There is no shortage of boozy European festivals, like Germany’s famous Oktoberfest and Belgium’s crazy Tomorrowland. But if you’re the kind of person who likes to regularly imbibe while having fun in ridiculous settings, you’re probably forever seeking that under-the-radar festival. You know, the ones that maybe not everyone and their cat has been to.
Fortunately, Europe has plenty of spectacular unknown festivals, too. The kind that will you have wondering, “Is this legal?”
Batalla de Vino, Spain
Ever hear of La Tomatina? The most riotous of European festivals where Spaniards in Buñol run around hurling tomatoes at one another? Well, there’s another festival in the same vein. It’s called Batalla de Vino — and this time, the weapon of choice is red wine.
If you’ve ever woken up with a severe red wine hangover (guilty!), you probably just experienced a special chill of dread up your spine. You can probably still taste it. And here we are in Spain, in the small town of Haro, just dumping buckets of red wine onto people.
Not just buckets, either. Water guns and hoses are other favourite tools. The fight starts before sunrise between June 28-30th. You’ll be completely purple head-to-toe in about 10 minutes flat.
Oerol Festival, Netherlands
Sure, there are already plenty of European festivals geared towards artists and street performers. But how many are held on a small island (Terschelling) in the middle of the Netherlands? And how many stretch on for 10 whole days?
At the Oerol Festival every June, performers from all over the world come together to show off their talents. There’s dance, theatre, music, and everything in between. There are mimes and circus shows. There’s even magic.
And, of course, the nightlife is worth the visit alone. In the evenings, Terschelling transforms into a busy, boozy, happenin’ spot filled with clubs, pubs, and bars. Not bad for an island in the Netherlands, right?
Germany isn’t just about beer, even if Oktoberfest gets all the glory. Last year I had the pleasure of attending Baumblütenfest — a fruit wine festival — in Werder, just outside of Berlin. It takes place every year at the beginning of May.
If you think sugary wines and warm temperatures and day drinking all equal a catastrophic situation, you’re absolutely right! The place is a veritable carnival ground, complete with games, street food, hokey vendors selling all kinds of crap, and homemade fruit wines sold in plastic bottles for 2EUR a pop. Oh, and there are actual carnival rides. Germans seem to love combining nauseating carnival rides with copious amounts of booze.
Baumblütenfest is certainly a local affair, though, and you’ll be sampling a true piece of German culture by attending. Grab a picnic blanket, a few friends, and (duh) several bottles of fruit wine, and settle in for a day of people watching and debauchery.
Beer Floating, Finland
Ah, the Finns. Known for all sorts of delightful oddities, like the recently viral “hobbyhorsing” trend that popped up on the Internet — except, no real horses are actually involved. Just fake ones.
I digress. The Finns are charming people, and their Beer Floating Festival (known as Kaljakellunta) is no exception. It’s literally a massive group of people floating down a river on their respective makeshift rafts or boats, drinking tons of beer.
The festival has been around for almost 20 years and takes place on the rivers of Kerava or Vantaa (near Helsinki). It’s also as relaxed as it sounds — there are no official organizers or fixed dates, and attendees are just kinda expected to connect with one another via social media to figure out the route. What’s not to love? All you need to know is that it takes place at the end of August.
Things you might see on the way: nudity, absurdly constructed rafts made of all materials, and people whipping up meals of all sorts — yes, all while floating.
Las Fallas, Spain
Here we go with the Spaniards again. They sure do love a good fiesta.
Las Fallas takes place every March in Valencia, Spain as a way to welcome the arrival of spring. You’d think that’d mean a quiet festival of harvest and gratitude. Nope. (And thank god for that.)
There’s a whole week of wild celebration, including parades, fireworks at all hours of the day, marching bands at daybreak, and endless partying in the streets. Really, it’s like Valencia is being bizarre for the sake of being bizarre. I love it.
The best part, though? The whole thing culminates with a massive pyrotechnic display. Valencians set fire to over 300 insanely large sculptures (some that are several storeys high), efficiently destroying hundreds of thousands of dollars of artwork.
Well, if you’re gonna go out with a bang, you might as well go out with a bang.