What's On in France 2021
Winter is the season of France's favourite mushroom and sees a flurry of truffle-related activity across Dordogne and Provence. Over 70% of the fungi are grown in the Vaucluse region, grown most commonly around hazel and oak trees. In Provence, the Knights Templar village of Richerenches holds weekly markets until 10th March., whilst in Sarlat, Dordogne there is a Truffle Festival on 19th & 20th January. CANCELLED
The International Comic Strip Festival has taken place in Angouleme every year in January since 1974. This gathering is a chance for professionals from all over the world to meet some 200,000 fans. For four days, publishers set up stands in giant tents, for signings, exhibitions, screenings, debates, conferences, meetings, concerts and a competition. MOVED TO 24th till 27th June.
DOG SLED RACE
La Grande Odyssée Mont Blanc is a dog sled race, known for being one of the longest and most difficult of its kind in the world, because of its change in altitude of over 25,000 metres. For eleven days, the world's best mushers and their dogs travel nearly 750 kms and pass through 22 resorts in Savoie & Haute Savoie from 9th to 20th January.
NANTES MUSIC FESTIVAL
Nantes has held a classical music festival named La Folle Journée since 1995. For five days there are around 250 classical music concerts of fairly short duration (45 minutes) at an affordable price. Most of the concerts take place at Nantes Convention Centre running from 03/02 to 07/02.
In Burgundy, the winegrowers at each village gather at the end of January to thank the patron saint for the wine harvest and ask for his protection for the future harvest. This wine festival has ancient roots that date back to the Middle Ages & involves a procession, meals & wine tasting. This year the festival is held in Corpeau on 26th & 27th January. CANCELLED
LA FOLLE JOURNEE
La Folle Journee is a classical music festival normally held in Nantes in January. For 3 days there are around 250 classical music concerts of fairly short duration (45 minutes) at an affordable price. Most of the concerts take place at Nantes Convention Centre. The aim of this event is to promote renewed enthusiasm in classical music and make it accessible to a wider audience. Festival rearranged this year for April 9th till 11th.
SHORT FILM FESTIVAL
The Clermont Ferrand Short Film Festival is the world's biggest event dedicated to short films. With 13 cinemas, over 3,000 certified professionals and 150,000 admissions, Clermont Ferrand (in Auvergne) is also the second biggest film festival in France after Cannes. Runs from 1st - 5th February but only online this year
The Dunkerque Carnival runs from 11/01 till 19/04. For two-and-a-half months, the carnival-goers don their best dress and gather to parade in a happy, family-friendly atmosphere. Every Saturday night there is a grand ball. The bands or orchestras generally entertain people in the streets every Sunday afternoon. The highlight of the Carnival week is still Shrove Tuesday, with its giant, colourful parades. The carnival-goers parade to the sound of an orchestra of sixty musicians dressed as fishermen and led by the drum major, dressed in his imperial soldier costume. CANCELLED
VIN JAUNE FESTIVAL
The Yellow Wine festival takes place in Lons le Saunier in the Jura from 1st till 2nd February. The festival is to celebrate vin jaune, a type of white wine that is matured in oak casks after being fermented. The aim of the event is to help people discover and appreciate this wine, which is known for its almost indefinite keeping potential. CANCELLED
For over a fortnight, the city of Nice moves to the rhythm of the festivities. Humour, irony and poetry are in store at this big popular festival. The Carnival is arranged around two separate events: the Carnival Procession, by day and night; and the Flower Battle. On Place Masséna, the themed and burlesque floats parade by, accompanied by displays, street arts and international musical groups. Runs from 15/02 till 29/02. CANCELLED
The Menton Lemon Festival takes place from 13/02 till 28/02 & draws over 230,000 visitors every year. It involves over 300 professionals and requires 145 tonnes of citrus fruits. Floral processions are organised on the Promenade du Soleil, with a mixture of citrus-themed floats, confetti, dancers and folk groups. Displayed in giant floats, Citrus Limonia is saluted by entertainers, brass bands and other creatures full of divine charm. During the festival, the Biovès Gardens are clad with citrus fruit, forming temporary sculptures in dazzling yellow and orange shades upto 10m high.
