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Best European 2013-2014 Autumn and Winter Festivals Guide

Earlier in the month we brought you our guide to the best autumn and winter festivals in the UK, so it's only right we now give the rest of our great union a look in. There are some fantastic festivities to be enjoyed across Europe during the tail end of this year and the opening months of 2014, so no need to confine your fun to Christmas and New Year's alone. In this PAAM event software blog, we bring you a small selection of the best 2013-2014 autumn and winter festivals in Europe. Please note, some of the dates are still to be confirmed, so always check the festival website before booking your flights.

Iceland Airwaves Music Festival, Reykjavik

30 October – 03 November 2013

Best European 2013-2014 Autumn and Winter Festivals Guide - Iceland Airwaves Music Festival Prinspolo (IS) at Reykjavik Art Museum
Prinspolo (IS) at Reykjavik Art Museum

Possibly this winter's 'coolest' music festival, Airwaves really does provide something for everyone. Ranging through the genres of electro, hip hop, dance, experimental, rock and heavy metal, some of the world’s biggest names will be rocking their socks off at the end of the month to keep out the Icelandic chill. From its humble beginnings in an aircraft hangar in 1999, Airwaves has expanded to take in some of the smartest venues across Reykjavik, and this year 50 new acts will be performing in what Rolling Stone magazine has labelled: "The hippest long weekend on the annual music-festival calendar". As well as Mercury Music Prize nominated acts Jon Hopkins, Savages and Villagers, the big names this year include Young Fathers, Stealing Sheep and Gold Panda from the UK. Flying in from across the pond will be some of the biggest acts in the US, such as Zola Jesus, John Grant and Yo La Tengo. Airwaves will also be offering up the best of new home-grown Icelandic talent. Expect big sounds from FM Belfast and sublime electro from Samaris. Beck fans will not want to miss Sin Fang, and Retro Stefson are sure to deliver for those Afro-pop aficionados. However, Airwaves is not just about big names in big venues. Check out the listings at local bars, hotels, cafes and clubs for a more intimate musical experience. Who knows, you may even stumble across your favourite band jamming in a sandwich shop. Oh, and the closing of the festival will be at Harpa, where a very promising band called Kraftwerk will be taking to the stage.

Venice Carnival, Venice

22 February – 04 March 2014

Best European 2013-2014 Autumn and Winter Festivals Guide - Venice Carnival goers in costumes and masksVenice Carnival, Venice

The Carnevale di Venezia was first introduced centuries ago as a way for the rich and famous to mix with the other social classes, getting together to gamble, visit brothels, enjoy circus performances and generally let their hair down - all behind the anonymity of elaborate masks of course. Although these days a few of the seedier aspects of the festival have been done away with, Venice's biggest winter arty party is still a riot of masked merriment. The theme for the 2014 festival is Fantasy and Fairy Tales, a celebration of traditional stories from all corners of the globe. St Mark's Square will stage morning and afternoon parades, where multi-lingual comedians will endeavour to engage and embarrass spectators by picking out the best dressed in the crowd and encouraging them to join the performers. The lucky chosen ones will then go on to compete in Sunday's final. Elsewhere in the square, spectators will be invited to get involved with dancing, music and clowning in street theatre shows put on by some of the world's best drama companies. And in the evenings the square will be given over to musicians for traditional concerts and dance parties. Although there will be the usual ornate gowns and elaborate masks floating around the festival, cheap costumes will also be for sale at stalls throughout the city, so don’t worry too much about packing that Cinderella dress. However, it is not all about flouncing around and looking pretty. Head to the Calcio Storico on the first weekend of the festival and enjoy the spectacle of bare-knuckle boxing and period costume football matches. Also keep an eye out for mock military tournaments and jousts. And although the firing of dogs from canons and bull baiting events have been removed from the line-up, there's still the gondolas - and we're pretty sure the locals haven't yet tired of 'Just one Cornetto...' echoing around the canals.

