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Worlds Best Music Festivals

Attendance: 200,000
Acts: 300+
Stages: 8
The Exit Festival finds its roots in social change, having begun as an activist movement to “EXIT out of the madness” of the oppressive Serbian regime. They’ve done well on their efforts to re-integrate Serbia into the cultural mainstream, by inviting both international acts (like Diplo or David Guetta) and local ones. They still present a different political theme every year and have now grown into one of the biggest festivals in the world, earning the 2007 UK Festival Award for Best Major European Festival.

Attendance: 230,000
Acts: 100-200
Stages: 6
Paléo is a majority-volunteer-run, limited-fund festival, and yet it manages to entertain hundreds of thousands of spectators every year and host huge acts from all over the world. 2013 saw the festival’s 38th session and featured bands like The Bloody Beetroots and Arctic Monkeys among the headliners. They also like to expose up and coming artists and genres, and showcase a specific region every year in their “Village du Monde.” 2013, for example, saw food and music from the Indian Ocean region.

Attendance: 330,000
Acts: 300+
Stages: 7
Despite the existence of dozens of other electronic music festivals, Ultra is the one that sold out of early bird tickets in four minutes, and advance tickets in twenty for their 2014 session. Maybe it’s because they’ve consistently gotten any DJ who’s made even the most remote splash in electronic music to play on their stages, and because those stages have now been to six other countries: Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, South Korea, and Croatia, whose inaugural edition in 2013 saw 108,000 live spectators and another 700,000 online. Meanwhile, in the US, an addition of three more festival days made no difference in the show selling out.

Attendance: 385,000
Acts: About 175
Stages: 5 main, 15 total
Like Exit, the Sziget festival is the result of a time of political unrest. In the absence of summer youth camps after a change in government in the early ’90s, Hungarian youth needed a new summer outlet – and so began the Sziget Festival. Now a top-rated festival, Sziget won the UK Festival Award for Best Major European Festival and sees both spectators and artists from dozens of different countries. In 2012, when Glastonbury couldn’t be held, the founder of the legendary British festival gave Sziget the seal of approval as a suitable alternative.

Attendance: 550,000 in 2012
Acts: About 80
Stages: 3
Poland’s homage to the festival of ’79 is another one on the list that sticks largely to one genre: rock. The performers are international representatives of the form, with 2013 headliners including names like Atari Teenage Riot and Kaiser Chiefs. In emulation of its namesake, the festival has a running theme of “Love, Friendship, and Music.” Entry is free and in fact Przystanek Woodstock is held by the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity as a thank you to its volunteers

Attendance: 700,000 (in 2011, last one held in Rio)
Acts: about 75 (500 more on “Rock Street”)
Stages: 4
Rock in Rio was huge from its very first show, which got 1.5 million festival-goers to Rio de Janeiro for the biggest acts of 1985 like Queen, AC/DC, and Iron Maiden. Now the festival has expanded in all directions, with editions held in Lisbon and Madrid and huge headliners, including Beyoncé and Bruce Springsteen in 2013. Rock in Rio now alternates locations, with Lisbon and Madrid playing host during the even years and Rio during the odd. As such, getting tickets for this mammoth music fiesta requires some forethought: tickets for the 2013 Rio festival went on sale in 2011.

Attendance: 675,000 in 2013
Acts: About 190
Stages: 6
As a festival that started off as an effort to cater to the alternative and indie music scene, Coachella still retains a somewhat “hippie” vibe. Florals and fringe abound, but in most other respects it has grown beyond that niche. With huge names in both the lineup and audience and stunts like the 2012 Tupac resurrection, Coachella has secured its place among the most well-known festivals in the world, and has pretty much consistently sold out since 2002.

Attendance: 800K-1 million (840,000 in 2013)
Acts: 800+
Stages: 11
The Guinness Book of World Records named Summerfest the World’s Largest Festival, a title it proudly displays on its website. While we’re gonna have to disagree and place it in the #3 spot, the Milwaukee shindig is definitely, inarguably enormous. They have the standard array of stages: one for the main players, one for the up-and-comers, one for the locals, and then a few for different genres like electronic and rock that make up a whopping eleven total. The lineup includes names as huge as the fest, like headliners FUN. and A-Trak.

Attendance: 2.5 million in 2013
Acts: About 90
Stages: 7
This gargantuan festival is relatively unknown in America. The line-up is mostly made up of African artists, specifically those from French-African countries like Amadou & Mariam and Tinariwen from Mali. Otherwise, a small selection of huge international names plays every year: in the past, Rabat has been visited by Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, and other greats, and in 2013 the festival was headlined by Rihanna. Mawazine keeps beating its own attendance record, breaking the million mark for several years running now.

2. Tomorrowland (Belgium)
Attendance: 2 million in 2013
Acts: About 100
Stages: 7

Attendance: 3.2 million in 2013
Acts: 2,000+
Stages: 21
Donauinselfest easily takes the crown for the biggest festival in the world on all counts, and does so impressively over the short course of three days. For reference, Summerfest and Mawazine take eleven and nine days respectively to amass a million revelers. For 30 years now, millions have gathered on a 6.5 kilometer stretch of the Danube Island in Vienna to hear the biggest names in Austrian music, like Austropop legends Wolfgang Ambros and Rainhard Fendrich. The festival also welcomes international acts, like Zucchero, from Italy, and house DJ Otto Knows, from Sweden. Perhaps the festival would like to keep foreigners at bay, from the Austro-centric lineup to the fact that information on the festival readily available in English is tough to dredge up. But, if you want to bear witness to the uncontested biggest festival in the world, brush up your German and get yourself to Donauinselfest