Our choice of the best summer festivals throughout France in 2012 to suit all ages and tastes.
Vaucluse, Avignon: Festival d’Avignon, 7th to 28th July - A huge multi-arts celebration, one of the world’s greatest festivals and the oldest in France. Organised in two parts: 'In' is performed in the courtyard of the Palais des Papes, and 'Off' is performed in theatres, schools, streets and other venues around the town. Movies, art exhibitions, concerts are on offer.
Aude, Carcassonne: Festival de Carcassonne, 22nd June to 5th August - A major annual cultural events in France, with over 100 performances (opera, dance, circus, theatre, classical and modern music), many of which are free or with reduced rates for certain groups of persons. Very eclectic range, including Duran Duran, Donovan, Marianne Faithfull, Marilyn Manson, Jane Birkin, Lucky Peterson, Gossip, Spanish National Ballet, Aïda, Henry IV, plays by Molière, amongst many other acts and performances.
Bouches-du-Rhône, Aix-en-Provence: Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, 5th to 27th July - A major classical festival for opera and classical music fans, taking place in several different venues. Programme includes: Verdi’s La Traviata, Mozart’s Figaro and La finta giardiniera, London Symphony Orchestra concerts, Mahler Chamber Orchestra.
Bouches-du-Rhône, Istres: Les Nuits d’Istres, 2nd to 14th July - Taking place in the fabulous 16th Century Pavillon de Grignan, with giants of jazz George Benson and Ahmad Jamal, Gilberto Gil, plus gastronomic ‘cocktail buffet' by the Michelin starred chef Sébastien Richard.
Alpes Maritimes, Vence: Les Nuits du Sud, 12th July to 11th August - The programme of this 15th edition is another strong eclectic line-up, with artists coming from all around the world: Orchestre Poly-Rythmo-Bénin, Ayo, Charles Pasi, Earth Wind & Fire Experience/Al Mc Kay Allstars USA, Imany, Hugh Masekela, Boubacar Traore and many more.
Vaucluse, Orange: Chorégies d’Orange, 7th July to 30th July -This classical music festival dates from 1860 and is the oldest festival in France. It takes place in the stunning authentic Roman Theatre, one of the most beautiful historic monuments in France. Puccini’s La Boheme and Turandot, Mozart’s Requiem and Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle.
Var, Toulon: Jazz à Toulon, 20th July to 11th August - A programme of 20 concerts throughout the whole city, taking place every night in a different place. Artists include Janysett MacPherson, Boney Fields and the Bones Project, Oliver Temime, Marcel Sabiani, Eddie Palmeri.
Alpes Maritimes, Nice: Nice Jazz Festival, 8th to 12th July - Probably the most prestigious jazz festival in Europe, this 5 day event offers open-air concerts and you can wander from one concert to the next one while enjoying beautiful surroundings. Great artists such as Dee Dee Bridgewater, Giberto Gil, Gregory Porter, Herbie Hancock, Tinariwen, Texas, Beth Hart, Dr John, ...
Gers, Vic-Fezensac: Festival Tempo Latino, 26th to 29th July The benchmark festival in France for all salsa music lovers. The whole village comes alive with the wild rhythms of salsa, flamenco, and afro-cuban music. Fabulous open air concert venue. Artists this year include La Excelencia, Staff Benda Bilili, Calle 13.
Aquitaine, Bayonne: Fêtes de Bayonne, 25th July to 29th July - Five non-stop days of fiesta in the Basque city of Bayonne. Over a million participants come each year to enjoy traditional Basque food and music, to see the bulls running through the streets and other spectacles. Events for all ages and tastes.
Gers, Marciac: Jazz in Marciac, 27th July to 15th August - It seems to get bigger and go on longer each year. Takes place under the ‘Chapiteau’ of the medieval and charming village of Marciac in Gascony. This year artists include Sonny Rollins, Bobby McFerrin, Dianne Reeves, Kyle Eastwood, Harry Connick Jnr, Ruben Blades, Caravan Place, and many others. Free open air 'off' concerts every day on the main square.
Pas-de-Calais, Arras: Arras Main Square Festival, 29th June to 1st July - This major rock, pop, soul and hip-hop musical event takes place on the Citadel (UNESCO listed) and receives may big international artists. This year: Kasabian, Simple Minds, Florence + The Machine, Noah and the Whale, Editors, Miles Kane, The Kooks, The XX, ... amongst many others.
Champagne-Ardenne, Reims: Les Flâneries Musicales, 22nd June to 12th July - Around 100 concerts by great artists of classical music and jazz who will light up Reims’s summer. Free for the most part, these concerts will take place at prestigious or unusual sites, such as the stunning Saint-Remi Basilica and the city parks.
Paris, Hippodrome de Longchamp: Solidays, 22nd to 24th June - Over three days the festival brings together 80 concerts on the stage of the Longchamp Racecourse to fight against AIDS. A huge event with both French and international artists performing. This year: We are the 90s, Benabar, The Kills, Cheyenne Doll, Blizt the Amabassador...
