Europe 52 – The best of the rest

The best of the rest  (12)

Montreux Jazz Festival

Where? Montreux, Switzerland

When? July

How long? 15 days              

Even if you don’t know anything about jazz, the chances are you’ll have heard of the Montreux Jazz Festival , one of Europe’s most prestigious music events, and guaranteed to pull in the biggest international names. It’s not just what you might call jazz either – everything from hip-hop to acid jazz, gospel, techno, reggae and African jazz get an airing, and for added fun you can groove the days away on themed samba and salsa boats that head out on to the town’s lake every afternoon. Now in its 35th year, the festival continues to expand and diversify, with a bewildering range of workshops, and it prides itself on showcasing emerging talents as well as established stars. Flerbie Flancock and John McLaughlin are but two of the more regularly featured artists from a cast of around two thousand. There’s also Festival OFF, featuring over three hundred free concerts in just about every open space around town. For specific concerts, book early; otherwise, just show up and wander around looking for the tunes that suit you.

Nava Cider Festival

Where? Nava, Spain

When?  July           

How long? 1 week

You may not think so, but cider is a big deal in northern Spain, and every year Nava, in the province of Asturias, throws a party to celebrate the town’s greatest product. Like their Galician neighbours, the Asturians aren’t your typical castanet-clacking, flamenco-wailing Spaniards, and their local customs include the playing of the bagpipes and the drinking of lots and lots of cider. Nava’s festival features dozens of different types of cider to sample – if you can stand the alcoholic pace. There are tastings, competitions for the best brew, and even for the best pouring technique – it’s supposed to be done with as much height as possible between the bottle and the glass – but really it’s an excuse to drink lots of stuff, which everyone does with huge abandon on the main Saturday of the festival.

North Sea Jazz Festival

Where? Rotterdam, The Netherlands

When? July

How long? 3 days

Held over a weekend in the middle of July, the North Sea Jazz Festival ( has attracted high- level names to its multiple stages since 1976. Now held in Rotterdam, it’s a big event, pulling in around a hundred thousand festivalgoers and hosting not just names from the world of jazz but crossing into other, related genres, too – recent performers have included Al Green, Chaka Khan, Chick Corea, Robert Cray and Archie Shepp, for example.

Pageant of the Juni

Where? Brasov, Romania

When? May

How long? 1 day

Lacking the Dracula connections of its near neighbours, Brasov, an atmospheric medieval town in deepest Transylvania, has to rely on more accurate historical

events for its folklore traditions. One such festival is the Pageant of the Juni, a horseback parade that celebrates the only day of the year – the first Sunday in May – that, traditionally, Romanians could freely enter the Saxon city Dressing up in elaborate costumes, young townsfolk ride through the streets of the historic quarter – with the married men, or “Old Juni” trailing behind – before heading out into the surrounding hills. Here they break off into groups to perform the rhythmic horas (round dances), which are stamina sapping for both performers and spectator alike.

Paleo Festival

Where? Nyon, Switzerland

When? July

How long? 6 days

Where? Landgraaf, The Netherlands

When? May          

How long? 3 days

This is one of Europe’s best-established open-air music festivals, usually with a wide and deliberately eclectic line­ up and held in a great setting close to the town of Nyon. Originally a folk event, the philosophy is to embrace all musical styles in a truly festive atmosphere – both things that Paleo (® manages extremely well. There are two main stages, a world music stage, and smaller venues for up-and-coming (and Swiss!) bands, as well as street theatre, circus performers, and stand-ups. Around 225,000 people attend the whole event – not far off forty thousand a day – and you need to book early if you want to be sure of getting in on your chosen day.

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