EXIT Festival in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad has become one of Europe’s most famous festivals, with a reputation as an essential rite-of-passage weekender.
As it approaches its 20th birthday in 2020, the festival is still innovating and branching out – but it will never forget its initial ethos of freedom, social change and youth rebellion at the beginning of the millennium. With its multiple international awards and
A force for social change
Not many modern festivals have a backstory beyond a commercial enterprise, but EXIT was formed in the spirit of genuine youth rebellion. The festival started as a 100-day student protest in 2000 against the Milosevic regime, with an idea to “Exit out of the madness” and a movement for freedom in Serbia and peace in the Balkans. The festival’s mission statement was clear from the beginning – to achieve social change with music and foster
The Stunning Location
Petrovaradin Fortress is simply Europe’s greatest festival setting – a 18th century citadel on a cliff overlooking the River Danube. The ‘Gibraltar on the Danube’ is visible for miles and looms large as you cross Varadin Bridge and through the archways and cobbled streets of Novi Sad Old Town leading up to a night at EXIT. Once inside you soon realise this is way beyond a session in a field. The vast site has ancient cobbled paths, grand courtyards, underground tunnels, grass verges metal staircases and moss-covered castle walls. At its highest point is the Clock Tower and its backwards clock with reverse hands – lovingly nicknamed the ‘Drunken Clock’ by locals. It’s also a perfect vantage point for a view of the city and the Danube below. Petrovaradin Fortress is one of Serbia’s most cherished landmarks and is protected by the state, so it’s a nice touch that it’s handed over to its citizens every year for a huge party. And don’t forget the priceless bonus of the Serbian midsummer sunshine…
The whole city embraces EXIT
From the hundreds of official volunteers at the
The wildly diverse line ups
If you quickly scan the EXIT line-up every year you’ll notice the massive names who’ve headlined, as well as top DJs and hyped acts, with Grace Jones, Liam Gallagher, The Killers, The Prodigy, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Arcade Fire, Pet Shop Boys and New Order just a few of the names who’ve visited Petrovaradin over the years. But dig deeper and you’ll find the most eclectic line-up of any festival in Europe, ranging from indie-rock and pop to techno, hip-hop, reggae, disco, folk and loads more, and if you’re brave enough, the heaviest metal on the planet at the infamous Explosive Stage. There are over 20 stages, not including random DJ sets and gigs in pop-up bars, archways and wooded areas. Certain areas even work as separate mini-festivals with boxed-off well-curated line-ups, such as No Sleep Novi Sad, which zones in on underground dance music. To go further down the rabbit hole you can even perform yourself at the Karaoke Stage.
The spectacular Dance Arena
Even though there is a specific Main Stage, the Dance Arena feels like the real jewel of EXIT, and the engine room that fuels the party till
Value for money
If you’re a UK festival veteran you’ll be allergic to overpriced tickets and food and drink costs that border on extortion rackets. But even though EXIT’s production values are off the charts – from the sound systems to the lasers shows, fireworks and performers – it’s by far the cheapest big league festival in Europe. Four-day festival passes are £99 at the minute – with a 5 tickets for the price of 4 offer. A camping pass is only £27 on top of that, and you can stay for a week. If you don’t fancy camping, local apartments are a fraction of the cost of Airbnbs in many other big cities, and likewise if you’re really treating yourself to a hotel. Once you take into account the cheap food and drink at the festival and around the city, and even the flights, you will most likely spend less than a full weekend at a UK festival.
Nikki McNeill | Global Publicity