Disclaimer: In the past years I’ve been to most noteworthy music festivals all over Europe – as a music journalist, as a DJ, or simply as a visitor, as a fan. I’ve seen Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson telling the crowd at Sziget Festival 2010 (Budapest, Hungary) how this was their biggest festival in 35 years of touring. I’ve seen Mike Skinner of The Street making tens of thousands of people sit down at Rock En Seine Festival 2011 (Paris, France) just to make all of them jump simultaneously a few seconds later. I’ve seen Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails smashing his guitar on stage in an outburst of anger at Frequency Festival 2007 (Salzburg, Austria). Bottom line: I’ve seen one or two things in my life – but I’ve never ever seen anything like Tomorrowland.
Tomorrowland is bigger, louder, harder and most definitely crazier than any other festival I’ve ever been to. Fireworks synced with the drops of the tracks being played, floating stages in the middle of a lake, dancers dressed as fairytale characters next to the DJs, helicopters dropping flowers over the dancing crowd, soap bubbles in the air everywhere, ferris wheels and poker casinos – Tomorrowland has it all. You’ll probably have the time of your life at this fairyland of bass, but it can be a bit overwhelming sometimes. Don’t panic, though:
Continue reading after the jump.
Get Your Tickets
180.000 tickets have been available for this year’s festival. They sold out in less than two hours. If you want to be part of Tomorrowland 2013, keep a close eye on their website and prepare to spend a day in front of the computer, waiting for ticket web shop to open.
Remember that you need a ticket to the festival itself and a separate ticket for accommodation.
Don’t go there if you didn’t get any tickets. I met some people at the entry who were trying to sneak in without tickets. None of them got in.
Don’t buy tickets from strangers in front of the entry. On the one hand, all tickets have names on them, and you need a matching ID to get in. On the other hand, there are people selling fake tickets and wristbands. The tickets have a barcode on them and the wristbands have a small chip inside them: you won’t get in with fake ones.
If you have a spare ticket, bring it with you. There are lots of people around the festival area trying to find tickets. Remember that you also need to bring a copy of the person’s passport whose name is on the ticket, or the person you sold your ticket to won’t get in.
Things You’ll Need
Tickets + ID. Make sure to print your tickets at home, both the festival tickets and the tickets for accommodation. Also remember to bring a matching ID, or you won’t get in.
Water. Lots of water. If you’re going by car, fill up the trunk with bottled water. If you’re traveling by train, make sure to buy enough water in Brussels. If you think you have enough water, buy more – you’ll need it. Also bring some big bottles to refill at the refresh points in the camping area (free). Inside the festival area you can buy water at the bars.
Good shoes. Leave your ballerinas and espadrilles at home, or at least bring some other decent shoes. You’ll be walking around a lot, as the camping area is at least 15 minutes away from the stages, depending on where you set up your tent. Walking from the far end of the campsite to the far end of the festival area will take at least 30 minutes. (60 minutes if you’re hungover and have bad shoes)
Sunscreen. The stages open at noon (12 pm) and close at 1 am. You’ll spend most of the day outside, and most probably there will be blistering heat. Lots of sunscreen, enough water and regular breaks in the shadow of some trees will help you avoid sunburns and sunstrokes.
Cash (or a credit card). Inside the festival area you can’t buy food and drinks with cash. Tomorrowland has its own currency, with machines similar to ATMs where you can exchange cash to vouchers for drinks and food. There are also counters where you can buy vouchers with credit cards and bank cards.
Sunglasses to protect your eyes during the day, indicate you as a douche bag at night and help hiding your hangover in the morning.
Soap, shampoo, towels and whatever else you need. There are showers at the entrance to the camping area. Don’t take a shower in the morning, though – you’ll have to wait for at least an hour as there will be hundreds of people waiting there. Wait for the afternoon or the evening, you’ll get to the showers in no time then.
Drinks. You’re allowed to bring all kinds of drinks to the camping area, with no restriction in quantity (I met some guys we were bragging about having brought 150 litres of beer all the way from Sweden). If you plan to bring vodka or any other spirits, make sure to refill it into plastic bottles: no glass bottles allowed.
Earplugs. During the day you’ll need them to protect your ears, at night you’ll be glad to use them to drown out your snoring tent mates and your neighbors who might be partying until dawn.
Your Trip To Tomorrowland
Tomorrowland is taking place at a recreational area located in the small city of Boom, Belgium. There are supermarkets etc. in the town, but don’t rely on them, as liquor and bottled water will be sold out within a few hours (city population: 16.000 – festival visitors 60.000 per day).
The cheapest and quickest way to get to Tomorrowland is by flying to Brussels and then taking the train to Boom. The train rides takes between one and two hours (depending on the connections), and there are free shuttles busses from the train station in Boom to the festival area.
