From classical opera in Kraków to outdoor sculpture in San Sebastián, here’s where to find great art, music and film without breaking the bank
Across the Øresund strait from Copenhagen, Sweden’s most southerly and culturally diverse city has developed into the region’s art and music hub with an opera house, concert hall, its own symphony orchestra, a museum complex and a contemporary art scene. It’s also close to sandy beaches, has a dockland which is still gritty, and pleasant canals.
Every summer since 1985, an estimated 1.4 million people head to the city for the Malmöfestivalen, eight days of open-air concerts, exhibitions, street performances and food trucks in August, where everything except the food is free.
For culture seekers, Kraków has a flourishing, year-long calendar of opera, ballet and classical music concerts as well as art and literature fairs, and its five-day pierogi (Polish dumpling) festival in August.
The city’s Opera Krakowska reopens with Puccini’s Turandot in September while over the summer the company is performing Johann Strauss’s The Gypsy Baron and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana in the city’s botanical gardens. Tickets to the opera house start at 35 zlotys (£6.50) rising to £27 for the best seats.
This city of a hundred fountains and cultural hub of France’s Occitanie region is an elegant and lively base from which to visit the beaches, salt pans and fishing ports of the south, the Camargue and gateway to Roman Provence.
Montpellier’s Dance festival celebrates its 43rd edition from 20 June to 4 July and organises free, open-air dance classes throughout the festival. If visitors buy the Agora card for €20, there’s a 30% reduction on all ticket prices; and for under-26s, the card costs €10 and seat prices begin at just €5.
San Sebastián, Spain
The Basque country’s picturesque culinary capital, San Sebastián offers a rich and varied roster of cultural events throughout the year including classical concerts in August and Spain’s most prestigious film festival in September. It also has plenty of free events at theTabakalera arts centre, outdoor shows during Semana Grande in August and free entrance to a lighthouse art installation.
Norah Jones, Joss Stone and Abdullah Ibrahim headline San Sebastián’s 58th Jazzaldia festival in July, but there are also eight free concerts on the beach featuring trombonist Fred Wesley, London-based Blue Lab Beats, Ezra Collective and veteran lineup the Village People.
One of Germany’s most renowned destinations for opera, art, live music and literature festivals, Cologne offers surprisingly cheap deals for its high culture and museum entrances.
This year’s summer festival, Sommer Köln, runs from 24 June to 6 August, most of it outdoors and much of it free. There’s everything from slam poetry and cabaret to comedy shows, night-time projections and rocking beer gardens. Cologne’s opera season closes with a vocal festival at this year’s Opern-Air at the Tanzbrunnen venue on 25 June.