The Carnival starts Iin the evening with the parade on Place de la Réunion and continues until Sunday evening. Throughout the weekend there are processions of decorated floats, accompanied by fifes and drums. People in fancy dress follow the procession in a festive and friendly atmosphere. At night, the carnival-goers gather for live music in the carnival's partner restaurants and bars. POSTPONED TILL MAY
On 8th March, Bordeaux Carnival welcomes the arrival of spring to the Aquitaine and an energetic cocktail of dance workshops, a grand parade at 14:00 and musical performances take place on Sunday. As well as huge digital displays there are chariots & costume parades along the banks of the Garonne river. CANCELLED
This carnival takes place in Annecy & runs for three days, several hundred masks from all over Europe parade and pose in the streets of the old town, by the lake, on Le Pâquier field, in the Jardins de l'Europe gardens or along the canals, in customary silence. Everyone vies to have the most colourful and eye-catching costume, and to display the most decorations and creativity. POSTPONED TILL APRIL 16TH - 18TH
MONTE CARLO ARTS FESTIVAL
Monte-Carlo Spring Arts Festival is a classical music festival that lasts for four or five weekends in early spring, spanning the months of March and April. The concerts take place in several concert halls in Monaco as well as unusual venues & include orchestras such as the LSO &the Zurich Orchestra. The event runs from 13/03 till 11/04.
EUROPA JAZZ FESTIVAL
Every spring, many jazz concerts are held in many different venues in the west of France, from Le Mans to Nantes, from Laval to Angers, from Cholet to La Roche-sur-Yon, and from Alençon to Montjean-sur-Loire. The Europa Jazz Festival welcomes major figures of European jazz first and foremost, as well as new discoveries, creations and young bands. Runs until 5th May.
MONTE CARLO ARTS FESTIVAL
A classical music festival in Monte Carlo taking place in several concert halls until 11th April. Guests and musicians from all over the world perform there, including the greatest orchestras in Europe, like the London Symphony Orchestra, the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, the Royal Ballet of Cambodia and the Kimbanguist Symphony Orchestra. Several composers works are presented at each concert, such as Ravel, Brahms, Bach, Bartok, Mozart and Beethoven.
NORMANDY IMPRESSIONIST FESTIVAL
The Festival showcases the Impressionist movement that started in Normandy. The 450 events feature museum collections in the region & the festival reveals Impressionism in all its forms: exhibitions of painting and photography, music concerts, film screenings, theatre and dance performances, as well as conferences & educational workshops. The festival runs from April to September throughout the region but most of the activities are concentrated in Rouen and Caen. Next edition is 2024.
The International Antiques Fair in L'Isle sur la Sorgue, Vaucluse, PACA, transforms the town into a big outdoor art market, with four major exhibition centres: antiques & secondhand goods, old books, contemporary art, design & decoration. 200 exhibitors from the French regions and Europe, along with the town's 250 antique, art and decoration shops, exhibit their finest goods in Gautier Park, on the quays of the Sorgue, in antiquarian markets and on the streets. Takes place 19th till 22nd April. CANCELLED
CHEESE & WINE FAIR
The International Cheese & Wine Fair takes place in Coulommiers near Paris from 12th to 15th April. This agricultural fair promotes regional cheese and wine specialities. Around 350 exhibitors and craftspeople from the culinary trades set up stalls on the forecourt of the sugar factory for this occasion. Over 60,000 gastronomes come to enjoy four days of celebrations, local product tastings and all kinds of activities. CANCELLED
BOURGES MUSIC FESTIVAL
The Bourges Spring Festival is a week of popular music concerts featuring well known & young performers. 150 artists and groups perform in the seven festival halls, as well as many artists on the four free stages, from the banks of Auron to Place Séraucourt, and as many more in the twenty or so bars in Bourges that play a part in the Spring Festival in the town. The supporting fringe festival is a real second festival, with hundreds of street artists. 4th to 9th May.
NIMES ROMAN GAMES
The city of Nimes annually stages one of the biggest re-enactments of ancient history in Europe. Over 500 actors and extras from all over France, Italy and Germany participate in the event. A grandiose spectacle lasting an hour -and-a-half takes place in the arena on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Each year, the Great Roman Games has a different theme and depicts a highlight of ancient history. Several scenes unfold with equestrian vaulting demonstrations, gladiatorial combat and chariot racing. Normally runs from 1st to 3rd May but postponed till 23rd to 25th October.
