France’s Greatest Festivals

France’s Greatest Festivals

France is a nation that truly values its culture, and that’s evident in the enormous number of festivals staged throughout the year. From food, drink and carnivals to music, theatre, film, dance, even puppetry… there’s a genre for absolutely everyone.

During the warmer months, most large towns and cities across France will stage some form of festival. Even in winter there are indoor events to be found. Here we have picked out some of the best so that, wherever you find yourself in France, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the Gallic culture.


Carnaval de Nice

Alpes-Maritimes, Mid February to early March

Historians believe the original incarnation of Nice Carnival began in the late 13th century. If true, it pre-dates Rio de Janeiro, Venice and New Orleans by hundreds of years. More than one million visitors attend the event every year to see the giant, colourful parades with over 1,000 musicians and dancers, and the famous flower battles which take place on the Promenade des Anglais. The theme for the 2024 edition – held from February 17th to March 3rd – is Roi de la Culture Pop (King of Pop Culture).

Fécamp Grand’Escale

Seine-Maritime, Second week of May

A relatively new festival staged in the Normandy port of Fécamp,Grand’Escale features hundreds of sea-faring vessels from tall ships and traditional yachts to steamships and pleasure boats, in a vast celebration of all things maritime. Expect regattas, boat trips, exhibitions and workshops, plus live music and lots of fish. The 2024 edition will be held May 8-12.

Festival de l’Histoire de l’Art

Fontainebleau, First week June

Free and open to all, this three-day festival celebrates the history of art, bringing together amateurs and experts from a range of fields to explore the richness of the visual arts from all periods. There are exhibitions, films, book fairs, conferences, workshops and guided tours, all at the lovely Château de Fontainebleau, just a short way south of Paris.

La Nuit des Chimères

Sarthe, July to September

Some of France’s very best light artists shine brightly at La Nuit des Chimères, the annual light show in Le Mans’ Cité Plantagenêt. Wander round the old town after sunset and you’ll be treated to moving light projections on the walls, staircases and façades of the glorious buildings. Don’t miss the Saint-Julien cathedral and the Gallo-Roman city wall, which are especially impressive.


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Cidre et Dragon

Calvados, Mid-September

Cidre et Dragon, staged at the Normandy beach resort of Merville-Franceville-Plage, bills itself as a “festival of fantasy”. Here, not only will you find cider and dragons, but you’ll also come across more than your fair share of knights, maidens, elves, goblins, fire dancers, hatchet throwers, damsels and plenty of characters who look like they’ve just stepped out of The Lord of The Rings. It’s a great opportunity to indulge in a little escapism, whether you choose to attend in everyday threads or dressed to the nines in mythical garb.

“Festival-goers will forever remember the sublime costumes, the music coursing through the streets, the smells tickling their taste buds, the troubadours, the minstrels and the street, the smells tickling their taste buds, the troubadours, the minstrels and the street vendors,” the organisers say. “All this will transport you back to ancient times.”

Les Médiévales de Provins

Seine-et-Marne, First weekend of June

The biggest medieval festival in France,” is how the organisers describe it. That’s a bold claim, but when you see the knights, wenches, dancers, musicians, minstrels, acrobats, jousters, troubadours and fire-eaters, all of whom bring this joyous festival alive, you’ll see why. The beautiful medieval town of Provins (a UNESCO World Heritage Site southeast of Paris) is the backdrop to all these celebrations, including a concert, a ball and a parade through the streets with 700 people in medieval costume.


Festival Médiéval de Sedan

Ardennes, third weekend in May

Centred around the magnificent and enormous Château Fort de Sedan – which was just chosen as France’s favourite monument – this festival celebrates all things medieval, including sword fighting, banquets, fire-eating, wrestling and a children’s party. Perfect for peasants, wenches and nobility alike.

