Top 13 Extreme and Crazy festivals in Europe

Calcio Storico Fiorentino

Calcio Storico Fiorentino, a blend of football, rugby, and combat sports, is one of Europe's most extreme and traditional festivals, held in Florence, Italy. Tracing back to the 15th century, this fiercely competitive game is played annually on June 24th, the feast day of St. John the Baptist, Florence’s patron saint. The event takes place in Piazza Santa Croce, transformed into a battleground with a sand-covered pitch. Each of the city's four historic quarters fields a team, with the players known as 'calcianti'. Dressed in traditional costumes, 27 players per side engage in a brutal and physically demanding contest, where almost all forms of tackling are permissible, barring a few like head kicks and attacks from behind.

Calcio Storico is not just a sport but a cultural emblem of Florence, reflecting its rich history and social fabric. The game is known for its lack of pauses, only stopping for medical emergencies, and the intensity of the physical confrontations makes injuries almost inevitable. The objective is to throw or kick the ball into the opponent's net, with teams earning points for successful goals and half points for misses. This historic sport symbolizes the city's spirit, bringing together people from diverse backgrounds in a fierce yet respected competition. It's an embodiment of Florentine pride and tradition, where honor and glory outweigh physical risks.

Running of the Bulls

Running of the Bulls, Pamplona, Spain

The Running of the Bulls, a heart-pounding and adrenaline-fueled event, is one of the most extreme and crazy festivals in Europe, taking place in Pamplona, Spain. This event, part of the San Fermín festival, is globally renowned and differs significantly from the traditional, local festival it once was. Originating from cattle herding practices in the 14th century, it has evolved into a daring race where participants, dressed in white with red scarves, run ahead of a group of bulls through the streets. The event spans from July 6th to 14th, with the first bull run commencing on July 7th at 8 am, continuing daily throughout the festival. It symbolizes a blend of cultural tradition, bravery, and festivity, attracting thousands of participants and spectators from around the world.

The running course, stretching 875 meters through the old part of the city, is lined with wooden fences for safety, directing the bulls to the bullring. Participants must adhere to strict rules, including running in the same direction as the bulls and refraining from inciting them. The event is notorious for its risks, with injuries and even fatalities being a grim but real aspect of the run. Despite this, the Running of the Bulls remains a quintessential element of Spanish culture and an extreme spectacle that epitomizes the daring spirit of the festival.

Battle of the Oranges

Ort der VeranstaltungIvrea

The Battle of the Oranges is a unique and boisterous festival held annually in Ivrea, Italy, part of the Carnival of Ivrea. This event, known as the largest food fight in Italy, symbolizes the city's rebellion against tyranny. According to legend, it commemorates a young woman's defiance against a tyrant's abuse of power, leading to the city's uprising. Participants, divided into teams, engage in a vigorous orange-throwing battle, representing the ancient weapons used against the tyrant's forces. The festival, deeply rooted in local history, is a lively reenactment of the civil war between the people of Ivrea and the tyrant's forces, reflecting the town's spirit of freedom and resistance.

Originating in the 19th century, the Battle of the Oranges attracts thousands of participants and spectators, making it a major cultural and tourist attraction. The event features squads of 'aranceri' on foot, who represent the revolutionaries, engaging in spirited orange battles against those on carts, symbolizing the tyrant's army. The festival also includes historical representations, vibrant parades, and traditional rituals, celebrating the community's unity and resilience. It's a testament to Ivrea's rich history and an extraordinary example of how a community can transform a historical event into a vibrant, modern-day celebration.

La Tomatina

Ort der VeranstaltungBuñol

La Tomatina is an iconic festival held in Buñol, Spain, celebrated with an enormous tomato fight, marking it as one of the most unusual and extreme festivals in Europe. Originating in 1945, the event occurs on the last Wednesday of August each year. The festival's roots are unclear, with various theories ranging from a spontaneous food fight among friends to a rebellious act against town officials. Regardless of its origins, La Tomatina has grown into a significant event attracting thousands of participants worldwide. During the event, overripe tomatoes are hurled in a friendly but intense battle, turning the streets of Buñol into rivers of tomato pulp.

The festival begins with a challenge to climb a greased pole to reach a ham at the top, followed by the main event at 11 am. The chaos lasts for an hour, during which participants indulge in the tomato-throwing frenzy, adhering to rules like crushing tomatoes before throwing to avoid injuries. After the battle, the streets are cleaned by the locals and visitors, marking an end to the unique celebration. La Tomatina, with no religious or political significance, symbolizes fun and freedom, providing an unusual yet thrilling experience for participants and spectators alike.

