Scandinavia on the Rocks: Seven Music Festivals to Explore in the Far North
One perk of visiting Northern Europe in the summer? Nordic festival season. Travelers who have visited the capitol cities before can use a festival as an excuse to visit smaller locales like Malmö, Sweden or Skanderborg, Denmark, where visitors can check out live bands (including names as big as Beck and Florence + the Machine), street art, and pop-up restaurants.
Here are seven festivals to use as gateways to exploring Scandinavia, Finland, and beyond:
Malmöfestivalen in Malmö, Sweden, August 14-21
Every year the southern Swedish city of Malmö turns into one giant party for Malmöfestivalen. The arts, culture, and music festival has been going strong since 1985 and attracts 1.4 million visitors ready to take part in the festivities. Because it’s the largest festival in Scandinavia, activities aren’t contained to just one location, but spill onto the streets with free concerts, street art, dancing, livefood tents, and much more. While the festival alone is undoubtedly worth the trip, adding to the allure is that almost all of the events are free.
Øya Festival in Oslo, Norway, August 11-15
Øya Festival is a well-curated gem in a beautiful setting. In 2014 the festival moved to Tøyenparken, which also houses the must-see Munch Museum and the University of Oslo’s Botanical Garden. The festival’s four stages are filled with a diverse line-up of big name draws (Beck, Florence + the Machine, and Chic are all on this year’s bill) as well as smaller buzz bands, and local Norwegian acts. If smaller clubs are more your scene, Øya also sponsors a club night with concerts spread out over 30 venues across the city.
Flow Festival in Helsinki, Finland, August 14-16
Heading into its 12th year, Flow Festival has refined the art of the festival to include top-notch music, innovative art, and a dazzling array of food, including pop-up restaurants, on-site cocktail bars, and craft espresso purveyors. Held in the former Suvilahti Power Plant, Flow has teamed up with the University of Helsinki to help redefine the urban space with cutting-edge visual art and installation pieces. In addition, there’s a musical line-up that features acts like Pet Shop Boys, Major Lazer, Run the Jewels, and Florence + the Machine along with a host of rising stars, like Shamir, Foxygen, and Natalie Prass, and a whole stage dedicated to locally-sourced Finnish bands.
Smuk Festival in Skanderborg, Denmark, August 5-9
Explore Denmark’s Jutland and enjoy a musical line-up that include Beck, Avicii, Future Islands, La Roux and many more at this Danish festival. While less well-known than it’s bigger cousin, the Roskilde festival, SmukFest was named Denmark’s Most Beautiful Festival. Each year, the eco-minded, non-profit celebration takes over a forest outside of the lakeside city of Skanderborg for four days of international sounds, family-friendly activities, and more.
Way Out West in Gothenburg, Sweden, August 13-15
Way Out West is a festival for grown-ups who would never consider camping their way through Bonnaroo or Glastonbury. Held in Gothenburg’s largest park, Slottskogen, near the botanical garden, there’s no crowd surfing allowed, the food is all vegetarian, recycling and litter pick-up is strongly encouraged and alcohol consumption is limited to separate areas (don’t worry you can still see the stage). Just Way Out West’s 30,000 attendees are on their best behavior, doesn’t mean this festival isn’t fun—far from it. This year’s line up includes Belle & Sebastian, Alt-J, Patti Smith, and Sturgill Simpson along with 100 artists and 25 films, meaning there is something for everyone.
Oslo Jazz Festival in Oslo, Norway, August 10-15
If you’re more interested in Gregory Porter than Porter Robinson, Oslo Jazz Festival has been bringing jazz to Norway’s capitol city for more than 25 years. This year, listen in as local Norwegian jazz singers team up with world-renowned musicians, catch jazz legend Herbie Hancock in action, and see Nigerian drummer and bandleader Tony Allen infuse jazz into Afrobeat rhythms.
Modern Sky in Helsinki, Finland, August 28-29
This festival started far from Finland, in China and fittingly promises to showcase Asian and Nordic art, food, culture, and music. The two-day festival will take over one of Helsinki’s oldest shipyards and has a diverse line-up including Chinese rock acts like Hedgehog and Nova Hart, buzzy indie bands from around the world, and a homecoming for artist Jaako Eino Kalevi, who used to work as a tram driver in Helsinki. If you can’t make it to Helsinki, Modern Sky Festival is also expanding to New York and Seattle.