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16 of the best festivals and events in France this summer

From old rockers to classic cinema, fireworks to modern theatre, here are some of our favourite French summer festivals.

16 of the best festivals and events in France this summer
Fireworks in Cannes at the Pyrotechnic Art Festival (Photo: Valery Hache / AFP)


Festival de Nîmes

Starting mid-June and running through to July 24th, the Festival de Nîmes has brought modern music to the famous Roman Arena. This year, Gorillaz, Deep Purple, Gladiator Live, Kiss, Sting, Black Eyed Peas, Stromae and Sexion D’Assaut are among the headliners.

Fête de la musique

You will scarcely be able to move for musicians in France on June 21st, as villages, towns and cities are alive with the sound of music, celebrating the sheer joy of live performances and the breadth and diversity of musical genres.

It’s the 40th anniversary of the annual national, nationwide midsummer’s night festival. At l’Olympia in Paris, for example, Angèle, Pomme, Franz Ferdinand, Benjamin Biolay and Parcels are all performing in a series of concerts that will be broadcast on France Inter.

Rétro C Trop 

For three days between Friday, June 24th, and Sunday, June 26th, at the appropriately aged Château de Tilloloy, Hauts-de-France, there’s the ‘festival of old rockers’, this year featuring sets by Alice Cooper, acoustic ska band Tryo, Status Quo, Simple Minds, Madness, OMD, The Undertones, and Les Insus – you may know them better as 80s hit-sters Telephone.

Joking aside, previous festivals have featured the likes of Sting, Stray Cats, Tears for Fears, and Scorpions – so they know actually do know how to rock out at the 17th-century chateau. And also how to pace themselves…

Nuits de Fourvière

From the beginning of June  through to July 30th, the spectacular Gallo-Roman theatre at Fourvière hosts 60 equally spectacular performances of theatre, dance, music, cirque. There could surely be no better venue to watch Midnight Oil on July 14th.


Z’accros d’ma rue, Nevers

Theatre, circus and music are in store at Les Z’accros d’ma rue in Nevers in July, as they have been since the opening event in 1999. Most of the shows are free

The La Rochelle Film Festival

Rugby fans have rediscovered La Rochelle this year, but cinema-lovers should not ignore the Charente-Maritime resort between July 1st and 10th, as it hosts its 50th film festival, which this year pays tribute to the legendary Alain Delon.

Some 21 films featuring the French actor with eyes of ice will be screened during the festival. There’s also a retrospective of the films of the 50s queen of Hollywood, Audrey Hepburn – including Roman Holiday, Funny Face, Sabrina, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Other highlights include a day of Brad Pitt films, five films from Bulgarian pioneer Binka Zhelyazkova – whose works were frequently banned in her home country, and a celebration of the centenary of the birth of Italian visionary Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Festival de Carcassonne

Deep Purple, Orelsan, Rag n Bone Man, John Legend, Sexion D’Assaut, Calogero, and Jack White are among the acts gracing the music, theatre, arts, dance, comedy and cinema festival in the historic city between July 5th and 31st. Comedian Gad Elmalah will also perform, and there are numerous free off-festival performances.

Pause Guitare

Julien Doré, Orelsan (again), Bob Sinclar and Mika headline the four-day Pause Guitare programme. The relatively little-known music festival that routinely punches above its weight, runs from July 6th to 10th in the World Heritage city of Albi, southwest France.

Festival d’Avignon

No rundown of summer events in France would be complete without mentioning the Festival d’Avignon, which runs from Thursday 7th to Tuesday 26th July.

Celebrated Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov, who’s currently banned from leaving his country, has been chosen to open the theatre festival. Whether he’ll actually be there remains to be seen, but the opening ceremony on July 7th kicks off three weeks of performances from some of the world’s leading stage performers across a range of disciplines.

Pyrotechnic Art Festival

Not satisfied with the bright lights of its Film Festival in May, Cannes turns on the lights again for its summer Pyrotechnic Art Festival, which runs from July 14th to August 24th. 

Nice Jazz Festival

Where would you find sultry chanteuse Melody Gardot, influential bassist Marcus Miller and punk’s grandad Iggy Pop on the same poster? The Nice jazz festival, which runs from July 15th to 19th. 

They’re not the only performers joining in the fun on the Riviera. Some 33 acts are taking part in the Festival proper, while several more are performing in the Off festival programme.

Fête nationale

July 14th marks France’s Fête nationale, known as Bastille Day in the Anglophone world, which is a public holiday. The big military parade is on the Champs-Elysée in Paris but most towns do something to mark the occasion, with concerts, parties and fireworks displays. 



MiMa is the International Festival of Puppet Art, held from August 4th to August 7th in the medieval town of Mirepoix, Ariège. The festival is open to young creators as well as artists who influence and update the recent history of puppet theatre, an inventive art with many faces. The line-up showcases a variety of techniques, with glove puppets, string puppets and marionettes portées.

Festival du Bout du Monde

The darkly named End of the World Festival takes place from August 5th to August 7th at Landaoudec Prairie on the Crozon Peninsula in Brittany, a few hundred yards from the wild Atlantic ocean. The wonderful Ballaké Sissoko is on the programme this year, as is the drum-and-trumpet fusion of Gallowstreet, as well as Julian Marley and Selah Sue.