Las Fallas, Valencia, Spain

15 – 19 March 2014

Best European 2013-2014 Autumn and Winter Festivals Guide - Las Fallas, Valencia by Keith Ellwood
Las Fallas, Valencia by Keith Ellwood

Although the fiery Las Fallas festival officially takes place between 15th and 19th March, preparations kick off at the beginning of the month when a cacophony of fire crackers explode outside the City Hall on 1 March. In fact, many Valencians will have been working on their 'ninots' for much of the year. For those that don't know, a ninot is an impressive satirical papier mache model designed to poke fun at anything from local events to international celebrities and politicians. The humorous figures and symbols are displayed throughout the city in the days leading up to the festival, when crowds will also gather to enjoy firework displays and other performances. The ephemeral effigies are paraded through the city on the final day of the festival, while the grand finale sees each set ablaze - except one. The ninot voted the best will avoid the flames of fury and enjoy pride of place in the Fallero Museum. On 17th and 18th March, the Ofrenda de Flores a la Virgen de los Desamparados, or floral offering to our Lady the Forsaken, takes place between 4pm and sunset. This colourful parade sees members of the Fallas showing off their brilliantly decorated costumes while laying huge bunches of flowers at the feet of their patron saint. Yet Las Fallas is not just about burning caricatures and fancy costumes. Throughout the week there are beauty pageants, parades, bullfights, paella competitions and fiestas. And don’t worry about missing any of the fun, because La desperta - wake-up call - is delivered by a brass band each morning at 8am. Those who do manage to sleep in will probably not make it past 2pm anyway when la Mascleta - a blast of firecrackers that rips through the city every day - goes off with a bang!

Big Snow Festival, Serbia

19 – 25 March 2014 (Unconfirmed)

Billed as one of the biggest winter musical festivals in Europe, Big Snow is the brainchild of the organisers of the popular Big Reunion festival in the UK. Although it began in 2010 in the picturesque Pyrenees resort of Andora, the event quickly got too big for its snow-boots and has now been relocated to Serbia. This winter wonderland is for music lovers looking to party in the great outdoors. As well as numerous stages, which have in the past played host to musical giants including Basement Jaxx, Brandon Block, Goldie, Westwood and Example, the festival invites revellers to whirl their way through the colourful Fancy Dress Street Carnival and sink a couple of pints of the black stuff on St Patrick’s Day. Packing skis or a snowboard and extra underpants is a must, as in past years the festival has culminated in the Ultimate Saturday Fun Day, where party-goers take to the slopes dressed as their favourite super hero. The festival caters to skiers and snow boarders of all levels, as there are open pistes for rookies and tree-lined runs for the experts. Snowboarders can show off their skills on the half-pipes, boxes, kickers and rails, and when it all gets too hectic there are specially designated kick-back and chill-out zones to slump in. As well as exploding tunes and high altitude fun, expect fabulous food and plenty of winter-warmer drinks. Just leave the tent at home; this is a winter festival of the most serious kind, with plenty of half-board and self-catering chalet options on offer.

Snowboxx, Arinsal, Andorra

23 – 30 March 2014

Best European 2013-2014 Autumn and Winter Festivals Guide - Snowboxx Arinsal Andorra
Snowboxx, Arinsal, Andorra

The Snowboxx snow and music festival is back again, promising to be bigger and better than ever before. The sublimely beautiful Andorra will host a serious line up of grass roots talent and big names against a stunning mountain backdrop. This year, Arinsal will be linked with neighbour La Massana to increase capacity, meaning more people, more venues and more fun to be had. The ski area has also been expanded to include access to Grandvalira, giving both skiers and snowboarders more space to explore. Those who want to join the party after a day on the slopes should head to the Apres Sessions on the terraces of Panoramix and Pal, where resident DJs will be keeping the party pumping between 3pm and 6pm. The Panoramix Main Stage, the home of big name DJs and live acts, is located deep within the picturesque mountainside, where thousands of revellers will gather on an outdoor terrace to enjoy a spectacular lightshow while dancing the night away. Each evening will also see a group of skiers lead a magical firelight procession through the mountains behind the stage. Last year saw performances from the likes of The Other Tribe, Roses Gabor and Pedestrian, and this year the organisers have promised even bigger names. 2014 will also see the inaugural appearance of The Secret Stage, where top DJs will host mega fancy dress parties in a currently undisclosed but sure-to-be fabulous location. And make sure you enjoy a cold beer while checking out the legwarmers, neon one-pieces and fantastic moustaches being sported on Retro Ski Day.