Provence Fall Festivals to Discover 2020 Events
Festivals and Fall Events in Provence
Fall in Provence directs you towards a heartier menu. Enjoy meat (lamb, wild boar, taureaux, rabbit, fowl) roasted with herbes de Provence, root vegetables and delicious red wine blends. At this time of year, the hiking is fabulous, biking is possible, and golfers might get lucky with an extended season. Best of all, for many people living in or visiting Provence, the autumn months move at a slightly more relaxed pace. The summer hordes have left replaced by smaller groups of visitors. In the fall, there is no guilt involved in lighting a fire and curling up with a book or perhaps taking a une sieste.
The Colors of Fall in Provence
One September morning in Provence you wake up to notice there’s a difference, something is missing. The chirping choir of the cicadas has stopped, in their place the abrupt sound of hunter’s dogs barking followed by gunshots. There is a slight, dampness in the air that makes its presence known when you walk. Despite a chilly start it is completely normal to be in shirtsleeves by lunchtime. Depending on Mother Nature’s whim, the annual grape harvest may take place in September.
October often rolls in like a lamb with a gentle touch. There is a soft pink hue “painter’s light” in the evenings and mysterious foggy mornings. The smell of bonfires in agricultural zones scents the air and the olives begin turning a deep shade of purple-black. Eye-catching red, orange and yellow berries of Pyracantha bushes (Firethorns) along the roadsides replace the fields of lavender and sunflowers. The Plane trees begin dropping their big, noisy brown leaves.
November is crisp like a freshly minted bill. The sunny skies remain a brilliant blue but leaving the house without an extra layer of clothing would be folly. The Mistral wind which might be mild in the summer months blows in an Artic chill from the NW increasing in its forceful gusts as it rolls down the Rhône River. The grapes have been harvested and crushed. The winemakers carefully watch the fermenting juice as the vines turn to gold and red in their fields.
NOTES: The cultural events and festivals listed below are annual (or bi-annual) happenings in September, October and November in Provence and on the Côte d’Azur. However, the actual dates for these events will change from year-to-year. The websites are listed below so that you can find out the current details.
Please note this is not a comprehensive list of all the current events. For activities near to your location, check local newspapers, flyers at the grocery stores and tourism websites for festivals.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many events have been cancelled or delayed in 2020. Please check local flyers and for specific details regarding social distancing and ticket sales.
September: Provence and on the Côte d’Azur
Shopping! (September 4-6, 2020), Provence Prestige Village in Saint Maires de la Mer. Discover products by artisans from the region.
Until November 1st, at Hôtel de Caumont in Aix-en-Provence see Joaquín Sorolla, Spanish Lights. The artist (1863- 1923) was one of the greatest Spanish painters of the twentieth century. He produced one of the most outstanding and vibrant representations of a luminous, Mediterranean, optimistic, and modern Spain. More information here.
Visit the Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence. The museum’s collection has evolved over the years, swelled by the city’s acquisitions and several major bequests, including works donated by François-Marius Granet, to become what it is today – a collection of more than 12,000 works and masterpieces!
September 19, 2020 – February 14, 2021 staff at the Musée Granet in collaboration with the Musée du Louvre have curated an outstanding exhibition on ancient Egyptian art – Pharaoh, Osiris and the Mummy.
Bulls and Rice: (September 12-13, 2020) the annual Feria du Riz in Arles, which is not to everyone’s taste. However, there are festivities throughout the city and plenty of rice to sample.
Returns in 2021: The Rencontres d’Arles – Les Rencontres de la Photographie. The Rencontres is a big deal photography festival drawing international photographers and viewers from around the globe.
Returns in 2021: Every evening in Avignon enjoy the 30-minute Vibrations 360º show in the Cour d’Honeur at the Palais des Papes. Showtimes daily at 21h:30 and on Fridays and Saturdays, there is a second show at 22h:30. Reserve your tickets at the Avignon Tourist Office. Enjoy this teaser for the show:
Sound, Light and Art (until early January 2021): Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux de Provence, a production by Culturespaces, reopens early March with the new program. This old limestone quarry – Carrières de Lumières – is the largest fixed multimedia installation in France. The 14-metre high walls are the backdrop that 70 video projectors use to broadcast images. Here are our tips for your visit to Carrières de Lumières.