Brussels is a beautiful city. If you have enough time, fly there a few days earlier to do some sightseeing. This way you’ll also have enough time to buy food, water, beers and whatever else you need for the festival.
If you’re traveling from London or Manchester, you can fly to Antwerp which is closer to the festival area than Brussels.
Don’t book a flight back leaving before Monday noon. All in all (walking, shuttle bus, trains etc.) it will take you at least (!) 3 or 4 hours from the festival gates to the airport.
If you live nearby and are lucky enough to have someone give you a ride to the festival, there are kiss+ride areas where you can go by car to drop people off. If you’re going to the festival by taxi, make sure they drop you off at the kiss+ride area at the camping (just follow the orange arrows saying “kiss + ride” that are all over the city). Don’t let them drop you off at the festival or at the parking area – otherwise you’ll have to walk a long way.
If you get lost, don’t hesitate to go ask the security guys who can be found throughout the entire city. All of them I talked to were really nice and helpful, one of them even called me a taxi back to the airport.
Pro tip: if you’re thirsty and you see people sitting in garages or on their front lawns drinking beer, ask them if they sell beer. Most of them do, but they don’t advertize it openly as it’s not allowed. We met some very friendly Belgian guys who even offered us to join them for dinner.
Accommodation – Dreamville, Mansions, Hotels
As I said, there are lots of different types of accommodation. All of them need to be booked online before the festival starts. Depending on your budgetary situation, everything ranging from a sleeping bag to a mansion with your very own butler is possible.
DreamVille is the most common form of accommodation at Tomorrowland. It’s a large camping area where you can set up your own tent. It might be a good idea to arrive one day earlier (Thursday) so you can find a good spot. There are refresh points with toilets, showers and water.
If you’re flying a long way and don’t want to bring your own tent, you can also rent an Easy Tent. This will also grant you access to a separated camping area.
There are different types of container homes and mansions. If you can afford it, this is probably the most relaxed way of enjoying the festival. You’ll have a clean bed, electricity to charge your phones and cameras, separate showers and toilets and even refrigerators, depending on the type (and cost) of your accommodation.
You can also stay at a hotel in or around Boom and go back to the festival everyday. That way you can also buy food and drinks the city everyday. Make sure to book your rooms as early as possible, though – when I tried finding a room two months before the festival, none of the hotels around had any beds free.
Tomorrowland – Festival, Fairyland, Madness
There are almost 20 stages where more than 400 artists are performing simultaneously. It’s impossible to see everyone and everything. I had a perfect schedule of who I wanted to catch when and where, but soon I ended up just wandering around with friends, discovering the festival area and staying at every stage where we liked the tunes being played.
Even though Tomorrowland is a music festival after all, you don’t really go there for the music. Of course there’s the incredible line-up that reads like a who’s who of the international jetset of electronic dance music, but soon you’ll find out that you go there to party, to see the massive stages, to meet people from all over the world. You go there for fireworks, for the biggest lasers you’ll ever see, for secret stages hidden somewhere in the middle of a lake. You go there for the madness of Tomorrowland.
Every stage looks like a dream come true, from the main stage to the real small ones. Grass on the floor of the stage, giant flowers and mushrooms, water fountains and flamethrowers – the stage designers’ love for details is hard to describe. Also, there are powerful sound systems on all stages: massive bass lines, crisp percussions, crystal clear vocals. As I said, bring earplugs – you’ll need them.
Of course there are the real big names headlining the festival. I’ve never seen anything close to the shows of David Guetta, Avicii and Swedish House Mafia. But then again, there are underground artists who for me are the real headliners of the festival – don’t always go for the biggest names. On the last day of the festival I witnessed Fake Blood absolutely killing it, playing the best set I’ve heard at the entire festival.
Unlike most other music festivals, the main part of the program is taking place during the day. Don’t waste too much of your time pre drinking at your tent in DreamVille: you’ll find everything you need inside the festival area. At exactly 1am all stages close and you have to leave the festival area.
At the risk of repeating myself: If you think you’ve seen it all – believe me, you haven’t. Tomorrowland can’t be compared to any other festival I’ve ever been to. You need to go there yourself to experience the madness of Tomorrowland.
After three days (or more) of partying, you’ll be tired, exhausted and craving for your own bed and your own shower. The best thing you can do is get up at 6am in the morning, get your stuff packed and leave before 60.000 other people wake up. If you leave in the afternoon, you’ll have difficulties getting on the busses and trains back to the airport.
There are shuttle busses back to the train station and to the city of Antwerp.
Pro tip: buy coffee to go and breakfast at the exit of the camping area. The train station in Boom does not have any shops or restaurants.
How To Get Home
See you at Tomorrowland 2013!
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Tomorrowland | offical facebook page
Brussels Airlines | official facebook page
volume.at | full photo galleries here: day 1 // day 2 // day 3