Grace Lower | Jul 22, 2020
Sure, concerts are loud and tend to attract people with zero regard for personal space (I’m looking at you, crowd surfers). But there’s a certain thrill that comes with singing along to the songs you love with dozens—or sometimes thousands—of fellow fans.
Now take that feeling and multiply it by 100; that might come close to how it feels to visit some of the world’s most beloved music festivals. Whether you’re a fan of pop, indie, or electronica, these international concert series are definitely worth traveling for.
1. Fuji Rock
Niigata Prefecture, Japan
Between the breathtaking mountain views and the incredible talent that performs each year, there’s a lot to love about the Fuji Rock festival. Originally held at the base of Mount Fuji, this Japanese concert series now takes place at the picturesque Naeba Ski Resort. Along with a solid lineup of Japanese musicians, some of the biggest names in rock have graced Fuji Rock’s seven stages. Past headliners include the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Arcade Fire, Muse, Sigur Rós, and the Arctic Monkeys.
The three-day festival draws nearly 100,000 music lovers each year, but despite the crowds, Fuji Rock aims to be the “cleanest festival in the world.” What’s more, concertgoers are free to explore the trails surrounding each stage—where dense forests and mountain streams offer a bit of tranquility between sets.
Barcelona is a favorite tourist destination--celebrated for its architecture, its beaches, and its vibrant Catalan culture. But for three days each year, Barcelona is the epicenter for electronic and experimental music, all thanks to the Sónar music festival.
Since 1994, Sónar has curated an innovative lineup by inviting musicians who push creative boundaries. Notable Sónar alumni include Daft Punk, Die Antwood, A$AP Rocky, and M.I.A. Aside from its musical acts, Sónar celebrates creativity across a variety of disciplines. As part of the festival, audience members can explore exhibitions that showcase technology, art, and entrepreneurship. Sónar’s interdisciplinary approach has been well-received; this year alone, Sónar had 115,000 attendees representing 101 different countries.
While it’s easy enough to find pop music on the radio, why not travel to Rabat, Morocco? While there, you can join hundreds of thousands of music lovers for the annual Mawazine Music Festival.
Nicknamed “World Rhythms,” Mawazine brings together larger-than-life artists like Kanye West, Elton John, Justin Timberlake, and Rihanna, while showcasing international musicians from around the globe. This concert series is more than just a celebration of music--it’s part of a larger effort on the part of the Moroccan government to promote a culture of “sharing and exchange.”
Despite its popularity, it’s worth noting that Mawazine comes with a dose of political controversy. Religious leaders, politicians, and activists alike have criticized this over-the-top festival as a misuse of federal money--especially in a country facing deep social and economic inequities. However, the controversies haven’t dampened the festival’s popularity, and Mawazine has attracted as many as 2.5 million audience members each year.
4. Exit Festival
Novi Sad, Serbia
When you think of global music capitals, there’s a good chance that Novi Sad, Serbia wasn’t on your list. But this charming riverside city is home to the Exit Festival--voted the “Best Major Music Festival” at the European Festival Awards. What started off as a student protest against the government (no, really), has become a showcase of eclectic music from around the globe.
Part of what makes Exit so successful is its incredible venue. The festival is held in the Petrovaradin Fortress, where centuries-old architecture provides incredible acoustics for a thoroughly modern sound. More than 600 artists play on the festival’s 20 stages, and concert goers are treated to gorgeous views of the River Danube.
In addition to attracting enormous crowds, this unique festival draws artists from a variety of genres—with notable acts including Guns N Roses, Bastille, Ellie Goulding, Duran Duran, Wiz Khalifa, and David Guetta.
Incheon, South Korea
For alternative and indie fans with a sense of adventure, Pentaport is an ideal music festival. One of South Korea’s largest music series, Pentaport has hosted alternative rock legends like Panic! At the Disco, Two Door Cinema Club, The Kooks, and Fall Out Boy, along with a healthy dose of up-and-coming and obscure talent.
Pentaport is one of many events held in Icheon, South Korea’s DreamPark. This quirky park was once a landfill, but has since been repurposed into a sprawling greenspace. While the venue’s history may raise a few eyebrows, concert goers can enjoy the thriving wildflower gardens that now cover the former landfill.
Aside from its unusual venue, one of Pentaport’s most endearing qualities is its name. The “Penta” stems from the festival’s five main themes--music, passion, the environment, DIY, and friendship. No matter your taste in music, this lighthearted concert series is sure to bring smiles.
6. Splendour in the Grass
Byron Bay, Australia
Aside from serving as Australia’s largest winter music festival, Splendour in the Grass is a hipster’s paradise. To put it into perspective, the event’s name was inspired by English poet William Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality," and flower crowns are the accessory of choice.
Splendour in the Grass is held in the beachside town of Byron Bay. The three-day event hosts indie favorites like Florence and the Machine, Of Monsters and Men, Tegan and Sara, Tame Impala, Alt-J, and Portugal: The Man. With a healthy combination of good music, food trucks, yoga, art, and the great outdoors, Splendour in the Grass strives to live up to its name, year after year.
No matter where the music takes you, safety is important. Consider purchasing travel insurance to protect your trip—and you—from unforeseen circumstances.
Grace Lower is a recent college graduate with a love for writing and an incurable case of wanderlust. When she's not exploring new places, Grace enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, making terrible puns, and running incredibly long distances at incredibly slow speeds.