Mingle with maestros up a mountain
Verbier is still best known as the wintry playground of Europe’s skiing cognoscenti. But come off-season when all that Alpine white is replaced by verdant green, the Verbier Festival (now in its 25th year) affords the opportunity to enjoy symphonic recitals and operas 1,500m above sea level. High times indeed.
19 July – 5 August
Michelin-starred meals in the wild
Few events have done more than Wilderness to rehabilitate the notion of “festival food”. Every summer, this refined celebration of music and culture coaxes ever more culinary rock stars to its picturesque location in England’s Oxfordshire countryside. But this August – perhaps aware that more and more weekenders are encroaching on their gastronomic turf – the festival’s programmers have outdone themselves. “We’ve got Joel Ahlin and Filip Fasten, who have just won a Michelin star for Agrikultur, their 24-seater place in Stockholm,” says programmer Emma Purvis. “They’ll be cooking for 400 guests per sitting so it’s a real one-off for them.” If you can’t snag a spot at this plant-focused Scandi feast, you can console yourself with the new All Star Banquet, a four-course affair jointly conceived by Michelin holders Robin Gill, Merlin Labron-Johnson and Tomos Parry (who recently opened hot London joint Brat), as well as dessert queen Terri Mercieca. Fellow programmer Tessa Clarfelt’s wise advice? “Come with a big appetite – for fun and food.”
Dance in an island amphitheatre
Obonjan festival may have got off to something of a troubled start (set-up problems meant postponement in 2016) but now the adults-only Croatian retreat on an uninhabited island is carving out a niche all its own. This season, the Adriatic hideaway boasts new wood-accented Sun Lodge cabins and a suite of fitness and wellness activities (snorkelling, paddle boarding, yoga, sound baths). Which isn’t to say that the gym-honed attendees don’t know how to cut loose, says designer and Obonjan devotee Toby Burgess. He does admit however, “It’s the only festival I’ve ever come away from feeling fresher than I did when I arrived.”
25 June – 2 September
Commandeer a luxury Airstream
Unreliable British weather can turn even the most heavenly surroundings into a soggy hell. So, if you’re going to experience Gottwood – a fast-rising boutique festival on the Welsh island of Anglesey – cocoon yourself in a sleek design icon kitted out with all manner of whistles and bells.
Party at a Catalan fiesta-within-a-festival
Few bacchanals marry urban cool and musical escapism like Primavera Sound. Barcelona’s abominably hip 18th edition is a case in point. As well as the huge, talented names weighing down the top of the bill (Bjork, Lorde, Nick Cave and Haim), this year sees newer, electro-minded acts luring crowds to micro-festival Primavera Bits. Seek out this area and you’ll be greeted with three separate stages – including, for the first time, performances right on the sands of Forum beach – accompanied by Pacific dishes from Kauai Gavà Mar restaurant to keep energy levels up.
30 May – 3 June
Tour sustainable art in an 18th-century Italian garden
Italy’s Terraforma has turned staying small into an art formSet within the leafy Sylvanian dreamscape that surrounds the Villa Arconati just outside Milan, this annual event is built on an unlikely but effective union between electronic music and the natural world. Visual art and low-impact architecture (wood off-cuts from the construction of the pyramid-shaped main stage are used for bins, benches and showers) is a big part of the festival’s cool. So, even if you’re not familiar with, say, techno visionary Donato Dozzy, you can still be enchanted by triangular light installations, restored labyrinth tunnels and cicadas chirping in the balmy evening sun.
29 June – 1 July
Enlist your own rave butler
“Luxury camping” can sometimes be an oxymoron. But not at Belgium’s Tomorrowland, where the capture of a 10-person “Mansion” cabin gets you a proper bed, private terrace, jacuzzi, stocked fridge, espresso machine and – most enticingly – the option of a personal assistant to further enhance your experience at this synapse-jolting dance music fantasia.
