Inspiring European Summer Festivals for 2018

If you’re planning a European holiday this summer, there are lots of exciting events you could visit. Let’s take a closer look, so you can get some great ideas and inspiration for your trip!

France
Celebrate Bastille Day in Paris, France on 14th July, when the city is alive with festivals, fun and frolics. Festivities include spectacular fireworks over the Eiffel Tower and a free music concert. Most events are free, and you can spend a little if you want to sit in a private yacht to watch the festivities.

Also in France and stretching from 15th June until 8th July, the Festival de Marseille is a riot of dance, theatre, music and art. The festival attracts thousands of visitors to Marseille, and it costs around £45 to be a part of a small bike tour.

Italy
Food lovers will enjoy the Stragusto Food Festival held in Trapani, a pretty Sicilian town, from 23rd to 26th July. The stalls offer delicious street food from around the Mediterranean including Greek, Moroccan and Serbian cuisine among many others.

Czech Republic
If you’re looking for something different, the Road Junky Festival of Creativity is held every year from 22nd June to 2nd July in the Czech Republic. Campers can enjoy creative workshops all day long including dance, shiatsu, fire-making, music and singing. It’s a great chance to learn or teach something. Other activities include story-telling, bush-crafts, juggling and baking cakes. Tickets are around £200 which includes food.

Finland
The Seurasaari Midsummer Bonfires is held in Helsinki on 22nd and 23rd June. The festival takes place on Seurasaari Island in an open-air museum and includes several outdoor and indoor events, including folk heritage, folk dances and music. Tickets are around £20 on the day and children under 12 can enter for free.

Romania
The Electric Castle Festival in Romania takes place between 18th and 22nd July when the entire Transylvanian Banffy Castle is lit up in honour of the annual music festival. Enjoy a variety of rock, indie, electronic and reggae music with tickets starting at £148.

Austria
Love combining art and fun? Consider visiting Austria between 8th and 14th July to watch top artists of the world go head-to-head for body painting. The surreal World Bodypainting Festival is followed by a massive after-party with more than 50 DJs. Ticket prices start at under £20 per day.

As you can see, there are numerous music, food, dance, art and theatre festivals taking place across Europe, offering plenty to choose from. Some are mainstream, and some seem downright odd, but whatever you’re into, Europe has something great to offer you this summer!

Leeuwarden: A less crowded alternative to Amsterdam

Many people will think of Amsterdam when they hear of the Netherlands. If you’ve been to Amsterdam, you’ll know how beautiful it is, and also how crowded it can be. Every year millions of tourists visit Amsterdam; however, other Dutch cities are competing to attract some of these tourists. You will hear names like Rotterdam, Utrecht and Den Haag (The Hague), but few will mention a little gem in the north of the country: Leeuwarden.

Where is Leeuwarden?
Situated about 20 miles from the north-western coast of the Netherlands lies Leeuwarden, the capital of the province of Friesland and European Capital of Culture 2018, boasting over 600 monuments, several museums, and the house of artist M.C. Escher.

The city has a rich history dating back to the 9th century. Leeuwarden was granted city rights in 1435, and you can still find quite a few buildings dating from that time in the city centre.

The Oldehove
This askew tower was the result of a rivalry with the capital of the neighbouring province, Groningen. The goal was to build a higher church tower than Groningen’s, but what the Liwwadders (as the people of Leeuwarden are called) didn’t know was that the construction site was on the edge of one of the three terps (mounds) that made up the city before the area silted up in the 1300s.

During construction, the church tower began leaning sideways and the builders tried to compensate for it, but at a height of around 127 feet they simply stopped building!  Since then, the unfinished tower has become a symbol of the city.

From the top of the Oldehove you can enjoy a beautiful outlook over the city. Until the 31st October the tower is open to visitors every day of the week from 1pm to 5pm. The admission fee is 3.50 euros (about 3 pounds).

Shopping and culture
From the Oldehove you can go for a stroll through the Kleine Kerkstraat where you can find many small stores selling regional products, especially cheeses and meats, as well as Frisian treats.

