When it comes to the biggest music festival in the world, you automatically think of shows like SXSW or Coachella. However, these household names aren’t necessarily the biggest by attendance metrics.
The biggest music festival in the world is often cited as Donauinselfest in Austria, which attracts over 3 million visitors annually with a record of 3.3 million in 2015.
Believe it or not, many of the biggest festivals in the world might have slipped under the radar. This is often down to their location, despite hosting some of music’s biggest names.
Whether it is mega rock festivals in Europe, mass gatherings in North America or even epic flavors in Africa, mega-festivals always know how to leave their mark. So what is the biggest music festival in the world?
What Are The Biggest Music Festivals In The World
Donauinselfest – Vienna, Austria
A free festival with major music headliners – sounds like an opportunity too good to miss. Well, it’s that reason why Donauinselfest is often cited as the most attended music festival in the world.
The entire festival takes place on the self-titled island in the middle of the River Danube in Vienna, Austria. Easily reachable via the city’s underground train network, millions of revelers head to the parkland area every June to hear an always eclectic mix of musicians.
In their record-setting year of 2015, the festival was headlined by the likes of pop sensation Anastacia and German DJ Robin Schulz. They joined a huge list of previous performers that has included Michael Bolton, Shaggy, and Taio Cruz. With no fees and plenty of different ways to access the island, it’s not surprising this Austrian festival is considered the biggest music festival in the world.
Mawazine – Rabat, Morocco
There’s some serious force behind Morocco’s Mawazine festival. Backed by the country’s royal family, this music festival is held in the city of Rabat every June. What makes it such a draw is that it always brings star power throughout the 9-day event. The acts are spread across 7 stages and features a mix of pop, EDM, rap and Latino music. This is all mixed with a plethora of Africa’s and the Middle East’s biggest musicians.
Averaging around 2 million visitors every year, Mawazine is a huge draw which showcases the local culture just as much as it does the headlining acts. The biggest draw came in 2013 when 2.5 million people attended the event – a world record at the time. The likes of Rihanna, Stevie Wonder, Rod Stewart, and Bruno Mars have all headlined at Mawazine, making it a must-see for Africa’s biggest music festival.
Montreal International Jazz Festival – Montreal, Canada
Montreal is arguably one of North America’s cultural capitals. Alongside the city’s famous comedy festival, the Montreal International Jazz Festival brings millions of fans to Quebec every July. It’s by far the jazz world’s biggest annual event, bringing in the industry’s best and brightest to perform at dozens of venues across the city. Hosted over 10 days, you will find shows both in iconic music halls as well as in parklands next to the Saint Lawrence River.
What is staggering about the entire event is the sheer scale of it. It often showcases an average of 3000 performers and over 650 concerts each year. Its highest attendance overall remains in 2005 when 1.9 million fans descended upon the city for the 25th edition.
Rock in Rio – Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Few rock festivals have such a global presence as Rock In Rio. Initially hosted in Rio De Janeiro, the festival has gone on to be held in several places in Europe such as Lisbon and Madrid. However, it is still the incarnation held in Brazil that draws the most visitors. There’s just something about moshing next to golden beaches that is just super appealing. This was proven when the first event in 1985 drew in a staggering 1.5 million people. Sporting a bill of rock gods including Queen, AC/DC and Iron Maiden, it set a precedent that has yet to be matched.
That doesn’t mean other editions haven’t tried. With the Brazilian event only hosted every 2-3 years, it is always a must-go for any music lover in the area. There are always big draws ready to perform on each of the three stages, with at least one or two rock or metal icons always likely to appear. Throw in special stages for local Brazilian music and electronica. and it’s a haven for any music lover. This is why Rock in Rio continues to draw over 1 million attendees every time it is held.
Summerfest – Milwaukee, WI
Out of all of America’s famous music festivals, it’s Milwaukee’s Summerfest that takes the crown for the United States’ biggest music festival. Held for 11 days every June, it is a showcase of talents that covers every genre imaginable. It could be a metal headliner one night and a country singer another. This wide range of talents is why the event has averaged around 1,000,000 festival-goers each year. It’s quite an achievable feat for an event that first started back in 1968.
With this long history, the previous artist list almost feels like a hall of fame in itself. The headliners include The Doors, Johnny Cash, Linkin Park, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Def Leppard. The 2001 an attendance of 1,000,000 is still a record in the US, and gives the event a unique claim to fame.
Pol’and’Rock Festival – Warsaw, Poland
If there was ever a lasting ode to Woodstock’s legacy, you can find it at the annual Pol’and’Rock Festival in Warsaw, Poland. This rock festival in the Polish capital draws on the ideas set behind the iconic 1960s festival. Completely free to attend, it is a lively atmosphere that is impossible to match. It also caters to every rock and metal sub-genre that springs to mind. You will find reggae, hard rock, and pop punk bands slotted next to doom metal or black metal artists.
With such a wide range of genres from rock and metal catered for, there’s no real surprise that the events draw plenty of visitors. It averages around 750,000 people every year when it is held either in June or July. When you think that the likes of Judas Priest, Papa Roach and Behemoth have all headlined here, it’s good to see the spirit of Woodstock still burning bright to this very day.
Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festivals – Indio, CA
There is no festival today that is bigger in terms of popularity than Coachella. The Californian festival has evolved into an event that draws A-list celebrities in droves as well as music aficionados. It’s why the event has evolved into a true global showcase of music when it kicks off every April.
You will find film and music stars all peeking around to see all the hottest acts in music. This is why Coachella now averages around 750,000 visitors over the two weekends it’s held. Coachella brings in juggernaut names like Blink 182, Billie Eilish, Kanye West, and Skrillex to headline each night of the show.
As you can see, some surprising candidates have claimed the title of being the biggest music festival in the world.
The likes of Coachella and Mazawine continue to gain in popularity, making them must-attend events. Meanwhile, free access has made events such as Pol’and’Rock and the Montreal International Jazz Festival huge draws every year.
However, it’s Austria’s Donauinselfest that holds the world record for the largest attendance. Being easy to reach and free to enter, it’s a must for anyone near Vienna at the time. With a regular average attendance regularly breaking 2.5 million people, it’s no wonder why Donauinselfest is seen as the biggest music festival in the world.