Backpacking Europe during Festival Season

After five years of wishful hoping and planning, my best friend and I finally decided to book the ultimate Europe trip. We spent four grueling years at West Point together. Always wishfully discussing our epic trips that we would one day take together. Backpacking Europe during festival season was the penultimate for us as young twenty-somethings. With both our shared love for international travel and dance music, it just made sense that we create the most ridiculous itinerary to hit all the major music festivals. This included Ibiza, Split, Prague, and Brussels.

 

First stop: Ibiza, Spain

ibiza airport

Although there weren’t any major music festivals in Ibiza, there’s simply no way you can skip Ibiza during a European trip if you love dance music. Plus, this summer was the final year of Carl Cox’s residency at the iconic club, Space. Clearly we needed to see Carl Cox perform live before that ended. Some other highlights included seeing Nicky Romero perform at Amnesia, Flower Power night at Pacha, and of course a boat party.

ibiza spain

ibiza spain

ibiza marina

carl cox space ibiza

Needless to say Carl Cox exceeded all expectations!

 

We stayed at an Airbnb one block from Pacha. Our hostess went far above and beyond to make sure we felt right at home and acted like a hotel concierge. Literally anything we needed, she secured for us. From making dinner reservations at 971 to booking our scuba dive to giving us tips on how to navigate the bus routes, she made sure we enjoyed an unforgettable experience.

backpacking europe ibiza backpacking europe ibiza

scuba dive ibiza

We ended our stay in Ibiza with a Cirque de la Nuit Ibiza boat party and coincidentally ran into a newlywed couple we met at Space the night before. So we enjoyed unlimited sangria and beer while cruising the Mediterranean listening to sick house beats with our new friends for the entire afternoon before we departed for the airport.

ibiza boat party

Second Stop: Split, Croatia

 

Now backpacking Europe was strictly a budget adventure for us. Although, my typical travel style involves using points and miles to create luxurious itineraries to exotic destinations. This trip wasn’t intended to be luxurious by any means. So we flew from Ibiza to Barcelona, slept in the Barcelona airport overnight, and then boarded an early morning flight to Split. We landed around 8:00 AM and took a bus to Split before checking-into our next Airbnb in Bacvice Beach.

backpacking europe croatia

split croatia

split croatia

split croatia

We took a nap in preparation for the pub crawl through Split that evening and boy was that worth the grand total of $20 USD! They advertised it as open bar for the first two hours, but it lasted the entire night and even included hosts walking around with open boxes of free pizza. Every single person we spoke to came from a different country and were backpacking Europe themselves. Plus 99% of them chose Split as a destination in order to attend Ultra Europe–just like us!

ultra europe croatia

 

Ultra Europe

 

So the next few nights included raging at Ultra Europe and meeting even more friends from all over the world. Ultra is a music festival that draws over 100,000 attendees from over 143 different countries with four different stages featuring top international DJs from sunset until sunrise.

ultra europe croatia

Ali and I have attended several music festivals together in the United States and the majority include Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas. Experiencing a music festival in Europe is definitely unique because there are cultural differences between how people dress and behave. Plus, many Europeans grew up listening to dance music from a young age whereas dance music only recently reached mainstream popularity within the past few years. Despite the first night getting cancelled due to inclement weather, the festival overall was incredible and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Plus, Ultra refunded us our money for the first night.

ultra europe croatia

Day 1 at the Ultra Europe venue: Stadion Poljud in Split, Croatia

ultra europe croatia

ultra europe croatia

ultra europe croatia

We ended our Croatia chapter with a calm dinner and a scenic view at Dvor restaurant. I must say, not only is Croatia gorgeous with jaw dropping beaches and fun nightlife, their food is also incredible and VERY affordable. We enjoyed a six course gourmet meal with wine for two for only $50 USD total.

