11 Fabulous French Festivals You Don’t Want to Miss
French festivals are not to be missed, and luckily there are many to choose from (if you must choose).
There are festivals throughout the year and every year, so regardless of when you find yourself in France, there’ll likely be one taking place somewhere.
Join in on the best celebrations and traditions that France has to offer. Here are some of our favorite French festivals.
- 1. Enjoy the parades at the Nice Carnival
- 2. Experience the Best of Film at Festival de Cannes
- 3. Bring the beach to Paris at Paris Plages
- 4. Catch the top musicians at Rock en Seine
- 5. Smell the flowers at Le Corso Fleuri
- 6. Indulge the French way at Mardi Gras
- 7. Say “Ooh” and “Aah” at Bastille Day
- 8. Go back in time at The Great Roman Games
- 9. Relax and inhale at The Lavender Festival
- 10. Party in the mountains at Rise Festival
- 11. View masterpieces at the International Garden Festival
1. Enjoy the parades at the Nice Carnival
The night before Lent begins is a popular time for Carnival celebrations all over the world. But the picturesque and romantic city of Nice along the French Riviera really stands out as an exceptional place to experience this holiday.
Carnival is celebrated every year in late February or early March.
During this time of the year, much of Europe is still shrouded in winter rains and gray skies. This is not the case in Nice, though! The climate here is usually nice and warm.
Nice puts on not just one, but three parades during Carnival: a Day Parade, a Night Parade and a Flower Parade. These parades include an average of 17 floats, and some of them are 17 meters tall!
Carnival in Nice has been celebrated since the Middle Ages, and today attracts over 200,000 spectators.
2. Experience the Best of Film at Festival de Cannes
This famous festival is held each year in Cannes on the French Riviera. It usually takes place in May and is attended by many celebrities and film industry icons.
While most of the festival is invitation-only, there are ways you can get involved. You can attend one of the parallel screenings that happen alongside the main festival.
Or go to the Cinema de la Plage, a free open-air screening by the beach that happens every evening of the festival and is open to the public (on a first-come first-served basis).
You can even get a peak at celebrities on the red carpet outside the Palais des Festival (Palace of Festivals)!
3. Bring the beach to Paris at Paris Plages
Could you imagine if Paris was by the beach? With this unusual festival, it is!
In July and August, be on the look-out for random pop-up beaches along the streets of Paris. These pop-up beaches are complete with deck chairs, palm trees and free concerts.
Every year, three locations in the Paris area are also designated as temporary beaches along the banks of the Seine River.
You can enjoy a variety of activities like boating, sunbathing, various water sports, dance lessons and of course, classic beach food and drinks.
4. Catch the top musicians at Rock en Seine
This huge multi-national concert takes place in Paris during the last weekend of August every year. Despite its name, this festival actually hosts all kinds of music genres including rock, alternative, indie, hip-hop and pop.
You can purchase either a two-day or three-day pass, or a one-day ticket to this event.
It’s the perfect opportunity to catch the biggest international musicians all in one place!
5. Smell the flowers at Le Corso Fleuri
On a Saturday in mid-August, the little city of Selestat in the northwestern region of Alsace hosts its famous festival of dahlias, a colorful flower in the sunflower family.
This beautiful festival includes a parade in which floats are decorated with more than 400,000 dahlias. Musicians, singers and folk dancers add a musical touch to the event. The floral celebration is topped off with a spectacular fireworks display.
If you can’t make it to Selestat in mid-August, all is not lost, though!
Several other towns in France have their own version of the Corso Fleuri. These include Bormes-les-Mimosas (in mid-February), Neuchâtel (on the last weekend in September) and Lavandou (in March).
6. Indulge the French way at Mardi Gras
Most of us associate Mardi Gras with New Orleans, but France also hosts a wonderful celebration on Fat Tuesday before Lent begins.
Traditionally, this is the last night of partying and fun before devout Catholics give up over-indulging in food and drink for the 40 days leading up to Easter. Similar to New Orleans, this is a free-for-all of feasts, pageantry, masked balls and parades.
Jugglers and stilt-walkers can be seen strolling casually along the streets of almost any French city or town. You’ll also see a lot of children in costumes.
But the best part of Mardi Gras might be the food!
7. Say “Ooh” and “Aah” at Bastille Day
France’s national holiday is on July 14. This is a historic event that you’ll never forget, if you get the chance to experience it in Paris.
A really unique part of Bastille Day includes the Fireman’s Ball. This tradition dates back to 1937 and involves fire stations opening their doors to the public and putting on gymnastic performances and small firework shows.
Bastille Day also includes the largest military parade in the world on Paris’ Champs-Élysées and countrywide fireworks displays. This festive celebration is a chance to party it up with the French!
8. Go back in time at The Great Roman Games
If you love history, this is the festival for you!
The ancient Roman amphitheater in the town of Nîmes is over 2,000 years old and still remains impressively intact. Every year in early May, this is the scene of a historical reenactment of epic proportions.
Gladiator contests, chariot racing and equestrian vaulting are just a few of the spectacles that take place here. Every detail is the result of careful historical research and accuracy. You’ll certainly feel like you’ve traveled back in time!
9. Relax and inhale at The Lavender Festival
In mid-August, the fields of Provence turn fragrant and purple with blooms of gorgeous lavender.
On August 15, the town of Sault puts on its yearly lavender festival.
All kinds of events take place on this lovely day, including a lavender cutting contest and a demonstration of the lavender distillation process.
There’s nothing quite like the incredible sight of lavender fields that extend as far as the eye can see. Best of all, you can even pick your own lavender right from the fields for free!
10. Party in the mountains at Rise Festival
This is the ultimate festival for anyone who loves winter sports.
Every year in mid-December, the town of Les Deux Alpes near the Swiss border hosts a giant ski party in the mountains.
Enjoy skiing and snowboarding on over 200 kilometers of stunning Alpine terrain, as well as tons of other activities including mountain yoga and snowmobiling.
You can also take advantage of the seemingly endless live concerts at many of the local bars and clubs, which are open all day and all night.
11. View masterpieces at the International Garden Festival
Tucked away in the picturesque Loire Valley, the town of Chaumont-sur-Loire hosts the world’s most eagerly anticipated garden festival every year from mid-April to November.
Landscape artists from all over the world come together to create 30 themed gardens, which are then opened to the public. The installations evolve over the months, so you’ll see something different depending on when you go.
If you like the sound of strolling through the gardens, observing an impressive combination of art and flowers, get yourself to the Loire Valley for the garden festival!
So, are you ready to get festive?
Put one of these French festivals on your calendar and prepare for a magical and memorable French experience!