Celebrate a visit to beautiful France by planning your visit to coincide with one of these famous festivals in France!
I must admit, we absolutely fell in love with France from the very first time we visited this stunning country. Undoubtedly a rich and diverse destination, France is full of exciting surprises around every corner.
Whether you’re exploring the iconic French landmarks on a visit to Paris, exploring the stunning beaches of southern France, or touring the various wine regions of France to sample some of the best French drinks on offer, there’s no doubt that you’ll likely want to return back for more!
But, apart from the many sights and sounds to uncover, France is also home to many exciting year-round festivals and celebrations. Some of the most popular festivals in France include French Food Festivals, religious festivals, as well as events of historical or cultural significance that are enjoyed by both locals living in France, as well as travellers visiting France!
In this article, we take a look at some of the most popular festivals in France and learn about the significance they hold. Why not make the most of your visit by planning for your trip to coincide with one or more of these exciting French festivals and celebrations during your stay!
- Cultural and Religious Festivals
- French Food Festivals
Before you go, be sure to plan & book your France Travel Essentials:
- Search & Book flights here on Skyscanner
- Book your car rental through AutoEurope
- Search hotels here on Booking.com, or on VRBO for apartment-style stays
- Click here to browse & book bus and train tickets
- Lastly, don’t forget about travel insurance for your trip!
Pssst…Have you packed all your essentials? Make sure to read our packing list for Europe guide to ensure you’ve ticked all the packing necessities off your list!
Cultural and Religious Festivals
France is home to many cultural and religious festivals of different historical origins. Below are some of the most notable religious and cultural French celebrations that you won’t want to miss out on. They include celebrations of music, bits of history dating back to the Middle Ages, film, and so much more.
Bastille Day (Fête Nationale) – Most Famous French Celebrations
When: July 14
Where: Throughout France (Most elaborate celebration is in Paris)
Bastille Day is more than just a festival in France; it’s the country’s national day, celebrated every year. It typically takes place from July 13-15. Its origins date back to the year 1880, and it commemorates the storming of the Bastille, which happened in 1789. This historical event resulted in absolute rule in the country, as well as the festival of the federation of the 14th July 1790.
While patrons can catch the celebrations nationwide, the most notable include those in Paris, where you can see Europe’s largest military parade on the Champs-Elysées.
Things to see on Bastille Day:
- Firemen’s Balls (catch the gymnastics demonstrations and fireworks)
- Fireworks on the Seine
Nice Carnival – Festivals of France
Where: South of France (Nice)
This exciting festival in NIce is considered amongst the top three worldwide carnivals. Some people have even compared it to the famed Brazilian carnivals. It is over 135 years old and draws in tons of visitors every year to see the incredible parades (flower, night, and day). There are various artists, animated pieces, floats, and so much more to enjoy whilst attending this celebration.
The carnival commemorates old pagan festivals during the winter solstice in the Middle Ages. The first mention of the carnival actually goes back to the year 1294! It has grown to be more popular over the centuries and usually lasts for around two weeks of celebrations.
Lyon Festival of Lights (Fête des Lumières)
When: December 8-11
Where: Ville de Lyon
This spectacular French celebration is a 4-day festival of temporary light installations in Lyon. Dating back to 1852, this December celebration is magical and colourful, all the things that tourists love to see in France. The highly popular festival commemorates the year of unrest in Lyon, at which point the town erected an impressive statue of the Virgin Mary on Fourvière Hill.
The story points to that year when the original celebration was repeatedly postponed and citizens put illuminated candles in their windows to recognize the community. Since then, the celebration has grown and gives people the opportunity to enjoy spectacular light displays during the holidays.
Things to look out for during the Lyon Festival of Lights:
- Light-decorated squares, bridges, and streets
- Spectacular views of Renaissance buildings and facades
- Designer installations of lights
Candlemas (la Chandeleur) – Festivals in France
When: February 2
Where: Throughout France
Candlemas is a special celebration made to bring a little bit of light, colour, and festivity to the wintery scenes of France. The idea behind it is that it can take away some of the grey and gloominess of the cold season once the festivities of Christmas and New Year’s have passed.
This celebration is religious in nature, and it celebrates the Presentation of Jesus to the Temple. This French festival, like the Nice Carnival, also has pagan roots. However, these roots are also Christian in nature since the Christians started lighting the famed candles to repel the evil they thought to be in the pagan world.
Things to look out for in Candlemas celebrations:
- Crêpes! These treats are one of the most famous parts of this celebration, and tradition says that they must be eaten after 8 PM for the sake of prosperity.
