The 20 Best Music Festivals in the UK
The United Kingdom is home to some of the greatest music festivals in the world. No matter what music or festival vibe you’re into, you’re likely to find something you love here!
From the iconic Glastonbury to the exciting Wilderness Festival, you can find the 20 best music events in the country below. Please keep in mind that this is a subjective list.
1. Glastonbury Festival
When: June (five days)
It started in 1970 as a “Pop, Blues & Folk Festival” and has since transformed into one of the most iconic music experiences on the planet. The Glastonbury Festival is one of the top music festivals in the world and surely one of the best in the United Kingdom. In addition to dreamy lineups featuring the best pop and rock acts of the hour, Glastonbury hosts comedy, circus, dance, and theatre performances.
The Glastonbury Festival embodies the revolutionary spirit of the 60s and is attended by around 200K festivalgoers annually. More than a music event, Glastonbury is now as unavoidably British as the Yorkshire pudding. Founded by the English dairy farmer Michael Eavis, it’s run by a staff of (mainly) volunteer workers and helps to raise millions of pounds for charity year after year.
2. BBC Proms
When: July to September (eight weeks)
While not all people remember the great British Empire fondly (not even in the United Kingdom), it’s undeniable that the BBC Proms is one of the best things to come out of 18th-century Britain. While The Proms tradition only started in 1895, promenade concerts have been part of London’s culture for more than three centuries now.
Currently organized by BBC, The Proms are a major summer music event held primarily at the lavish Royal Albert Hall, in London. What sets this eight-week festival apart, though, is the fact that most paid concerts cost less than 10 pounds and that there are plenty of free activities to enjoy. Even though BBC Proms was once described as “the most democratic” music festival in the world, its lineup is mainly composed of erudite jazz and classical-music superstars.
3. Isle of Wight Festival
Isle of Wight, England
When: June (four days)
The Isle of Wight is the largest island in England, and it sure looks like the center of the world whenever the iconic Isle of Wight Festival is taking place. This classic British summer event was founded in 1968 and attended by a record 700K music fans in 1970. Sadly, it was canceled for decades following that landmark edition, only to make a striking return in 2002.
The Isle of Wight continued to be a hit after being revived mainly thanks to its ambitious lineups, featuring some of the most beloved pop-rock artists of all time. But there’s more than music to this historic rock festival. Attendants also get to enjoy a great vibe, comfortable boutique camping, and luxury toilets and showers.
4. All Points East
When: May to June or August (10 days)
The United Kingdom has an old and proud history, but there’s always room for something new. All Points East is a London music festival that was only founded in 2018 but has already made history and gotten the attention of up to 40K festivalgoers. Held at beautiful Victoria Park, it’s one of Britain’s top music festivals because of its finely-curated lineup and inclusive “In the Neighborhood” community activities.
The paid events are normally held during two consecutive weekends, but there are up to four days of free activities for every music fan to enjoy. A UK Festival Awards Line-Up of the Year winner, All Points East offers a new hip, alternative-minded, and exciting music experience.
5. BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend
Various locations across the United Kingdom
When: May (three days)
The guys at BBC sure know how to put together a fun music festival. While BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend is nothing like BBC Proms (it’s way more focused on popular genres such as pop, rock, and hip-hop), it sure boasts the same democratic, free-for-all, and inclusive vibe. Even though it is now a ticketed event, BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend was once Europe’s largest free music event.
What makes this unique music festival even more inclusive is the fact that it’s held across various locations in the United Kingdom. Its lineup never misses to include chart-topping artists who perform in English, Scottish, Welsh, and Northern-Irish venues such as Preston’s Moor Park, Glasgow’s George Square, and Derry’s Ebrington Square.
6. Leeds Festival
When: August (three days)
The Leeds Festival is a historic British music event that only has one major flaw: it happens at the same time the Reading Festival, its “big brother,” is taking place. Developed by Festival Republic, the same production company that runs the aforementioned Reading Festival, Leeds Festival has been a festivalgoer’s favorite since 1999 and was enthusiastically attended by up to 75K music fans.
The inaugural edition of the Leeds Festival was tainted by a few violent incidents and riots, but it has since transformed into a safe and family-friendly event. The festival is probably not ideal for young children, but it has a welcoming vibe to match its massive arena and star-filled lineups.
7. Reading Festival
When: August (three days)
It’s the previously-cited “big brother” of the massively popular Leeds Festival, and it’s an even bigger and older British tradition. Before becoming known as Reading Festival, this three-day summer event was held at Richmond Athletic Ground and was called the National Jazz Festival. However, it didn’t take long before its lineup was more centered around rock and R&B acts than jazz music.
