Coachella and Leeds Festivals tend to get all of the attention, but there are other music and food festivals worth traveling to this season. From group meditation on a tiny Croatian island to a classical-music marathon in the Swiss Alps, these are the best summer festivals around the globe.
Sónar 2018, Spain
In contrast to many summer festivals, Sónar takes place in a city center—in this case, Barcelona—so expect a diverse crowd. This year’s lineup will pair immersive digital set pieces with blue-chip electronic acts. It will also span genres (Thom Yorke, the U.S. rapper GoldLink), continents (Diplo will present a showcase of African musicians), and even planets. Teaming up with METI International, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting with extraterrestrial intelligence, the event will celebrate the recent launch of a musical message radioed to a nearby potentially habitable planet. The VIP ticket gives you access to a pop-up eatery—last year there were menus from the city’s Michelin- starred restaurants. June 14–16; sonar.es.
Jalal Morchidi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Gnaoua & World Music Festival, Morocco
Touted as an “African Woodstock,” this three-day jam session draws an international roster of musicians playing jazz, rock, blues, and gnaoua—African Muslim rhythms that originated in West Africa. The shows take place throughout the fortress-filled city of Essaouira, which has always been a haven for musicians—both Jimi Hendrix and Cat Stevens spent time there. It’s worth a trip just to hear blues maestro Lucky Peterson and Brazilian tropicália musician Carlinhos Brown blend North African melodies into their sets. There’s a boho vibe to this seaside town but the elegant Heure Bleue Palais(rooms from $314) offers a bit of French colonial glamour. June 21–24; festival-gnaoua.net.
Courtesy Rencontres d’Arles
Rencontres d’Arles, France
For more than two months, the Romanesque town of Arles in the south of France transforms old shops, 12th-century chapels, and postindustrial buildings into vibrant photography exhibition spaces. While part of the fun is stumbling across emerging talent in tiny antiques stores, the main draws for photography buffs are the shows by bigger names. This season’s highlights include an exploration of Americana through the lenses of Robert Frank, Raymond Depardon, and Paul Graham; a retrospective of William Wegman’s whimsical dog portraiture; and an exhibition dedicated to the work of René Burri, known for his documentary work and famous portraits of Pablo Picasso and Che Guevara. July 3–September 23; rencontres-arles.com.
Courtesy Obonjan Island
Late-night dance parties and meditation are unlikely bedfellows on the tiny island of Obonjan, located in the Adriatic Sea. But for the past two years, the sliver of land has been host to a Who’s Who of electronic music (past performers include Fort Romeau, Erol Alkan, and Daniel Avery), as well as an incubator of cutting-edge wellness (yoga on an overwater deck; beachside stargazing). Accommodations are glamping-chic abodes with en suite bathrooms (rooms from $150). June 29–September 2; obonjan-island.com.
Courtesy Festival d’Aix-en-Provence
Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, France
Though in its 70th year, this celebration of opera is one of the classical world’s most innovative—part of last year’s production of Carmen was set in a modern-day psychiatric ward. In step with today’s issues, this summer’s programming will highlight complicated-female story lines, including that of The Fiery Angel by Prokofiev, which follows a tragic heroine during the German Renaissance. Audiences can also become part of Orfeo & Majnun, a participatory opera and parade. July 4–24; festival-aix.com.
Courtesy Man Booker 50
Man Booker 50 Festival, U.K.
Who did and didn’t make the short list for the Man Booker Prize is one of the biggest announcements in the literary world every fall. This summer, you will be able to live the excitement. For its 50th anniversary, the Booker Prize is hosting a flagship event at which it will crown the single best work of fiction since the first winner was honored in 1969. From a shortlist selected by judges including Kamila Shamsie and Robert McCrum, the winner will be chosen by the public online and announced at London’s Southbank Centre, which will be transformed into an Olympic Village for bookworms complete with master classes in fiction writing and tête-à-têtes with authors like Alan Hollinghurst, Howard Jacobson, and Hilary Mantel. July 6–8; themanbookerprize.com.
Courtesy Paraty International Literary Festival
International Literary Festival of Paraty, Brazil
More commonly referred to by the acronym for its Portuguese name, FLIP has been the crown jewel of Brazil’s crackling literary scene since it was launched by Bloomsbury Publishing cofounder Liz Calder in 2003. While the five-day fête in Paraty, a seaside colonial town, has drawn the likes of Geoff Dyer and Lydia Davis, this year it will honor Hilda Hilst, the experimental Brazilian writer known for incorporating subversive themes of sexuality into her works. Stay at Pousada do Sandi (rooms from $130; pousadadosandi.com.br), a charming guesthouse near the town’s central plaza, or rent a house from Brazilian Beach House Co.(homes from $3,000), which specializes in luxury properties. July 25–29; flip.org.br.
Verbier Festival, Switzerland
Considered the ultimate pilgrimage for lovers of classical music, this marathon celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The packed itinerary pairs young talent, like Swedish conductor Daniel Blendulf and Chinese pianist Yuja Wang (pictured), with some of the biggest names in strings, including Janine Jansen, Leonidas Kavakos, and Maxim Vengerov. Close to 60 concerts range from opera and symphonic music to chamber pieces—all
with a spectacular backdrop of the Swiss Alps. July 19–August 5; verbierfestival.com.
Port Eliot Festival, U.K.
One of the original quirky British culture festivals is still the style set’s favorite bacchanal. On the grounds of a stately manor in Cornwall (pictured), you’ll find music (English indie rocker Baxter Dury is headlining), fashion (stylish N. J. Stevenson is curating), food (open-fire cooking and a bee trail), wellness (stand-up paddle boarding on a river), and the just plain odd (midnight ying trapeze shows, anyone?). Base yourself in a 15-foot luxury yurt equipped with a king-sized bed or one of several B&Bs nearby. July 26–29; porteliotfestival.com.
International Pinot Noir Celebration, U.S.
This high-end wine fest features 70 international Pinot Noir winemakers enjoying premium vintages with nearly 1,000 thirsty oenophiles in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Spend the weekend sampling Grand Cru Burgundy, attending seminars with top wine critics (Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker have been guests in the past), and strolling through local top-shelf vineyards with growers. Check in to the new 36-room Atticus Hotel(rooms from $240) in historic downtown McMinnville. July 27–29; ipnc.org.
While England’s summer festivals promise revelry in all forms, there’s nothing quite like this sophisticatedly offbeat art party just outside of London in Oxfordshire. It features a range of activities, from lake swimming and lessons in venison carving to outdoor theater performances by glitter-caked witches (just go with it). Chef Yotam Ottolenghi will oversee a formal dinner served riverside. This year’s music headliners have yet to be announced (Grace Jones performed last year), but let’s hope for a reprise of the fest’s rollicking Nina Simone tribute for the closing Sunday festivities. Just a 20-minute drive from the event’s Cornbury Park venue is Soho Farmhouse(rooms from $408), a 40-cabin estate. August 2–5; wildernessfestival.com.
Haven Festival, Denmark
Food and music come together for a rare weekend at this event on the outskirts of Copenhagen masterminded by Aaron Dessner and Bryce Dessner, of the band the National; Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, of the Copenhagen microbrewery Mikkeller; and Claus Meyer, of New York’s Grand Central food hall and Agern. In Refshaleøen, you’ll find the likes of natural wine bars housed in old car-repair shops and an expansive range of obscure brews. Don’t forget to leave room for headline sets by Arcade Fire, Kraftwerk, Dirty Projectors, and influential jazz musician Kamasi Washington. August 10–11; havenkbh.dk.