Top 10 Rock Music Festivals

What is the best music festival in the world? See if your nomination made it to the final top 10.

Ultimate Guitar

This week we asked Ultimate Guitar readers to vote on their favourite music festivals in the world.

With so many great events to choose from, it could have been a tough task. Now the results are in, and we have to say, it's a mighty list of excellent live music.

Did your favourite make the top 10?

10. Roskilde (Denmark)

Two students formed the first Roskilde festival, but it proved so popular that a charity took it over the following year. Now the funds go towards promoting and developing music, culture and humanism in the region - not a bad economy by any means.

Recent headliners: Metallica, Queens of the Stone Age, Slipknot

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9. Hellfest (USA)

The extreme heat at the festival lends itself to the name, but it also ties in nicely with its heavy music roots. It started out as a showcase for hardcore bands, and was pumped with associated ethics like promoting straight-edge culture and even animal rights. It was cancelled in 2005, so it shouldn't technically make it to this list, but proved so popular in this poll that we threw it in anyway.

Recent headliners: The Acacia Strain, Killswitch Engage, Public Enemyx

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8. Mayhem (USA/Canada)

This touring metal festival has been rocking across the US since only 2008, but it's been a massive hit. Since there's so many dates, it's normal to see a quality surprise guest headliner like Avenged Sevenfold or Dethklok.

Recent headliners: Rob Zombie, Mastodon, Amon Amarth

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7. Pinkpop (Netherlands)

Pinkpop proved so successful since its inception in 1970 that in the mind-1990s it was forced to limit the number of tickets to 60,000 to prevent overcrowding. For the older music fan, a spin-off called Pinkpop Classic features artists who played at the festival in decades gone by. How's that for a way to relive your youth?

Recent headliners: The Killers, Kings of Leon, Green Day

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6. Glastonbury (UK)

Britain's best loved festival turns a sleepy countryside village into a sprawling tent city. It started in the '70s as a hippy's musical retreat for around $1.50 per person, but has become a giant in the global festival scene. Its hippy roots remain, though, with a tipi village at its heart.

Recent headliners: Rolling Stones, Arctic Monkeys, Mumford & Sons

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5. Reading & Leeds (UK)

Reading is the more famous half of this festival which sees three days of alternative music acts grace stages in two British towns. Reading only gets the glory because it's in the south of the country near London, so the TV and media elite attend this version - but the Leeds event, held on the same weekend, gets all the same artists.

Recent headliners: Green Day, Eminem, Biffy Clyro

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4. Soundwave (Australia)

Soundwave tours the major cities of Australia with some of the biggest rock artists in the world. It started out as an offshoot of an extreme sports event in Perth, but proved so popular that it became a huge name in its own right. Today it reaches five major Australian cities.

Recent headliners: Metallica, Linkin Park, Blink-182

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3. Rock am Ring/Rock im Park (Germany)

As with Reading and Leeds, this event takes place at two sites in one country, with the lineup switching dates so the artists can travel to the other site.

Recent headliners: 30 Seconds to Mars, Volbeat, Green Day

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2. Wacken (Germany)

This open air heavy metal festival takes over the small village of Wacked every summer with 80,000 visitors. They have a wonderful tradition where the local fire fighters open the festival with their own house band, followed by some of the heaviest metal acts available.

Recent headliners: Motorhead, Rammstein, Trivium

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1. Download (UK)

The ultimate heavy music festival. Held in Donnington park (the site where some of the biggest and greatest rock shows have ever been held), Download has international metal fans wishing they lived in Europe just so they were in range of the event. And this week, Ultimate Guitar readers have officially voted it the greatest music festival in the world today. Congratulations!

Recent headliners: Slipknot, Iron Maiden, Rammstein

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Which are your personal favorite festivals? Who can share the greatest festival story? Share them in the comments below.

