Download Festival Review

Download Festival, the UKs biggest rock and metal festival.

What is Download Festival?

Download Festival is a legendary 3-day rock and metal festival held every July at Donington Park in the East Midlands. The festival, which often attracts over 100,000 people was officially launched in 2003, however Download Festival has roots that go back to 1980 when the now defunct Monsters of Rock festival was held on the site site until 1996.

Download Festival has a strong reputation for being arguably the greatest rock and metal festival in the world and as a result, constantly sees some of the biggest acts flock to Donington for three days of mayhem.

Famous acts to grace Download’s Main Stage include: Slipknot, Iron Maiden, Linkin Park, Metallica, Black Sabbath, System of a Down, Tool, Avenged Sevenfold, Guns N’ Roses, Def Leppard, AC/DC, Aerosmith, KISS, Muse and Ozzy Osbourne to name just a few.

Traditionally, there are four stages at Download Festival. The Main Stage and second stage (Called the Zippo Encore Stage) are where you’ll find household names from a wide-range of genres playing. The Avalanche Stage is where you’ll find punk, pop-punk, ska and lighter rock bands and the Dogtooth Stage is where you’ll find your hardcore metal bands.

Whilst primarily a rock and metal festival, Download Festival is renowned for stepping outside the box and inviting a number of bands and artists that you wouldn’t usually expect to play at a festival of this sort. Notable acts include The Prodigy, Pendulum and Die Antwoord in recent years.

Download Festival is one of the largest Festivals in the United Kingdom, and as such brings an incredibly friendly international crowd along for the ride.

If you’re looking for the full Download experience we’d highly recommend arriving on the Wednesday and making the most of the atmosphere in the campsite and village, where there’s always something going on.

Where is Download Festival?

Download Festival is located at Donington Park Race Circuit, next door to East Midlands Airport, in Castle Donington, Derbyshire.

Confusingly the site is on the border of three counties, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire and there has been great debate over the years regarding which county can officially claim both the former F1 circuit and festival as their own.

If you’re using a Sat Nav or Google Maps to get to Donington Park for Download Festival you’ll need to use the following address: Donington Park, Castle Donington, Derby, DE74 2RP.

How much does Download Festival cost?

Download ticket prices can vary depending what time of year you’re purchasing them. The most expensive standard ticket, a 5-day camping ticket will cost you £220, however a 5-day early bird camping ticket can be purchased for the reduced price of £185 if purchased before the early bird deadline.

There is also the option to purchase 3-day camping tickets that allows you entry to the campsites from Friday 12pm until the Monday. However, expect to struggle to find a good camping spot without having to go on a very long walk.

If you’re worried about your carbon footprint, Download has a fantastic eco-camp. This camp requires every single camper must agree to leave no trace of their time at the festival. If you’re more worried about a good night’s sleep then you’ll want to purchase a quiet camping ticket.

How big is Download Festival?

The official capacity for Download is 110,000. It has been known for the festival to reach full capacity when the weather is particularly good and a large band are headlining.

There are eight standard campsites at Download, one very large site for Campervans and Caravans, a disabled campsite as well as several luxury VIP campsites.

It should be noted that the distant between the car parks, festival campsites and the arena are very long. If you struggle with walking long distances, or have a disability it’s well worth getting in touch with the festival organisers to discuss your options.

What is there to do at Download Festival?

There are no shortage of activities and entertainment at Download aside from the music.

The village, which is accessible to all campers has an array of stalls, an outdoor cinema hidden in the woods, a fairground, a large pub, two club tents, mindfulness sessions, yoga classes and Rockfit.

The Boardie Takeover

Many will tell you this is the highlight of Download Festival. The Boardie Takeover is where you’ll get your first taste of live music at the festival.

It takes place on every year on the Thursday from around 5pm onwards in the Doghouse, and is a showcase of some of the best up-and-coming rock and metal bands in the UK.

Club nights

If you’re up to the challenge Download has a club night in the Doghouse every single night of the week from Wednesday through until Sunday night.

Each night is themed differently, however the most popular nights tend to be on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. There is also a second club tent that hosts a silent disco.

Live Comedy

The Side Splitter Stage in the village is home to three nights of fantastic comedy acts from around the world.

There are usually a few big name comedians, many that you’ll recognise from television and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

WWE – NXT Live

Since 2016 Download has welcomed the WWE onto its hallowed ground, and they’ve never looked back since. This partnership has been a killer move which has seen thousands flock to the ring to watch some of WWE’s biggest and brightest talents.

Previous wrestlers that have attended Download include: Triple H, Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, Bayley, Asuka, Shinsuke Nakamura, Bobby Roode and many more main-eventers.

UK Air Guitar Championship

A recent addition to Download Festival is the UK Air Guitar Championship. We’ll be honest, there’s not much we can really say about this as it’s air guitar!

It’s well worth watching at least one round though! The event attracts competitors from around the globe.

What should I take to Download Festival?

If you’re planning on spending five full days at Download then we’d highly recommend overpacking when it comes to camping gear and clothing.

Despite being in July, the festival is renowned for being hit by bad weather in the last few years.

If you’re going to Download for the first time and are worried about what to wear, don’t be intimidated by the sea of black! You’re just as likely to come across a group of people in fancy dress, bright colours or something completely wild. The crowd here are incredibly welcoming and friendly.

Check out our Festival Essentials page for an extensive festival packing list that covers almost any 3 – 5 day camping festival.

What’s the weather usually like at Download Festival?

As the festival is held in July, you’d fully expect good weather. We urge you not to hold this mindset! The odds are usually 50/50 when it comes to getting either a perfect, warm festival or a wet, miserable Download. So pack accordingly and for all occasions.

How do you get to Download Festival?

Download is slap bang in the middle of the country which makes getting to the site incredibly easy, regardless of whatever mode of transport you’re taking. 

By Car

If you’re planning to drive to the festival you’ll want to find your way to the M1/M42 or A50. All of these roads are a couple of miles away from the site.

By bus/coach

If you’re planning on taking public transport to Download the festival operates the Big Green Coach from a huge number of towns and cities in the United Kingdom. If you wish to get another bus such Megabus or National Express, your best bet is to get one to Derby, Nottingham or Loughborough where there are usually connecting buses direct to the festival site.

By Train

The closest train station to Donington Park Circuit is East Midlands Parkway, throughout most of the year this is an unmanned station, however there are shuttle buses and taxis to and from this station during the festival. You’ll also find Derby, Nottingham and Loughborough Stations are all within close driving distance.

By air

As Download is considered a very International festival it comes as no surprise that many people chose to fly here due to the proximity to the airport. East Midlands Airport is quite literally across the road from the site. This airport only has domestic and European flights. Those coming from further afield are advised to use Birmingham or Manchester airport.