- Traditions around making crêpes
Cannes Film Festival
This isn’t exactly a festival specific only to France, but its roots are certainly very French. The Cannes Film Festival is an exciting and iconic annual celebration dedicated to the following missions: raising film profiles, contributing to cinema’s development, and drawing attention to films on an international level.
The Cannes Film festival is an exclusive A-list event, meaning not just anyone can attend, unfortunately. Instead, Cannes reserves its celebration for industry professionals like actors, producers, directors, writers, and those who have entered their work or have gotten chosen to attend.
Fête de la Musique (World Music Day)
When: June 21
Where: Throughout France and abroad
Another festival on our list of French festivals and celebrations is the popular Fête de la Musique.
This annual summer solstice festival marks both the shortest day of the year and a celebration of music. All across France, visitors can enjoy celebrations of jazz, reggae, funk, rock, classical, electro, soul and other music genres free of charge. Previous Minister of Culture Jack Lang started this famous festival back in the year 1982.
What’s great about this festival is that attendees get to enjoy the musical performances of not only professionals and big names, but of amateurs and locals as well. Enjoy an impromptu performance outside of the Louvre or a band on a street corner.
French Food Festivals
Some of the most exciting festivals to attend around the world include gastronomy since they draw in demographics from foodies to bloggers, journalists, tourists, locals, and more. Thankfully, France has no shortage of these awesome French festivals centered around food!
La Trace du Fromage (The Cheese Trail)
When: Each March
Length of Hike: There are three loops, including a 12 km loop, 18 km loop, and 21 km loop.
Taking place once a year in the French countryside (Aubrac-Laguiole), this French cheese celebration is a must for all cheese fanatics and French food lovers alike. Considering that cheese is one of France’s most famous food exports, this celebration is a must to attend.
This French food festival is a bit more sporty and includes a day-long hike through the remote Massif Central region. A two-course dinner in the beautiful countryside follows the hike.
Some things to look out for at La Trace du Fromage:
- Aligot (mashed potatoes and melted cheese, regional favourite)
- Laguiole cheese
- Mulled wines (vin chaud)
- Burons (special cottages for cheesemaking with slated roofs)
- Gentiane (apéritif, crafted from local wildflowers)
Fête de la Fraise (The Strawberry Festival)
Where: Dordogne Valley – explore the medieval village of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne.
When: 2nd Sunday of May
This strawberry festival originally started in 1989, and since then, it has taken place once a year, every second Sunday in May. Attendees not only get to indulge in the flavours and aromas of the red fruit; you also get to take in the local music and atmosphere.
Some things to look out for at the Strawberry Festival:
- Record-breaking strawberry plants
- Strawberry pastries
- The giant tart (8 m in diameter, filled with 800 kg of fresh berries and made in combination by all the bakers present)
- Chef-led strawberry themed workshops
- Activities for children
Fête de la Gastronomie (The French Cuisine Festival)
When: Week of March 21, every year
Where: All over the country
This French food festival celebrates the country’s host of flavours and tasty cuisine on a nationwide level. What’s nice about this festival is that you can celebrate in many locations scattered all over the country.
Foodies and chefs alike will enjoy the opportunity to witness chef demonstrations, French cooking education, winemaking education, and more. This festival has origins in 2011 when it first started after UNESCO added the gastronomy of French food to “humanity’s intangible cultural heritage”.
Some things to look out for at The French Cuisine Festival:
- Tours of wineries
- A sampling of local and regional cuisine
- Local produce
- Reduced-price gourmet meals
- Brewery tours
Menton Lemon Festival (Fête du Citron)
When: End of December
The official Menton tourist office conducts this annual festival to celebrate speciality lemon and citrus fruit production in the Menton region of France. Visitors can admire the stunning French Riviera whilst also enjoying incredible views of cars or trains made of fruit. Basically, everything is citrus fruit-themed, and there are carnival floats, marching bands, and costumed entertainers too.
Fans of this festival particularly enjoy the chance to be in a coastal town and learn about its backstory, which tells a spun tale about Adam and Eve and their consumption of fruit.
The French festivals and celebrations listed in this post are both renowned around the world and specifically in France. With historical and cultural roots abounding, celebrations like Bastille Day, the Nice Carnival, and more bring happiness and remembrance to French people every year.
Whether they are in the countryside or in major cities like Paris and Nice, these French festivals have a lot to offer both locals and tourists alike so make sure to incorporate some of these into your next French travel itinerary and join in the celebrations and fun!