. You can get tickets here.

Avoriaz, France/Portes du Soleil on the France/Switzerland border – Rock the Pistes: At a full week, Rock the Pistes and Snowboxx are the longest ski/music festivals on our list.

For 2019, Rock the Pistes runs from 17 thru 23 March high up in the Alpes. And it is the complete package, with an incredible setting atop a mountain, surrounded by alpine vistas.

Skiing? Check. Live music on multiple stages? Check. Partying with internationals? Check. And all pretty much going on at the same time.

By the way, the music is (sort of) free. All you do is pay for the lift tickets. But you can’t do that yet as there’s no sale function on the website. Stay tuned.

Avoriaz, France – Snowboxx: Once Rock the Pistes is over, you stick around for Snowboxx, which goes from 23 thru 30 March in the same place. Sort of the same concept (this is really for the Brits with cheap flights from the UK), as well, though Snowboxx tends to have bigger acts focused on EDM.

You can see the full lineup here.

Tickets start at 239 pounds.

Grandvalira, Andorra – Festival Hibernation: We heard about Hibernation a couple of years ago, then we missed it last year. This year, Hibernation is back on our list. Techno and skiing in the Pyrenees of Andorra. And as we noted back in 2016, now you have an excuse to go to Andorra.

This festival is at Grandvalira, a resort 2000 meters in the mountains, so there should be plenty of snow. Acts include a lot of Berlin regulars including Âme and Len Faki as well as Arman from Toronto and Ukraine’s Nastia, who may or may not be the next Nina Kraviz.

You can see the full lineup here.

Tickets start at 39 euros and you can get yours here.

• APRIL

Chamonix, France –  Chamonix Unlimited: From 2 April thru 7 April, Chamonix Unlimited heats up the slopes below Mt. Blanc, the highest peak in Europe. Unlimited has some big names including veteran American DJ Jeff Mills, German/Turkish Berghain house DJ Len Faki and the Baron of Techno, Dave Clarke.

This is a multi-site event that includes a stage below Mt. Blanc as well as clubs and even a pool party. In April. In the Alps. That’s right ….

There’s both music on the slopes and in the clubs of this giant French resort. You can see the full lineup here.

Tickets start at 25 euros and you can see your options here.

If the parties aren’t exciting enough, there’s “wild skiing” every morning to get your blood flowing. There are also a variety of package deals offering everything from bunking four to a room to luxury digs with a heated pool.

Zermatt – Zermatt Unplugged: As much as we love EDM, this is a yearly (and welcome) break from all the dubstep and deep trance. Acoustic music in the Alpes. Sort of like a contemporary “The Sound of Music,.”

This year, Zermatt Unplugged has Michael Kiwanuka, and oh yeah, we’re promoting him as a personal favorite. There’s also Boy George and Culture Club, James Bay, who’s racked up like 300 million PVs on Youtube for “Let It Go,” and lots more.

Finally, you’d be chillin’ in Switzerland.

Full passes start at about 1,100 Swiss francs, but this is Switzerland and these are the hottest pop acts. So we say, “Splurge.”

You can get tickets here.

Mayrhofen, Austria – Snowbombing – This is epic. The 20th Anniversary year for Snowbombing in Mayrhofen, Austria  8 thru 13 April is epic on every possible level …  epic scale, with 100 artists. Epic names including Stormz, Fat Boy Slim, Denis Sulta, Horse Meat Disco, and Mall Grab.

(You can see the lineup here.)

Snowbombing has kind of a quirky vision about what people are willing to venture in the Alps for. This year, Snowbombing organizers promise “butcher’s shop parties, igloo raves, enchanted forest parties, Austria’s largest fancy dress street party and luxury spas.” What do all those things have in common? Hell if we know.

Packages start at 269 pounds that includes five-nights accommodations. You can get yours here.

Crans-Montana, Switzerland – Caprices Festival: This is one of the last big festivals of the winter ski/music season. And it’s in Switzerland 11 thru 14 April.

Caprices Festival is famous for its MDRNTY concept showcasing EDM DJs in a transparent tent. Those who make it up from the night before (or who never go to bed) can have a daytime party experience with panoramic views of the Swiss Alps!

So far, there are about 21 acts – very international acts – announced including Len Faki from Berlin, Jamie Jones from London and Black Coffee from South Africa. Caprices regulars Sven Väth will also be on-hand.

Tickets start at 78 Swiss francs (69 euros), and you can get yours here.

