Why not spend your spring holidays on two of the most popular Rock festivals in Europe? Enjoy some entertaining open air days at Germany's Rock am Ring before hitting the road to Download Festival in Britain. Follow your favourite band from stage to stage.
PLEASE NOTE: it may occur that in some years, Download is taking place BEFORE Rock am Ring. In these cases, this road trip can of course also be enjoyed the other way round. That means, starting in the UK and hitting the road towards Germany.
On the way, explore some of the most beautiful historical towns in Europe. Stroll along cobbled pavements and timbered houses and discover the breathtaking architecture of medieval cathedrals. Don’t miss the recommended spots along: authentic Rock 'n' Roll pubs, cozy live venues, and funky record stores. Always worth a detour. Enjoy some relaxed sightseeing days off in between the two huge outdoor events. Always accompanied by the tunes of the real big players in Rock, Punk, and Heavy Metal.
This trip will lead you from Cologne and Rock am Ring to Ghent & Bruges in Belgium. On the way, take a break at the historical city of Aachen. Afterwards, cross the Channel and discover Canterbury's rich history before heading to Windsor, Oxford, and Stratford-upon-Avon.
Our recommended subTOUR includes 3 nights along the route in between Rock am Ring and Download. But it's up to you to extend or shorten the trip as you like. Also get our ultimate tips for some extra days before and after the festival: Cologne and Birmingham are always a good choice for an overnight on top.
This trip is easiest done by car, whether your own or a rental one. Always a great choice for camper vans rentals in Germany is Roadsurfer. So sleeping in a proper bed, a camper van, or your tent? That's the reason we hand-picked camping sites as well as hotels for your overnight stays along the way. Prefer something special and personal? Landvergnuegen lists all camping pitches in Germany available at rural farms, wineries and similar.
Prefer Rock im Park instead of Rock am Ring? Also check out our Rock im Park to Download tour.
Cologne (Bachmeier / Ramsthaler)
For those flying in from abroad, the city of Cologne may be a great first stopover on this festival tour. Cologne is one of the most populated cities in Germany with famous Cologne Cathedral telling of the city's rich medieval heritage.
The student town is a major cultural centre for the region, with numerous museums and galleries as well as art exhibitions. Explore Cologne's vibrant inner districts with an abundance of restaurants and bars. Visit a gig in one of the live music venues. And discover your new favourite disc from one of the record shops before heading on to Rock am Ring further south.
Rock am Ring (Bachmeier / Ramsthaler)
Enjoy one of the greatest Rock and Metal festivals on the globe: Rock am Ring is a 3-days festival, annually taking place in the West of Germany. It's just about 1-hour drive from Cologne. Rock am Ring is twin festival to Rock im Park in the South of Germany. About 70,000 to 90,000 Rock and Metal fans gather every June to celebrate the biggest names in music business. Headliners since included Metallica, Die Toten Hosen, Muse, Green Day, and Rage against the Machine only to name a few.
Also take your time exploring the beautiful Eifel region around the race track which is festival ground in these days.
Aachen (Google Streetview)
Tonight’s final destination is the Belgian city of Ghent or Bruges. Break your camp early at Rock am Ring to avoid traffic jams around the festival area.
From Rock am Ring, hit the road to the historical city of Aachen, close to the border to Belgium and the Netherlands. This was preferred medieval imperial residence of Charlemagne, and, from 936 to 1531, the place where 31 Holy Roman Emperors were crowned as Kings of the Germans. Really a place worth visiting when around. Before continuing your drive, enjoy the cultural heritage of beautifully ornamented interior of Aachen Cathedral which was constructed from the 8th century onwards. Charlemagne himself lies buried in the impressive cathedral.
Ghent (Bachmeier / Ramsthaler)
For your overnight stay, choose Ghent or Bruges in Belgium as these are two extraordinary nice towns and you wanna make the most out of your road trip, right?
Enjoy an evening stroll in the medieval town of Ghent stopping at historic sightseeing spots or having some relaxed hours in one of our mentioned places. As part of Belgium’s Flemish region with a history dating back to the Stone Age and Iron Age, much of the city's medieval architecture remained intact and is remarkably well preserved and restored.
Why not take the time for some record shopping in town or checking out tonight's schedule of the numerous live music venues around?
Bruges (Google Streetview)
As an alternative you can also stop for an overnight in world heritage city of Bruges.
Spend the evening in medieval surroundings in town enjoying one or two drinks in of the numerous nice restaurants and bars around. Bruges is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium. Along with a few other canal-based northern cities it is sometimes referred to as The Venice of the North. Bruges has most of its medieval architecture intact, making it one of the most well-preserved medieval towns in Europe. The historic centre has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.
For the evening, why not spent some hours in some of our recommended Rock 'n' Roll spots in the area?
(Bachmeier / Ramsthaler)
Today's leg of this subTOUR will take you from your overnight stay via the Calais-Dover ferry to Canterbury in Southern England with its magnificent cathedral.
The ferry from Calais to Dover is the easiest and fastest way to cross the Channel. There are numerous connections every day. Nevertheless, in high season and peak times avoid waiting time and book your ferry early here.
Sight tip: if you have some time, have a short stroll along the coastal trail high upon the White Cliffs of Dover to enjoy the stunning scenery.
In Canterbury, stroll through the medieval city centre and UNESCO World Heritage Site, exploring historic places along narrow cobblestone streets and lovely timbered houses. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the primate of the Church of England. Canterbury Cathedral is world renowned, an exceptional and impressive masterpiece of Christendom and one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England which became a major focus of pilgrimage since 1170.
For dinner, we have the best Rock pub in town for you.
Oxford (Bachmeier / Ramsthaler)
The next day, another impressive historical British town is on your bucket list: Oxford.
Otherwise, for all those who want to spend some time in the British capital nearby, check out our detailed London city page before heading to Oxford.
On the way to Oxford, visit Holloway Sanatorium, the place for creepy music videos, and Tittenhurst Park, where John Lennon and Yoko Ono once lived.
Afterwards, take a break at Windsor Castle. Fancy a detour? Britain's oldest pub is always best choice for a refreshing drink and proper lunch before making a quick photo stop at Friar Park, former home of George Harrison, and at Mapledurham Watermill, album cover of Black Sabbath. You may also check out the site of nearby Reading Festival. For more information, take a glance here.
The city of Oxford is globally known as home of the University of Oxford, which is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Numerous historical university and college buildings boast with marvellous architecture. Everything surrounded by green parks and lush nature walks. Explore this beautiful town with our recommendations for cafés, pubs, record stores, or live venues. For the night, either choose one of the cozy hotels or the camping site just outside city gates.
For those who rather want to head to the festival more directly: choose the alternative route further east, following the motorway straight northbound. Instead of visiting Windsor, Oxford & Stratford, stay the night in an unexpected place - try Glamping. On the way, discover the place of a famous Oasis album cover.
Where many music videos have been produced
John Lennon, Yoko Ono and more stories to tell
Oldest and largest occupied castle in the world
The oldest pub in whole Britain
Former home & studio of George Harrison
Black Sabbath album cover
Beautiful sport for glamping
Guess the Oasis album cover
Stratford-upon-Avon (Bachmeier / Ramsthaler)
This is the day. Make your way up north. Download Festival in Leicestershire is today’s destination. The drive from Oxford to Donington Park will take roundabout 2 hours, depending on festival traffic. Today's route is a comparatively short one which allows you to have enough time for tearing up your camping gear or checking into your accommodation for the time of Download Festival.
For those who don't want to head directly to the festival, take some time discovering some really nice spots on the way. Stratford-upon-Avon situated on the River Avon is a welcoming market town with more than 800 years of history. It is worldwide known as the birthplace of English playwright and poet William Shakespeare.
Download Festival (Bachmeier / Ramsthaler)
Here we are, at your final destination for the next days.
Download Festival is a Rock festival with about 80,000 visitors, held annually at Donington Park. It is the most popular British Rock and Heavy Metal festival and has hosted some of the genres' biggest names, including Black Sabbath, Slipknot, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Motörhead, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Kiss, Judas Priest, and Guns N' Roses. Normally, Donington Park is a motorsport circuit. Also hosting Formula One races in former days. Enjoy your festival days and join our recommendations for sightseeing around the festival site. Especially Swarkstone Hall Pavillion with its Rolling Stones story is worth a visit.
After the weekend, for those who do not want to return home directly, nearby Birmingham is a great spot to spend some more time.
Birmingham (Bachmeier / Ramsthaler)
Birmingham is not only birthplace of once entirely new music genres such as Heavy Metal or New Romantic, but also home for globally renowned bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, or Duran Duran. Find out how the city’s industrial history laid foundation for genres and artists and follow their traces beyond the common sightseeing spots.
Brum also offers a vibrant live music scene. Why not end this trip with another concert of one of your favourite bands?