20–22 July and 27–29 July
Rock out in a Renzo Piano auditorium
Italian architect Renzo Piano’s bold Parco della Musica – three space-age concert halls and a 3,000-capacity auditorium – hosts the new Roma Summer Fest with Ringo Starr, Patti Smith and Arctic Monkeys topping the bill.
26 May – 28 July
Salute Afrobeat royalty on the edge of the Med
Lagos meets the Languedoc this summer as Seun Kuti – son of Nigerian musical visionary Fela – lands at Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide festival in the ravishing French fishing town of Sète.
30 June – 7 July
Soak up symphonies by Switzerland’s most striking poolside
Lucerne Festival already has plenty of virtues that must draw jealous glances from other classical programmers. But this year, as well as its enviable mountainside location and the flawless acoustics of the Jean Nouvel-designed concert hall, it has something else to delight the 110,000 visitors who make the trip to both its annual events. The glam, cliff-hugging Burgenstock Resort has just reopened after a $550m revamp. Its biggest draw? Surely the alfresco infinity pool at the Alpine Spa where music lovers can gaze out over Lake Lucerne.
17 August – 16 September
Go lakeside low-key at Lowlands
In a bid to up their escapist allure, plenty of summer weekenders like to style themselves as pop-up cities or utopian communes with distinct codes of chilled-out conduct. But very few commit to this idea as wholeheartedly as Lowlands. The 25-year-old institution near Amsterdam has its own currency, its own radio station, its own free Dutch-language paper and – most gratifyingly for calm amid the high-decibel euphoria of the 55,000-capacity site – its own spa. Known as the Llowzone, this boho oasis is set on the banks of the festival’s central lake and offers massages, hot tubs and yoga. Bliss.
Watch Charlotte Gainsbourg take south London
Alt-two-nighter Field Day has had to move south of the river to a new home in Brockwell Park near Brixton. Thankfully, a knockout line-up (crowned by what’s sure to be a beguiling performance from actor-musician Charlotte Gainsbourg) should help everyone bed in.
Strike a yoga pose in the Dolomites
Nestled within North Italy’s mountains, Mandrea Festival is an activity-filled, reggae-soundtracked feast for outdoorsy types well-acquainted with Instagram’s #vanlife movement. There are multiple adrenaline-pumping diversions (rock-climbing, swimming, mountain biking) but it’s the outdoor yoga sessions – near the glittering surface of Lake Garda – that are truly worth the trip.
Bed down in a boutique “boatel”
One of the biggest draws of Paris’s Rock en Seine festival (beyond a reliably eclectic line-up that this year includes local dance heroes Justice) is the fact it affords an opportunity to bed down in one of the French capital’s impeccably designed crashpads. This year, you could do a lot worse than Off Paris Seine, a modish, glass-walled 58-bedroom haven aboard a converted catamaran in the 13th arrondissement. Yes, there are other options closer to the festival’s site within Parc Saint Cloud, but few of them are as Instagrammable or buzzy as this innovative, floating paradise. Worth it for the uplit outdoor pool alone.
Jazz in a cosmic setting
Faced with a location like Turkey’s Cappadocia region – famed for its ancient lunar landscape and hallucinatory “fairy chimneys” – plenty of festival organisers would run wild with all manner of themed design flourishes. Not the team behind Cappadox. Now in its fourth year, this celebration of music, art and food prides itself on subtle interaction with the natural terrain. “We believe in transforming Cappadocia’s geography and making it a cultural destination without polluting or smothering it,” says Cem Yegül, founding partner of Pozitif, the Istanbul-based collective behind Cappadox. To this end, the previous three editions of the event have featured artfully adorned hunks of Cappadocian rock and torchlit concerts in echoey caves. This year’s programme features characteristically experimental names (including Ethiopian jazz pioneer Mulatu Astatke) but unplanned events, like a 2016 sunset show by Sun Ra Arkestra, are a huge part of Cappadox’s unearthly power. So relax. As Yegül says, “The topography is so surreal, you don’t even need to go to a concert.”