Le Voyage à Nantes, France
A summer programme designed to transform the city, Voyage à Nantes creates a cultural trail across more than 50 historical and modern sites. The 13km route, which lasts for the two-month period of the festival, includes work from artists, architects, designers and gardeners, with architect Collectif Mit creating a beach resort on the banks of the river Loire and giant puppet shows (including a four-storey-tall elephant) in the former shipyards.
• 1 July-27 August, admission mostly free, some events ticketed, levoyageanantes.fr
Galway international arts festival, Ireland
Taking place throughout the second half of July, this festival brings leading artists and companies from around the world to create a buzzing programme of events and collaborations. This year, GIAF celebrates its 40th anniversary. Among the highlights of what will be its biggest year to date is the world premiere of new opera The Second Violinist by Donnacha Dennehy and Enda Walsh; theatre and dance productions from the Old Vic and Kneehigh; as well as street art, visual arts and music including Brian Wilson performing the Beach Boys’ celebrated Pet Sounds album.
• 17-30 July, prices vary, giaf.ie
Grec festival de Barcelona, Spain
The Catalan capital is already a city with more culture than the average visitor could ever enjoy. This reaches new heights when Grec festival is in action, hosting theatre, dance, music and circus, as well as plenty of family events, at a growing number of locations across the city, led by the Teatre Grec – a huge open-air theatre on Mounjuïc mountain.
• Until the end of July, prices vary, lameva.barcelona.cat/grec
Sounds of the Dolomites, Italy
While most of Europe’s arts festivals take place in its cities, this unique event sees a programme of music taking place in the incredible setting of the Dolomites around the province of Trentino. The intimate concerts allow the audience to get up close to some of the world’s best musicians, with performances including a series dedicated to the Brenta Dolomites by Italian cellist Mario Brunello and the Kremerata Baltica chamber orchestra. All events – some of which are reached via cable car and all of which require a spot of walking – feature some of the most stunning backdrops imaginable.
• 7 July-31 August, admission mostly free, some events ticketed, isuonidelledolomiti.it
Tanz im August, Germany
A cutting-edge festival celebrating Berlin as a global dance city, Tanz im August brings together world premieres and new works from leading dancers and choreographers, with performances ranging from flamenco to butoh, ballet to contemporary performance. This year, the festival will open with Kalakuta Republik, a dance piece inspired by the Nigerian music star Fela Kuti, which explores the connections between politics and art; while the work of Spanish choreographer La Ribot will be celebrated with a retrospective including live performances and video work.
• 11 August-2 September, prices vary, tanzimaugust.de
Gothenburg culture festival, Sweden
With more than 1,000 events, activities and performances, the Gothenburg culture festival sees the city taken over by opera, street theatre, music and carnival. It’s ideal for a family visit, as there’s also a buzzing children’s culture festival, held at the Garden Society, with a circus tent, art space and area dedicated to film and animation.
• 16-20 August, free, goteborgskulturkalas.se
Helsinki festival, Finland
Finland’s largest arts festival brings together a rich programme of culture, from classical music to circus, dance to cinema, with many smaller festivals falling under its banner. This year it includes everything from a concert with Stax Records soul veteran William Bell, the Helsinki comics festival – the largest in northern Europe – and a programme of puppet theatre under the banner Sampo 2017.
• 17 August-3 September, prices vary, helsinginjuhlaviikot.fi
Letní Letná festival of new circus and theatre, Czech Republic
A circus festival is always going to be fun, so it’s no surprise that more than 40,000 people attend this annual event in Prague, which sees the city taken over by acrobatics, juggling, contemporary clowning and countless other circus-related art forms. Headline shows include the Canadian Cirque Alfonse, giving circus production a lumberjack twist, and French-Belgian company Collectif Malunés, which weaves acrobatics through a fantasy world of deconstructed fairytales.
• 17 August-3 September, prices vary, letniletna.cz
La Bâtie, Switzerland
A huge multi-arts festival in Geneva, La Bâtie brings together a programme ranging from concerts to dance shows, theatre to electronic music, hosting shows from international artists in unusual locations in the city, as well as its key venues. This year features a celebration of the 20th anniversary of radical theatre company L’Alakran, a concert by Kentucky “folk goldsmith” Joan Shelley, and a house and techno night with Moritz von Oswald.
• 1-16 September, prices vary, batie.ch
Ghent festival, Belgium
One of the largest cultural festivals in Europe, the Ghent festival incorporates six international festivals that take place in the city over 10 days. These include alt-music festival Boomtown, the Miramiro circus and theatre festival, and the Gent jazz festival (6-15 July). Among all this are 14 free concert venues around the city, meaning you can easily dip your toe into a bit of everything.
• 14-23 July, prices vary, gentsefeesten.stad.gent