September 19-20, 2020 – Everywhere in France the Journées Européennes du Patrimoine (European Heritage Days). Public buildings, private homes, gardens and much more are open to the public free of charge. Many of these venues are only open once a year. Check the official website for the program near to you.
Check the Tourism website for details on the Fête de la Gastronomie in Saintes Maries de la Mer. Enjoy the tastes of the Camargue (including wine) prepared by five (5) chefs in front of the Marie. They will even share their recipes with you.
October: Provence and on the Côte d’Azur
Visit artists the Alpilles in Eygalières. Local artists open their studios, there are musical features each weekend and more. Here, are some other reasons to visit Eygalières: shopping at MikiMiki, dining with 5-star service and food to match at Maison Hache, and one of the locations of bakery chain Emily & Cie. Explore a special garden Les Sentiers de l’Abondance.
Pumpkins everywhere – The village of Rians turns shades of orange all weekend during the Fête de la Courge a community celebration of the Cucurbitaceae family. The annual gourd, squash and pumpkin harvest is an excuse for an autumn-themed market. There are plenty of stands selling food made with squash such as soupe à la courge, jams, cakes and more.
Head to the Beach: (October 22, 2020) – Since the XII century, Saintes Maries de la Mer has been a pilgrimage site for the Romani people from Europe and around the globe. In May, there is a large celebration with a smaller version on the weekend closest to October 22nd. The pilgrimages to Saintes Maries de la Mer began in the 12th century, and with more conviction when relics of the saints were discovered in 1448. Keith Van Sickle asks, “Mary Magdalene in Provence Legend or Fact.”
There are many reasons to take a drive to Cassis.
October 31 – Happy Halloween!
November: Provence and the Côte d’Azur
November 1 – Toussaint (All Saints) a public holiday. Make sure to visit a cemetery to see the headstones decorated in chrysanthemums.
October 7 – December 28 – Phot’Aix 2020 – Festival of photography the 20th anniversary of this contemporary photography exhibit. The concept is to bring photography to the street and to highlight talented photographers.
November 8 – Rognas is the place to be for a giant pumpkin festival. Fête de la Courge celebrates the harvest of this gourd with festivities and a chance to try soups, sweets and other culinary delights. This festival is a family-friendly event, which includes a market.
November 11 – Armistice Day (1918)
Riders in the Sand. (November 10-11, 2020): Head to Saintes Maries de la Mer for the final abrivado festival of the season. One enormous equine event on the beach with 200 gardiens (cowboys & cowgirls), 1000 horses and a total of 11 abrivados. The video (below) will give you a flavour for the energy that surrounds this two-day festival.
Truffles the Black Gold of Provence. (November 21, 2020) – Ban des Truffes in Richerenches marks the beginning of the truffle season in this village.
Christmas Shopping: (November 19-23, 2020) at Salon Provence Prestige in Arles at the Palais des Congrès with 170+ exhibitors. Perfect timing for Christmas shopping.
November 28 – December 5, 2020 – PriMed takes place in Marseille for the 23rd time. The festival previously called the International Festival of Mediterranean Documentary Film and Reportage began in Monte Carlo in 1994. This annual festival takes place in Marseille, since 2009. The public is invited to the screenings (free) of international documentaries, discussions and workshops.
Holiday markets start early in Provence. Watch for holiday markets in major centres and villages everywhere. Many vineyards decorate their boutiques for the season. What could be better to get you in the mood than a little wine tasting and shopping? Château de Berne (vineyard, hotel and spa) in the Var has a series of pre-Christmas markets.
December – Annual temptation for those who have a sweet tooth at the Palais des Congrès de Antibes – Juan-les-Pins for the Salon de Sucre et Chocolate.