Feria de Nîmes

Hérault, In May & September

It’s one of the only opportunities to see bullfighting on French soil. The Feria de Nîmes, staged in early summer and autumn, may be divisive but it’s very much part of this Languedoc-Roussillon city’s heritage. There are also parades, fireworks, outdoor bars and nightclubs, concerts and bull runs, all centred around the Roman amphitheatre.

Fêtes de la Saint-Louis

Hérault, Late August

Two enormous rowing boats full of strapping young oarsmen and women row full speed towards each other while one brave soul on each boat tries to dislodge his counterpart into the water with a long jousting pole. It’s called water jousting and it’s been going on in the Languedoc-Roussillon town of Sète since the 1600s. It’s the focal point of the annual Saint-Louis Festival, whose festivities also include street shows and bodegas.

Festival International des Jardins

Loir-et-Cher, April to November

The organisers describe this festival in the Loir-et-Cher town of Chaumont-sur-Loire as a “laboratory for contemporary garden and landscape design worldwide”. The festival director asks: “An artwork? A nourishing vegetable garden? A therapeutic space? A showcase for organic cultivation? Can the ideal garden unite all our expectations and requirements, whether philosophical, aesthetic, ecological or gustatory? Can it be beautiful, good, organic, healing, comforting, innovative, and water-and energy-efficient all at the same time, and above all glorify harmony and taste, and generate wellbeing and happiness?”

To find out you’ll have to join the many thousands of green-fingered enthusiasts who visit this festival’s fabulous gardens, exhibitions and art installations every year.

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Festival Django Reinhardt

Seine-et-Marne, end of June

Named after the legendary Belgian jazz guitarist (who famously damaged his playing fingers in a fire in his Romani caravan), this festival in the park at the Château de Fontainebleau features artists such as Gregory Porter, Thomas Dutronc, Fatoumata Diawara and Dee Dee Bridgewater. Day passes start at €34; four-day tickets €110.

Festival de musique Baroque et Sacrée de Froville

Meurthe-et-Moselle, in June and July

This is Froville’s celebration of Baroque and church music. The town, a short way south of Nancy, has skilled musicians putting on the works of great composers such as Bach, Debussy, Satie, Tchaikovsky and Vivaldi.

Hier & Aujourd’hui Festival

Indre-et-Loire, third week of July

This classical music festival welcomes musicians from France, Finland, Spain and Poland in the “spiritual and enchanting” setting of the Chartreuse du Liget heritage site, in Chemillé-sur-Indrois, not far from Tours. The concerts take place in an 18th-century barn converted into a concert hall.

Nancy Jazz Pulsations

Meurthe-et-Moselle, in October

Every autumn, 100,000 or so music fans attend the various jazz concerts at this festival in Nancy and the surrounding regions. The 2023 line-up hadn’t been announced when we went to press, but it’s the 50th anniversary, so expect extra-special celebrations.

Le Jardin du Michel

Meurthe-et-Moselle, first weekend of June

The Meurthe-et-Moselle town of Toul is host to this music festival which welcomes 18,000 or so fans every year. All genres are covered, from rock, soul and hip hop to bluegrass, reggae, electro and folk.

Festival Interceltique

Morbihan, first two weeks of August

As much a celebration of music as of Celtic heritage, Brittany’s annual Celtic festival in Lorient is a lively affair. Lasting just under a fortnight, it sees around 4,000 performers from Brittany, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Cornwall congregating to honour all aspects of Celtic culture, from traditional music to some rather colourful sports (folk wrestling, anyone?). Expect parades, contests, concerts, workshops, sailing, art, craft markets and much more, as this northwest corner of France makes a proper song and dance about a distinctly northwest European culture.

Vieilles Charrues

Finistère, Second week of July

The line-up for this excellent music festival – one of France’s biggest in the Brittany town of Carhaix – is as eclectic as it is impressive. First set up in 1992, like all great music festivals, it started off very modestly with just a few bands, barbecues, boot-throwing competitions and 500 or so guests. Nowadays it regularly draws well over 200,000 music lovers. Previous headliners include Depeche Mode, Fatboy Slim, Lionel Richie, Neil Young and Bob Dylan. You might say it’s France’s equivalent to Glastonbury. Oh, and by the way, in case you didn’t know, Vieilles Charrues means Old Ploughs.