The province of Friesland has a strong cultural identity that differs from the rest of the Netherlands, and outside of the cities you will not hear Dutch spoken often, as the native language here is Frisian.

Compared to Amsterdam, the city centre of Leeuwarden is smaller and less crowded. You will find many shops, and lots of these are small and run by the owners. And, like in lots of Dutch cities, you will see a large number of cafes located alongside the main canal running through the city centre.

Architecture
If you prefer beautiful medieval buildings, take a detour down the Grote Kerkstraat. This street leads to the Protestant church, called Grote Kerk. This was of special importance to the Dutch royal family, which is reflected in the architecture and decoration. Besides the Grote Kerk there is the Catholic Sint-Bonifatiuskerk, which is also worth a visit with its beautiful leaded windows. The whole of the city centre has many beautiful buildings to discover.

How to get to Leeuwarden
The nearest airport is Amsterdam, from which you can go by train directly to Leeuwarden. You can find hotels all over the city: most are located near the main railway station, and from there everything is within walking distance. The climate is mild, with average high temperatures around 20C to 25C (68F to 77F) during the summer months.

The beautiful beaches of Lefkada, a Greek island to cherish

Lefkada is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea, famed for its endless golden beaches and pure emerald waters. It’s the perfect place for a relaxing holiday suitable for families and couples, but also for young people who love the beach life.

The daily temperature during summer is 20C to 26C (68F to 79F),  perfect for any activity: tanning, swimming, sightseeing or yachting.

Besides being a great holiday retreat, the windy coasts and sunny skies create the ideal weather for kiting and boating.

Accommodation
One big advantage is that Lefkada is one of the few islands you can get to by car from mainland Greece, and you’ll need a car because the beaches are located outside of the towns. There are many hotels and apartments throughout the towns, and in the neighbouring villages, offering tourists accommodation at a very affordable price.

Depending on your budget, you can find rooms for a price as low as 25 euros per night in private motels in the villages, or as high as 500 euros per night in the luxurious hotels located along the coastline.

Although most of the hotels are in the cities of Lefkas and Nydri, the beaches are only a 15-minute drive away. However, it can be better to find accommodation in the villages between the towns and the beaches to save on time, since most of the best beaches are in the unpopulated south of the island, whereas the towns are north-east.

Beaches
The coastline of Lefkada is rich in natural splendour, with picturesque beaches and high rocky coasts. One of those beaches is Porto Katsiki, often thought of as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, which attracts millions of tourists throughout the year.

Other beaches like Egremni, Kathisma, and Kavalikefta are renowned for their picture-perfect and breathtaking scenery, with endless golden sand and emerald water.

All the beaches are accessible by car and have their own parking, so renting a car is ideal if you want to visit as many beaches as possible. There are also daily boat cruises you can go on for 25 euros that go around the island and stop at famous tourist locations, beaches, and neighbouring villages.

Sightseeing
Lefkada isn’t all about the beaches. There are many other recreational and historical spots you can go to that will offer you a unique Greek experience. From ancient churches to mountain tops, there is something for everyone’s taste.

One place worth visiting is the Nydri Waterfalls, which you can get to by walking through a green forest, perfect for people who love outdoor hikes and activities.

Like any other place in Greece, the island plays host to many historical sites. The Castle of Santa Maura, a medieval castle located at the entrance of the town, is the go-to place for history-lovers. There are also many caves that were used by the Greeks throughout history, including their use as secret hideaways in wartime to hide submarines.

There are many churches and monasteries across the island, some a few centuries old. These are a great place to meet the locals and find out something more about the island and its history.

Food
Seafood restaurants, tavernas, fusion restaurants, gelaterias, bars: like any other tourist location, the local cities offer a variety of food you can choose from.

The best food is the local food. So, when you visit Lefkada make sure to order yourself a Greek salad, olives, souvlaki, or fish specialities. Then you can experience the true authentic flavours for yourself.