We’re all likely feeling well overdue for a holiday, especially now that travel is back on the cards. 

If you’re anything like me, travelling overseas to see some bands is definitely my idea of the perfect trip. Now I don’t mean finding some concerts to go to when you’ll already be in another country, I usually planning a trip solely based on tour dates or a festival as the main event. 

Since we were all locked down for so long, there’s probably quite a few of you who have never been overseas before, or perhaps you’ve just been away at the wrong time of year for a festival. So I thought it might be fun to list out some of the easier festivals to get to and navigate as an Aussie tourist in Europe.

I’ve left off some of the more obvious and larger festivals from this list, especially those in the UK and other predominantly English speaking countries because they’re pretty easy to handle on your own. 

In no specific order here’s a few festivals that I’ve personally been to that you should totally check out one day if you can!

Graspop Metal Meeting

I’ve written a festival review for Graspop in the past, which you can read here. In a nutshell, Belgium is super easy to get to with a short train trip from Paris or Amsterdam. 

I’m heading to the festival for the 3rd time this year (been in 2016 & 2019) and I usually do a night in either Antwerp or Brussels before & after the festival. From both of these major stations you can just hop on a train to a small city named Mol and the free festival shuttle buses have got you covered from there. You can pre-purchase your train tickets too which take the hassle out of it all on the day.

The Graspop website is full of info in English, French and Dutch – down to the very last detail to plan your trip in advance.

If you don’t want to bring a tent, there are more expensive packages available that include Festitents (rental tents) which are a 0.5km walk to the festival grounds or you can go luxe with a bungalow, cottage or hotel room which is around 15 kms from the site. Otherwise you can join the thousands of fellow metalheads and camp at Boneyard, which is included in the ticket price.

I have found that Graspop is a tad more expensive than the other festivals, but for good reason! I have never once had an issue finding a clean toilet or shower, cold water stations, tasty food to eat and the markets sell everything from gumboots and camping gear through to band merch, gothic homewares, records, alternative fashion and more. 

I’ve been there in the rain, the heat and even one freezing June where I wore literally everything in my backpack and was still so cold I could barely sleep, but I absolutely rate it as the ONLY festival I would camp at these days. Check the weather in advance and plan to bring some suitable clothing for all seasons, a raincoat, a hat, sunnies, some ear plugs to sleep, a real pillow, some hydralite, a small hanging lantern, garbage bags and a refill water bottle.  

Tickets start at € 299 for 4 days of music. Find out more about Graspop Metal Meeting here.

Tuska Festival

You can tell you’re getting older when your favourite festivals don’t really offer a dedicated campsite. Tuska is a 3 day festival right in the heart of Helsinki. I was there in 2012 and 2019 and it’s always a blast to hang out with the Finns and see some incredible bands.

Get a hotel, hostel or airbnb in the city and wherever you stay, you’ll only be a few stops away on a metro line. There’s a shopping mall right near the station, so you can grab a bite or an energy drink to have before you head in if needed, or pick up some sunscreen last minute. 

It’s an outdoor festival, so you’ll definitely need your sunnies and a hat. The great thing is that there’s still quite a few indoor stages and areas to escape to if it’s a warmer summer day. I know we Aussies (Sydneysiders specifically) love our daylight savings, so prepare for the beautiful evenings and sunset at around 10-11pm each night. You can also find a number of after parties around the city to hang out and see some awesome local bands. 

The festival location is at an old energy production area with a cool industrial feel to it, but the floors are concrete/dirt so don’t think you can rock up in thongs (flip flops for any concerned non-Aussies reading this) and have a good time. 

There’s always been a range food and beverages on offer in the festival grounds, so you won’t go hungry or have to wait in crazy long lines. You’ll find a lot of Foster’s beer at Finnish festivals, but don’t judge them for that. Try out the Finnish beers like Karhu (which means bear in Finnish) or be like a local and have a Lonkero (long drink) like Hartwall Original which is like a gin soft drink. Tuska still operates on debit/credit cards so no messing around with tokens or pre-paid wristbands.

Tickets for Tuska are €209 for all 3 days. Find out more about Tuska here.

Into the Grave

Located in Leuuwarden, a quaint Dutch town about 2 and a half hours by train from Amsterdam. It’s everything you could expect from a smaller city in the Netherlands, bicycles everywhere, canals through the city, paved streets and gorgeous old buildings with a mix of quirky fashion stores, restaurants, pubs and fresh grocers. 

This year I’m heading there for the 2nd time, to see some of the finest metal bands over 3 days, although this year I’ll get to experience the full festival and not just one night. In 2018 I was on a tight schedule and stopped in for just one day. It poured and I was soaked to the bone, but I saw Gojira so it was totally with it!

It’s definitely one of the cheaper multi-day festivals out there at only €99 for a stellar line up of international acts and local Dutch bands. You can choose to camp close to the festival for an additional fee or stay at one of the hotels located in the city (just book a few months in advance). 

The whole city comes alive for the festival, with packed bars full of mostly Dutch metalheads amongst the locals. It’s really lovely to see the town out to support a local festival. Personally I find the festival’s Facebook page useful with regular updates about the bands and the festival. Both their page updates and website are in Dutch, so you’ll have to use Google translate for both.

Just about everyone speaks English on the ground in the Netherlands though so don’t worry too much if you can’t speak any Dutch. Like anywhere, just learn how to say thank you, smile lots and be patient and polite. 

I haven’t been back to the Netherlands since 2019, so things may have changed since then but outside of Amsterdam, you can’t always use a foreign credit card everywhere you go. 

Make sure you can access your debit card with a chip in it (still not always guaranteed to work as it’s a foreign card but I could withdraw cash at an ING bank) so always check in local shops in the smaller cities before getting to the register. The bigger department stores like Hema or any other big chain-stores are usually all fine with credit cards. They often have a café or restaurants in them and plenty of fresh food and snacks too.

However the festival is cashless, but from memory I could use my credit card or debit card with no issues. I’m sure I’ll keep you updated after my trip though.

3 day tickets for Into the Grave are €99. Find out more about Into the Grave here.

If you have any questions about the above mentioned festivals, just reach out on Facebook and I’ll see if I can help. 

Now let’s see if I can find some time to write a Part 2 with some other festivals that were a little trickier but were absolutely worth the trouble!

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