106 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Now lets go to everyone next year.
    I upvoted you because you had 68 upvotes and as an immature person masquerading as an adult I'm obliged to fix the error.
    I downvoted because someone upvoted to make it 70 and as a responsible adult I had to keep the balance in life.
    Hellfest is in France, Clisson since 2006!
    Yep, and they are dumb enough to say that it was cancelled in 2005 and post a video from 2013... Seems like they have a limited logical capacity !
    It's a shame to read such articles, ... no information before posting, go to hell...
    I personally don't go to many music festivals but good list overall
    I thought Rock In Rio was one of the bests...
    You said it, WAS. Now it's half filled with crap that has nothing to do with Rock. I know that in the end it's all about the producers getting cash but I hate when they kill the escence of the festival, there was a reason for it to be called ROCK in Rio.
    I hate Glastonbury since I learned they refused a last pink floyd reunion show before Rick Wright died, because it 'wasn't in tune with the other music played on the festival" like 50 cent...
    I know it used to be rock, but Glastonbury? It's gone downhill since they asked more poppy 'bands' to perform there. Hope it isn't going to carry on having pop/rnb performers... Otherwise yeah, solid list =)
    Insanity ninja
    R+L has gone downhill too... And it's filled with douchebags now. Pretty surprised Sonisphere wasn't on the list though, even if the UK one has been a shambolic mess for the last couple of years.
    Least Download still has a good line-up... No wonder it was number 1. Really wanted to go this year as well =(
    I'm kinda surprised that neither Sweden rock nor Metaltown made it, since they both pull pretty heavy bands each year....
    List is quite good, but I don't think this list (or the voters) considered atmosphere. Personally, I'm from the Netherlands and although Pinkpop is a good festival, it's not as good as lowlands (also in Holland). Lowlands has a much better vibe, and a more varying line-up, which makes it more like glastonbury or download (although it only holds up to 55,000 people in total). But like I said already; good list and I hope I'll be able to visit at least 50% of the festivals mentioned in this article
    I did, that's why Soundwave got my vote.. even though it has a lot of issues with stage organisation and barriers
    even though its not nearly as big as any on this list, Riot Fest in chicago was great this year. The Replacements, Pixies, Quicksand, Brand New, Blink, and many others over 3 days.
    I left early on two of the three days at Riot Fest. It was easily the worst festival I've been to. Music aside, I just thought the atmosphere was awful. And far too many idiots wound up in the hospital.
    Being a US resident, I probably won't have the chance to go to a Download or Wacken or Soundwave, though as I said before, I had a fantastic time at this year's Orion fest. Hopefully there will be more of it for years to come.
    No graspop? Really? Check their headliners the last couple of years. Rock/metal heaven
    Wow, someone people have different taste than you, how horrible!
    Hellfest France, mainly because it's the only decent french festival without nearly having to go to Italy/Switzerland for Sonisphere
    No Lollapalooza??! Shit just last year there were 300,000 people watching Black Sabbath and Black Keys in one park at the same time. Then this list gets made and something called Wacken in Wacked the Town is second... I call biased metalhead shenanigans.
    Wacken Open Air is one of the biggest metalfestivals in the world although Wacken is a really small town.
    i cant believe that heavy mtl isnt on the list.... the biggest metal fest in north america
    I disagree with some of these. ROCK IN RIO?!?!?!?!? HELLO PEOPLE? There were some amazing shows there, especially during the 1980's.
    Nice, Soundwave made it...the lineup is better than the headliners suggest though. In one year we had: System Of A Down, Slipknot, Marilyn Manson, LoG, Alter Bridge, Devin Townsend, Black Label Society, Dillinger Escape Plan, Mastodon, Meshuggah, Gojira... and that's not even 1/4 of it.
    As far as I'm concerned, the lack of Bonnaroo and Big Day Out make this list null and void. Good question, though, UG. Way to not ask the same thing four times.
    Someone forgot to update the front page... therefore, someone is getting fired. Good list btw.
    Wacken is far far above Download. Saying that as a UK resident. DL is run by monkeys in hats, and isn't worth half the ever rising cost for a single ticket. Maybe 1 in every 4 or 5 lineups is worth a whole weekend for.
    Got to agree with you.. I went to the first 5 DLs but it just turned to shit. Each succesive year it seemed to get worse..line ups, organisation etc... Go to Bloodstock now and I have a lot better time there.. Just my opinion ofc...
    m4ss3 m/
    Hell yes! Couldn't pick a better example for the Rock Am Ring. That LP concert is one of the best ones I have ever seen (from Youtube).
    Riotfest much? They got The Replacements reunion we never saw coming! And they got Bob Mould to play four Du songs, and four Sugar songs.