CANNES FILM FESTIVAL
Normally held in May, the town of Cannes on the Riviera is holding its annual Film Festival online from 22nd to 26th June. A jury of professionals and artists gather there to award several prizes, including the best film, best director, best actor, best actress, Jury Prize, Grand Prix and of course the famous Palme D'Or, the ultimate reward. The official selection emphasises the diversity of cinematographic creation. The walk up the steps attracts heavy media coverage, for the great artists of world cinema as well as emerging talents. The main screenings take place on the Boulevard de la Croisette, in the Festival and Conference Centre.
MOTORCYCLE GRAND PRIX
Each year, around 100,000 people flock to the famous Bugatti circuit in Le Mans for the French Motorcycle Grand Prix, a weekend of exceptional races. Eleven giant screens are placed at strategic places along the circuit so that spectators can follow the trials and races, as well as attending screenings of films about motorcycling.There is also plenty of entertainment in store: concerts on Friday and Saturday night, exclusive meetings, a shopping village with many shops to choose from: clothing, helmets, leathers, accessories…Runs from 14th to 16th May.
EUROPEAN MUSEUM NIGHT
Over 1,200 French museums take part in European Museum Night, and 98% of them open to the public free of charge between 6 pm and midnight. Most museums offer special activities for this original night, aimed at all audiences: storytelling tour, torch-lit tour, concert, workshops for children, screenings, fireworks... Normally takes place on 18th May but reprogrammed till 14th November.
MONACO GRAND PRIX
The circuit for the famous Monaco Grand Prix stretches along a narrow strip of coast & is one of the main features on the calendar of the Formula 1 World Championship, also being considered the hardest circuit on the calendar - with a top speed of over 300 km/h, the slightest error can be fatal. Runs from 20th to 23rd May May
EUROPA JAZZ FESTIVAL
Every spring, many jazz concerts are held in many different venues in the west of France, from Le Mans to Nantes, from Laval to Angers, from Cholet to La Roche-sur-Yon, and from Alençon to Montjean-sur-Loire. The Europa Jazz Festival welcomes major figures of European jazz first and foremost, as well as new discoveries, creations and young bands. Normally runs until 12th May but cancelled this year..
JAZZ IN COUTANCES
“Jazz under the Apple Trees” in Coutances, Normandy, features lots of unique experiences, creations, special evenings, headliners, new discoveries, jazz in all its diversity as well as a stage for amateur musicians...The very eclectic line-up ranges from “New Orleans" jazz to electronic music & also includes many street performances. Normally runs from 25th May till 1st June but cancelled this year.
Developed by the tourist offices of the D-Day beaches, the D-Day Festival programme is rich and varied and offers daily activities including guided hikes, commemorative gatherings, fireworks, parachute drops in period attire, historical re-enactments, bagpipers' parades, an exhibition and parade of military and civilian vehicles, tours of the installations and German bunkers, concerts and various activities on the theme of liberation. A total of over 80 events take place along the Normandy Landing beaches & run until 13th June.
NUITS DE FOURVIERE
The Roman amphitheatre in Lyon plays host to over 60 evening performances of opera, theatre, music, dance & cinema. Runs from 1st June till 30th July.
JOAN OF ARC FESTIVAL
This festival takes place in Reims to commemorate the coronation of Charles VII in the Cathedral here in 1429. To mark the occasion, the city relives the Middle Ages & a medieval village is recreated with a hundred or so craftspeople and pedlars dressed in period costume. Minstrels and jugglers enliven the streets and contribute to the atmosphere. The programme includes many family activities: a falconry display, wool-spinning and stone-cutting workshops, introduction to handling medieval weapons, Celtic and Arabic-Andalusian music concerts and a festive parade by groups in fancy dress. CANCELLED
LE MANS 24 HOUR RACE
Since 1923, the 24 Hours race in Le Mans has become one of the world's great motor sports gatherings. This car race takes place every year in June on a road circuit covering just over 13 km in the town. Postponed till 21 - 22nd August
PROVINS MEDIEVAL FESTIVAL
Held in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Provins, this big medieval festival is one of the biggest in Europe, inviting you on an unforgettable journey to the Middle Ages: full-scale historical re-enactments of the Medieval Fairs, camps, craftspeople, builders, dances and juggling. At the foot of the town ramparts, the camps give visitors a taste of everyday life during the period. There are many craftspeople displaying products from the old days: art objects, fabrics, spices, jewellery, costumes and musical instruments. Takes place 12th & 13 June
Held in the exceptional Roman arena site, Nîmes has been hosting rock and contemporary music concerts for one month of the year for the last 20 years. Each night sees world-famous artists perform, like David Gilmour, Ben Harper, The Cure, Depeche Mode, The Prodigy, Lenny Kravitz and many more. The line-up is varied, not focussing on any one specific style of music. Postponed till 1st - 18th July.