Considering that the inaugural edition of the Reading Festival took place in 1955, there’s no denying that it is one of the most established and quintessential music events in the United Kingdom. With a record attendance of 105K, this classic British festival is also extremely eclectic, featuring superstars from genres as disparate as rock, hip-hop, punk music, and even metal.
When: June (two days)
Parklife is a music festival that takes place in Manchester, lasts two days, and doesn’t allow for camping. All things considered, it sounds like an underwhelming cultural event. So, why does it attract up to 82K music fans to the idyllic Heaton Park every year since 2010? What is it that makes it one of the 10 best music festivals in the United Kingdom?
For one, it’s deeply embroiled in Manchester’s nightlife, mainly due to the collaboration of a local club-nights promoter called The Warehouse Project. In addition, it never fails to present an attractive lineup, often featuring major electronic-music acts that should please any old and new Mancunian raver. Finally, there’s the vibe… While Parklife once had a dubious reputation in the Manchester area, it has since picked up some steam, meaning that the best may yet come.
9. The Cambridge Club Festival
When: June (three days)
Don’t get fooled by its seemingly posh name: The Cambridge Club Festival is as welcoming as any other music festival, and it may well be the funkiest music event in the United Kingdom. Based on the motto “Dance. Disco. Discover,” this three-day experience is all about making crowds dance to the groovy tunes of the best funk, soul, disco, and house-music acts around.
If moving your hips to the sound of an irresistible bassline is your idea of a perfect music festival, you should buy a ticket to The Cambridge Club Festival as soon as possible! In addition to funky music, the event features a paddock & clubhouse for premium members, comedy shows and talks, plenty of great food, and a few exclusive activities for campers.
10. Wilderness Festival
When: August (four days)
You only have to watch the first five seconds of the Wilderness Festival film to realize that it’s hardly a typical British cultural event. Every August, the centuries-old Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire is home to one of the most welcoming, unexpected, and inspiring music festivals in the United Kingdom. But what is it that makes it so special?
Part of what makes Wilderness Festival so great is the fact that its organizers pay as much attention to stuff like food, accommodation, and alternative attractions as they do to the main lineup. For that reason, Wilderness Festival can be described as more than a music event: it’s an all-around art experience, with plenty of great performers to see while dancing, dining, and even relaxing at the spa.
11. Secret Garden Party
Abbots Ripton, England
When: July (four days)
The suggestively named Secret Garden Party (SGP) is a music festival unlike any other in the United Kingdom. The receiver of multiple Best Small-Festival awards at the UK Festival Awards, SGP takes place every July in the idyllic Cambridgeshire village of Abbots Ripton. Don’t expect a posh “Downton Abbey”-like experience, though: this is a festival with incredible alternative-music lineups that was once held in honor of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and debauchery.
With up to 15 stages and an attendance of around 35K people, SGP happened continuously between 2002 and 2017, when it was canceled. Luckily, it made a striking return a few years later, in 2022. At the time, the 20K tickets put on sale sold out in less than 20 minutes, so don’t think twice before joining the party.
12. Latitude Festival
When: July (four days)
Remember the twin festivals of Leeds and Reading? The production company behind them, Festival Republic, is also responsible for organizing Suffolk’s Latitude Festival every year since 2006. Even though it takes place in Henham Park, a historic 4,200-acre estate, Latitude Festival is similar to most city festivals, featuring four stages of finely-curated artists that are ideally suited for indie music fans.
In addition to the huge Obelisk Arena and BBC Sounds Arena, Latitude Festival has two other major venues and a series of non-musical attractions for its 35K attendants to enjoy. These include theatre, art, comedy, poetry, cabaret, and even political side events.
13. TRNSMT Festival
When: July (three days)
Every Glaswegian knows that TRNSMT Festival is the best summer event in town. One of the leading music festivals in the United Kingdom (and one of the few hosted outside of England), the TRNSMT Festival is organized by DF Concerts and has been a favorite since its inaugural edition, in 2017. That same year, it was named Best New Festival at the UK Festival Awards and enthusiastically visited by an impressive crowd of 120K music fans.
TRNSMT Festival’s very-first edition was hard to beat, but the event continued to push the envelope in subsequent years. The lineup is always top quality and features at least two or three major headlining pop, rock, and hip-hop acts. The vibe is also amazing, partly because Scotland, as stated on TRNSMT Festival’s official website, is “a country already renowned for having the best audiences in the world.”
