12 Unique Festivals And Events To Enhance Your Trip To France

When I look back on my trips, so many of them have coincided with local festivals and events. It’s been a great way to immerse myself in French culture.  Whether it was scheduling a trip to begin with a wine festival or the annual herding of sheep towards the mountains for their annual grazing, my trips to France were made much more memorable because of these events.

Trip Planning Revolves Around Local Festivals And Events In France

Today, a lot of my planning revolves around trying to coordinate my time with the local festivals and events in France. Here is a list of fêtes that I have attended. They might give you some inspiration and make your planning a bit easier.

1. June-September: Summer Sound And Light Shows

Rouen Cathedral Notre-Sound and Light Show

Many cities have impressive churches and monuments that are used as the centrepiece for their evening sound and light shows. One of the most famous is in Rouen.

I saw the Rouen Cathedral lit up and accompanied by commentary and music when I was there for the Rouen Armada in the month of June. (The Armada only takes place every 5 years). It takes place each evening (between late May to late September) at 11:00 p.m. with the crowds gathering in the square in front of Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen. The performance lasts about 30 minutes.
Read about it here: Sound And Light Show In Rouen

2. June 6: D-Day Celebrations

June 6, 2024, was the 80th anniversary of D-Day when the Allies landed on the northern shores of France and began their Normandy invasion against the Nazis.

(a) Juno Beach

D-Day Anniversary reception at Juno Beach on June 6

Every year, the Canadians commemorate this day at the Juno Beach Centre in Courseulles-sur-Mer. The ceremony usually begins around 10:30 am.

The centre is Canada’s Second World War Museum and cultural centre and I made sure to attend in 2023. The other allies have their respective commemorations as well.  The ceremonies recognized the brave soldiers who took part in the June 6 Operation Overlord and Battle of Normandy, and the 45,000+ who lost their lives during the war. There was a reception under a tent with complimentary cider and hors d’oeuvres.
Read about it here: D-Day Anniversary Celebration

(b) Canada House

Canada House in Bernieres-sur-Mer

Also on June 6 at 9:00 pm at Canada House in Bernières-sur-Mer there is the annual Lantern Ceremony which features bagpipers from the Pegasus Pipes and Drums, the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, and a delegation from the Regiment de la Chaudière. A procession moves a lantern to the sea and this symbolizes our freedom and honours our fallen heroes.
Read about it here: Canada House

3. June 21: Fête de la Musique

Fete de la Musique-one of the local festivals and events in Sarlat

I attended a Fête de la Musique in Sarlat and on almost every street corner there were musicians playing, You just walked around the town soaking in the musical vibes. This celebration of music takes place all over France so there’s a big chance the town you visit will celebrate this World Music Day.
Read about it here: Fête de la Musique

4. Late June Until Mid-July: Tour de France

Tour de France in Nurieux-Volognat

If you’re in France from late June until mid-July, you might be lucky enough to see the Tour de France whizz by! This happened to me when I was near Lyon in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. I discovered the Tour would be passing through the town of Nurieux-Volognat, so I made a stop there.

I chose a spot high on a hill overlooking a winding mountain road. The wait was worth it—the spectacle lasted only a few minutes, but the singing and cheers from the crowd and the procession of cyclists made it unforgettable.

This year’s Tour de France runs from June 29, 2024-July 21, 2024

Check out my post that has videos, photos and information about the best way to see Le Tour.
Read about it here: Watching The Tour de France In Person

5. Early July: La Course Camarguaise

Opening ceremonies of Cocarde d'Or in Arles

“La Course Camarguaise” is Provencal bullfighting but it is unlike the typical bullfighting where the animal is killed. This type of event involves razeteurs, young men dressed in white, who try to grab a ribbon off the bull’s horn. These competitions run throughout the summer in various towns in Provence, however, the “big” camarguaise event is in Arles and is called the Cocarde d’Or.

