Eurovision & Travel
Why the Eurovision Song Contest is the Perfect Travel Companion when exploring Europe.
For anyone who lives in Europe, chances are you’ll be familiar with the Eurovision Song Contest. I first watched Eurovision when I was six years old and have been obsessed ever since. More recently, I realised that Eurovision is the perfect travel companion and an excellent way to explore a different side of Europe.
The Eurovision Song Contest travels to a different host nation each year. And wherever Eurovision goes, the fans follow. Thousands of travellers flock to the host city to join the festivities and soak up the atmosphere. Combining my passion for Eurovision with my love of travel has taken me to destinations across the continent and has encouraged me to think outside the limits of my bucket list.
Love to travel….but what’s Eurovision?
The Eurovision Song Contest is the world’s biggest music event.
Each year the nations of Europe (and a random selection of non-European nations) unite through the power of popular music and compete to perform the best song. For over 60 years the contest has been entertaining the world. The contest now has an audience of around 200 million viewers. You may be familiar with previous winners of the contest, both ABBA and Celine Dion launched careers following success at Eurovision.
It’s hard to describe the Eurovision Song Contest. As former winner, Conchita Wurst once said, “You have got to see to believe” and these words are a perfect description. The format may be similar to the Voice or the Idol franchise – but Eurovision is bigger, the production values are higher and show is much more spectacular.
The video below gives good idea of what to expect.
Love to explore Europe…but not a Eurovision fan (yet)?
You don’t have to be a super fan to combine Eurovision and travel and even if you don’t like the contest there are some great reasons to visit a city when Eurovision is in town.
I promise that you’ll leave seeing the contest very differently. And if not, you’ve had the opportunity to explore a fantastic European city during the summer months. What more could you ask for?
Below are some great reasons to explore Europe with Eurovision, even for travelers who are NOT (already ) fans of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Eurovision is the greatest show on earth!
I’m slightly biased. I’m a Eurovision super fan but it truly is a spectacular show. And the best way to experience this show is by being there.
Being in the audience or watching in the Eurovision Village is worlds apart from watching it at home. The village is full of Eurovision super fans who have been waiting all year to be here, so the atmosphere is second to none.
You will also see the reality of a show which is made for television. What looks like a glamourous saunter across the stage on TV in very different in reality (imagine a 5 man camera crew running backwards across the stage).
Being in the host city for the contest is an experience like no other.
Eurovision helps you to explore amazing European cities
Eurovision has had some amazing European host cities in recent years and even without Eurovision, these are great places to visit and explore.
Let’s look at the host cities from 2009 to 2019. Moscow, Oslo, Dusseldorf, Baku, Malmo, Copenhagen, Vienna, Stockholm, Kyiv, Lisbon and Tel Aviv. How many of these were already on your bucket list?
Eurovision is the perfect opportunity to take these places off your bucket list. For example, I had always wanted to visit Lisbon, and Portugal’s victory in 2017 gave even more reasons to visit.
And there’ll never be a better time to explore Europe and these amazing European cities (see next section).
Eurovision takes things up a notch
When Eurovision comes to town, the host city gets its glad rags out and comes to life. Eurovision logos and effigies of previous winners are everywhere. Hotels are brimming with Eurovision fans and delegations. You may stumble across a former winner in your hotel lobby (we did!). There’s a buzz in the air and it’s unique to Eurovision.
Eurovision themed public art in Tel Aviv, Israel 2019
It’s not just about the live shows and the area surrounding the arena. Eurovision festivities can be found throughout the host city.
For instance, the Eurovision Village becomes an epicenter for Eurovision activities. The organisers fill a public square with bars, eateries, stalls, live stages and everything Eurovision. It feels like a music festival or pride event featuring local artists and former Eurovision entrants.
There is also the EuroClub and the EuroCafe which offer a different flavor of Eurovision and the opportunity to mingle with fans across with globe.
In short, if you want to see a city at its best, visit when Eurovision is in town.
Eurovision has eclectic travel tastes
One prize for winning Eurovision, is the right to host the contest in the following year. Hopping from country to country, the contest provides the perfect prompt to explore parts of Europe you hadn’t previously (heard of) considered.
How many of you had Malmo on your bucketlist? How many of us have been to Millstreet? I hadn’t considered visiting Tel Aviv, but I absolutely loved it.
