Best European Jazz Festivals

Some of the best jazz festivals in the world can be found in Europe, and many are right on our doorstep. Jazz music has seen a considerable revival across all age groups, with thanks to Jamie Cullum and many more helping to make the genre more popular to a wider audience.

Jazz music is a genre which spans all age groups and appeals to casual listeners, through to seasoned jazz aficionados. Many enjoy travelling far and wide to experience their favourite artists, whilst indulging in the festivities of a different culture.
So, whether you’re a fan of Glen Miller, Miles Davis, or you simply want to enjoy the atmosphere and culture, here are our top ten jazz festival picks to experience across Europe.

Copenhagen Jazz Festival (Denmark)

Copenhagen Jazz Festival
Caetano Veloso & Gilberto Gil, DR Koncerthuset. Foto: Kristoffer Juel Poulsen

Lasting ten days throughout July, the Copenhagen Jazz Festival has been heralded as one of the biggest and best jazz festivals in the world since 1979. With more than a thousand concerts across more than a hundred stages, there is something for everybody in the Danish capital. The concerts take place all over the city in bars, restaurants, concert halls and on purpose built stages.
The festival attracts more than 250,000 visitors each year and has welcomed prestigious acts such as Tony Bennett, Gilberto Gil, Herbie Hancock, and Chick Corea to name just a few. Whether you love traditional or freeform jazz, there are acts to cover all styles. You can also explore the city and take in the local culture whilst you listen to some of the finest acts from across the world.
Admission costs can vary and are dependent on the venue and artist. However, there are hundreds of free acts across the city, so you are never far away from the action. See the Copenhagen Jazz Festival website for more details.

Jazzahead (Germany)

jazzahead_clubnight_Lagerhaus ©Wolf

Held in Bremen for the last eight years, Jazzahead holds over 110 concerts across more than 30 stages throughout the city. The festival is considered to be a meeting point for some of the biggest names in jazz. Whilst it is mainly a trade fair, there is a broad programme that covers showcase concerts, visual arts, exhibitions and various cultural events across the city.
Attracting more than 16,000 visitors every year, the festival is famous for its global appeal in which it attracts businesses, acts and labels from across the world. It has also become a go-to event for the public, largely due to its cultural programme that spans a lengthy two and a half weeks throughout April.
You can also explore the sights, smells and sounds of Bremen. The city’s famous cathedral is a focal point and is situated near the market square. Bremen has a long-standing tradition of organ music and the cathedral has five organs in different areas of the property. There are also many museums to explore, such as the Kunsthalle and the Weserburg Modern Art Museum.
Ticket prices vary depending on whether you plan to go for a day or a whole weekend. For more information, head to this page of the Jazzahead website.

Bohemia JazzFest (Czech Republic)

Image courtesy of Bohemia JazzFest

Held in multiple cities across the Czech Republic, Bohemia JazzFest is a real gem for any jazz enthusiast. After its introduction in 2006 by accomplished jazz guitarist, Rudy Linka, the festival has become one of the largest festivals in Europe, with over 70,000 visitors attending every year.
The festival’s locations are incredible – the Old Town Square in Prague being the biggest. These beautiful backdrops can provide an unforgettable experience. You can also indulge in a bit of city exploration and take in some of the local culture.
Past performers across the different cities have included Larry Carlton, Roy Haynes and Stanley Clarke.
All of the concerts are free of charge, so you can relax, sit back, and enjoy the entertainment courtesy of the festival.
For more information, head to the Bohemia JazzFest website.

North Sea Jazz Festival (Netherlands)

North Sea Festival
Image courtesy of North Sea Festival

The North Sea Jazz Festival, held in Rotterdam, is considered to be one of the most prestigious jazz festivals in the world. The first installment took place in 1976 and it has grown significantly since, attracting up to 70,000 visitors ever year throughout the second weekend in July.
The festival covers a wide range of musical genres including blues, soul, pop, jazz, hip-hop, world music and many more.  This year’s line-up is incredibly diverse and features major artists such as Simply Red, Gregory Porter, Buddy Guy, Level 42 and Joe Bonamassa. You may even wish to explore the cultural delights of Rotterdam. The city is known for its historic architecture, as well as its museums and well-connected travel links. At Leger, we host a number of trips to the Netherlands which include visits to Amsterdam and Valkenburg.
Whilst weekend tickets have already sold out for the 2016 event, single day tickets are still available. More information can be found at the North Sea Festival website.

Montreux Jazz Festival (Switzerland)

©2015 FFJM Vincent Baily

Montreux is by far one of the biggest and most prestigious music festivals in the world. Created in 1967, the festival runs during the first two weeks of July, and whilst jazz and blues are at the roots of the event, other styles are present including rock, pop and soul.
Some of the most important live performances in the world were recorded at Montreux. These include performances from Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, David Bowie, and Stevie Wonder.
Situated on the shore of Lake Geneva, the festival attracts up to 250,000 visitors across all ages. A number of events are ticketed, but there are also hundreds of free events which run throughout the two-week period.
This year’s festival sees Muse headlining, alongside a jam-packed bill which will be released on April 14th.
Switzerland is an incredible country to explore. From alpine skiing to summertime railway adventures, there are so many different areas of the country to witness.