INTERNATIONAL GARDEN FESTIVAL
In the grounds of the Chateau of Chaumont sur Loire, thirty or so artists and landscape gardeners from all over the world create contemporary gardens on a specific theme. All the landscape installations evolve during the 6 months they are on display, as the rules state that the garden must be at its most beautiful in autumn. However, as June is the month of gardening, a visit before summer is an ideal way to enjoy the flowers at their most abundant. The visitor walks through the paths of the park in a sort of open-air contemporary landscape art museum. Runs until 7th November.
JULY Covid19; Some events are unlikely to take place this month
NUITS DE FOURVIERE
The Roman amphitheatre in Lyon plays host to over 30 evening performances of opera, theatre, music, dance & cinema. Runs until 30th July.
CARRIERES DE LUMIERE. A laser light show in Les Baux de Provence, set in an underground quarry featuring projected displays on the quarry walls with a musical soundtrack. This year the show features the work of the artists Dali & Gaudi with accompanying music by Pink Floyd & Gershwin. Runs all year. Social distancing & masks required.
JAZZ IN VIENNE
For a fortnight until 10th July, concerts are organised at different locations in the town of Vienne, near Lyon. These take place at the Roman Amphitheatre, the most prestigious stage with capacity for over 7,000 people; at the Jazz Mix club, at the Club de Minuit (an Italian-style theatre) on the Cybèle stage and not forgetting the Jazz Parade and the Caravan'Jazz, which travels around the surrounding towns.
This Festival has become one of the most anticipated musical events in the region, partly thanks to its varied line-up featuring very sought-after international artists. The exceptional setting, combined with the quality line-up and the technology deployed, offer the audience a truly exciting experience. Carcassonne Festival draws around 250,000 spectators, making the event one of the biggest festivals in France. 2nd till 31st July.
ST RIQUIER FESTIVAL
Prestigious artists from the classical and jazz scenes are invited to St Riquier Abbey in the Somme Bay. For 10 days, from 10 am to sunset, the Festival offers a packed, varied programme of events: great works of classical music, a symphonic concert, tributes to famous composers, musical theatre, dialogues with literature, a culture walk in the Somme Bay, exhibitions, meetings and concerts. 3rd to 12th July.
Every year in July, Avignon becomes a theatre town, transforming its architectural heritage into various majestic and surprising performance venues, and welcoming tens of thousands of theatre-lovers of all generations (over 130,000 admissions). Many of the spectators are on holiday and come from far away, spending several days in the town and seeing a few of the shows from the forty or so works of theatre, dance, visual arts and music. The festival is a successful, original alliance between a mainstream audience and international creativity. Runs from 5th till 25th July.
Every four years in mid-July, Brest harbour welcomes over 2,500 boats from around the world for the Maritime Festival. Thousands of sea-lovers and onlookers gather along the banks of the Penfeld and on the docks to come and admire the tall ships, historical replicas, working boats, exotic boats and superb yachts. The tall ships, which are spectacular, are the stars of the party. Every evening, there is live music on a stage at the commercial port as well as on the café terraces. Postponed till 2022
The Pyrotechnic Art Festival in Cannes has welcomed the world's greatest pyrotechnists every year on 7, 15 and 24 August. The show, performed on a 400-metre stretch of the sea front, is watched by 200,000 spectators every night, who gather along the Croisette. The master alchemists of illumination practise this thousand-year-old art form using the ultimate innovations of our time, combining creativity, technology and high precision.
