When you’re traveling, you should always know what’s going on at your destination, be it a local holiday or a festival! If it’s popular, that might mean you have to submit a Cyclomundo Booking Form far in advance in order to secure a hotel, or if you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle you’ll know what town to avoid and when. It’s impossible to have a completely comprehensive list, but here are some of the most important events and festivals you can visit on our tours in France.
French holidays generally mean store and restaurant closures, so it’s important to know whether or not you’re traveling on a National Holiday. Updated each year for exact dates, check out PublicHolidays.fr before planning your trip.
Journées du Patrimoine
Created in 1984 by the Ministry of Culture and Communication, "European Heritage Day" takes place the third weekend of September every year. Monuments and historical buildings across France offer special activities on this day; including guided tours, skill demonstrations, concerts, theatre performances, and themed circuits.
La Fête de la Musique
Every summer solstice (June 21st) venues across France (and beyond!) participate in the “Festival of Music.” In 1982, the French Ministry of Culture imagined a country-wide event that allows musicians of all genres and steps in their careers to express themselves. That's how the first Fête de la Musique came to be, on the longest day of the year. The draw appealed to other countries and now anyone can register their event to be on the official program... though even events not registered can be found all over in streets, public gardens, pavilions, courtyards, stations, squares etc. and thousands of people wander in the street to take it all in until late in the night!
“Colmar International Festival” is a celebration dedicated to orchestral music. For the first two weeks of July, Colmar is filled with musicians and singers, performing as ensembles and as soloists. The concerts are performed in historical buildings where the enchantment of the location reinforces the musical score.
Strasbourg is home to the “European Fantastic Film Festival” the third week of September. The Festival’s main focus is on “new productions of international fantastic films, but also included are sections for thrillers, noir films, and black comedies, and for video games and virtual-reality cinema.” The festival also hosts multiple film revivals (such as 2016’s screening of Jaws in a pool with floating chairs), a sign of its firm commitment to cinema heritage. In 2016, 27,000 people were in attendance, and the festival showed a total of 64 features and 27 short films, from 22 different countries. Not visiting in September? The festival also organizes “Freak Out Friday,” a monthly film club with showings drive-in style at 10 pm. They also host VR cinema showings outside of the festival dates as well!
The “Salon des Vinsons des Vignerons Indépendants” is a wine festival that occurs in Strasbourg every February. Equipped with a tasting glass offered at the entrance, visitors can discover the winemakers' production as if they were in their cellars. This same festival also occurs in Paris at the end of November.
Unsurprisingly, Bordeaux is home to “VinExpo,” the place where wine professionals from over 150 countries come together for their industry's trade show. Generally the second week of May and not open to the public, Bordeaux is a tough tourist destination to visit at this time.
The public “Bordeaux Wine Festival” takes place at the end of May/beginning of June and typically lines up with other festivals like the River Festival or the Tall Ships Regatta.
Saint-Emilion, home to the first vineyard to become a UNESCO World Heritage site, holds a Jazz Festival the second to last weekend in July. The Saint-Emilion Jazz Festival has been thrilling the hearts of festival-goers since 2012.
In May, Toulouse is home to the “Toulouse Whisky Festival.” From 11am to 7pm, over 70 distilleries set up their wares and armed with your tasting glass you can try them all! Masterclasses and panels are also included with your ticket.
Saint Malo, Brittany
The “World Folklore Festival” celebrates the stories of different countries each year. The countries represented in 2019 were Algeria, Macedonia, Uruguay, Georgia and many others, not forgetting the Brittany region of France. The first week of July, people from all around come together to celebrate and discover dance, music, and storytellers from across the globe.
In April, you’ll find the “International Thriller Film Festival” in Beaune. Created in 2009, this festival of French and Foreign Thrillers alike are judged by a panel of industry professionals and by a panel of police officers. Each year sees dedications to a new thriller film personality and city (such as director James Gray, actor Samuel L. Jackson, and the city of New York all celebrated in 2010).
Beaune is also home to the “Great Burgundy Wine Festival” every year in November. The Great Wine Festival hosts 700 estates, 25 cooperative cellars, and 9 merchants in one place… that’s over 3000 different wines offered to you for tasting! Given a glass and an exhibitor’s catalog, you’ll explore a wine wonderland in one of France’s biggest wine producing regions.
The “Cahors Blues Festival,” founded in 1982 is the oldest Blues festival in France. Taking place in the first half of July, this venue is an international competition with international awards. Open to French and foreign musical groups, competing alone, or proposed by a production, a booking agency, or a label, and composed of a one (solo) to five musicians (quintet) maximum.
The first weekend of March sees a Goose Fair in the town of Sarlat. This fair celebrates the goose and the many culinary dishes made from it. Several events are planned each year, the biggest being the 15-dish feast on Sunday afternoon, but one can also find activities such as a market, calligraphy lessons, and goose egg painting.