14. BST Hyde Park
When: July (10 days)
Music festivals in the United Kingdom don’t get any more mainstream than British Summer Time (BST), which takes place annually in London’s massive Hyde Park. But that’s hardly a bad thing… After all, BST Hyde Park’s lineup is as mainstream as it is top-quality, featuring the world’s most popular rock, pop, and even K-Pop artists. It’s the perfect British event for watching that band you’ve always wanted to see and having fun with the entire family.
In addition to music, BST Hyde Park is a festival with a lot of community-focused activities that generally take place over three consecutive summer weekends (lasting a total of 10 days). Despite the grandiose lineup, the festival’s capacity usually sits under 70K.
15. Creamfields North
When: August (three days)
The United Kingdom is the land of rock, but there are plenty of electronic dance music fans in Old Blighty. For those who would rather move their feet to a four-on-the-floor kick than bang their heads to a guitar riff, Creamfields North is the best available option. Often regarded as Britain’s most prestigious dance-music festival, this three-day late summer event exists since 1998 and has been a Daresbury classic since 2006.
It all started when the guys running the Liverpool nightclub Cream decided to make a special one-day event for electronic dance music fans in the late 90s. After getting the attention of 25K ravers on the first edition, Creamfields North transformed into a four-day EDM bonanza with an attendance of around 70K. It was known merely as Creamfields until 2022 when Cream created a second festival called Creamfields South.
16. Boundary Brighton
When: September (one day)
Why is a one-day electronic dance music festival from Brighton one of the 20 best music festivals in the United Kingdom? According to the people who’ve been there, it makes for a “well-organized” festival with “great vibes” and that’s “great value for money considering the quality of acts/performances.” If being a raver is in your blood, you cannot miss this super special experience.
Boundary Brighton may only last one day, but it’s as intense as it is short. The perfect music festival for people who love to dance until sunrise, it features an eclectic lineup selected by a few famous curators, including (among others) Brighton’s number-one music venue, SuperCharged.
17. Download Festival
When: June (five days)
A Leicestershire classic, the famous Download Festival is all about heavy rock music. A five-day event that takes place annually in June (apart from the first edition, which started on May 2003), Download Festival has been presenting British rock fans with high-quality lineups for about two decades now. If you like to bang your head to catchy riffs that make your bones shake, this is the festival for you!
While Download Festival takes place at the Donington Park motorsport circuit, it’s probably the fastest thing that’s ever hit the area. Attended by over 100K people, it was probably visited by your favorite heavy rock band at least once or twice in the past. The festival is so popular that it extended outside of the United Kingdom, with editions in Paris (France), Sydney, and Melbourne (Australia).
18. Boardmasters Festival
When: August (five days)
Does summer even feel like summer if you don’t go to the beach? Every August since 1981, the inhabitants of seaside Newquay, Cornwall, are visited by more than 50K fans of music, surfing, and skateboarding. Combining all the excitement of live music and sports, the Boardmasters Festival is arguably one of the oldest and most renowned events of its type in Europe.
It started in the early 80s as a surf competition and became a music festival in 2005. Managed by Vision Nine Group, it’s been a hit among Brits and foreigners ever since. Its lineup is mainly comprised of popular alternative rock, hip-hop, and electronic music artists.
19. Camp Bestival
When: July (four days)
Once known just as Bestival, Camp Bestival is one of the most family-friendly music festivals in the United Kingdom. While large live-music events aren’t always the best place to take your kids, they will be more than entertained at Camp Bestival, which features lots of attractions specifically designed for children. Don’t worry, though: adults will feel at home as well!
Camp Bestival is a music festival with a unique vibe and a few particularities that you won’t find anywhere else. Did you know, for example, that they once broke the Guinness World Record for the largest Disco dance in the world? Camping is also a big plus, with many options available including premium camping.
20. Sundown Festival
When: September (three days)
Norwich’s Royal Norfolk Showground hosts a lot of local food and drink events. But every September, it opens its doors to crowds of enthusiastic partygoers. One of the best events in the United Kingdom to have fun with friends, the Sundown Festival arrived just in time to make it to the list of 20 best music festivals in the United Kingdom.
The perfect music festival for people who like to live “young, wild, and free,” Sundown Festival features a lineup that’s a combination of mainstream pop acts, renowned electronic music DJs, and up-and-coming artists. If you’re curious about what the vibe’s like, their Instagram page is quite enlightening.
While it wouldn’t be fair to call the United Kingdom the music capital of the world (music is loved and cherished pretty much everywhere), there’s no denying that the country has produced some of the finest music artists of all time. When it comes to music festivals, the very same principle applies.
While it’s tempting to think “Glastonbury!” whenever British music festivals are mentioned, there’s plenty more to see in the United Kingdom, including some pretty special small-festival experiences. I hope this list can serve as a useful guide for music fans both in and outside of the country.