French Festivals

What better way to explore a historic country with a multi-cultural population than through some of its top festivals and celebrations. France is one such country, offering up a host of events throughout the year that you can plan your tour around. French festivals range from nationalist to historic to quirky. And they happen across the country, from big cities to small towns and deep in the countryside.

Immerse yourself in the French way of life, even if just for a few days. Whether you are friends on a European adventure, a couple looking for memorable shared experiences or a family seeking some much-needed bonding time, planning a holiday around some French festivals can be just what you’re looking for. Here’s our pick of the top one’s along with their dates and locations, for you to pick and choose the best for your itinerary. Allons-y!

Here are just some of the many French festivals that you can experience. Cannes Film Festival, Rock en Siene, Paris Summer Festival and Christmas are also widely popular with tourists. SOTC has a great selection of package holidays to France. Select one and get ready to celebrate the festivals in France.

Marking the historic storming of the Bastille fortress and prison and the French Revolution, Bastille Day sees grand celebrations held across the country. But Paris offers the best experience, culminating in a spectacular firework display by the Eiffel Tower. During the day, there’s the military parade down Champs Elysees, firemen’s parties, free concerts and a general festive feel. For the best views, go early and try finding a spot at Trocadéro Gardens, Sacré Cœur, the Parc de Belleville, the Champ de Mars or the Montparnasse Tower.

Language tip: Learn the phrase “Vive la France!” so you can join in the chanting and impress the locals.

This is one of the best French festivals to catch as a tourist. It’s free, it’s everywhere and everyone is invited. Literally the ‘Music Day’, this is how the French welcome the summer solstice. Expect sounds and performances across all genres – at street corners, cosy bar gigs, restaurants with live music or an all-out concert venue – you can catch professional and amateur acts in the setting of your choice. Did you know, other countries have taken inspiration from this festival and now have their own!

Traveller’s tip: Louvre, Jardin des Tuileries and the Seine are the most renowned locations to experience this festival.

Brazilian carnivals might be too far, but Nice Carnival is not far behind as an experience – and much easier to get to. Held in February every year, this gives a great option to avoid the summer tourist season and yet enjoy a lively holiday, at the beautiful town by the French Riviera. Watch Nice at its celebratory best, with your travel companions and hundreds of locals. The crowds are enough to keep you warm during these last days of winter. Don’t miss out on the Flower Parade, Main Parade and the sparkling Parade of Lights once the sun goes down.

Scheduling tip: There are no events on Mondays, Thursdays or Fridays so you can easily plan sightseeing of nearby landmarks on those days.

La Fête des Lumières, as it is called by the locals, is a traditional celebration by the people of Lyon. This four-day affair is in honour of Mother Mary. It is marked by every household placing candles along their windows, while public buildings are all lit up and installations that play with light are set up by artists around the town. Fair warning – the event pulls in a crowd of over four million people, so book your stay in advance.

Handy Tip: There’s a festival app you can download for your visit, that’ll keep you up-to-date on all the happenings and sites you must see.

Hit the beautiful French coastline town of Berck, where the whimsical kite flying festival promises a truly colourful time. You don’t have to be into kite flying to enjoy the varied designs, shapes and sizes that take to the sky controlled by expert handlers. Indeed, people from around the world come to participate and be crowned the winner. But really, the true winner is you, the wandering soul soaking in this surreal and scenic event.

Clothing tip: It gets really windy at the site of the festival, by the sea. It’s wise to wear an extra layer to stay comfortable throughout.

To really get a taste of France, what could be better than one of its famed food festivals. Taste of Paris is part of the global Taste Festivals that happen in major world cities including London, Sydney and Hong Kong. But to experience it in such an iconic food nation is something else. Plus, it is held in the stunning Grand Palais in the month of May, so you get exceptional food amidst a stunning setting, with great weather outside. Things to look forward to include – masterclasses with leading chefs (including special events for kids), and a mouth-watering gourmet market.

Festival tip: Be sure to note down chef secrets, recipes and more if you’re attending any of the masterclasses. Do look to purchase your tickets in advance, as this is a really popular event in Paris.

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