Geneva edition: Best summer music festivals

Free concerts as part of the Music at the Park, at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Photo, Jared Bloch

Geneva, Switzerland — Long spring days are finally here and with them come an embarrassment of riches in the way of music festivals. With over 300 large and small fests  you snooze, you lose — unless you’ve mastered the art of tele-transportation. Here’s my list of some of the most popular festivals in Geneva and Lake Geneva area (Vaud and neighboring France), peppered with some of the best-known country-wide festivals to help you plan ahead… in case.

Note: the list should begin with Cully Jazz Festival, but being that it usually takes place in April, we are skipping it in this list. Check it out next year. It is really a great little festival.

Caribana Festival, 5-9 June, open air, Nyon, canton Vaud

  • Who’s on: Simple Minds, Status Quo, Patrick Bruel, and about a dozen more
  • Tickets: still available, affordable VIP options
  • No camping, but caravans/motor-homes can park nearby, there is a also a clean hostel not too far
  • Transportation: free buses within Nyon

Fête de la Musique, 22-24 June, open air and indoor venues, City and canton of Geneva

  • Who’s on: over 550 musical gigs in the city and canton, a true music festival from DJs to classical. Look at the schedule and plan ahead, crowds abound. It is Geneva as seldom seen (in 2017, there were 580 musical events)
  • Tickets are free; just show up for open air concerts; indoor venues close doors when full
  • Transportation: because it is a pedestrian zone with concerts everywhere, buses are restricted from Bastions Park to Champel; a few shuttles however, take concertgoers around the perimeters

Montreux Jazz Festival, 29 Jun-14 Jul, indoor and open air venues, canton Vaud

  • Who’s on: Deep Purple, Paolo Conte, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Gary Clark Jr., Gilberto Gil, Queens of the Stone Age, Jack White, Jamiroquai in closed venues (the best Montreux lineup in recent years?), and a free programme with outdoor concerts
  • Tickets available; no tickets needed for outdoor concerts
  • Camping: not on site, nearest one is in Vevey, with free bus service to Montreux
  • Transportation: trains to Geneva via Lausanne, plus one direct bus line from Montreux at 2:00

Musiques en été, 6 Jul-17 Aug, Geneva, open air

  • Two separate series of outdoor summer concerts; classical music (entry fee charged), and world beat/popular (free at the park)
  • Programme is not out yet

Montjoux Festival, 12-14 July, Thonon, France, open air

Photo, Montjoux Festival
  • Thonon-les-bains is the largest French town on Lake Geneva; concerts take place between the lake and the Chateau de Montjoux
  • Who’s on: Francophone artists — Parlez-vous français?
  • Tickets available
  • Camping and hotels nearby
  • Transportation: While you can get there easily from Geneva via cross-border bus, returning after the concert via public transport is not really feasible; driving is your best option

Paleo Festival, 17-22 July, open air and street arts performances, Nyon, canton Vaud

  • Who’s on: the Killers, Depeche Mode, Lenny Kravitz, Indochine and dozens more; plus various circuses and street arts performers — It can be kid friendly
  • Tickets: mostly sold out albeit some available through a “ticket market” on Paleo’s website – additional tickets go on sale each day of the festival
  • Camping and glamping possible
  • Transportation: special trains to Geneva available

Guitare en scene, 19-22 July, St Julien, France, open air and under tent

  • St Julien en Genevois is a French bedroom community not far from Plan-les-Ouates
  • Whos’ on: Sting, Zucchero, Joe Satriani and other great guitarists…
  • Tickets: available
  • Camping: not on site but in a nearby town
  • Transportation: TPG bus #4 and D take you straight there!

Aubes musicales, 1-26 August, open air, Geneva

A very quiet moment, ideal to hear great music by the lake. Photo, Bains de Paquis
  • City of Geneva (Bains de Paquis), every day from 6:00-7:00 (am of course!)
  • Who’s on: programme TBD but expect the unexpected from classical to Colombian but less “jazzy” this year according to organisers

Rock Oz’Arènes, 15-18 August, open air, Avenches, canton Vaud

Rock Oz Arenes Avenches Switzerland summer concerts François Mellilo
Photo, by François Mellilo
  • Spectacular setting, the Avenches Roman coliseum ruins
  • Who’s On: James Blunt, Texas, Stress, MHD (afro trap)
  • Tickets: available
  • Camping: sites available nearby and super affordable
  • Transportation: special buses to Geneva available

Plein-les-Watts Festival, 16-18 August, open air, Plan-les-ouates, canton Geneva

  • Who’s on: Various reggae masters and the typical Jamaican sound system with several DJs, Anthony B & House of Riddim, Twinkle Brothers
  • Tickets: Easy to get on the spot; no camping possible
  • Transportation: city buses

Other popular Swiss festivals beyond our region

Photo, Burning Mountain Festival
Greenfield Festival, Interlaken, 7-9 June, Limp Bizkit, The Offspring,
Bullet for My Valentine, The Prodigy. Camping possible.
Burning Mountain Festival, Engadine, 27 Jun-1 Jul, inspired by Burning Man, 
this Swiss mountain fest is about art, spirituality and ravves!
Gurten Festival, Bern, 11-14 July, Gorillaz, Prophets of Rage. Camping possible.
Blue Balls Festival, Lucerne, 20-28 Jul, one of the largest in Switzerland: 
Alanis Morissette, Gary Clark Jr., Rufus Wainwrigh.
LakeLive Festival, Bienne, 27 Jul-4 Aug:from electro to Colombian (Carlos Vives)
camping nearby, sports and other activities as well.
Zurich Open Air 22-25 Aug: Kendrick Lamar, Incubus, Imagine dragons, 
Charlotte Gainsbourg, tickets and camping available.

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