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The Heart of Europe Hosts the Hottest Summer Festivals of 2024

For savvy clients, many of whom have been tethered to their “home offices”

for much of the year, summer marks the moment to get back on the road. Festivals – local and international — can transport visitors to out-of-the-way places as well as glamorous cities: to listen to jazz and philharmonic orchestras under starry skies, stroll farmers’ markets alongside locals, settle into film screenings, match-making markets, beer pairings, tasting farm-fresh delights, and becoming familiar with traditions. After the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago, the geo-political region once called the Eastern Bloc blossomed into the Heart of Europe that includes more than half a dozen countries dotted with a multitude of summer festivals from May through October. Often set in picturesque provinces, villages and marquee cities, festival stays can be customized by consulting with DMCs such as Mondial Travel https://mondial-travel.com; or DT Croatia. www.dt-croatia.com/dmc-news/top-5-festivals-croatia to name two resources. Tourist office websites offer other leads as well.


History comes alive at Austria’s multitude of majestic palace festivals many of which take place outdoors. The settings feature moats, grand imperial halls, and Baroque gardens, setting the stage for abridge between passed and present. Music combined with passionate performers who re-enact intrigues, weddings and stories are the elements that carry visitors away. Among the most glamorous events is the Summer Night Concert in Vienna on June 7 while the Grafenegg Festival in Lower Austria runs from June 20 to September 8. Top-tier concerts such as some of the performances at The Summer Night Concert by the Vienna Philharmonic at the Innsbruck Festival of Early Music do not require paid tickets. Visit www.austria.info


An influx of 150,000 tourists pour into Bulgaria annually for The Rose Festival and related events that follow: May 31 to June 2, 2024. Rose-picking rituals start at 10:00 am and are organized throughout the most picturesque villages in the valley: Rozovo Razhena, Koprinka, near Kazanlak, and Yasenovo. More than 3,000 participants join the parade to perform folk dances, concerts, and display local artwork and crafts. For those who might not get there in time, a visit the UNESCO attractions such as Rose Museum, which opened in 2016; the History Museum in Iskra includes the famous Kazanlak Thracian Tomb gives a sense of the magnitude of Bulgaria’s history and art. Tickets can be purchased on the spot from the Tourist Information Centers.


From July through August, the magical cities of Dubrovnik and Split are the stages for the Dubrovnik Summer Festival and the Split Summer Festival. By October, local gastronomy takes center stage: the Good Food Festival in Dubrovnik and Taste the Mediterranean Festival in Split with local and international celebrity chefs. Part of the adventure of sniffing out events is that they take clients to off-the-beaten-track places such as the west coast of Istria in Vrsar, which overlooks a panorama over Lim Bay’s archipelago of 18 islets and hosts the Fisherman’s Festival (April through September) celebrating the bounty of the Adriatic and local wines like Malvazija. https://infovrsar.com/en/


For a full view of Croatia’s festivals this summer: from Hideout Festival to the International Children’s Festival to the Ultra Europe Music Festival, to the 58th International Folklore Festival Zagreb (July 17-21) Visit https://croatia.hr

Czech Republic
The European Festival Awards survey rated The Colors of Ostrava (July 17-20) as one of the top 10 festivals in Europe. About a three-hour train ride from Prague, in Lower Vítkovice, this was once a steel town now being repurposed to house innovative multi-purpose venues; an industrial museum and the World of Technology, an educational and entertainment center is in the works. www.colours.cz Among most prestigious in Central and Eastern Europe, and among the oldest A-list film festivals (i.e., non-specialized festivals with a competition for feature-length fiction films), a category it shares with the festivals in Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Locarno, San Sebastian, Montreal, Shanghai, and Tokyo, is The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival that takes place June 28-July 6. https://www.kviff.com/en/homepage


Additionally, the Bohemia JazzFest, attracts 100,000 jazz fans each summer. All concerts are free and take place from July 9-July 16 in Prague, Pilsen, Hluboka nad Vltavou, Brno and Prachatice.


Best known for its Oktoberfest and world-famous sparkling Christmas markets, Germany rings with music all summer long lauding its most famous music makers: Bach and Wagner to name two. “Rhine in Flames” (Rhein in Flammen) is held in different cities along the Rhine River: Bonn (May 4), Bingen Rüdesheim (July 6), Spay Koblenz (August 10), Oberwesel (Sept. 14) and St. Goar (Sept. 21st). Kicking off the summer season from May 9-June 9 is The Dresden Music Festival where classical tones form the core of the event, world music and jazz are also performed; back to back June 7-9 are two of the largest rock and metal festivals at the same time the Rock am Ring takes place in Nürburgring in the Eifel, Rhineland-Palatinate, while Rock im Park takes place at Zeppelinfeld in Nuremberg, Bavaria. More than 100 open-air concerts take place on Leipzig’s market square celebrating J.S. Bach. Not to be outdone, the Bayreuth Festival Theater—created for a single composer—takes place from July 25-August 27th. Wagner first performed “Ring des Nibelungen” as a cycle in 1876. Year-round, from Hamburg to Nuremberg, Stuttgart, Hanover, Dusseldorf, Munich (Oktoberfest), Bremen Germany hosts folk festivals. www.germany.travel