Ibiza – Spring Break Ibiza: This isn’t an event per se. Spring Break for uni students in Europe typically is in late April to May. (Universities here don’t have the same semester schedules as their counterparts in the States.)

Multiple companies offer package trips to this Spanish island designed for college students, so this is an affordable way to trade the pressure of school in cold, damp Europe for the beaches and raves of warm, sunny Europe. Stoke Travel has two separate package dates – 12 thru 15 April and 19 thru 22 April – starting at 240 pounds and both will sell out. You can get your tickets here.

If you’re a student already in Spain, there’s this boat-trip package from Valencia through Unitrips.

But those in the know say Ibiza is changing. Mixmag has a long post/graphic about all the changes around this island including new noise restrictions designed to keep the partying to a dull roar in consideration of 12-month residents who maybe aren’t that crazy about hearing trance music blasting at 4 a.m.

Top clubs and resorts on the island include:

Amnesia

Clockwork Orange

Ibiza Rocks Hotel/Club Paradiso

Ibiza Underground

 Lío

O Beach

Pacha

Privilege

Ushuaï

There’s got to be something you like on this list, so feel free to create your own Spring Break experience. Ibiza isn’t the cheap paradise it was in the 1960s, but it remains a destination that tries to cater to all budgets, from wealthy Europeans to British kids trying to have the maximum amount of fun for the minimal outlay.

If you want to understand the allure of Ibiza and how the party scene came together, read this BBC story

Ischgl, Austria – Top of the Mountain: This is the closing event in Ischgl for the snow/ski circuit. For 2019, the season will close with a 30 April concert by legendary American rocker Lenny Kravitz. And who knew this guy is 54 years old? He looks like he’s 24. Party on, bro’.

Tickets with lift tickets are 115 euros. You can get on the pre-sale list here. 

But be sure to read the website because there are details you need to know before you go.

Kaunertal, Austria – Snowboard Spring Break: This is another major stop on the British snowboarder calendar, 28 April thru 2 May.

SSB brings together snowboarders, retailers, brands, media, industry and pros – basically, the people who create the products and the people who use them – in  Kaunertal, Austria. So this is part industry event, part party.

You can get tickets yet, so follow their Instagram feed here to get details as they’re released.

• May

Malta – Annie Mac Presents: Lost & Found : We have our first big sunny Spring Break event, and the first of the major EDM festivals for 2019.

The Radio 1 DJ/personality celebrates her fifth anniversary Malta season 2 thru 5 May with four days and four nights on this Mediterranean party island.

This year’s AMP L&F lineup includes regulars and newbies –  Mall Grab, Horse Meat Disco, Denis Sulta, RAYE, The Black Madonna, Peggy Gou, Chase & Status and Honey Dijon all join the bill. We count at least 50 acts announced so far for all the events including castle raves, boat parties and pool parties. Yeah, it’s a lot of stuff packed into a few days.

General Admission starts at 109 pounds, and VIP tickets start at 149 pounds.

You can get tickets here.

PS – We really liked the bingo video from last year, but can’t find it.

• Ibiza – Amnesia. Tickets are on sale for Europe’s first big hot-weather (well, at least warm-weather) party of the year. On 11 May, Amnesia opens in Ibiza, and tickets are already on sale here.

Swiss/Chilean DJ Luciano, who’s strongly influenced by the Latin American beat, is the act that takes Ibiza’s most famous club into what is shaping up to be memorable summer.

You can get tickets to all Amnesia parties here.

Scotland – FLY Open Air, Scotland: FLY Open Air has both a dramatic setting and top names. Scotland’s leading house and techno festival returns to its own Scottish estate, Hopetoun House, 18 and 19 May. (FLY Open Air expanded from one to two days in 2018.

Solomun will headline his first Scottish appearance in 10 years. Nina Kraviz, Peggy Gou, Sven Väth, Honey Dijon and many more are also on the bill.

Great event, great destination. But what’s up with that weird video?

Tickets start at 65 pounds and you can get them here.

Barcelona – Primavera Sound: Okay, we’re just going to ask … what does ‘primavera’ have to do with Spain? Isn’t that an Italian thing?

Whatever …. Primavera Sound is one of The Majors, an 11 on the Glastonbury Scale, attracting crowds  of 200,000-plus music lovers. Everyone has played Primavera from the Pixies to Radiohead to Kendrick Lamar. Dozens of acts each day.