 

dvor restaurant split croatia dvor restaurant split croatia

dvor restaurant split croatia dvor restaurant split croatia

backpacking europe

Third Stop: Prague,  Czech Republic

 

prague old town

We decided to shift gears from the non-stop partying activities in Croatia and to take it a bit easier during the 48 hours we spent in Prague. We also switched it up a bit by not staying in an Airbnb, because let’s be honest…you’re not truly backpacking Europe until you stay in a hostel.

prague czech republic

We booked The Old Prague Hostel on hostelworld.com and found it nestled in the perfect location. Not to mention it’s super easy to access from the airport via the metro system.

prague czech republic

Here we essentially did our own self-guided walking tours of Prague instead of paying for any bus or boat tours. We ate traditional Czech food and wandered for hours around the gorgeous city touring places like Old Town, Prague Castle, and the Charles Bridge. We even found a vegan restaurant to try one day for lunch…of course we did this after we tried one of the fabulously healthy trdelníks–which are donut cones filled with ice cream. This is a MUST HAVE Prague street food item.

czech food

I was shocked by how delicious and cheap the food was. The entire duck meal was only $7 USD

prague donut cone

After our brief stop in Prague we continued onto Brussels on a cheap 40 euro flight on Ryanair!

 

Final Stop: Brussels, Belgium

 

Brussels was extra special to us because not only did we plan to attend one of the biggest music festivals in the world (TomorrowLand), but our old West Point volleyball teammate graciously hosted us in her home in Waterloo. Another teammate and her husband joined all of us on the tail end of their honeymoon, too!

brussels belgium

brussels belgium

Our backpacking Europe experience was now enhanced with old college friends and the expert recommendations of a local to help guide us. As luck would have it, the day we landed was Belgium’s Independence Day. So we headed to the heart of Brussels to celebrate during their festival!

belgium independence day

backpacking europe brussels belgium

The next day we went on a chocolate tour through Brussels! We learned so much about chocolate making and the various levels of quality. We even made our own chocolate designs and picked them up at the end of the tour. But of course no holiday is truly complete without macarons.

macarons brussels belgium

brussels chocolate tour

 

TomorrowLand

 

And we ended our epic journey with the ultimate European music festival: TomorrowLand. Now TomorrowLand is a festival with around 20 different stages that lasts three days and draws over 180,000 attendees. It even features its own campground called, “Dreamville” in which you can select from a basic arrangement to a luxury suite complete with beds and swimming pools. It is a very popular event/destination for those backpacking Europe because it always takes place during the summer in Boom, Belgium which is located just outside Brussels. It hosts the most famous and talented DJs in the world from across a wide range of dance music subgenres. It’s sense of community is what keeps attendees both young and old coming back for more each year.

tomorrowland boom belgium

We were lucky enough to meet up with one of the friends we previously met in Split, Croatia during Ultra Europe! TomorrowLand is a much bigger music festival than Ultra Europe with a different vibe to it because it takes place mostly during the day and ends at night. It’s definitely one of the more expensive music festivals in terms of ticket prices, but you can choose to attend one, two, or three days. Additionally, we opted to only attend on Saturday due to the other activities we planned with our friends, cost, and that we wanted to squeeze in visiting Prague.

Overall, the entire trip was a blast to say the least. There is never the perfect time to really ever plan something like this, but Ali and I seized the moment this year. Whether we like to admit it or not, we’re getting older. As someone who unexpectedly got married way sooner than I thought I would at the age of 25, I knew that there was only so much time to do crazy trips like this with my girlfriends before other life obligations (i.e. children) would come along. I’m so happy that we moved forward with crossing off SO MANY items off our bucket list–and I’m not even a fan of that phrase because I think it’s way overused. But this truly was a trip of a lifetime with once of my closest friends on the planet and I’m so thankful to have a husband who supported me in pursuing my dream trip. Now I can officially say that I conquered backpacking Europe at least once in my life and not only that–I danced to my favorite music through iconic clubs in Ibiza, Ultra Europe, and TomorrowLand.

  • Sounds like you had am amazing trip! You really do learn about a destinations’s local culture when you attend one of their festivals. I love them too! Glad you got to enjoy some terrific Belgian chocolate on your trip. It is delishj!

  • Quite the itinerary. Glad you had fun!