XJAZZ Festival (Germany)

XJAZZ Festival ©Brand und Albrecht

XJAZZ is a very different kind of jazz festival which crosses every kind of style associated with the genre. Today’s understanding of the term “jazz” has become widely developed from its traditional meaning. XJAZZ incorporates contemporary styles such as soul, electronic, funk, and classical amongst many other genres, in an aim to cross musical and cultural boundaries.
The festival is based in Berlin and takes place from 5th – 8th May. The local music scene is pivotal to the festival’s philosophy, and approximately 70% of the line-up consists of local artists.  XJAZZ maintains its intimacy yet it has an international feel which attracts visitors from across the world.
Image courtesy of Brand & AlbrechtBerlin is rich in cultural history and is a perfect tourist destination to visit.
At Leger, we host a number of trips to the city in which we visit major attractions, including the Christmas markets and the Brandenburg Gate.

Umbria Jazz (Italy)

Image courtesy of Umbria Jazz

Introduced in Perugia in 1973, Umbria Jazz Festival is one of the biggest music festivals in Italy. Held during the 8th – 17th July, this year the festival welcomes Mika, George Clinton & Parliament, and Buddy Guy. The event is perfect for any music fan as it combines a variety of jazz-influenced genres, which attracts a number of household names.
Each event is paid for separately, however, there are hundreds of free events across the city. There are free open-air concerts held in Piazza IV Novembre and at the Giardini Carducci as they are part of the festival’s rich history.
Food is very much a significant part of the festivities, which adds to the incredible atmosphere held at hundreds of venues across Perugia. There are also traditional street parades and various artistic performances.
Umbria is considered to be one of the most picturesque areas of Italy and is a popular tourist hot spot, famed for its landscape and historic traditions. At Leger Holidays, we host a number of trips to Italy, which include visits to Tuscany, Lake Como, Venice and Rome.

Gent Jazz Festival (Belgium)

Image courtesy of Gent Jazz Festival

Held in mid-July and lasting two weeks, the Gent Jazz Festival is celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2016 with a host of top acts. Held at the side of the Bijloke in Ghent, the festival hosts a wide range of musical genres that diversify from jazz.
The festival attracts over 38,000 visitors every year and has seen a number of household acts perform, including Tony Bennett, Gregory Porter, Rodrigo Y Gabriela, and Van Morrison. This year’s event sees Ghent’s very own export, Balthazar, take the main stage alongside Ibeyi. The full line-up is to be announced in March. Tickets can be purchased online and prices vary dependent on age and the type of ticket you require. Visit the website for more details.
After visiting the festival you may wish to travel further afield at a later date. At Leger, we visit a number of cities around Belgium, including Brussels, Bruges and Antwerp.
One of our tours includes a visit to the Brussels Jazz Marathon Weekend, which is held from 20th – 22nd May. Throughout the weekend, there are over 160 free performances that take place on a number of purpose built stages. Our four day trip costs £269 pp and includes three nights accommodation, continental breakfast and travel by executive coach.

Heineken Jazzaldia (Spain)

Image courtesy of Heineken Jazzaldia

Situated in San Sebastian on the coast of Spain, Heineken Jazzaldia is the longest running jazz festival in Spain, and also one of the oldest in Europe. The festival, which attracts over 124,000 people, has seen a number of major acts play over the years, including Gloria Gaynor, B.B. King, Patti Smith, and Jimmy Cliff.
The festival runs from the 20th – 25th July at a number of venues across the region. One of the main highlights of the festival is the free events at Zurriola Beach, which last until the small hours. This year’s event sees a fantastic array of artists take the stage, including Diana Krall, Gloria Gaynor, and Charles Bradley.
Prices vary depending on which venue you go to. Tickets can be purchased at the venue box office.
San Sebastian has been a tourist destination since the 19th century due to the region’s cuisine, historical importance, and stunning scenery. After the festival, you might consider a trip across the country to Valencia or Madrid. Our packages cover a variety of destinations across Spain, and there’s no doubt that you’ll be surprised how many hidden gems there are across Europe.

Rigas Ritmi Festival (Latvia)

Rigas Ritmi
Image courtesy of Rigas Ritmi

Rigas Ritmi is one of Latvia’s most attended and most loved music festivals. Every July, the festival hosts a number of different stages across Riga with world famous and award-winning acts. Since its inception in 2001, Rigas Ritmi has grown from strength-to-strength with more than 500 artists and 180,000 visitors.
In previous years, the festival has hosted Bobby McFerrin, Diane Reeves and Richard Bona on its main stages. 2016 sees yet another strong line-up with a string of international jazz artists that include piano prodigy Justin Kauflin and saxophonist Emile Parisien.
Children under 7 years old can attend the festival free, whilst tickets for adults and seniors can be purchased on the Rigas Ritmi website or at the venue box office.
You may want to consider a Trans-European trip to other jazz festivals, including Vilnius Mama Jazz (Lithuania), Festival Jazzkaar (Estonia) and Pori Jazz Festival (Finland).

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