Festivals and events in France vary as much as the regions themselves, and cover the gamut of religious holidays, food and wine, music, traditional celebrations, performance arts, as well as iconic events such as the Paris Marathon, the Paris Air Show, Tour de France, and the Cannes Film Festival.
Basing a vacation around several of these events is a great idea to see French culture in action.
Carnival de Nice
This fabulous 12-day carnival runs between February 18 and March 8, culminating at Mardi Gras on the last day. Costumed parades with decorated floats, masked balls, food and drinks, the Battle of the Flowers, street stalls and performers, and a massive fireworks display all signal the approach to Catholic Lent.
Cannes Film Festival
Famous world over, the Cannes Film Festival in May brings a galaxy of stars of the silver screen from across the globe to Cannes, France, plus thousands of fans who gear up to get a glimpse of their favorite celebrities. Glitzy, glamorous, and excessive with riotous parties on million-dollar yachts and in luxury hotel suites, the Cannes Film Festival is the ultimate see-and-be-seen event of the year.
Bordeaux Wine Festival
Held over three days at the end of June, the Bordeaux Wine Festival celebrates one of the world’s great winemaking regions in France. Over a mile of pavilions showcasing the best grapes of the region are set up along the Garonne River’s banks, with tastings mandatory and the Bordeaux International Music Festival’s rock, jazz, and classical concerts setting the backdrop.
Paris Air Show
Everyone who’s anyone in the space and aviation world arrives in Paris in June for the world-famous Paris Air Show. International big businesses and the general public alike attend to watch a spectacle of flights from the viewing stands provided.
Commemorating the July day during the French Revolution when the people of Paris stormed the feared Bastille prison, this holiday is celebrated all over France, but especially in Paris. It’s national grandeur is commemmorated with military parades, fireworks, street parties, live music, and dancing.
Nice Jazz Festival
Centered in the 2,000-year old Arenes de Cimiez, the Nice Jazz Festival takes place for eight nights every July, attracting over 45,000 spectators and 500 musicians to its 75 or so shows. First held in 1948, it’s one of Europe’s biggest celebrations of jazz.
Tour de France
Sports fans and vacationers in France during the first three weeks of July form part of the millions who line the stages of this famous cycling marathon. The race path cuts across many of France’s major cities, including Paris, Bordeaux, Nice, and Marseilles. Spectators’ emotions run high and, for once, the French reserve and sense of privacy is thrown out of the window!
Held in music venues and theaters in Aix-en-Provence, this festival is a major event drawing visitors from across Europe. Composed of recitals and concerts of mostly French classical music, as well as opera productions, the festival attracts many well-known soloists and orchestral players to the charming city every July.
Paris Autumn Festival
The Festival d’Automne de Paris is a celebration of the contemporary arts in a French city famous for its centuries of art appreciation. Over 40 events involving innovative contemporary artists in theater, dance, film, and visual design take place from September to December.