Annecy, French Alps
Every June, Annecy hosts the “International Animated Film Festival” for industry professionals and fans alike. Reserve tickets to see up and coming shorts and features by studios such as Dreamworks and Disney in private theaters, or enjoy beloved classics under the stars in free Open-Air Screenings. This event also sees professional workshops and keynote speeches, and a market and signing sessions for the general public.
Lyon, French Alps
In May, “Nuits Sonores” (a festival of electronic music and contemporary design) takes over Lyon. This unique festival is dedicated to providing an exciting atmosphere of contemporary multiculturalism which incorporates all art forms; live music, dj’s, video design, photography, graphic design, architecture, and food. Every year the festival makes use of around 40 venues in sometimes fairly unconventional locations around the city. In recent years events have taken place “in abandoned industrial buildings, art galleries, rooftops, and even swimming pools.”
The “Festival of Lights” is a tradition from 1852. Every December, over 3 million people gather in Lyon’s historical area for a gorgeous contemporary display of lights.
Chambord, Loire Valley
This historic chateau has several events, most significantly the “Chambord Music Festival” during the first two weeks of July. There are twelve magical nights of performances, hosted on the courtyard stage, in the chapel, and in the estate’s formal gardens. The program ranges from early music to contemporary compositions, chamber music to symphonic pieces, world class soloists to young upcoming talents… this festival has it all!
Orléans, Loire Valley
Every 2 years in September, the quayside is home to “Festival de Loire” which shows off the local boating and culinary traditions. Enjoy historical shows, exhibitions, and boat excursions on the Loire River.
Tours, Loire Valley
Late July through August sees the “37 Degrees in the Shade Festival” in Tours. This festival’s two venus are Saint-Gatien Cathedral and the elegant gardens of the Castle of the Seven Towers. Experience a musical stroll or relax in a deckchair in the sun!
From mid May to mid June each year, the towns across Normandy celebrate with a “D-Day Festival.” Runs, historical walks, films, concerts, book fairs, parades, dances, and displays of historic vehicles and more are hosted across this region of France.
Arles is home to “Les Rencontres de la Photographie” an art festival that runs from July through September every year since 1970, but who’s opening week (July 1st through 7th) become impossible travel dates for this area if you don't book by February. This visual arts festival celebrates photography of course, but it also hosts literature events, writing workshops, and since 2016 even Virtual Reality short films in three genres: fiction, documentary, and children. If you plan far enough in advance, this is a must-visit festival!
Other popular events in Arles are the two Ferias (Easter Feria and Rice Feria), which commence the start and end of the French bullfighting season (Late April and Early September). On these weekends, Arles attracts 300,000 visitors of which 50,000 are aficionados who will particpate in the bullfights at the Roman arena. One week before either Feria is the "Espace Toro" set up in the Gimeaux corrals. Here you can see the bulls that will be in the bullfights and learn about the various bull-fighting traditions in the South of France.
“Festival d’Avignon” is one of the most important contemporary performing arts festivals in the world. Originating in 1947, this annual festival draws people from all over to celebrate theatre for the month of July. Most artists create new works especially for Avignon and its audiences, and spectators can draw excitement from being faced with “a reinvented classic or a modern text, a contemporary piece of dance or a visual installation.”
The “Chorégies d'Orange” is France’s oldest ongoing festival. Dating back to 1869, 2019 marked their 150th anniversary! Visit from June to August to experience a program of operas, ballets, and dance recitals. The outdoor venue of the ancient Roman theatre with its tired seating and acoustic stone stage wall must be one of the world’s best settings to enjoy music, even if you don’t typically listen to opera.
The “Transhumance Festival” in Saint-Rémy is one of the most famous festivals in southern France. At the end of May, the sheep of Provence migrate from the grassy fields up into the mountain pastures. This used to include a 10-day walk but now the sheep are driven up. The change is still commemorated by the Transhumance Festival when an ocean of sheep is paraded through the old town. There is also a flea market and a demonstration of sheepdog training in the afternoon! To visit by car, it is advised to park outside the old town center, in the outlying parking lots and garages.
Saint-Rémy is also home to the “Organa Festival” from the end of July through the first week of September. The organ of the Collegiate Church of St Martin in Saint-Remy was restored by Pascal Quoirin in 1982 and is considered a masterpiece. Every summer, the best organs and organ-players travel to this masterpiece to celebrate music and perform (generally between 10 and 15 performances, on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays).
Tour de France, France
This list wouldn’t be complete without the Tour de France. Though the dates and locations vary every year, the Tour de France is sure to draw crowds from across the globe to celebrate the sport of cycling. As the name implies, this cycling marathon goes through a huge portion of France for almost the whole month of July.
Cycling tips (19)
French Alps (12)
Getting there (16)
La Rioja (3)
Loire Valley (5)
Our Bikes (5)
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