Picardy, Septmonts (Soissons): Festival Pic’Arts, 29th and 30th June - Since 1998 the village of Septmonts hosts the 'Festival Pic’Arts' in its castle’s courtyard and offers an eclectic programme of ska, rock, reggae and pop from mainly French artists.
Normandy: Promenades Musicales du Pays d’Auge, 15th July to 19th August - A variety of concerts featuring dance, theatre and poetry held in locations from chateaux, churches and chapels to workshops, parks and gardens. Wide choice and original series of performances.
Paris, Domaine de Saint-Cloud: Rock en Seine, 24th to 26th August - One of the most renowned French festivals. This Rock’n Roll event lasts 3 days attracting around 20,000 fans, and is held in Saint-Cloud’s park. The programme is includes: The Black Keys, Green Day, Grimes, Agoria, Placebo, Noel Gallagher, Maximo Park, Sigur Ros, ...
Poitou-Charentes, Vienne: Jazz à Vienne, 28th June to 13th July - This major festival takes place in a wonderful Roman amphitheatre. Amongst the fabulous array of artists will be George Clinton, Dianne Reeves, Tony Bennett, Bobby McFerrin, Hugh Laurie, Joshua Redman, Eddy Louiss, McCoy Tyner, Erykah Badu, Avishai Cohen, Al Di Meola, Manu Dibango, and Biréli Lagrène.
Brittany, Carhaix: Festival des Vieilles Charues, 19th to 22nd July - The largest rock and pop music festival in France and one of the biggest in Europe, attracting around 200,000 festival goers each year. The four day event offers a choice of music styles for the (mainly) younger audience. Artists include: Bob Dylan, Sting, Portishead, The Cure, Justice, Gossip, Garbage, Kasabian, and many, many more!
Brittany, Belle-Ile-en-Mer: Lyrique-en-Mer, 20th July to 17th August - A magical setting for a range of terrific operas. This year the Citadelle Vauban hosts the two opera productions, Verdi’s Othello and Rossini’s La Cenerentola.
Pays de La Loire, Saint Nazaire: Festival Les Escales, 3rd and 4th August - This annual festival is one of the key events for World Music, having already welcomed over 3,000 artists from all around the world and drawing an audience of up to 40,000. Artists this year include: Luz Casal, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Lee Perry, Max Romeo & Congos, Ibrahim Maalouf, Slow Joe and the Ginger Accident, Blake Worrell and more..
Poitou-Charentes, Confolens: Festival de Confolens, 9th to 15th August - Created in 1957, the ‘Art et Traditions Populaires du Monde’ event attracts each year over 200,000 visitors and calls any curious or dance and music lovers to come and discover new cultures through the five continents. The 2012 programme will contain artists from 16 countries.
Brittany, Lorient: Festival Interceltique de Lorient, 3rd to 12th August - This annual festival takes place in the heart of the Breton city, featuring Celtic traditional, classical and rock musicians, singers, dancers, as well as painters and sculptors. Very packed and varied programme of events.
Brittany, Saint-Malo: La Route du Rock, 10th to 12th August - A festival in the stunning coastal city of Saint-Malo, either on the beach or Fort de Saint-Père Castle stages. Artists appearing include: Ela Orleans, Don Nino, Jonathan Fitoussi, Judah Warsky, Squarepusher, Patrick Watson...
Franche-Comte, Belfort: Eurockéennes de Belfort, 29th June to 1st July - One of the France’s largest rock festivals. In addition to the numerous famous artists who perform there, its popularity is also based on its location, on the beautiful natural environment of the Lake Malsaucy peninsula. The artists include: Alabama Shakes, Jack White, Skaka Ponk, The Cure, Charlie Winston, The Kooks, Lana Del Rey, and many others.
Rhône Alpes, Lyon: Les Nuits de Fourvières, 5th June to 31st July - Big and very varied festival which brings together theatre, dance, music and circus. Artists include: Bob Dylan, Ben Harper, Charlie Winston, Giberto Gil, Tinarwen, Juiliet Greco, Stone Roses, Bjork.
Burgundy, Beaune: Festival International d’opéra baroque de Beaune, 6th to 29th July - Created in 1982 and now the leading European Baroque festival, it offers sublime opera concerts in stunning 15th Century locations (Roman Basilica Notre-Dame and Beaune’s Hospices). This year the programme runs under the theme Passions, de la Magie et de l'Enchantement. Umissable if you are a fan.
Rhône Alpes, Aix-Les-Bains: Musilac, 13th to 15th July - Over 3 days the event welcomes around 30 artists in two open air stages in a beautiful natural environment at the edge of the Geneva Lake. This year will be the 10th edition of this pop-rock festival which attracts over 70,000 fans every year. Once more this year the programme is exceptional: Alabama Shakes, Noel Gallagher, Franz Ferdinand, The Specials, The Kills, Lenny Kravitz.