With the arrival of summer, a string of large-scale art and music festivals are being staged across Europe. Here, we highlight six worth traveling for.
Europe’s summer arts festivals.
The 57th edition of the Venice Biennale ( until Nov. 26; labiennale.org) is an unmistakable high point of the global art calendar. Apart from a slew of pavilions in the leafy grounds of the Giardini and the Arsenale—the sprawling complex where the Venetian republic churned out its famous war galleys—the city blooms with all manner of exhibitions and installations. These include barnacle-encrusted sculptures by Damien Hirst at Palazzo Grassi and the old customs house, along with a 20-meterhigh golden tower by late American artist James Lee Byars in Dorsoduro’s Campo San Vio.
Amsterdam’s Holland Festival ( June 3–25; hollandfestival.nl) may be the Netherlands’ oldest performing arts spectacle, but it remains deeply topical, with several artists spotlighting problems faced by Western democracies. Perhaps more alluring is this edition’s special focus on contemporary music from Indonesia, expressing the creativity of its modern composers in Ruang Suara, and giving festival-goers a taste of Indonesian nightlife with musical collective Jogja Noise Bombing, Javanese experimental duo Senyawa, and Kande, a band that combines classic Islamic percussion with Western guitars and Acehnese vocals.
Classical performers flock to Andalusia each summer for the Granada International Festival of Music and Dance ( June 23– July 14; granadafestival.org). Among its many visual and aural delights, visitors can soak up sacred music performed in the exuberantly decorated Monastery of St. Jerome, tributes to early Baroque composer Claudio Monteverdi in the Alhambra’s Court of the Myrtles, and ballet choreographed to the sounds of Pink Floyd at the nearby gardens of Generalife.
The UNESCO-inscribed old town of Valletta makes a fitting backdrop for the Malta International Arts Festival ( June 23–July 15; maltaartsfestival .org). This year, Renzo Piano’s open-air theater within the reconstituted ruins of the Royal Opera House will host contemporary Japanese taiko drumming and Maltese cabaret, visitors can catch a flamenco performance at Fort St. Elmo, while eight interactive swings on St. George’s Square invite the public to create a musical dialogue of their own.
Opera-lovers should head to the country’s sun-drenched south for Festival d’Aix-en-Provence ( July 3–22; festival-aix.com), an annual extravaganza held in its namesake historic city. Apart from an enticing array of master classes, concerts, and recitals, expect renditions of opera classics ranging from Carmen’s Bizet and Mozart’s Don Giovanni to the Tchaikovsky libretto Eugene Onegin, based off the novel by Alexander Pushkin.
The Copenhagen Jazz Festival ( July 7–16; jazz.dk) has been a highlight of the Danish capital’s summer calendar since 1979. For 10 days, around 1,000 concerts envelop the city in a cloud of jazz, with venues running the gamut from the neo-futurist Copenhagen Opera House to cafés and open-air stages in parks, squares, and right along the harbor front. The event attracts top-tier jazz talent from abroad as well as leading artists from the thriving local scene.
Inside the Venice Biennale’s Azerbaijan Pavilion. Left: A concert at the Jazzhouse club, a popular venue for the Copenhagen Jazz Festival.