While the cultural offering in many European cities takes a back seat during the hot summer months, dozens of big events lure the crowds as the mercury rises. So where should you be this summer? Our destinations experts tell you which free events you should make a beeline for, and the hot tickets you should get your hands on.
Greenwich & Docklands International Festival (www.festival.org; 24 June-4 July) grabs headlines every year: Oxymer and Sufi: Zen will be fiery spectaculars, while Voala promises us flying dancers…!
Running this year from June 9 to August 1, Shakespeare in the Park is one of New York’s most talked about cultural events and always attracts high wattage stars. This year includes The Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino. Best of all tickets are free www.publictheater.org.
Not an art show but the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition at the Musée du Petit Palais (until 29 August, www.yslretrospective.com). A tribute to the man who invented the Mondrian dress and the dinner jacket for women.
The Sónar festival (17-19 June). This massive electronica festival has plenty to appease mainstream tastes this year, with Roxy Music, the Sugarhill Gang, the Chemical Brothers and Air headlining. See www.sonar.es for the complete line-up.
The opening of Zaha Hadid’s new MAXXI museum, Rome’s first really world-class contemporary building, in the northern suburb of Flaminio. The container is currently more impressive than the modern art and architecture shows it’s designed to house.
Sail 2010. From 19-23 August, Amsterdam's harbour will be filled with 600 vessels, including many spectacular tall ships from around the world. There will be tours of the ships, nautical parades, musical and dance performances, and fireworks over the water. See www.sail2010.nl.
There are rock, jazz, salsa and classical concerts just about every night during the Veranos de la Villa festival in July and August, all either at reasonable prices or free. The line-up includes Eli ‘Paperboy’ Read, Patti Smith, Paco de Lucia and Elvis Costello. More information on www.esmadrid.com.
The Heineken Jammin’ Festival (www.heineken.it) brings top rock names to Venice’s San Giuliano park July 3-6. Massive Attack, Green Day, The Editors and Stereophonics are just a few of the headliners… all this, plus a view over the Venetian lagoon too.
Nice isn’t short of big summer events but a key one is France’s biggest ever dance-floor electro-music thrash. On August 7, the event – called ‘Unighted’ – takes over the Charles Ehrmann stadium to assemble four of Europe’s top DJs and some 40,000 fans for a 10pm-to-dawn bop-a-thon. Details on www.unighted.fr.
Over in Monaco, things are a little more sedate, a lot more expensive but no less glitzy. From July 9 – August 28, the principality’s Sporting Summer Festival will be bringing the likes of Stevie Wonder, Tom Jones, Mika and Mark Knopfler to audiences whose members can afford at least £110 for a drink and the show. If you want the dinner-plus-show package for Sir Elton’s five August concerts, think £380-a-head. Details on www.sportingsummerfestival.com.
Marseille’s sprightliest summer music event could well be the Five Continents Jazz Festival, from July 19-24. Look out for Al Jarreau and Chick Corea in the Palais de Longchamps gardens. (www.festivel-jazz-cinq-continents.com). Unexpectedly, St Tropez’s two headline summer events are exhibitions. Crowds will, I suspect, be denser for the show dedicated to local lass Brigitte Bardot (Espace Rendezvous-des-Lices, June 23-Oct 31) than for Modigliani at the Annonciade museum (July 3-October 31).
Neither, though, will attract the throngs which pack the Croisette for Cannes’ major fireworks festival, the most dramatically sparkling way of spending an evening on the Côte-d’Azur. And there are six such evenings, on dates from July 14 to August 24. Stationed off-shore, Europe’s finest fireworks companies drown the night with exploding light, to the accompaniment of appropriate music belting out along the sea-front. Have a look at www.festival-pyrotechnique-cannes.com for a foretaste.