JazzFestBudapest kicks off in April but don’t be discouraged, July is the peak season when the festival extravaganza opens with Balaton Sound, followed by Bánkitó Festival and EFOTT Festival. Meanwhile, Művészetek Völgye offers a diverse array of cultural, theatrical and musical delights throughout the latter half of July. As August arrives so does the FEZEN Festival and Paloznaki Jazzpiknik set the stage for the grand finale: Sziget Festival (Aug. 7-12). Some say the Sziget is a beacon of musical excellence. Entry tickets are required for many events at Sziget, visit https://szigetfestival.com


The end of summer ushers in harvest season in Hungarian vineyards: the Budapest Wine Festival (Sept 12-15) takes place in the most iconic of settings: the Buda Castle that towers over the Danube. https://aborfesztival.hu/en
For general information, https://welovebudapest.com and for a full calendar listing of events, https://meetingplanner.budcb.hu/event-calendar?year=2024&month=4


The enchanting world of “Dragons of Fairy Tales, Fables, and Novels” is the theme of Krakow’s Great Dragon Parade (June 8-9). Organized by Groteska Theatre it features: colorful pageantry, large-scale puppetry, a light and sound spectacular in which giant dragons float down the Wisła River, a parade of colorful beasts on the Wisła River boulevards below Wawel Castle. The Sztukmistrzow Carnival in Lublin (July 25-28) showcases a spectacular array of circus performances, street shows, theatrical acts, workshops, and fire displays, featuring top circus artists from around the globe. Lublin is also the setting for the Re:tradycja- Jagiellonian Festival (Aug 23-25) in the Old Town with the sounds and sights of traditional music, dance, design and crafts. Further along the Amber coast in Gdansk is the St. Dominic’s Fair (July 27-Aug. 18) dates back to 1260, is one of the largest open-air markets in Europe.


Among the top five events for 2024 in Romania Transylvania International Film Festival (June 14-23) in Cluj; the Bucharest Jazz Festival (July 5-13); The Maidens Fair in the Village of Avram Iancu in Transylvania (July 20-21); Haferland or Festival of the Transylvanian Saxons (Aug. 8-11); Prislop Pass in Borsa and the Maramures (Aug. 17-18) Taste of Transylvania Food Fest (Sept. 12-15) in the Village of Valea Boros.


The 200-year old Maidens Fair, showcases an annual matchmaking tradition that is set at the border of four counties attracting participants from 80 villages to join the walk up the Gaina Mountain Plateau for performances and re-enactments and the perfect mate. No longer a “maiden market” but a fair of dancing, music and food. Started in 2012, the Haferland Festival highlights Saxon culture in the region between Rupea and Sighișoara that is known as “Oat Country.” https://romaniatourism.com/


As old a country as it is, Slovakia characterizes itself as young and progressive. Set at a cultural intersection, it preserves some of the oldest traditions in the region: A cluster of events takes place in the same area from the Traditional Carnival Hog Feast to the International Festival of Children’s Folklore Ensembles during the first week of June to The European Folk Festival during the 2nd week of July, an event that began in 1990. The Radvanský jarmok Fair dates back to 1655 when the village of Radvaň won the privilege to organize a market on the day of birth of Virgin Mary at the beginning of September. That’s when wine harvest festivals begin in small Carpathian villages from Bratislava to Raca, Pezinok and Modra. https://slovakia.travel/en/about-slovakia


Thanks to the Michelin Guide, this corner of former Yugoslavia has risen in popularity among gourmands and foodies showcasing Slovenia’s culinary place among the world’s top choices. With nine Michelin-starred restaurants, including one with three stars and another with two, along with seven one-star restaurants, Slovenia stands side by side with the 146 countries with three-star recognition; eight of the starred venues are led by female chefs.


Despite its name, the Lent Festival – one of the largest open-air festivals in Europe – takes place in 20 venues along the banks of the Drava River to the City parks from 21 to 29 June, 2024 in Maribor set in northeastern Slovenia, near the border with Austria. The second-largest city in Slovenia, Maribor is famous for its Baroque architecture, and proximity to the Dinaric Alps. https://www.visitmaribor.si/en/accommodation-and-offer/hotels/

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