Busójárás, Mohács, Hungary

Ort der VeranstaltungMohács

Busójárás is a traditional Hungarian festival celebrated in Mohács, marked by its UNESCO recognition as an intangible cultural heritage. This annual event, symbolizing the end of winter and the onset of spring, is known for its distinctive masks and costumes. Participants, known as Busós, don sheepskin cloaks and carved wooden masks, creating an eerie yet fascinating atmosphere. The festival's origins are tied to legends dating back to the Ottoman era, with one popular story describing how the locals used fearsome masks and noise to drive away occupying forces. Another interpretation suggests it as a ritual to scare away winter itself.

The six-day celebration includes a range of activities like folk music, masquerading, parades, and dancing. It culminates in a grand parade, where participants wearing frightening masks and costumes roam the streets, symbolically chasing away winter and welcoming spring. The festival is deeply rooted in the town’s history and folklore, offering a vivid and unique cultural experience that attracts visitors from around the world. Amidst the sound of clattering objects and the sight of the haunting masks, Busójárás stands as a testament to the rich cultural tapestry of Hungary.

World Bodypainting Festival

Ort der VeranstaltungKlagenfurt

The World Bodypainting Festival, a spectacular celebration of body art, takes place annually in Klagenfurt, Austria. Originating in 1998, the festival has evolved into a major event attracting artists and enthusiasts from around the globe. The 2024 edition, scheduled for 17th to 21st September, marks its 27th year, highlighting the festival's enduring appeal. The event focuses on body painting and make-up art, incorporating special effects and other visual art forms. Artists work on their creations during the day, showcasing them on a grand stage in the evening, with live broadcasts on various channels.

Hosted in the Messe Arena Klagenfurt, the festival offers a rich program including the WB Academy for training and education, alongside side events leading up to the main days. It serves as a platform for photographers, videographers, exhibitors, and visitors to immerse themselves in a world of vibrant artistic expression. The festival is not just an art event but a cultural phenomenon, blending creativity, community, and celebration in the scenic setting of Klagenfurt am Wörthersee, a city known for its Renaissance charm and idyllic lakeside location.

La Batalla del Vino

Ort der VeranstaltungHaro

La Batalla del Vino, or the Wine Battle, is a unique and vibrant festival held annually in Haro, La Rioja, Spain. Celebrated on the 29th of June, the festival coincides with the feast of San Pedro. It commences with a traditional mass at the Chapel of San Felices de Bilibio, followed by the famed wine battle. Participants, dressed in white with red scarves, arm themselves with various implements like spritz guns, buckets, and wine skins, and engage in a spirited battle where they douse each other with red wine. This spectacle turns the streets of Haro into rivers of wine, symbolizing the region's deep connection to viticulture.

The event's roots are believed to lie in a historical dispute with the neighboring town of Miranda de Ebro over the ownership of a mountain ridge. La Batalla del Vino has evolved into a major tourist attraction, drawing thousands of enthusiasts from all corners of the world. The festivities continue into the night with traditional dances and celebrations, reflecting the local culture and the community's passion for wine. This festival not only serves as an entertaining tourist attraction but also celebrates the rich winemaking heritage of La Rioja, a region renowned for producing some of Spain's finest wines.

Olney Pancake Race, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom

Ort der VeranstaltungOlney

The Olney Pancake Race is a cherished tradition dating back to 1445 in Olney, Buckinghamshire, England. Held annually on Shrove Tuesday, the event is exclusive to female residents or employees in Olney, who must have resided or worked in the town for at least three months. The race, covering a distance of 415 yards, requires participants to run while flipping pancakes in frying pans. The race begins at 11:55 am, preceded by children's races from local schools starting at 10 am. This unique event symbolizes a historical tale of a housewife who, in a rush to attend church, ran while still clutching her frying pan with a pancake.

Since 1950, Olney has been in friendly international competition with Liberal, Kansas, USA. Each location records its race times, with winners in both towns exchanging prizes. The event, revived post-WWII in 1948, now marks a day of community festivity and celebration of local history. The race's international aspect adds to its charm, fostering a spirit of global friendship and cultural exchange.

Wattolümpiade (Mud Olympics)

Ort der VeranstaltungBrunsbüttel

The Wattolümpiade, also known as the Mud Olympics, is a unique and exhilarating event held in Brunsbüttel, Germany. This extraordinary festival, taking place since 2004, combines sports and charity, with participants competing in various mud-infused activities to support cancer patients and their families. The festival features an array of mud-based sports, including football, handball, volleyball, and a sledge race, along with the quirky eel relay race. Participants from all over Europe, including Germany and neighboring countries, come together to compete in these muddy competitions.

Amidst the picturesque setting of the Elbe estuary, athletes and spectators gather annually in August to enjoy this messy yet meaningful event. The competition is less about winning and more about the fun of getting dirty for a good cause, epitomizing the motto, "Im Watt sein ist alles" ("Being in the mud is everything"). The festival not only offers a platform for sports but also includes a lively program with music and interactive activities, attracting thousands of visitors and making it a popular destination for North Sea vacationers and day-trippers.