This year, the festival’s nineteenth, Primavera runs from 27 May to 2 June. The big names include pretty much every act on the planet – Names and newbies – from every genre including Nina Kraviz, Cardi B, Tame Impala, Solange, James Blake, Mac DeMarco, Denis Sulta, Guided by Voices, James Blake and a hundred acts we’ve never heard of.

The format is a bit confusing, with three nights (27 through 29 May) at one venue,  la Ciutat, then the main festival acts 30 May through 1 June at a different venue, Parc del Forum. Then back to la Ciutat for 2 June. (Here’s the full daily schedule.)

Full-day tickets start at 195 euros and you can get yours here.

• JUNE

Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Eindhoven – The Flying Dutch: Those darn Dutch. They pretty much rule the EDM world with a million festivals, Amsterdam’s clubs and the world’s top DJs. But oh no, that wasn’t enough.

So, they added helicopters flying a circuit between three major cities shuttling those acts including Afrojack, Armin van Buuren and Tïesto to play for fans across the Netherlands.

This year, TFD is sceduled for 2 June. This sells out every year really quickly. So if you’re an expat lucky enough to live in one of these three cities, watch the TFD website tickets page here to see when tickets go on sales.

Coolest. Concept. Ever.

Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki, Poland outside Warsaw – Instytut Festival: This is the second year for Instytut Festival and we don’t know that much about it. But the concept is cool – a techno party at a humongous 19th-century fortress (check out the vid above) 50 kilometers outside Warsaw, and overlooking the confluence of two rivers. What’s not to like?

Now, throw in top acts such as Ben Klock and Tommy Four Seven from Berlin, and the far, far out Richie Hawtin and boom! You have yourself a fun couple of days – 21 and 22 June, to be precise. Again, see the video for the full list of DJs/live acts announced so far.

Tickets start at 170 Polish zloty (zlotys?), or about 40 euros.

You can get tickets here, but you have to go down to the bottom of the page and find the English section, then click on the appropriate links.

Coming up later in 2019:

Hideout Festival: Tickets are already selling out for this summer fav at Zrce Beach, scheduled for 1 July thru 5 July. Hideout promises 150 artists, and some of the names announced for 2019 include Camelphat, Barely Legal, Charlotte de Witte and Horse Meat Disco. Tickets are on sale here … for the moment. Flight packages are also available, with options flying from London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Dublin to Zadar and Split and at very competitive prices. More info here.

SuncéBeat Festival Croatia 2019: Is your life missing something? Is EDM really enough? If not, here’s a festival in the sun  (as the name suggests) from 24 thru 21 July offering more musically. Not just underground House, Disco, and Techno, but Soul, R&B and Funk. All we can say is, “Turn that Beat Around.” Not many ticket levels are left, and they start at 175 pounds. You can get tickets here.

Also, there are multiple accommodation options including tents, a hostel and Airstream trailers on the beach.

Ypsigrock Festival 2019: This is an intimate, boutique festival in a medieval Sicilian mountain village. Which sounds sooo cool right off the bat. From 8 thru 11 August, Castelbuono becomes a multi-stage destination for music and art lovers. So far, the only musical act announced is The National from our unofficial hometown of Cincinnati. Tickets are on sale now here starting at 89 euros.

W-festival 2019 : W-Festival runs from 15 thru 18 August in Waregem, deep in rural Belgium and close to … nothing. All the better to have four days of New Wave bands and ’80ties Synth pop, along with DJs, on multiple stages. Oh, there’s also a Woodstock 50th anniversary event marking a half-century since we were starlight and golden. (We were there! No we weren’t , but about 10 million people claim to have attended that most iconic festival that actually drew 500,000.) Tickets are about half-way sold out, and you can get them here.

Dimensions Festival: Another big week in Croatia. Dimensions Festival is 28 August to 1 September at Fort Punta Christo. We just got the list of artists and they include Nina Kraviz (the woman at every festival), Jeff Mills/Tony Allen and Objekt. This is an interesting festival in that it covers multiple genres from house, electro and techno to acid, DnB, ambient and jazz. The full list runs more than 100 acts. And organizers say this is the last year for the festival at the abandoned fort overlooking the Aegean. You can get tickets here.

Outlook Festival  2019: One of the final summer mega-parties in Croatia. Ten stages, 300 acts. You get the idea. Outlook runs for a week, from 4 thru 9 September at Fort Punta Christo. Acts include Chase & Status, Bugzy Malone, Goldie (live) and Ghetts, Tickets start at 120 pounds and you can get them here. Outlook is the sister festival with Dimensions above, and this will be the final year for both at the fort.

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