  • I’m not much of a partier in this sense anymore, so happy to live vicariously through your tales!

    I’m really curious what the diving was like in Ibiza?

    • The diving wasn’t anything breathtaking compared to places like Thailand or Great Barrier Reef, but it was a fun time!

  • Rhiannon Emily

    Tomorrowland and ultra look amazing! We were guna include them in our eurotrip but tickets were sold out. Shame you make it look amazing!

  • Sara Bernard

    It is definitely not the usual backpack in Europe, which I think is nice! I would love to go to Prague and those dishes look delicious!

  • amyann

    Looks like an incredible trip! Lots of music festivals that are on my list to make it to someday!

  • Anita Sane

    It looks like a really epic trip. Filled with so much experiences. A real treat for fans of music. Loved your story and pictures.

  • Adam Wright

    Great photos! looks like you had an amazing time

  • Soumya Nambiar

    That really looks like an epic trip. I recently went on a 6 week solo trip across Europe but mine was the complete opposite of yours. I had lots of fun though but kept the partying part to a minimum, Ibiza and Tommorowland is definitely on the list of things to do. I forgot what that pastry was called. Thank you for reminding me that it is called Trdelnik. Those were yum.

  • What a treat after 4 years in West Point! Though I’m not into dance music, you hit some amazing European hot spots that are on my list (and visiting soon!). Love how you incorporated so many elements of Europe in your trip 🙂

  • You were so lucky to visit so many amazing places in Europe and take part in different festivals. I don’t think I ever went to a huge festival, even if I live in England. I wanted to go to Glastonbury this year but the weather was really bad, so that was my excuse, haha

  • Nicki McLaren

    I have never been to a festival in Europe. Looks like you went to all my want to travel destinations. Ibiza and Croatia have been gracing my list for awhile. Maybe I need to do this.,

  • Looks like an awesome trip! I’ve started to lose the energy for crazy parties as I get older, but I know a good time when I see one. Looks like a blast! Maybe one day I’ll give it a try again 😉

  • Suzannah Freeman

    Wow this is an awesome trip! I’m so jealous right now. I’d love to see all of the places you went, Ibiza not AS much, but still it’s somewhere I’ve just gotta go before I hit the big 3.0 haha!

  • Subhadrika Sen

    This looks like a great way to spend the festive season. I have not been to any of these places but would love to go to Prague and Belgium. Not that Spain is not on my list. You seem to have made the most of the holidays.

  • Lovely trip to spend with the best friend! You both look like you had a lot of fun. We’re currently on our Europe trip too but different countries. I’m dying to go Croatia and Czech Republic! 🙂

  • Hi Kristina,

    All spots look beautiful! and you look like you had loads of fun too. I’ve only seen Southern Cyprus and East Istanbul in terms of Europe. Have some traveling to do. I did love the feel of Paphos. Mediterranean playground type place I enjoyed, with yachts and restaurants and crystal clear water and the cost of things was low too. Especially for a tropical paradise. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Ryan

  • Kristina,

    Congrats on West Point. You totally deserve a trip like this. It looks like you had a amazing time. We don’t hit many festivals when we travel with the kids, but the scenery in those cities is awesome nonetheless. Safe travels!

  • Chandi

    Looks like you had a lot of fun and planned the trip well, getting in those festivals and some in-city tours too. It sure has changed since I budget backpacked around Europe for 6 months about 10 years before the internet!

  • That seems like a hurricane tour but the halts are at the most ideal spots. I did Prague, Brussels and both were so good for me. Yes food was reasonable in Czech.

  • Such an fun filled trip! I’m from Barcelona and spent some memorable times at Ibiza as well, check out the South of Spain too! Lots of great outdoor parties every other night especially during the summer.

  • Mary Charie Ylagan

    Was in Europe this summer, and it drove me crazy deciding where to go as festivals are everywhere!

  • Vyjay Rao

    Europe is such a wonderful and vast place, that it would probably take a lifetime to see everything. You did have an epic trip and I can see that you had a lovely experience. Happy traveling.

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