Our round-up of the best Southern European festivals, exhibitions, concerts and events happening in Italy, Spain, France, Portugal and Britain this month.
The Palio of Ferrara, Ferrara, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
2 June

Come summer time, Italian cities, towns and villages vie with each other to see who can hold the most splendid ‘palio’ – the centuries-old tradition of festivals built around horse races. Dating back to 1279, the Palio of Ferrara is the oldest in Italy and throughout June, you’ll find lavish parades, celebrations and races galore.

Primavera Sound, Porto, Portugal
6 – 8 June

Often considered the younger sister to the Barcelona indie festival of the same name, the eclectic alternative music festival takes place in the lush setting of Portugal’s largest city park. Featuring major names, from Jarvis Cocker, Stereolab, Erykah Badu and Neneh Cherry to younger acts both Portuguese and international.


Ferrara, Piazza Muncipale | Photo © Emilia Romagna Tourist Board

Rouen Armada, Rouen, Normandy, France
6 – 16 June

Every five years, the city of Rouen in Normandy holds a spectacular ‘Armada’ with 50 classic sailing ships docking in Rouen port as well as a ten-day-long party with parades, fireworks, exhibitions and activities around the quays and along the Seine. With some seven million visitors expected, 25 pleasure and sightseeing boats on the waters and more than 7,000 sailors from around the world, this should be quite a party. This year, they’re also celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Allied Normandy landings during WWII.

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection, London
10 June to 1 September

Featuring a personally selected choice of shoes from legendary Spanish designer and contemporary fashion icon Manolo Blahnik’s private archives, the shoes are displayed amongst the paintings, sculptures and furniture masterpieces of the Wallace Collection. Blahnik has long been fascinated with the museum’s collection and each room explores a different theme from the theatre and spectacle of the Commedia dell’arte, the fashions inspired by Blahnik’s native Spain, 18th-century Rococo style, as well as his own personal interpretation of Englishness. Free Admission.


Las Hogueras De San Juan | Photo © Alicante Tourism

Bonfires of San Juan, Alicante, Spain
19 – 24 June

Not dissimilar to the better-known ‘fallas’ in Valencia, Alicante has its own fire festival, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. Thousands of people fill the streets for concerts, parades and processions featuring dance troupes from all over the world and locals in traditional costumes. Head into one of the special marquees for food, drink and dancing before a grand firework display culminates in bonfires being lit throughout the city amidst more singing, dancing and general merriment.

Festival del Vittoriale, Lake Garda, Italy
20 June to 26 July

Set in an amphitheatre, spectacularly located on the historic hillside estate of Vittoriale degli Italiani, overlooking the shores of Lake Garda on the Gardone Riviera, this year’s month-long festival features an impressive line-up including Garbage, Diana Krall, James Morrison, Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins and Johnny Marr.


Las Hougeras De San Juan | Photo © Alicante Toursim

Bordeaux River Festival
20 – 23 June

With a huge stage with free concerts on the Esplanade des Quinconces and ‘tall ship’ sailboats docking alongside the river, Bordeaux’s river festival is quite an event. Expect illuminations, sound and light shows, sculptures and art exhibitions, as well as a food village.

St John’s Festivities, Porto, Portugal
23 – 24 June

Dating back to the 14th century and Pagan in origin, this epic street festival sees thousands celebrate the summer solstice with lavish fireworks on the River Douro. The whole town is decked out in bunting and large paper balloons while dancers fill the streets and locals feast on barbecued sardines, lamb and roasted pepper salad or ‘caldo verde’ (a thin green cabbage stock), and not to mention a hearty glass of the local port.


Batalla Del Vino, Haro, La Rioja | Photo © La Rioja Tourism

Batalla del Vino (Wine Fight), Haro, La Rioja, Spain
29 June

Every year, just outside the small wine-making town of Haro, in the heart of La Rioja, thousands of locals and tourists alike head to the hills for what must surely be the world’s largest wine fight. If you want to join in the fun, you’ll need to wear white (all the better to show off the dark pink hues of a wine-drenching) and a red neckerchief. And most important of all, don’t forget to take a plastic bottle, bucket or jug to fill with wine.


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