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The Check-In: Where to Play While Europeans Are Away

Not every destination is a ghost town during the unofficial August holiday.

August is a popular time to travel, especially for Europeans who go on unofficial holiday for the month. Locals in major cities like Amsterdam and Dublin leave their homes to beat the summer heat (often heading for the beach), and while it’s tempting to join, there are plenty of reasons to stay in town.

We found five festivals taking place in Europe next month, from a barbeque fest in Dublin to traditional horse races in Tuscany, plus hotels that will keep you close to the action. 

1. Dekmantel Festival
Amsterdam; August 4-7

The Netherlands’ capital will pulse with electronic music when the four-day festival ignites in venues all over Amsterdam. Jam-packed with live performances and DJ acts, the lineup is bigger and more diverse than ever before, which required the festival to expand into such new spaces as EYE, the film museum and arthouse cinema, and Bimhuis, the Dutch concert hall. Not only do attendees get to dance the days away to their favorite techno music, but they also get to do so inside the city’s influential entertainment spaces.

Don’t miss: The Opening Day celebration filled with free activities—from the screening of a documentary about industrial music’s history to a special live radio broadcast by two Amsterdam-based stations.

Where to stay: Conservatorium Hotel

Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam

The festival’s expansion means that the Conservatorium—a steel-and-glass, industrial-style property designed by Italian architect Piero Lissoni—is now a convenient hotel option for concert-goers. This 19th-century structure contains  129 rooms and suites, filled with contemporary style and natural lighting from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Situated within the Museum District (home to the Stedelijk Museum and the Van Gogh Museum), the hotel is within walking distance of plenty of attractions worth hitting during music-fest downtime.

2. Edinburgh International Festival
August 5-26

Major theaters and concert halls throughout Scotland’s capital will come alive as they showcase the best of the arts around the globe. The International Festival launched in 1947 to bring people together through artistic expression, and it will continue to do so during this year’s three-week schedule of theater productions, musical performances, and operas. In addition to the shows, travelers can also attend workshops, talks, and even a digital animation of Edinburgh’s history.

Don’t miss: The Young People Awards Ceremony, where a group of young attendees give unbiased feedback about the festival.

Where to stay: The Balmoral 

The Balmoral in Edinburgh
Opened in 1902, this historic hotel is a hallmark of Victorian style (check out the stone facade and clock tower). In addition to being a short distance away from the festival venues, this 168-room hotel is surrounded by many historic landmarks and other attractions, from the Scottish Parliament building to the Edinburgh Dungeon. And with a train station next door, the hotel is just a train ride away from Edinburgh’s city center. 

3. The Big Grill
Dublin; August 11-14

For most people, Ireland isn’t the first place that comes to mind when planning a barbecue pilgrimage. But for the past three years, Dublin has gathered international grillers together for a four-day geek-out: The Big Grill. This year, barbecue experts from around the globe will gather at Herbert Park and conduct live-fire cooking demonstrations, from a showcase of Southern slow-cooking methods to a session that highlights the differences between asado and Asian barbecue. Guests will also have a chance to join hot wing–eating competitions and taste a wide selection of Irish craft beer, ciders, and spirits.

Don’t miss: The Mallmann-esque cooking demonstration by Brazilian chefs, highlighting techniques that dates back thousands of years.

Where to stay: Number 31

The street view from Number 31 in Dublin

Located in downtown Dublin, Number 31 is a historic boutique guesthouse with beautifully manicured gardens. In addition to its 21 suites and sunken living room, the hotel has a quaint kitchen area with wood tables that hold a morning feast, complete with organic ingredients, house-made bread and jams, and, of course, a traditional full Irish breakfast.

4. Il Palio
Siena, Italy; August 16

Since the 17th century, this bareback horse race—originally created to celebrate the Virgin Mary—has occurred in the Tuscan city of Siena. Today, Il Palio takes place twice a year in the Piazza del Campo, where riders from 10 out of the remaining 17 districts in Siena race around the square to uphold neighborhood pride. On the day of the race, spectators can stand in the piazza (get there early) or book a seat in the stands and on balconies bordering the square.

Don’t miss: Joining the al fresco dinners hosted throughout the districts on the eve of the horse races.  

Where to Stay: Campo Regio Relais

Campo Regio Relais in Siena, Tuscany

A 10-minute walk from the Piazza del Campo will get you to Campo Regio Relais, a six-room boutique hotel housed in a historic building. Admire the surrounding medieval villages (San Gimignano, Volterra, Pienza) as you stroll around or from the hotel’s terrace. And a 10-minute drive gets you to the local train station, where cities like Florence and Pisa are just a short ride away.

5. Copenhagen Cooking and Food Festival
August 19-28

Copenhagen’s annual food fest celebrates Denmark’s broad culinary scene. This year’s theme is “Breaking the New,” meant to highlight Nordic cuisine that, over the years, has transformed into an international sensation. Throughout the 10-day festival, more than 100 events are scheduled to take place all over the city: Go crazy at a three-day food fest in Kødbyen (the meatpacking district) or sit down to a six-course midnight meal at one of the city’s most secretive industrial kitchens.

Don’t miss: The debut of two new food documentaries, BUGS and Ants on a Shrimp, showing at the open-air theater in Kødbyen.

Where to Stay: Nimb Hotel

Nimb Hotel in Copenhagen

The 17-suite hotel originally opened as a bazaar in 1909 and got a major facelift in 2007, when its foundation was refreshed with Italian marble stucco and Oland granite. Located just a 15-minute walk from the festival, the hotel is situated in the historic Tivoli Gardens, where guests can buy tickets for the amusement park or attend free outdoor concerts until September.

>>Next: What It Looks Like to Eat Your Way Around the World