In the UK we have some great music venues and festivals but sometimes it feels like after you’ve paid for the tickets, t-shirt and drinks you could have gone on a holiday. Flying out for your favourite band may seem like a flight of fancy, but when you think about the limited tour dates, travel to London and an overnight stay; why shouldn’t you give a new European city a try?
Here to help are our picks of great venues just a great value, short haul away.
Alternative music venues
The old church building, Paradiso, has been hosting “cosmic relaxation” and popular music for a fun-filled 50+ years. Congregations through the ages have been blessed with performances by: The Rolling Stones, Nirvana and David Bowie to name but a few. The capital of the Netherlands is a “Dam” fine place for music and nightlife. You can easily party at big-name DJ club nights or let loose at the various dance festivals and then sleep it off on the short flight back to England.
This might not be one for seeing your favourite artist, as Szimpla isn’t known for hosting household names. That’s not to say your favourite artist isn’t a low-key Hungarian reggae musician. Szimpla is all about the quirky environment and ambience instead. A place where you can kick back and enjoy jazz, folk and independent artists.
If you are hungry for more arty nightlife, Budapest is well versed in eclectic pubs. Ruin pubs, old boats and former dental hospitals are all now happy to host a bit of dancing.
Falling into the medium-sized venue category, at L’Olympia you’ll find resurgent biggish names, alternative bands and cool French artists. You can even watch great stage productions too in the Olympia Bruno Coquatrix that was founded by the co-creators of Moulin Rouge (the colour red is well on show) back in 1888.
The venue is located on one of the four ‘grand boulevards’ of Paris that were popular places of leisure in the 18th century. It is easy to feel your own sense of “boulevardier spirit” on a romantic trip to the France capital too with celebrated coffee shops and luxury department stores to pop in to.
Big name venues
Mercedes-Benz Arena, Berlin
The Mercedes-Benz Arena lights up like a shiny version of their badge and attracts many of the biggest names in music. Recent acts include: Mariah Carey, Ozzy Osbourne and Florence + the Machine. You can even catch some sport as they have an ice hockey and basketball team play there too. Berlin as a city is bursting with culture thanks to a youthful revival and well worth a trip for its history alone. With flights across the year and a great public transport network it makes for an easy trip too.
AccorHotels Arena, Paris
Wanting to catch one of the big names on the arena circuit and make a weekend of it? The AccorHotels Arena in Paris hosts the likes of: Maroon 5, Lenny Kravitz, Elton John and Shawn Mendes. Regular flights to Paris mean you can head over for French cuisine, Disneyland and big name acts on a bit of a whim.
Auditorio de Tenerife, Canary Islands
An absolutely stunning building worth seeing in itself, you can combine Tenerife’s sunny disposition with classical music performances at the Auditorio de Tenerife. Think John Williams’s Film Symphony and celebrated conductors. The beauty of Tenerife is good weather is pretty much guaranteed; although that’s not to say culture can’t take centre stage too. How about swapping the Pyramid Stage for the Pyramids of Guimar this year?
Festivals of sun
Sónar Festival, Barcelona
Book the time off - Late July
Sónar as a festival is a subtle crowd-pleaser that has managed to keep an experimental vibe despite being around for a long time. The Beastie Boys, A$AP Rocky and Pet Shop Boys have all brought different styles to the stage and the festival brings with it an atmosphere that brings the whole of Barcelona alive.
The Spanish festival has even gone global with similar events in Buenos Aires, Hong Kong and Reykjavik. You could connect to those spots long distance, but even if you’ve been to Barcelona before there is always so much more to simply experience. Taste some Fideua, bar hop in the Gothic Quarter and trip out to Tarragona.
Hideout or Outlook Festival, Croatia
Book the time off - Hideout: early July. Outlook: early September
Croatia is a perfect sunny hideout for any holidaymaker. Time it right though, and you could discover one of Europe’s bassiest and sunniest festivals too. Outlook adds a soundsystem to a Roman Amphitheatre in the city of Pula’s Fort Punta Christo and Hideout brings the party to the beaches on the island of Pag.
Croatia is fast becoming one of the go-to spots for festivals in the world. Head over for a Croatian summer that is action-packed, gloriously sunny, and easily accessible with routes to Split, Pula and Dubrovnik.
Earth Garden, Malta
Book the time off – End of May
Malta’s lovely national park in Ta’Qali plays host to festival-goers at the end of May for the environmentally-friendly Earth Garden. Alternative artists take to a variety of stages hosting anything from Reggae to Electro nights until the early hours. Once you’re all danced out, the Healing Fields provide well-being and spirituality workshops perfect for bringing you round before the flight home.
Malta not first choice for your summer holiday? It’s a glorious island in the heat of the Mediterranean, has reliable sunshine, variety of hotels, a hub of nightlife and best of all, the set of Popeye’s village from the 1980 Robin William’s film.