Ten underrated music festivals worth travelling to this summer, from Morocco to Malta

Seasonal calendar in Europe and North Africa is packed with events across various genres

Nigerian Afro-pop stars P-Square are one of the many international acts who performed at Mawazine. The Moroccan music festival returns to Rabat this year after a five year hiatus. AFP
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With one of the world's largest music festivals returning after a five-year hiatus, this summer is packed with offerings to suit all musical tastes – and it is not all about the UK’s Glastonbury or Spain’s Primavera.

From Afrobeats in a coastal town in Portugal and dance music in an 18th century fortress in Serbia, to hard rock in a former coal mine in the Czech Republic, there is something for everyone out there.

Here are 10 underrated European and North African festivals worth checking out this summer.

Jazzablanca: June 6 to 8

Where: Casablanca, Morocco

Headliners: Paolo Nutini, Kokoroko, James Blunt and Zucchero

Why go? Held in a sprawling public park that was formerly an airport, Jazzablanca is a festival where the vibes are as appealing as the electric line-up. Featuring two stages, with the minor one dedicated to western and North African jazz and the main home to popular acts, the festival is a foodie hub with plenty of trucks and tranquil picnic spots. Come for the music and stay for the atmosphere.


Mawazine: June 21 to 29

Where: Rabat, Morocco

Headliners: Kylie Minogue, Najwa Karam, Ateez, Metro Boomin and Camila Cabello

Why go? Returning after a five-year hiatus, North Africa's biggest music festival returns with a bumper line-up of regional and international stars. Held in various venues across the Moroccan capital, Mawazine is a perfect opportunity to explore Rabat’s various neighbourhoods. Best part of all, most concerts are free to the public. Expect crowds nearing 50,000 for concerts on the main stages.


Afro Nation: June 26 to 28

Where: Algarve, Portugal

Headliners: Nicki Minaj, Rema, Asake and Tyla

Why go?: Over a space of only five years, Afro Nation has not only become the premiere festival for Afropop and Afrobeats, but has also extended its reach with events in North and South America. However, it is the original edition in a Portuguese coastal city that continues to bring out the genre's biggest stars.


Open’er: July 3 to 6

Where: Gdynia, Poland

Headliners: Foo Fighters, Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, Air and Michael Kiwanuka

Why go? Located in the port city on the Baltic coast, Open’er has one of the best artist line-ups in the European summer circuit. The dynamic programme has further gems like US grunge queen Kim Gordon and French electronic duo Air performing their classic album Moon Safari.


Exit Festival: July 7 to 12

Where: Novi Sad, Serbia

Headliners: Gucci Mane, Black Eyed Peas, Carl Cox and Tom Morello

Why go? You won’t know where to look at this mega festival, with the action taking place in an 18th-century Petrovaradin Fortress. More than 100 artists will perform across two dozen stages located on moats, trenches and tunnels.


The North Sea Jazz Festival: July 12 to 14

Where: Rotterdam, Netherlands

Headliners: Andre 3000, Jessie Ware, Vincent Amigo and Cecile McLorin Salvant

Why go? Two years away from its 50th anniversary, one of Europe's premiere jazz festivals is renowned for a meticulous programme encompassing various sub genres from bebop and big-band to fusion and swing. Spread across 15 stages featuring over 1,000 musicians, the North Sea Jazz Festival is a bucket list item for serious jazz aficionados.


Colours of Ostrava: July 17 to 20

Where: Ostravia, Czech Republic

Headliners: Lenny Kravitz, Queen of the Stone Age, Sean Paul and Zara Larsson

Why go? In addition to being an epic music festival with 19 stages, this event is also home to film screenings, theatre performances and art workshops. Set in a former coal mine and ironworks site, the festival has clock towers on site which can be climbed for the ultimate selfie.


Untold: August 8 to 11

Where: Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Headliners: Burna Boy, Swedish House Mafia, Martin Garrix and Sam Smith

Why go? Fresh from its international launch in Dubai in February, Untold returns to the luscious greenery of camping grounds in Romania. Nearly half a million people attend each year, so expect a packed 24-hour line-up of performances across multiple stages.


Sziget Festival: August 10 to 15

Where: Budapest, Hungary

Headliners: Stormzy, Martin Garrix, Janelle Monae, Halsey and Skrillex

Why go? Eastern Europe’s answer to the UK's Glastonbury Festival, the mammoth festival features nearly 60 stages on Obuda Island on the Danube River. With festival boats ferrying revellers to and from the mainland, Sziget features hundreds of artists ranging from pop stars to theatre troupes and acrobats.


Malta Weekender: September 19 to 22

Where: St Paul’s Bay, Malta

Headliners: Liam Gallagher, Liam Fray, The Blossoms, Jake Bugg and David Morales

Why go? With Britpop rocker Liam Gallagher curating, expect some of the UK's finest guitar-based acts to perform on the coastal venue. After the live performances, a flurry of DJs will take the stage performing sets and paying tribute to Manchester's former super club The Hacienda.


Updated: May 17, 2024, 6:02 PM