The sheer scale of the world’s biggest festival is nothing short of breathtaking. Hundreds of thousands – even millions – of music fans congregating in vast, sprawling spaces, spanning city blocks or expansive open fields, where the world’s most influential artists perform. But it’s not only about the staggering size. It’s also the spectacle—the brilliant light shows, the ingenious stage designs, and the inimitable ambiance that paint a stunningly vivid canvas of sensory delight.
People from all walks of life embark on these musical pilgrimages for all sorts of reasons. For some, it’s about the intoxicating euphoria of seeing their favourite artists perform live. For others, it’s the thrill of discovering exciting new talent. Some seek the liberating freedom of self-expression, while others yearn for the sense of belonging found within these music-loving communities. All drawn in by the enchanting lure of music, they come together to make memories that last a lifetime.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll rank the festivals by number of attendees. However, it’s worth noting that the stated numbers are based on estimated data. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest music festivals in the world.
Location: Worthy Farm, Somerset, UK | 2022 Attendance: Approx. 200,000
While it isn’t the largest music festival in the world, the five-day Glastonbury Festival is one of the most famous and enduring. It was founded by dairy farmer Michael Eavis in 1970 as the Pop, Blues & Folk Festival with tickets costing £1. Today, Glastonbury has become one of the world’s great music festivals with dozens of stages and areas featuring music, dance, theatre, cabaret, circus and other performing arts.
Location: New York, USA | 1969 Attendance: Approx. 400,000
At the time, Woodstock was the biggest music festival ever held. The iconic festival was held on a dairy farm in upstate New York and is recognised as a seminal turning point in the annals of popular music. Indeed Rolling Stone magazine voted Woodstock one of the ‘50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll.’ Headline acts included Santana, Janis Joplin, The Who, Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix and the organisers told the local authorities they expected no more than 50,000 people. A conservative estimate put the total number in attendance at 400,000 but it may have been as high as half a million.
Location: Wisconsin, USA | 2022 Attendance: Approx. 445,000
Summerfest was first held in 1968 and it was believed to be the largest music festival in the world in the 1990s. In 2001, the attendance for the eleven-day festival is believed to have topped one million. During the 2010s it was regularly attracting 750,000+. Summerfest is held at the Henry Maier Festival Park in downtown Milwaukee and has played host to some of the world’s biggest music stars including Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Bob Dylan and Metallica.
Location: Budapest, Hungary | 2022 Attendance: Approx. 452,000
The first event took place in 1993 as a small festival for students, but Sziget has grown to become a contender for the world’s biggest festival. The week-long festival which takes place on a 266-acre island on the River Danube attracts music fans from all over the world and features over 1,000 music, dance and film performances.
Location: Various Cities in Poland | 2019 Attendance: Approx. 750,000
Inspired by the original Woodstock festival, Pol’and’Rock is a free rock music festival and one of the biggest music festivals in the world. It features a mix of around thirty Polish and international bands and before the annual festival, a competition is held to promote new talent with the winners given an opportunity to perform that year.
Location: California, USA | 2022 Attendance: Approx. 750,000
Officially the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, this contender for the largest music festival in the world is held at the Empire Polo Club and features some of the world’s biggest music stars. The festival was founded in 1999 by music promoters Paul Tollett and Rick Van Santen and the 2023 headliners included Calvin Harris, Blink-182 and Blondie.
Location: Donauinsel, Austria | 2015 Attendance: Approx. 3,300,000
Billed as the world’s biggest festival, Donauinselfest is a free open-air festival held on a 4.5 kilometre section of the Danube Island in the middle of the famous river. It features around 2,000 local and international artists across all music genres and is staffed by thousands of volunteers. A highlight of the festival is the ‘Rock The Island’ contest, a competition that gives unsigned musicians a chance to vie for a coveted performance slot on the main stage.
The biggest music festivals in the world continue to thrive, etching vivid moments into the collective memory of millions of people. The impact they make, the communities they foster, and the joy they spread, are irrefutable proof of the universal language of music.
As the curtain draws on this journey through the world’s biggest music festivals, we’re reminded of the unparalleled energy, excitement, and unity these events inspire. From thunderous beats under neon skies to the heart-pounding thrill of discovering new talents, these festivals are more than just concerts. They’re the epitome of creativity and connection, vibrant showcases of the power of music.