Rock en Seine

Stromae, Rage Against the Machine, Arctic Monkeys, Jehnny Beth, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, London Grammar, Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, Crawlers, and Baby Queen are among the numerous acts lined up for this year’s annual and mostly family friendly – if you don’t mind Zack de la Rocha’s swearing – Rock en Seine festival at Domaine national de Saint-Cloud.

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For members


Six prehistoric sites in France to visit

Long before the Gauls, the Franks or the Romans, prehistoric groups of people were creating paintings, stone circles and burial mounds in the land that is now France.

Six prehistoric sites in France to visit

Several of these sites survive and have been meticulously preserved and opened up to visitors. Here’s our pick of some of the most fascinating prehistoric sites in France. 

The Carnac stones

Located in western France in Brittany, the Carnac Stones are one of Europe’s most important ancient sites. They are a collection of thousands of ancient stones, spread over 27 communes. You might recognise these “menhirs” – single standing stones – as the giant rocks carried by Obelix, in the classic “Asterix & Obelix” French comic series.

Recently these stones made the front pages in France when 39 were reportedly destroyed to make way for the construction of a DIY store.

READ MORE: Prehistoric standing stones in western France destroyed during construction of DIY store

Believed to have been erected during the Neolithic period, some stones are thousands of years old, having been placed there as early as 4,000 BC.

There is still a lot of mystery surrounding why the stones were placed there and what purpose they served. One local legend says that they are the remains of a Roman army that was turned into rock. Others believe that the site is a ‘megalithic yard’ – or an ancient unit of measurement.

You can visit the stones for free from October to March, but between April and September, you must go via paid tour guide. With several hiking trails around the site, there are plenty of paths to explore. Tours are also available in English, German and Spanish.

There is also a nearby museum about the site called the “Maison des Megaliths“, which is open and accessible year round. You can find more information about planning your trip to see the stones here.

The caves in Lascaux

In the Vézère valley in Dordogne, there are more than 100 prehistoric sites and over two dozen decorated caves dating back to the Palaeolithic period. The most famous is the “Lascaux Cave” –  a UNESCO recognised site. It was discovered in 1940 and paved the way for a much greater appreciation of prehistoric art, featuring detailed and colourful hunting scenes. 

Much of the prehistoric art found in the caves in this valley is thought to be up to 20,000 years old.

Unfortunately, visitors are no longer allowed to enter the Lascaux Caves, as scientists came to the conclusion that tourism could harm the art. Instead, you can visit a detailed reconstruction of the caves, the Lascaux IV, which was recently completed.

There are plenty of other prehistoric sites nearby in Dordogne, including the “Grotte de Rouffignac”, another cave, but one where visitors can view the sites from inside an electric train.

You can find more information about visiting these sites HERE.

The caves in Ardèche

In southern France, just north of Avignon, lies the “Grotte Chauvet” – another UNESCO World Heritage site.

These caves contain some of the earliest known “figurative drawings” in the world, likely dating all the way back to the Aurignacian period (30,000–32,000 BC), according to UNESCO.

Discovered in 1994, the cave had managed to remain untouched for thousands of years. The paintings show plenty of different animal species, including extinct ones like mammoth. 

Like the caves in the Vézère valley, the Grotte Chauvet is not accessible to the public, but there is an impressive reconstruction available for visit called the “Grotte Chauvet 2”. You can find ticketing information here.

Cairn de Barnenez

Also found in Brittany like the Carnac stones – though this time in the Finistère area – the Cairn de Barnenez is an ancient structure likely dating back to 4,800 BC, and a lesser known monument in France. It is recognised as “the largest megalithic mausoleum” in Europe. 

The Cairn de Barnanez is 72m long and currently measures six metres in height, though experts believe it once was eight to nine metres tall.

It contains 11 chambers, with at least four types of granite having been used in its construction. Older than the pyramids of Giza, archaeologists were able to discover several tools from the Bronze Age inside, and some have been put on display at the visitor’s centre (which is worth the visit too).

Tickets are €6, and you can find more information about planning your trip here.

The Niaux caves (and Grand Sites of Ariège)

If you want to be able to visit prehistoric caves and caverns in person, then you might consider the Niaux caves near the Pyrenees mountains. Many are still open to the public, so you can go in person to see the original paintings of bison, horses and deer that date back 13,000 years.

In order to visit the caves, you’ll need to make an appointment for a guided tour in advance. They typically last about one hour and 45 minutes.

These caves are part of the “Grand Sites of Ariège”, which also includes a great spot for families with kids, the ‘prehistoric park’ where you can enjoy workshops on how prehistoric people hunted, carved flint and lit fires. Both kids and adults can learn about archaeology, view films, and experience intricate reproductions of existing caves.

You can find more information about visiting HERE.

The Gallardet Dolmen

Located in the Hérault département in the south of France, near the village of Le Pouget, this is a prehistoric site that dates back to between 2,800BC to 3,500BC.

Large in size, the dolmen contains a 12 metre long corridor inside that was used as a burial site. The dolmen likely held an important religious or spiritual function at its time of construction. 

The site is easily accessible from the nearby village, with several walking paths that will take you directly to it.

Finally, if you want to explore more of France’s prehistory, you can plan a visit to the National Museum of Prehistory. It is located near the sites at the Vézère Valley, in the village of Les Eyzies. More information here