It’s hard to beat the experience of arriving in a small French village, expecting no more than a bed for the night, to discover the streets decked out with flags and streamers, a band playing in the square and the entire population out celebrating the feast of their patron saint. As well as nationwide celebrations such as the Fête de la Musique (around June 21), Bastille Day (July 14) and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Aug 15), there are any number of festivals – both traditional and of more recent origin – held in towns and villages throughout France. For more information see culture.fr and viafrance.com.
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January and February
Nantes La Folle Journée (late Jan to early Feb).
February to April
Menton Fête du Citron (two weeks following Mardi Gras, forty days before Easter).
Nice Carnival (Feb–March).
Cannes Festival de Cannes; international film festival.
Chalon-sur-Saône Montgolfiades (last weekend in May); hot-air balloon racing.
Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer Fête de Ste Sarah (May 24–25); Romany festival.
Nîmes La Féria de Nîmes (Pentecost, seven weeks after Easter); bullfights.
Annecy Festival International du Film d’Animation (early to mid-June); animated films.
Bordeaux Fête le Vin (late June in even-numbered years).
Châlons-en-Campagne Festival Furies (early June); circus and street theatre.
Lyon Les Nuits de Fourvière (June and July); performance arts.
Montpellier Montpellier Danse (mid-June to mid-July).
Paris La Marche des Fiertés Lesbienne, Gai, Bi & Trans (late June).
Samois-sur-Seine Festival Django Reinhardt (late June); jazz.
Paris Festival de St-Denis (May–June); classical and world music festival.
Uzès Uzès Danse; contemporary dance.
Vienne Jazz à Vienne (late June to early July).
Aix-en-Provence Festival International d’Art Lyrique; classical music and opera.
Alès Cratère/Surfaces (early July); street theatre.
Arles Les Suds à Arles (mid-July); world music.
Avignon Festival d’Avignon; contemporary dance and theatre.
Beaune Festival International d’Opéra Baroque.
Belfort Eurockéennes (late June to early July); rock and indie music.
Carhaix Festival des Vieilles Charrues (mid-July); rock music festival.
Chalon-sur-Saône Chalon dans la Rue (third week July); street theatre.
Colmar Festival International de Colmar (early July); classical music.
Gannat (near Vichy) Les Cultures du Monde (late July).
Grenoble Rencontres du Jeune Théâtre Européen (early July); contemporary theatre.
Juan-les-Pins Jazz à Juan (mid-July).
La Rochelle Festival International du Film (late June to early July); Francofolies (mid-July); contemporary French music.
La Roque d’Anthéron Festival International de Piano (mid-July to mid-Aug).
Nice Jazz Festival (late July).
Orange Chorégies d’Orange (July); opera.
Prades Festival Pablo Casals (late July to mid-Aug); chamber music.
Reims Flâneries Musicales d’Été (late June to mid-July); open-air concerts.
Rennes Les Tombées de la Nuit (early July); concerts, cinema and performance arts.
Saintes Festival de Saintes (mid-July); classical music.
Vaison-la-Romaine Vaison Danse (mid- to late July); contemporary dance.
Aurillac Festival International de Théâtre de Rue; street theatre.
Lorient Festival Interceltique (early Aug); Celtic folk festival.
Menton Festival de Musique (late July to early Aug); chamber music.
Mulhouse Festival Météo (mid- to late Aug); jazz.
Paris Rock en Seine (late Aug).
Périgueux Mimos (late July to early Aug); international mime festival.
Quimper Semaines Musicales; baroque, classical and contemporary music.
St-Malo La Route du Rock (mid-Aug).
Limoges Les Francophonies en Limousin (late Sept to early Oct); contemporary francophone theatre, dance and music.
Lyon Bienniale de la Dance; every even-numbered year from mid-Sept.
Paris Biennial des Antiquaires (every even-numbered year in mid-Sept) antiques fair; Jazz à la Villette (late Aug to early Sept); Festival d’Automne (mid-Sept to mid-Dec); theatre, concerts, dance, films and exhibitions.
Perpignan Visa pour l’Image (early to mid-Sept); international photojournalism.
Puy-en-Velay Fête Renaissance du Roi de l’Oiseau (mid-Sept); historical pageants, fireworks and re-creations.
Strasbourg Musica (late Sept to early Oct); contemporary music.
Bastia Les Musicales; chanson and world music.
Nancy Jazz Pulsations.
Paris Foire International d’Art Contemporain (mid- to late Oct).
November and December
Rennes Rencontres Transmusicales (early Dec); contemporary music.
Strasbourg Jazz d’Or (Nov).