Summer Festivals in France

Fête de la Musique-June 21

Fête de la Musique-June 21 © McCarthy

France is definitely a world leader when it comes to festivals and the Summertime is especially rich. The options are endless: art festivals big and small, literature (focusing on novels, poetry or children’s literature), music (jazz, classical, baroque, pop, world music and more), dance (ballet, modern, jazz, contemporary), theatre (beginning with the biggest, best known festival in Avignon which focuses more on recent theatre pieces to smaller festivals throughout the country), photography (from the oldest, most famous photo festival in the world in the South of France at Arles to smaller affairs focusing on landscape, photojournalism, portraiture and more). And of course there are outdoor cinema festivals showing both classic and recent film releases from around the world.

Here’s just a tiny sampling of some of the options this Summer:

Paris Region:

  • Paris l’été (July 17-August 5) Dance, theatre, music and circus performances.
  • Solidays (June 23-25) Pop music festival
  • Lollapalooza (July 22-23) With the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alt-J, The Pixies, Lana del Ray and others.
  • Festival Chopin (June 17-July 14) Classical music by young virtuoso pianists.
  • Paris Jazz Festival (June 17-July 30) The stars of the next Jazz generation from around the world.
  • Afropunk Festival (July 15-16) Mos Def and others.
  • Days Off (June 30-July 10) Pop, Rock and Folk music. Some of the performances in the new and stupendous Philharmonie concert hall. Devandra Banhart among others.
  • Rock en Seine (August 25-27) Franz Ferdinand, The Kills, PJ Harvey and others at the beautiful Parc de St. Cloud just outside Paris.
  • Classique au Vert Festival (August 5- September 17) Classical music in the beautiful Parc Floral de Paris.
  • Festival Django Reinhardt (July 6-9) All star cast of jazz and pop musicians in honor of the great gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt from the early 20th century (Avishai Cohen, Roberto Fonseca, Asaf Avidan, Trombone Shorty and others).
  • Films sous les étoiles (June 22-24) Outdoor cinema at the Parc St. Cloud with a thematic of female characters (Thelma & Louise, the wonderful Persepolis by Marjan Satrapi and more).
  • Les Etés de la Dance (July 4-22) With the superstar Alvin Ailey Dance Troupe headlining just outside Paris at Boulogne-Billancourt.

Highlights from the rest of France:

  • Les Rencontres Photographiques d’Arles (July 3- September 24) The oldest (more than 40 years now) and most famous photo festival in the world in the stupendously beautiful town of Arles with its beautifully preserved Roman Amphitheater. More than 40 photo exhibitions from around the world displaying some of the most exciting recent (and historical) creations in photography. Brings together the best of the photo world every year.
  • Festival d’Avignon (July 6-26) Theater festival which began after World War II in the gorgeous town of Avignon (with its beautiful 14th century architecture dating from the nearly 70 year period when the Pope lived, not in Rome, but in Avignon). Festival presents old (Shakespeare’s Hamlet will be presented this year) and new theatre with young and upcoming performers and directors as well as already established stars (Juliette Binoche).
  • Festival International d’Art Lyrique (July 3-22) You like Opera music, then Aix en Provence is the place to be this July! Classics such as Carmen, Don Giovanni, Eugène Onegin and others are on tap this Summer with extra-ordinary performers and musicians.

European Festivals

While there are enough festivals to fill a lifetime in France alone, you may wish to take advantage of the central location of France to catch some of the other European festivals this Summer.

  • Venice Biennial (July 21-November 13) The most famous art festival in the world in Venice with hundreds of art exhibitions. And you get to enjoy the great beauty of Venice, Italy at the same time!
  • Montreux Jazz Festival (June 30-July 15) The long-standing Swiss Jazz festival continues with some of the greats like Herbie Hancock.
  • Roskilde Festival (June 24-July 1) A little farther afield up in Denmark but this music festival, with 175 different performers covering electro, pop and rock music might be worth the trip!
  • Edinburgh Fringe Festival (August 4-28) Celebrating its 70th year this Summer! Music, Dance, Theatre, Opera, Visual Arts, they have it all here.