Jazz in Marciac is a famous musical event that has been held under the stars in August since 1978. Over 200,000 people meet every year in the small village in Gers to enjoy this gathering with famous jazz performers and young musicians. For a fortnight, concerts take place under a giant marquee or at the Astrada. A fringe festival also takes place on the main square in this village that still has medieval arcades & an aire. Runs till 15th August.
MENTON MUSIC FESTIVAL
During a fortnight running till 10th August, outdoor concerts are held opposite the port on the Forecourt of the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel in Menton, Alpes-Maritimes. An imposing stage for a carefully curated programme of music, with great contemporary performers and international lyrical talents like the Portuguese pianist Maria João Pires, the French cellist Gautier Capuçon or the German soprano Diana Damrau.
STREET THEATRE FESTIVAL
Around 500 troupes from all over the world gather in Aurillac, Cantal to make this Street Theatre Festival an exceptional event of creativity, research and artistic dissemination. Hundreds of outdoor shows are organised during the day, and in the evening, a big party takes place to the sound of wild percussion sounds. Encounters between professionals and the public are an important part of this creative event. 21st to 24th August.
LILLE STREET MARKET
It takes place in Lille on the 5th & 6th September. Preceded by a semi-marathon on Saturday morning, it officially starts at 2 pm Saturday and finishes at 11 pm on Sunday, without interruption. During these 33 hours, 10,000 exhibitors including 300 professional second-hand goods dealers offer a hundred or so kilometres of stalls to around 3 million visitors. Almost anything can be bought and sold at one of the biggest flea markets in Europe.
WINE & HIKES IN THE LOIRE
First weekend in September, over 15 flavoursome walks are organised in the vineyards of the Loire Valley. The leading appellations are represented, with each walk lasting for around 3 hours and is guided and hosted by a winegrower. These easy, fun walks are accessible to all and include breaks during which the participants are invited to taste local products (wines, cheeses) or visit local heritage sites.
Cremieu Medieval Festival takes place in the weekend of 7th / 8th September. Around 200 professionals and 300 volunteers bring the Middle Ages back to life in Cremieu, north of Lyon. Activities include horse shows, jousts and combats, jugglers, colourful stilt-walkers, flag-twirlers, fire-eaters, musicians and magicians. Artists wander through the streets, providing entertainment with playlets, fables and farces of yesteryear.
NUITS DE SOLOGNE
Nouan le Fuzelier, 40kms from Orleans, hosts a big pyrotechnic and music show on 7th September. Starting at 5 pm, volunteers welcome spectators in a friendly and festive atmosphere. On the grass, 9,000 seats including 1,000 privilege area seats await the audience for a thrilling spectacle, projected onto a façade over 200 m tall. The big firework display takes place from 9.30 pm and tells an epic and enchanting story, like the Legend of King Arthur, water and fire, or the legend of the town of Ys. The show is synchronised to music from a concert-standard sound system. A total of over 5,000 tonnes of fireworks are set off in one night.
TOUR DE FRANCE: The 107th Tour de France started in Nice on the 29th August & ends on the 20th September in Paris. Various Covid19 safety measures have been put in place that include social distancing, wearing masks and using hand gel.
JAZZ BETWEEN TWO TOWERS
This festival takes place every year in early October in the centre of the town of La Rochelle. This festival is a gathering for nationally and internationally famous musicians, as well as regional musicians selected for their musical qualities. The line-up reflects almost all the artistic trends in jazz. A hundred or so musicians play in a dozen concert venues during the 4 days of the festival. Free and fee-paying concerts take place in various halls in the town, interspersed with dinner concerts, educational activities, various conferences and photo exhibitions. 14/10 till 17/10 in La Rochelle.
PARIS MOTOR SHOW
The Paris Motor Show features brands and vehicles from all over the world, from the most famous to less-well known models, from city cars to top-of-the-range cars, and from sports cars to electric vehicles. All players from the worldwide motor industry are there, including equipment manufacturers, factory owners, specialists in alternative energy and on-board electronics, as well as many service companies. At the show, car fans can admire the latest-generation vehicles, visit an historic exhibition, and take advantage of late night opening hours on certain dates. 19/10 till 23/10 at Porte de Versailles, Paris.
