Just because we, Slavs, don’t have Coachella, Tomorrowland or Rock Am Ring, it doesn’t mean we don’t know how to put together an epic music festival that can effortlessly compete with some of the biggest venues in the rest of the world. So whether you’re a fan of indie pop, trance, folk or metal, here are the best music festivals on the Balkans that irrefutably deserve more than a fair share of the spotlight.
Ultra Europe – Croatia
Ever since 2013 the European leg of the Ultra music festival has been hosted on one of Croatia’s official cultural heritage sites – the Poljud stadium in Split. With a capacity of more than 34k the stadium has welcomed electronic music moguls like Armin Van Buuren, Dash Berlin, David Guetta, Avicii, The Chainsmokers and Marshmello among many others. Apart from the stadium venue, since 2015 the festival also offers the Destination Ultra experience – a 7 day event held on various Croatian stages in Split, Brac, Vis and Hvar.
Exit – Serbia
A multi-award winner, the Exit festival is annually held in… wait for it… INSIDE A FORTRESS! The monumental Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad, Serbia, hosts the festival and back in 2006 the attendants had the option to choose between a total of 22 stages with more than 600 performers! The largest stages are reserved for electronic acts, but Exit welcomes artists from all genres – David Guetta, Fatboy Slim, HIM, Slayer, Snoop Dogg, The Prodigy, Guns N’ Roses, Diplo, Wiz Khalifa and Ellie Goulding are just some of the golden acts who have performed on Serbian grounds during Exit events.
Colours of Ostrava – Czech Republic
Another multi-genre music festival on the Balkans with a whopping number of diverse stages is the Colours of Ostrava festival, often nicknamed just Colours for short. It’s the largest musical event in the Czech Republic and its 21 stages are nestled in the Vitkovice’s brownfields. One of its numerous advantages is the stage for disabled people where attendants can safely enjoy the concerts without the fear of possible accidents. Some of the biggest music acts on Colours include Sinead O’Connor, Goran Bregovic, Iggy Pop, Yann Tiersen, Alanis Morissette, The xx, Bastille and Imagine Dragons.
Park Live – Russia
Situated in Moscow, the international Park Live festival is one of the best rock music festivals in Russia. Ever since 2013 Slavs and non-Slavs have been gathering in the metropolis to enjoy worldwide famous acts like Three Days Grace, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Deftones, System Of A Down, Within Temptation, Gorillaz, Paramore and so forth. In its first year alone Park Live hosted between 25k and 30k attendants. Although its main focus is rock music, some exceptions like Lana Del Rey and David Guetta have also graced its stages.
Open’er – Poland
Held on a former military airport in the port city of Gdynia, the Open’er has been considered as one of the largest music festivals in Poland since 2002. The award-winning annual event has been welcoming international acts like Bruno Mars, Florence + The Machine, Radiohead, Jay-Z, Gorillaz, Rihanna and Bjork for over a decade and a half. Unlike most music festivals, Open’er gives attendants assigned spots for tents when they arrive on the festival grounds. In other words, you can be a happy camper (literally) without having to fight over tent territory with the crowds.
Varna Megarock – Bulgaria (associated with Kavarna Rock)
Between 2006 and 2016 the most varied and largest rock and metal music festival in Bulgaria used to be the Kavarna Rock Fest with numerous oldschool acts like Slayer, Manowar, Alice Cooper, Dream Theater, Doro, Paradise Lost and so forth. Earlier in 2018, two years after the final show, Varna Megarock (the brainchild of some of the old festival’s former sponsors) emerged in Varna, the maritime “capital” of Bulgaria. The first concerts of the revamped event welcomed iconic artists like Nightwish, Apocalyptica and Kamelot, whose contribution paves out a glorious future for the festival.
Some other notable Slavic music festivals include Taksirat (Macedonia), Atlas Weekend (Ukraine), GrapeFestival (Slovakia) and Slavianski/ Slavic Bazaar (Belarus).