Our choice of the best summer festivals throughout France in 2018 to suit all ages, tastes and budgets.
Bouches-du-Rhône, Aix-en-Provence: Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, 9th June to 31st July - A prestigious classical festival for opera and classical music fans that has been taking place since 1948. Programme includes Strauss, Prokofiev, Mozart, and Purcell.
Aude, Carcassonne: Festival de Carcassonne, 28th June to 29th July - One of the biggest annual cultural events in France, with over 100 performances, many of which are free or with reduced rates for certain groups of persons. Very eclectic range, with opera (Carmen), dance, circus, theatre, classical and modern music. A mainly Francophone line-up, but also Simple Minds, Robert Plant, and alt-J, amongst many other acts and performances.
Charente, Cognac: Cognac Blues Passions, 3rd to 7th July - The 25th year of this festival of Afro-American music, which takes place in the public park in the heart of the town. R&B, gospel, blues, jazz, soul-funk. This year artists include James Blunt, Santana, Beth Ditto, and many others.
Vaucluse, Avignon: Festival d’Avignon, 6th to 24th June- A huge multi-arts celebration, one of the world’s greatest festivals and the oldest in France. Organised in two parts: 'In' is performed at the venue La FabricA, and 'Off' is performed in theatres, gardens, schools, streets and other venues around the town. Movies, art exhibitions, concerts are on offer, with a range of artists with whom Anglophones will be less familiar.
Alpes Maritimes, Vence: Les Nuits du Sud, 19th July to 3rd Aug - The programme of this 20th edition is another eclectic line-up, with a festival of 26 artists coming from all around the world. They include Roberto Fonseca, Earth Wind & Fire Experience and Julian Marley & The Uprising.
Gers, Vic-Fezensac: Festival Tempo Latino, 26th to 29th July - The benchmark festival in France and Europe 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 Havana Meets Kingston, Plaza Francia Orchestra and New York Salsa All Stars.
Vaucluse, Orange: Chorégies d’Orange, 5th July to 4th August -This classical music festival dates from 1860 and is the oldest festival in France. Takes place in the breath-taking and authentic Roman Theatre, one of the most beautiful historic monuments in France.
Alpes Maritimes, Nice: Nice Jazz Festival, 16th to 21st July - The event offers open-air concerts, and you can wander from one concert to the next one while enjoying beautiful surroundings. Headline artists such as Gregory Porter, Kyle Eastwood, Massive Attack, Rag 'N' Bone Man, Joshua Redman, Henry Butler.
Lot, Cahors: Blues Festival, 14th to 18th July - Around now since 1982, it has attracted the biggest names in blues music. Music all over the town. This year artists include Sanseverino, Bettie Smith, Manu Lanvin, and Eric Gales.
Var, Toulon: Jazz à Toulon, 20th to 29th July - A programme of many free concerts throughout the whole city, taking place every night in a different place.
Aquitaine, Bayonne: Fêtes de Bayonne, 25th to 29th July - Five non-stop days of fiesta in the Basque city of Bayonne. Around 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. This year the council have imposed a modest charge for entry to support additional security measures. Wild stuff!
Gers, Marciac: Jazz in Marciac, 27th July to 15th August - Arguably the best jazz festival in Europe. Takes place under the ‘Chapiteau’ in the charming village of Marciac in Gascony. A staggering line-up of artists who include Joan Baez, Santana, Chick Corea, Lisa Simone, Kid Creole, and many others. Free open air 'off' concerts every day on the main square.
Gironde, Bordeaux: Reggae Sun Ska Festival, 3rd to 5th August - The largest reggae festival in France takes place at the University campus of Pessac-Talence-Gradignan, Bordeaux. Around 80 bands from all corners of the globe.
Pas-de-Calais, Arras: Main Square Festival, 6th to 8th July - This major rock and pop festival takes place on the Citadel (UNESCO listed) and receives many big international bands. This year bands include Queens of the Stone Age, Tom Walker, Jamiroquai, Depeche Mode, amongst many others.
Champagne-Ardenne, Reims: Les Flâneries Musicales 20th 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 around 80 bands and solo artists for a younger audience on the stage of the Longchamp Racecourse to fight against AIDS. A huge event with both French and international artists.
Picardy, Septmonts (Soissons): Festival Pic’Arts, 29th to 30th June - Since 1998 the village of Septmonts hosts the 'Festival Pic’Arts' in the castle courtyard and offers an eclectic programme of ska, rock, reggae and pop from mainly Francophone artists.
Normandy: Promenades Musicales du Pays d’Auge, 18th July to 12th August - A variety of 16 classical concerts featuring dance, theatre and poetry held in chateaux, churches, chapels, 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 to Saint-Cloud park. The line-up includes Liam Gallagher and Charlotte Gainsbourg, who will be most familiar to British fans, but there are a host of other artists.
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. Artists include Depeche Mode, Gorillaz, Fatboy Slim, IAM, Liam Gallagher, Massive Attack, and many more.
Brittany, Belle-Ile-en-Mer: Lyrique-en-Mer, 27th July to 17th August - A lovely setting for a range of operas and classical concerts.
Pays de La Loire, Saint Nazaire: Festival Les Escales, 27th to 29th July - One of the most important festivals of World Music in France with around 30 concerts over the two days. Highlights Bertrand Cantat, Etienne Daho, Feder, Eddy de Pretto, Bigflo et Oli, Beth Ditto, Kool & the gang and Oumou Sangaré.
Poitou-Charentes, Confolens: Festival de Confolens, 13th to 19th August - The ‘Art et Traditions Populaires du Monde’ (Folklore) event attracts each year over 100,000 visitors to enjoy and discover traditional dance and music from the five continents.
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, 16th to 19th August - The 28th year of this festival in the stunning coastal city of Saint-Malo, either on the beach or Fort de Saint-Père Castle stages. Includes Patti Smith and Charlotte Gainsbourg amongst long list of artists.
Deux-Sèvres, Cauney: Mad Hatter's Wonderland Festival, 10th to 12th August - A festival run by British expatriates in the grounds of their property. Now in its 8th year. An impressive line-up including Dr Feelgood. Fun, food and activities for the whole family.
Franche-Comte, Belfort: Eurockéennes de Belfort, 5th to 8th July - One of the France’s largest rock festivals with 62 concerts and 100,000 in attendance over the three days. 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 Lac Malsaucy peninsula.
Rhône Alpes, Lyon: Les Nuits de Fourvières, 1st June to 28th July - Huge and very varied festival, which has been around each year since 1946 on the Gallo-Roman site of Fourvière. Brings together theatre, dance, rock, jazz and classical music and circus. Over 60 performances with many leading international artists and bands, including Arctic Monkeys, Texas and Massive Attack.
Burgundy, Beaune: Festival International d’opéra baroque, 7th to 30th 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). Unmissable for aficionados.
Rhône Alpes, Aix-Les-Bains: Musilac, 13th to 16th July - Over 3 days the event welcomes around 30 artists in two open air stages in a beautiful natural environment at the edge of Lake Bourget. Pop-rock festival that attracts over 70,000 fans every year. Sting, Jamiroquai, Texas, The Lumineers, LP and many more.
Rhône Alpes, Vienne: Jazz à Vienne, 29th June to 13th July - This major festival takes place in a wonderful Roman amphitheatre, as well as other venues. Amongst the array of artists will be Zucchero, Tony Tixer, Trio, Mary J Blige, Kenny Neal, Knower and Keziah Jones.