Starting in the second week in July, the three-week Festival d’Avignon focuses especially on theatre, while also featuring classical music, dance, lectures and exhibitions. The city’s great buildings make a spectacular backdrop to performances, while its streets throng with bright-eyed performers promoting their shows. Everywhere stays open late, and everything from accommodation to obscure fringe events gets booked up very quickly; doing anything normal becomes virtually impossible.
Founded in 1947 by actor-director Jean Vilar, the festival has included, over the years, theatrical interpretations as diverse as Euripides, Molière and Chekhov, performed by companies from across Europe. While big-name directors draw the largest crowds to the main venue, the Cour d’Honneur in the Palais des Papes, lesser-known troupes and directors also stage new works, and the festival spotlights a different culture each year.
The main festival programme is usually available from the second week in May on wfestival-avignon.com; tickets go on sale around mid-June. The fringe Festival Off (wavignonleoff.com) adds an additional element of craziness and magic, with innovative, obscure and bizarre performances taking place in more than a hundred venues as well as in the streets. A Carte Public Adhérent for €16 gives thirty percent off all shows.