Festival 1001 Notes

Haute-Vienne, end of July

The Limousin city of Limoges hosts this eclectic music festival staged at the city’s Olympic ice-skating venue. On offer this year were piano concertos, choral music, rap, jazz piano, electro, dance and even a tribute to the music of the Harry Potter films by pianist Delphine Pillich. Tickets start at €18.

Rock en Seine

Hauts-de-Seine, last weekend of August

Every August for nearly 20 years, the Domaine National de Saint-Cloud, right on the western edge of Paris and one of the most stunning gardens in the Île de France, hosts an enormous music festival with five stages and a campsite for all the revellers. “It’s not just a music festival,” explains the event’s director, Matthieu Ducos. “We host photo and poster exhibitions, there’s a mini festival for children, conferences, debates… above all Rock en Seine is a meeting place, somewhere to express yourself.”


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Jazz in Marciac

Gers, in July and August

Marciac has been staging a jazz festival since 1978 and in the past has hosted such luminaries as Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz and Herbie Hancock. There are three festival venues, all in the centre of this southwestern town: a 10,000-capacity marquee, a 500-seat concert hall, and, offering free concerts, a stage near the Hôtel de Ville.

Festival International de Musique de Wissembourg

Bas-Rhin, from mid August to early September

Every year Wissembourg, a town in northern Alsace, invites many of the world’s best classical musicians to take part in this excellent music festival. 16 concerts spread out across the fortnight, featuring string trios and quartets, violinists, pianists, cellists and viola players. Featured composers include Brahms, Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Schubert, Debussy, Satie, Chopin, Bartok and Tchaikovsky. It’s a real treat for lovers of classical music, especially chamber music.

© Zemlinsky quartet

Festival International de Colmar

Haut-Rhin, in July

This classical music festival in the chocolate-box Alsatian town of Colmar celebrates symphonic music, choral works and chamber music. “Masterpieces of the classical repertoire rub shoulders with rare works and first performances, and well-loved favourites are featured alongside music of adventure, discovery and emotion,” say the organisers. “Throw caution to the wind, astonish yourself, yield to curiosity and the pleasure of embarking on a rich and singular musical journey.” The concerts are staged at three venues – midday performances at the Koifhus, matinees at the Chapelle Saint-Pierre, and evening performances at the Église Saint-Matthieu.

Festival de Nîmes

Hérault, in June and July

For 21 nights over June and July, the Nîmes amphitheatre is host to musical acts of all genres. This year the line-up included the blue-eyed soul of Simply Red, the indie rock of Placebo and the Arctic Monkeys, the crooning of Sam Smith, as well as the heavy metal of Slipknot. Something for everyone then.

Festival de Carcassonne

Aude, in June and July

This summer festival at the Théâtre Jean-Deschamps in marvellous medieval Carcassonne (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) features music, theatre, dance and comedy. Prices vary depending on the acts.


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Festival Mondial des Théâtres de Marionnettes

Ardennes, mid September

First staged in 1961, this huge event in the Ardennes capital of Charleville-Mézières features dozens of stages ranging from theatres, public halls and courtyards to private rooms and street corners, all showing every imaginable style of puppet show; think of it as a sort of Glastonbury for puppetry.

Dinard Festival du Film Britannique

Ille-et-Vilaine, in September and October

Now in its 34th year, this festival in the delightful Breton coastal town of Dinard – just a short hop across the Channel from the UK – is a celebration of British filmmaking. As the organisers say, it “honours independent films, films d’auteur, or short films and offers the best of British cinema”.

Festival International de la Bande Dessinée d’Angoulême

Charente, January

Every year in January the Poitou-Charentes city of Angoulême is transformed into a huge celebration of comic-book culture with pretty much everyone who’s anyone in the European comic-book industry in attendance. At numerous venues all over the town, there are exhibitions, lectures, shows, workshops, book signings and innumerable book stalls, where you can snap up every type of comic book imaginable in styles ranging from the classics such as Tintin and Astérix & Obélix to graphic novels, super-heroes and the erotic. It’s not to be missed.

Festival du Film Italien de Villerupt

Meurthe-et-Moselle, end of October to mid-November

Visitors to this Italian film festival, which has been going since 1976, will be offered 300 showings of over 70 films, across 17 days, in seven different cinemas and four different towns. It all centres on the small but charming town of Villerupt in Meurthe- et-Moselle in northeastern France, just on the border with Luxembourg.

Les Rencontres d’Arles

Bouches-du-Rhône, July to September

The Provençal town of Arles has some wonderful historic buildings, many of which host exhibitions during this annual photography festival. The premise of the festival is to display photography that has never been seen before by the public, meaning that it often helps boost the careers of little-known photographers. Expect lots of highbrow exhibitions, symposia, awards, classes and workshops.

Fête des Lumières

Rhône, December

The French are indisputably the world leaders in light shows, and of all the French cities to host this type of event, Lyon is perhaps the most famous. The tradition dates back to the 1600s when Lyon was struck by plague, and residents lit candles in honour of the Virgin Mary, hoping to escape death. Nowadays there’s a lot more than mere candles, with some of the world’s best light technicians showing off their skills and illuminating various buildings around the city. The festival takes place in December, to make the most of the long winter nights.

© shutterstock

Cannes Film Festival

Alpes-Maritime, May

Considered the most important film festival globally, this annual event lures in many of the biggest and brightest movie stars on the planet. You normally have to be part of the film industry to attend the various official events and film previews. However, mere mortals are allowed at the open-air beach cinema, Cinéma de la Plage, where a different film is shown every night throughout the festival. And, of course, there’s always the chance to go movie star-spotting.

Festival d’Avignon

Vaucluse, July

“Every year in July, Avignon becomes a city-theatre, transforming its architectural heritage into various majestic and surprising performance venues, welcoming tens of thousands of theatre-lovers of all ages.” That’s the message from the organisers of the annual Festival d’Avignon arts extravaganza, staged against the backdrop of this magnificent medieval city. Founded in 1947, it stages hundreds of performances at over 35 venues across the city and the surrounding towns and villages. Among the arts on show are cinema, theatre, dance and music, with a programme of lectures, workshops and art exhibitions to enjoy.

Festival International Montpellier Danse

Hérault, mid-June to early July

You’ll see just about every form of contemporary dance you can think of at this amazing annual festival in Montpellier. Now on its 43rd edition, it stages shows at venues around the city.


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Dordogne, first week of July

There’s no doubt the art of mime is an acquired taste. But if there’s one nation that leads the way – thanks in no small part to the world-famous artist Marcel Marceau – it’s got to be France. This summer, the Mimos festival takes place over five days in the streets, public gardens and concert halls of Périgueux. First staged in 1983, it covers all forms of mime, from corporeal mime and physical theatre to dance, circus acts and puppetry.


Fête du Cognac

Charente, last week of July

Held each July in the town that gave the famous brandy its name, the Cognac Festival proudly presents the latest vintage with plenty of tastings and merrymaking. It’s not all about the local tipple of choice, though. The seven bars of the Fête du Cognac also serve Charentais wines and pineau, the regional apéritif. There are also oysters and mussels from the Charentaise coast to scoff, as well as in-season melons, the best local meats and cheeses and the local cagouille snails. After you’ve dined you can dance the calories away at the various concerts staged around town.

Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre

Paris, second week of October

While you might not associate urban Paris with winemaking, this quartier in the north of the capital has been hosting its Fête des Vendanges since the 1930s, often attracting hundreds of thousands of fans of the fermented grape. It’s all thanks to a tiny working vineyard in the shadow of Sacré-Coeur called the Clos Montmartre, which yields around 1,500 bottles a year, most of it auctioned for charity during the festival. Many other wines from all over France and beyond are available for tasting too.

The Champagne Tourist Route

Marne, from June to October

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Route Touristique du Champagne, a whole host of festivals, banquets, tastings, concerts, markets and events have been organised across the Champagne region. The route itself comprises driving circuits that wind through the vineyards and terraced hillsides of the Champagne terroirs, taking in various villages, châteaux and churches that pepper the region. The anniversary celebrations will culminate in the annual Champagne Day, which this year takes place on October 27. Santé!

La Fête Annuelle du Champignon d’Eguisheim

Haut-Rhin, end of October

This wonderful autumn celebration of all things fungus includes an exhibition of amazing mushrooms, mushroom-themed street shows, and a classic Alsatian mushroom market. The local restaurants jump on the bandwagon, too, offering up all sorts of mushroom-based dishes for visiting fungis (and girls) to enjoy.

Fête du Citron

Alpes-Maritime, mid-February to early March

Celebrating the Provence town of Menton’s position as a major lemon producer, this festival attracts around 200,000 visitors every year with its enormous, gravity- defying citrus-fruit sculptures, light shows, bands, dancing, and both nighttime and daytime carnival-style parades where some very juicy lemons (plus more than a few oranges) take centre stage.


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Fête du Piment

Pyrénées-Atlantiques, last weekend of October

Things get very spicy indeed in the Basque Country when the town of Espelette celebrates its most famous product its luscious red peppers during the Fête du Piment. As well as plenty of tasting opportunities, there are also street parades, traditional Basque dancing, concerts, awards, games of pelota… and, of course, lots of market stalls overloaded with the famous peppers.

Salon du Chocolat

Paris, last weekend of October

Cacao farmers, cacao importers, chocolatiers, wholesalers, retailers, chocolate chefs, chocolate sculptors, chocolate painters, a chocolate fashion show… you’ll find all of these and more at Paris’s annual chocolate bacchanal, the Salon du Chocolat. Held at the Paris Expo Porte du Versailles exhibition centre, it will immerse you in the smell, taste and sight of hundreds of exhibition stalls, all piled high with this most glorious of foodstuffs. There’s also a Lyon version of the festival, which will be staged at the city’s Centre de Congrès from November 10 to 12.

Taste of Paris

Paris, mid-May

The Grand Palais Éphémère, in Paris’s Champ de Mars, is the setting for this four-day festival where punters can sample tasting menus at pop-up restaurants manned by some of Paris’ best chefs. “Whether Michelin-starred, trend setters or future young talents, Taste of Paris warmly welcomes today’s most sought-after chefs to bring you a gourmet experience to remember,” say the organisers. There’s a foodie market to browse too.

From France Today magazine

Lead photo credit : © shutterstock

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  • Tony Volkas @ 1PLs
    2023-09-28 02:46:11
    Tony Volkas @ 1PLs
    I love festivals so much!!! This is such a great opportunity to have fun and meet new like-minded people. I love this, and I have been to various festivals very often in my life. My dream is to go to Brazil for their annual festival. it's so cool and atmospheric! You feel oneness with people, you feel that you love life and are "in the moment". Festivals are a great opportunity to fall in love with life and society, it is very fun and charges with incredible energy. We are all adults in our routine life, but we can also have fun - festivals are a great way to do that. there you can release your inner child and let him have fun with “the inner children” of others!


  •  David Hardman
    2023-09-25 02:32:57
    David Hardman
    When and what is the name of the annual Festival in DINARD?


    • Sophie Gardner-Roberts
      2023-09-26 08:32:13
      Sophie Gardner-Roberts
      Hello there, the British Film Festival of Dinard starts tomorrow! You'll find more information on the official website: