Interested in French Culture?

If you plan on spending any amount of time in France, whether it is a very short vacation or a longer, extended stay, be sure and take advantage of all of the cultural events and festivals that are available throughout the year.

Whether it’s the height of summer and musicians are out in full force for La Fête de la musique, or it’s that post-winter holiday period and fashionistas are clamoring for a glimpse of the latest fashions at La Semaine de la mode de Paris, there are many exhibitions, performances, and installations that will show you the most current developments in the art and culture scene in France.  

6 French Cultural Events and Festivals to Watch For

Here are 6 events to watch for if you plan on traveling in France:

1.   La Semaine de la mode de Paris

Paris Fashion Week generally refers to the womenswear shows that happen twice a year, but there are actually additional weeks focusing on other aspects of fashion, such as menswear and haute couture. The womenswear weeks generally occur in February, when autumn / winter collections are displayed and September, when spring / summer collections are displayed, being previews of looks for the coming seasons. Dates are set each year by the French Fashion Federation and most of the catwalk displays are held at the Carrousel du Louvre right in the center of town. So whether you purchase tickets, happen to be stepping out of the Louvre, or are simply strolling through the Jardin des Tuileries, you may encounter the buzz of designers, models, and spectators who are gathered to see what next season’s fashions will be.

2.   Festival international des jardins

Located in the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire site in the Centre-Val de Loire region of France, the Festival international des jardins brings together a variety of landscape creations that focus on a different theme each year, this year’s theme being “Jardins de la pensée”. These creations are considered prototypes for the gardens of tomorrow and are designed to come into bloom over a period of several months. They are open to the public from the end of April to mid-October, with nocturnal viewings possible during the months of July and August. The use of electroluminescent diodes to light up these horticultural creations allows viewings that play with light and shadow, color and form.

3.   Festival d’Avignon

The Festival d’Avignon is an annual arts festival held in the city of Avignon, located in the south-eastern part of France on the Rhône river. Its focus is contemporary performing arts, consisting mainly of theater and dance, but also including music and visual art. The city itself, with its rich architectural heritage, serves as the backdrop for performances that run throughout the month of July. At the heart of the wide variety of performances is the Cour d’honneur, the main courtyard of the Palais des papes, which seats 2,000 and held the audience of the founding performance of Shakespeare’s La Tragédie du roi Richard II, directed by Jean Vilar in 1947. There are also shows geared toward younger audiences, as well as theater groups that focus on performing in schools and on arts in education.

4.   La Fête de la musique

You actually do not have to go to France to celebrate La Fête de la musique, since this festival has spread from Paris to over 700 other cities worldwide. But if you happen to be spending June 21st in Paris, you can experience this festival in its birthplace, where Jack Lang, the director of the Ministry of Culture back in 1982, together with Maurice Fleuret, the Ministry of Culture’s music and dance director, launched a festival that encouraged people to play music outdoors, in their neighborhood streets as well as in parks and other public gathering places. Outdoor concerts by professional musicians are also organized for this festival, remaining largely informal, with artists playing what they enjoy and volunteering their work. Participating in making and appreciating music is a good way to mark the summer solstice, the height of the long days of summer.  

5.   Paris nuit blanche

This festival, which takes place in Paris the first Saturday of October and lasts all night, as its name suggests, focuses on contemporary art installations and performances. These visual, musical, cinematic, and kinetic works take place in public spaces as well as in venues such as le musée de l’Armée and the Théâtre de la ville, both included in one of the 2018 constellations, which took spectators on a journey through the streets of Paris past some of the city’s great monuments. Free of charge and open to the public, these site-specific works transform the city itself into an art installation in which spectators participate. The popularity of Paris nuit blanche has motivated other cities worldwide to create their own versions – Brussels, Houston, Kyoto, Melbourne, and Taipei all have their own nuit blanche festivals.

6.   D’Jazz Nevers

This jazz festival takes place in the heart of France in the city of Nevers, which was featured in the 1959 Alain Resnais film Hiroshima, mon amour, starring Emmanuelle Riva and Eiji Okada. If you are interested in seeing the town that appears in this film, or if you simply love jazz, it is worth a train ride to attend this November festival, which includes many different styles of jazz played on a variety of instruments, including the accordion and harp, which are often associated with other genres of music. There are also different themes explored in this festival, such as this year’s recognition of the many contributions women have made to the genre, not only as vocalists, but as musicians and composers.

As you can see, France has no dearth of festivals and cultural events that you can enjoy when visiting. Not only will these give you an idea of the latest developments in arts and culture in France, but they will place you side by side with people in France who are also enjoying the same things and having similar experiences to yours.


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