Fetes de Bayonne

Ort der VeranstaltungBayonne

The Fetes de Bayonne is a vibrant and colossal festival held annually in the city of Bayonne, located in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques of southwestern France. Originating in 1932, this event has grown into one of the largest public gatherings in France, attracting over a million visitors each year. Celebrated over five days, usually starting on the last Wednesday of July, the Fetes de Bayonne transforms the entire city into a sea of red and white, as participants don traditional colors. The festival includes a myriad of activities, including parades, bull runs, musical performances, and sports competitions, encapsulating the rich cultural and traditional spirit of the region.

The festival is famously known for its opening ceremony, where the keys to the city are thrown to the crowd, symbolizing the start of the celebrations. Highlights include the vibrant street parades, akin to the Carnival of Nice, and the iconic bull runs, reminiscent of Pamplona's Sanfermines, drawing thrill-seekers and spectators alike. Alongside these exhilarating events, the Fetes de Bayonne offers a plethora of music and dance, with more than 40 bands enlivening the streets, and traditional Basque dances adding a local flavor. The festival is also a culinary delight, featuring local gastronomy, and special events like the world championship of omelettes with peppers, showcasing the rich culinary heritage of the region.

Cheese Rolling

Ort der VeranstaltungGloucestershire

The Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake is a unique and extreme annual event in Gloucestershire, England. Dating back at least 600 years, this eccentric festival involves participants chasing a 7–9 pound wheel of Double Gloucester cheese down the 200-yard steep slope of Cooper's Hill. The event, which typically occurs on the Spring Bank Holiday in late May, draws participants and spectators from all over the world. Despite its dangerous nature, with the cheese reaching speeds up to 70 mph and numerous injuries each year, the cheese rolling event continues to be a celebrated tradition in the local village of Brockworth and beyond.

Traditionally, the festival included various races for men and women, with the first person to cross the finish line at the bottom of the hill declared the winner and awarded the cheese. Over the years, the event has faced challenges, including concerns over safety and crowd control. However, its spirit remains undiminished, with locals and tourists alike flocking to the event. The festival's history is steeped in pagan and agricultural origins, possibly related to fertility rites and the maintenance of grazing rights on the common. Despite the lack of official organization in recent years, the Cheese Rolling event at Cooper's Hill continues to be a significant and quirky highlight in England's cultural calendar.

Baby Jumping Festival (El Colacho)

Ort der VeranstaltungCastrillo de Murcia

The Baby Jumping Festival, known as El Colacho, is a unique and bizarre event celebrated annually in Castrillo de Murcia, Spain. Dating back to 1620, this festival coincides with the Catholic feast of Corpus Christi. Men dressed as devils, adorned in red and yellow suits, perform the El Salto del Colacho (the devil jump), leaping over babies born in the preceding year who are laid on mattresses along the street. The ritual, organized by the Brotherhood of the Blessed Sacrament of Minerva, symbolizes the purification of the infants from original sin, protecting them from illness and evil spirits. The 'devils' wield whips and oversized castanets, creating a spectacle that combines religious and pagan elements to represent the triumph of good over evil.

While the origins of El Colacho are unclear, it has become a significant part of the local tradition, attracting participants from around the globe. The ceremony, which has roots in paganism, features devils chasing villagers, followed by the dramatic baby jumping. Despite controversies and debates within the Catholic Church regarding its practices, El Colacho continues to be celebrated without any reported injuries to the infants. The festival culminates in a vibrant display of community spirit, with streets lined with spectators, and the babies being showered with rose petals post-jump, marking their symbolic baptism and cleansing.

Wife Carrying World Championships

Ort der VeranstaltungSonkajärvi

The Wife Carrying World Championships, a unique competition originating in Sonkajärvi, Finland, blends athleticism with a hint of humor. Competitors, consisting of male carriers and female partners, race through an obstacle course that includes sand tracks, fences, and water pools. The sport, rooted in Finnish folklore and linked to the legend of Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen, a 19th-century robber, has evolved from its historical origins of either wife stealing or training thieves to become an internationally recognized event. The championship, now celebrated annually since 1992, sees participants adopt various carrying styles such as piggyback, fireman's carry, or the popular Estonian-style where the wife hangs upside-down with her legs over the carrier's shoulders.

This quirky contest draws global attention, with competitions held in countries such as Australia, the United States, Hong Kong, India, and Germany. Despite its seemingly comical nature, the event is taken seriously by its participants. The winning pair is awarded the wife's weight in beer, highlighting the light-hearted spirit of the festival. The event also includes entertainment like karaoke competitions, making it a festive experience for both competitors and spectators.