Every autumn, Strasbourg features contemporary classical music concerts with the aim of offering a truly free creative space. Musica is for all audiences, be they seasoned music-lovers or beginners. For a fortnight or so, the Musica Festival presents the most significant works of a 20th century full of musical creations and welcomes renowned artists specialising in contemporary music as well as prestigious classical acts. Until 3/10 in Strasbourg.
PARIS CHOCOLATE FAIR
The Chocolate Fair (Salon du Chocolat) takes place every year in early November in Paris. Chocolatiers, pastry chefs, confectioners and professionals from the chocolate industry, as well as producing countries, great chefs, designers and cocoa experts get together to show the public all the riches of the famous bean. A total of over 700 exhibitors are in attendance for the duration of the fair. For visitors, it's a chance to discover the latest innovations and taste creations by pastry chefs as well as the best cocoa beans from all over the world. Till 03/11.
NEW BEAUJOLAIS FESTIVAL
All over France, the New Beaujolais Festival takes place on the 19th November, the date when wine-making ends and the wine can be sold. This fruity new wine is keenly awaited by wine-lovers, and is also a great reason to meet friends in a welcoming atmosphere. This festival is the occasion for many events in the Beaujolais area, where celebrations often last until the end of the week. The new Beaujolais is traditionally launched with Les Sarmentelles in Beaujeu, where a procession of barrels filled with flaming vine shoots takes place before the first barrels are drilled into, when the clock strikes midnight.
PARIS AUTUMN FESTIVAL
The Paris Autumn Festival is a multidisciplinary arts festival that aims to make the arts accessible to all, it reflects the desire of Georges Pompidou to make Paris a cultural capital. The Autumn Festival soon became a hub for the creative arts and attracted a wide audience. From September to December, the festival offers dance shows, music concerts and film screenings, but also theatre and visual art exhibitions. In all, nearly fifty events are scheduled at locations in the city from the Pompidou Centre to the Ménagerie de Verre.
STRASBOURG XMAS MARKET
Strasbourg Christmas market has existed since 1570 and takes place every year between the end of November and 31st December, all around the Cathedral and on twelve sites in the city centre. Each year, visitors go there to experience the enchanting atmosphere of the festive season. Over 300 stalls are set up for the occasion to celebrate food from Alsace and local crafts (toys, lights, jewellery and wooden accessories). The town squares are lit up and decorated in the traditional style & at over 30 m tall, the large Christmas tree on Place Kléber takes pride of place. Runs from 22/11 till 30/12.
ST NICHOLAS FESTIVAL
The festival in Nancy begins on Friday 30th November evening with the illumination of the Christmas tree on Place Stanislas and its large Xmas market. Many street performances and parades of floats take place throughout the weekend in the streets of the city. The party goes on until 31st December with exhibitions, puppet theatre shows, dance classes and concerts. There are a total of over 80 shows on the programme, featuring over 60 troupes and 300 artists.
FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
This festival in Lyon started in 1852 & since then, the festival has been held each year and has now become a major popular event in the city, attracting several millions of visitors. The best light artists meet in Lyon every year in December to present over 70 creations for four nights. The town turns into a huge site of expression and creativity, and a delightful sight for visitors. As a springboard for new talent and a meeting for internationally famous artists, the Festival of Lights reveals artistic light creation in all its diversity. Runs from 5th till 8th December.
HABITS DE LUMIERE
The Champagne capital, Épernay, celebrates the gastronomic heritage of the region in a convivial and festive atmosphere. For three days, the city is lit up and there are many activities on offer, including a firework display and a big street parade on Avenue de Champagne, exhibitions, musical entertainment, cellar tours and a whole host of shows for children and adults. The Champagne-style art of living is celebrated with cookery demonstrations by great chefs, cooking workshops and tastings of regional products. It's a chance to discover vintages by small producers and major brands that have made the reputation of the Champagne vineyards. Runs from 13th till 15th December.
This prestigious music festival takes place every year in early December at the Exhibition Park in Rennes. Over 3 to 4 days, it displays new musical talent to the public and the media with an exclusive artistic programme, creating a real space for the best new acts of the International music scene. Runs from 4th till 8th December.