France has an abundance of festivals celebrating all sorts of things, from religion to food and art. We have compiled a few not-to-be-missed events in France. From concerts to carnivals and festive events, here are the top ten French festivals to attend in 2023.
Ten French festivals to attend in 2023
After two and a half years of almost no activity due to the health crisis, French festivals will make a comeback in 2023. From the Nice Carnival to the Avignon Festival via the Festival of lights in Lyon… here is an overview of these highly anticipated French festivals in 2023.
(Carnaval de Nice)
10-26 February 2023
The Nice Carnival is one of the largest events organised on the French Riviera, attracting over 1 million visitors. It is one of the most famous carnivals in the world alongside the Rio de Janeiro and Venice Carnivals. The colourful event takes place during a two-week period in February. This time of the year offers a great opportunity to discover Nice and the French Riviera which enjoy a mild weather compared to the rest of France. Find out more about Nice Carnival.
Menton Lemon Festival
(Fête du Citron)
11 – 26 February 2023
The most Italianate and warmest town on the French Riviera has become famous for its colourful Lemon Festival. A major event on the French Riviera, the celebration attracts no less than 230,000 visitors in Menton each February who marvel at the impressive sculptures and parades. Find out more about Menton.
Berck-sur-Mer International Kite Festival
(Rencontres Internationales de Cerfs-Volants de Berck)
15-23 April 2023
The International Kite Festival, organised in Berck-sur-Mer in the North of France, attracts 600,000 spectators. The fine sands of Berck-sur-Mer in the Pas de Calais département are the backdrop for a unique aerial ballet that was first held a quarter of a century ago.
Pentecost Feria, Nîmes
(Feria de Nîmes)
24-29 May 2023
At Whitsun, the city of Nîmes welcomes one of the largest French festivals in France. The Pentecost Feria sets a joyful atmosphere in town with music played by bands in the streets and the sounds emerging from the Roman arena. The Feria lasts six days at Whitsun.
Cannes Film Festival
(Festival de Cannes)
16-27 May 2023
Arguably the most prestigious film festival in the world, the Film Festival was founded in 1946 in the city of Cannes on the French Riviera. Famous film directors are usually designated as Presidents of the Jury. The film festival has become a strategic showcase for French and European films. The highest prize awarded at the festival is the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm).
World Music Day
(Fête de la Musique)
Around 21 June 2023
The Fête de la Musique (or World Music Day) is a popular and free music festival taking place each year in France on the day of the summer solstice, the shortest night of the year. The slogan of the festival, “Faites de la musique” (Make music), is a play on the French words for “Fête de la Musique”. Throughout the country and even abroad, jazz, soul, funk, rock, electro, reggae, classical music and many other musical styles are celebrated with vigorous enthusiasm. Find out more about World Music Day in France.
Bastille Day Parade, Paris
(Défilé du 14 Juillet)
14 July 2023
Among the French festivals held in the morning of 14 July, the largest is the military parade on the Champs-Elysées in Paris which dates back to 1880. Thousands of soldiers, horses, vehicles and 100 aircrafts parade down the Champs-Elysées, from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, in front of the President of the Republic, the French government, foreign Paris-based ambassadors and other officials.
Festival of Avignon
The annual arts festival is mainly held in the inner courtyard of the Popes’ Palace in Avignon. One of the most popular French festivals, it was founded in 1947 by Jean Vilar.
Saint-Nicolas Celebrations, Nancy
2-3 December 2023
On the 6th of December, Saint Nicolas’ Day is mainly celebrated in north-eastern France, in the regions of Alsace and Lorraine. Each year, the Saint-Nicolas celebrations in Nancy welcome over 100,000 people who are entertained with parades, street plays, a great light show and fireworks on Place Stanislas. Find out more about Nancy.
Festival of Lights, Lyon
(Fête des Lumières)
7-10 December 2023
The Festival of Lights in Lyon (“Fêtes des Lumières” in French) is the most awaited public event in the Rhône-Alpes region and draws several million people onto the illuminated streets of the city. For locals and tourists alike, this celebration of light unveils the architectural treasures of the city unexpectedly through the illuminating of monuments, streets, hills and river banks. Find out more about Lyon.
Finally, to end our French festivals list, here’s a special mention to:
Alsace Wine Fair, Colmar
(Foire aux Vins d’Alsace)
28 July -6 August 2023
The popular event celebrates the gastronomic riches of Alsace and, most notably, its wine. Alongside the general economic Fair is organised a series of concerts with well-known French and international artists. Find out more about Colmar.
The biggest music festivals in France
France is home to several well-known music festivals, mainly in summer.
The Eurockéennes de Belfort
Located in Belfort near the Malsaucy lake, the Eurockéennes de Belfort festival is one of the biggest festivals in France (more or less 130,000 festival-goers in recent years). It’s a rock-oriented festival, but the lineup is quite diverse in terms of genres. This year, you can see performances by DJ Snake, Lous and the Yakuza, Muse and Simple Minds, among others. The 2023 edition should take place end of June.
Les Vieilles Charrues
The Vieilles Charrues festival is a Breton festival located in Carhaix-Plouguer. Created in 1992, the festival is quite varied in its musical program: Booba, Boulevards des airs, Aya Nakamura or David Guetta. Celine Dion should attend the 2023 edition.
Hellfest is a legendary festival based on hardcore rock and its variants. Since its creation in 2006, it has been held in Clisson in the Loire-Atlantique département, not far from the city of Nantes. Former musicians included: Deftones, Rival Sons, Korn, Deep Purple or Volbeat…
Main Square Festival
The Main Square Festival in Arras (Hauts-de-France) attracts around 120,000 festival-goers yearly. The lineup often focuses on famous international artists. Past editions included Twenty One Pilots and the Black Eyed Peas.
Rock en Seine
Taking place in the Domaine National de Saint-Cloud near Paris, Rock en Seine welcomes 120,000 people for three days of festivities in late August. The festival is known for its variety of artists, whether in genres or even notoriety: Jorja Smith, Alpha Wann, Foals, Polo & Pan and even The Cure.
Located in Paris, on the lawns of the Hippodrome de Paris Longchamp, Solidays welcomes around 230,000 people per festival. Since 1999, the profits from this festival, organised by Solidarité Sida, have been used to set up programmes to help patients around the world. There is a mix of genres on stage, such as Ninho, The Blaze or Vladimir Cauchemar, Suzane, Sean Paul, Meute and Justice DJ Set…
Francofolies of La Rochelle
The festival’s first edition dates back to 1985. Created by Jean-Louis Foulquier and directed by Gérard Pont in 2005, the Francofolies de La Rochelle has established itself as the festival of the best of the French scene. Every July, around 150,000 festival-goers gather for five days of concerts with Izia, Ben Mazué, Philippe Katerine or Dadju and Nekfeu…
Facts and figures about French festivals
Here are a few facts and figures from 2019.
- The hundred or so most important festivals in France alone brought together more than 7,500,000 festival-goers.
- More than 12% of the French population attended a festival in 2019.
- 39 festivals account for 75% of the audience.
- The most represented region in France is Brittany, with 16 festivals.
- 60% of music festivals take place in July and August.
- The Lorient Interceltic Festival welcomes the largest number of festival-goers, 800,000 and 80,000 per day.
- Among the 13 festivals that exceed 150,000 festival-goers: the Interceltic Festival, La Fête de L’Humanité, Les Vieilles Charrues, Jazz in Marciac, Jazz à Vienne, Solidays, Hellfest, Electrobeach Music Festival, the Festival du Chant du Marin and the Francofofolies de la Rochelle, Garorock, La Foire aux Vins d’Alsace in Colmar and Printemps de Bourges.
- Of the hundred or so of the largest French contemporary music festivals, 40% are events over 20 years old and were created before 1999.
- The Fête de l’Humanité is the oldest festival in the ranking (created in 1936).