The best European film festivals to visit in 2016 and what to take when you go

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There are hundreds of film festivals out there and hardly a weekend goes by without a city announcing one of its very own. Whether you’re thinking of heading to your first film festival or you’ve dipped you toes in the water already, we’ve put together a list of the five best European film festivals to visit next year, as well as a guide as to what you should take along with you.

European film festivals


Probably the most well-known European film festival, Cannes occurs every May and runs for two weeks. The most coveted prize is the Palm d’Or and big winners have included Francis Ford Coppola and Quentin Tarantino.


Known as the oldest film festival, Venice runs in late August or September every year. Past winners of the prestigious Golden Lion include Mike Lee and Darren Aronofsky.


The final of the big three European film festivals, Berlin takes place annually in February. The Golden Bear is the top award for best film and past winners include British playwright David Hare, and Jose Padilha.

International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam

The world’s largest specialist documentary film festival, Amsterdam runs annually in November. The 2013 winner of the big VPRO IDFA Award was the German documentary, Song from the Forest by Michael Obert.

The BFI London Film Festival

The largest UK festival, showing around 300 films from 50 different countries. This one happens in the second half of October. The big award is the Sutherland Trophy. Past winners include Goddard and Bertolucci.

What to take with you to a film festival

For the majority of people, going to a film festival is a casual affair. Depending on the time of year your chosen festival is held, you’ll need to pack for the weather – and the queuing. It does seem to be that northern European festivals are held during the winter months, so this is worth keeping in mind. If you’re invited to an evening event, it may be that you will also need more formal clothing.

As a rule, always remember the essentials:

• Comfy shoes – you may be queuing for lengthy periods. Now isn’t the time for stilettos!
• Layers – again, depending on where you are, you may find that you get cold while waiting outside but then very warm inside the screening venue. Layering will give you options.
• Camera – for all your celebrity spotting exploits.
• Money and phone – you may want to buy snacks or extra tickets and you may lose your party. Be prepared.
• EHIC, passport and other travel documentation – the European Health Insurance Card is essential (this is the new form for the old E111 card. It provides free or reduced healthcare for UK citizens in the European Economic Area and Switzerland.

In summary

There are lots of film festivals to choose from in Europe, this is just a list of the most well known and most prestigious. Festivals happen throughout the year and generally last one or two weeks. What you take with you will largely depend on the type of weather generally expected of the city you are visiting and the time of year you are going. Wherever and whenever you chose, always remember to take your EHIC and other travel documentation with you – you never know when you’re going to need it.


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