The Eurovision Song Contest encourages you to look outside of your bucket list and to explore other parts of Europe. So be brave and allow the Eurovision Song Contest to decide your travel plans. It’s like a musical travel lottery.
Eurovision is welcoming
Expect a warm welcome because Eurovision fans are a friendly bunch. You will spot them by their Eurovision T-shirts, painted faces or elaborate costumes. You might hear fans from different countries discussing their favourite entries or predicting which country will win. This is completely normal.
Obviously, we’d all like our own country to win, but this doesn’t stop fans from being merry, enjoying the contest and offering congratulations to fans from the winning nation.
In other words – it’s a huge, very welcoming European party.
How To Explore Europe with Eurovision
When and where will Eurovision be in 2020?
Travel and Accommodation
There’s no exact science to booking Eurovision travel as the circumstances differ from year to year. That being said, the following tips generally apply to every host city.
How Long to Stay
For the full Eurovision experience, plan to arrive in the host city on the Sunday pre-ceding the contest. This means you will be in the city for all of the live shows and for the full itinerary of events in the Eurovision Village.
Activities build throughout the week so if you are looking for a shorter visit, arrive on Wednesday or Thursday, in time for the first semi-final.
I’d also recommend staying for a short while after the contest and either staying in the host city or visiting somewhere close by. By going home later in the following week, you will tend to get cheaper return flights and you get a glimpse of the city without Eurovision.
There are different ways to do this. For instance, in Tel Aviv we spent the extra few days by the beach. However, in Lisbon we spent our time seeing more of Portugal and exploring the coast north of the capital. Again, use your time in the host city to explore new parts of Europe.
Don’t book any travel the host city has been publicly announced on the Eurovision website.
The contest has been known to move at very short notice so ignore any speculation ahead of the announcement. The short list of host cities is usually clear by this stage so there’s not harm researching which hotels and areas you like in the candidate cities. This gives you have an idea of where you’d like to stay ahead of the announcement.
Some fans attempt to guess the date and location of the contest and make multiple hotel reservations. I would not encourage this as it can make hotel prices more expensive for other visitors and can cause problems for the hotels. Certainly, don’t book any flights until the location is confirmed as these are often non-refundable.
When to book
You have a few options when it comes to booking flights and accommodation.
You can book your flights and accommodation soon after the host city announcement. The benefit of this here it to book your travel before the prices become inflated. This can happen in the weeks following the host announcement. If you decide to do this, remember that there is no guarantee that you will get tickets for the contest. Therefore you might need to watch the contest outside of the arena.
Another option is to book your flights and accommodation once you have your contest tickets, however prices may be slightly higher.
The number of visitors to Eurovision can often falsely inflate the price of hotel rooms so it’s worth keeping an eye on hotels in the run up to the content. For example, in 2018 we booked our hotels on the day of the host city announcement. However, 6 weeks before the contest we found the same hotel room being offered at a lower price once the inflation had calmed. Therefore, by keeping an eye on prices you can save money on your hotel booking
How do I get tickets to the Eurovision Song Contest?
The tickets to the Grand Final can cost anywhere between 50 and 500 euros and costs differ greatly each year. Eurovision in Tel Aviv was particularly expensive. The demand for Grand Final tickets is huge so be realistic about your expectations.
If you don’t get tickets for the Grand Final, you could get tickets for the semi-finals or for any of the rehearsal shows. In fact, there is a live (not televised) show, twice a day between Monday and Saturday. These are technically dress rehearsals for the live shows, so you still get to see all of the performers but without 200 million viewers.
If you are a superfan, you could consider joining the official Eurovision fan club or OGAE for your nation. Each OGAE gets an allocation of tickets to the Grand Final so as well as newsletter and events throughout the year, you will receive entry into a ballot for tickets.
If you don’t get tickets, the Eurovision Village is a great place to watch the contest. In Tel Aviv, over 20,000 people viewed the contest here. Expect a great atmosphere, plus a great mix of fans and locals coming together to watch the contest.
Hopefully this article has persuaded you to combine music and travel, and to explore Europe with Eurovision. I hope to see you there!
Let me know what you think of this blog by commenting below or give me a follow on social media. I’d love to hear from you!