What I liked were the opening ceremonies. Locals dressed in traditional outfits would parade in the amphitheatre and there would be dancing and pageantry with horses. It was a beautiful presentation that was followed by the camarguaise. Do try to see one of these competitions. The razeteur’s agility is mind-boggling!
Read about it here: Provencal Bullfighting-La Course Camarguaise

First Weekend In July: Carnival de Paris
It has not yet been confirmed whether the Carnaval Tropical de Paris will take place in Paris the first weekend in July. In the past, there is a grand parade filled with dancing, music, and floats on the Champs-Élysées.
Read about it here: Tropical Carnaval In Paris

6. July And August: Medieval Festivals

Jousting at medieval festival, Chateau de Saumur

When I’ve visited various castles in the Loire Valley (ie. Château de Saumur) and even ruins in Provence (Le Château des Baux de Provence) in the summer, there have been medieval festivals, complete with jousting, sword fighting, with displays of siege weapons, actors in medieval costumes, and celebrations and foods done the “medieval way”. It’s an especially wonderful experience for the family.
Read about the châteaux and activities here: Unique Châteaux In The Loire Valley

7. July 13 or July 14: Bastille Day Fireworks

July 13 fireworks at Etretat

While La Fête Nationale (National Day in France and the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille) is a big celebratory day in France, it’s also my birthday, and lucky for me, many special events take place.

It’s all about the fireworks and on July 13 in Etretat, the most spectacular display filled the sky in front of the alabaster cliffs. Another year, I celebrated on the 14th on a dinner cruise which ended at the Eiffel Tower with a beautiful display of fireworks right in front of us. 

MANY cities will have Bastille Day fireworks displays. Some will be on the 13th and some will take place on the 14th. I often refer to a Facebook page for updates but Hervé also has a link to a page that announces upcoming dates for various pyrotechnic shows or fireworks displays:
L’agenda des feux d’artifices et spectacles pyrotechniques 

Here are my reports on the fireworks in the two cities I mentioned:

Fireworks on July 13 in Etretat
Fireworks on July 14 in Paris

8. August: La Fête de la Véraison In Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Chateuneuf-du-Pape-Fete de la Veraison

During the first weekend in August, Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Luberon has a most magnificent wine festival. Although it’s been years since I last attended, I have very fond memories of being able to using my tasting cup (tastevin) to sample endless amounts of my favourite wine….red and white!

There is a parade, a medieval market, soldiers in suits of armor, strolling musicians, and many, many stalls serving food and wine. 
Here are some pictures of my visit: La Fête de la Véraison

9. Early October: Fête des Vendanges In Paris

Fete des Vendanges in Paris

Love French food and wine mixed with entertainment and free tours? Consider visiting Montmartre in Paris the second weekend in October for the annual Fête des Vendanges. The food and wine stalls surround Basilique du Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre and the crowds are big but the atmosphere is fabulous. One big party. There are free tours (like the ones I took) of the Montmartre vineyards or even the Moulin Rouge…just be sure to sign up as soon as reservations open.
Read about it here: Fête des Vendanges In Paris

10. December: Festival Of Lights In Paris

Festival of Lights in Parc Floral, Paris

I specifically went to France in December to see the Christmas markets and what surprised me was that the special light shows that were going on in various parks in and around Paris (Festival of Lights) were the hit. They were even more enjoyable than visiting the markets because each one was different. To clarify, I’m not talking about  Christmas lights that adorn the facade of stores. These are festivals that cover the entire area of parks with illuminated sculptures and inflatable displays.

The Festival of Lights takes place in Jardin d’Acclimatation, Parc Floral, and Jardin des Plantes and run from late November into January. There are a few other light festivals that I did not make it to and they are located in La Villette (north of Canal Saint Martin) and in areas a bit further outside of Paris.
You can see many of the displays and lemon pastries here: Festival Of Lights In Paris

11. Late February/Early March: Fête du Citron

Fete du Citron sculpture, Menton

The Lemon Festival has taken place in Menton since 1934 and while there were a few years when it didn’t run, it is one of the premier festivals on the Côte d’Azur. It was cancelled the day before I arrived; however, all was not lost. All of the displays (made with lemons and oranges) were still up and the weather was great. Sadly, all of the parades were cancelled too. Nice has a similar festival that takes place around the same time.
Read about it here: Fête du Citron In Menton

12. End of May/Early June: Transhumance

Saint-Remy-Fete de la Transhumance

The Fête de la Transhumance takes place in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence the first Monday of Pentecost (Whit Monday). Each year, farmers take the sheep around the town two times and then herd them towards the hills in Provence where the pastures are greener.
Read about it here: Transhumance In Saint-Rémy

I hope you can align your travel plans with one of these unique events. They are particularly special and will make your trip that much more memorable.

Have you attended any local festivals and events in France that you’ve loved? Please share.

Pin to your favourite board on Pinterest

Experience France: Unforgettable Festivals and Events (Pin for Pinterest)

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *