Provence Fall Festivals to Discover 2023 Events
Festivals and Fall Events in Provence
As the temperatures drop in Provence during the autumn, restaurant menus move towards heartier dishes. Enjoy meat (lamb, wild boar, taureaux, rabbit, fowl) slow-roasted with herbes de Provence and seasonal root vegetables. These recipes pair well with well-balanced red wine blends from the Rhône Valley. Here are some ideas for Fall Dinner Menus Inspired by Provencal Flavours.
At this time of year, hiking is fabulous, biking is possible, and golfers often get an extended season. Best of all, the autumn months move at a slightly more relaxed pace for many people living in or visiting Provence. The summer hordes have left replaced by smaller groups of visitors. In the fall, no guilt is involved in lighting a fire, curling up with a book, or perhaps taking an 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, and in their place, the abrupt sound of hunter’s dogs barking followed by gunshots. A slight dampness in the air makes its presence known when you walk. Despite a chilly start, it is normal to be in shirtsleeves by lunchtime. The annual grape harvest may occur in September, depending on Mother Nature’s whim.
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.
NOTE: The cultural events and festivals listed below are annual (or bi-annual) happenings in Provence and on the Côte d’Azur in September, October and November. However, the actual dates for these events will change from year-to-year. The websites are listed below for the current details. Please note this is not a comprehensive list of all the current events. For activities near your location, check local newspapers, flyers at the grocery stores and tourism websites for festivals.
September: Provence and on the Côte d’Azur
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!
Bulls and Rice: (September 9-10, 2023) The annual Feria du Riz in Arles weekend includes festivities throughout the city and plenty of rice to sample.
Until September 24, 2023: 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.
So much to do in Avignon! There is always something going on in Avignon with galleries, concerts, guided tours, markets and much more. Visit the Avignon Tourist Office in person or online for all the current activities.
Sound, Light and Art (until January 2024): Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux de Provence, a production by Culturespaces. The current program features “From Vermeer to Van Gogh, The Dutch Masters.” The works of Johannes Vermeer and Vincent Van Gogh, along with a series of painters from the Dutch Golden Age. In addition, a short projection highlights Mondrian, the Architect of Colour or TinTin (check teh website for days and times). This old limestone quarry – Carrières de Lumières – is France’s largest fixed multimedia installation. The 14-metre-high walls are the backdrop 70 video projectors use to broadcast images. Here are our tips for your visit to Carrières de Lumières.
September 16-17, 2023 – 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 you.
Check the Tourism website for the list of activities in Saintes Maries de la Mer.
October: Provence and on the Côte d’Azur
Pumpkins everywhere in mid-October – 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. Plenty of stands sell food made with squash, such as soupe à la courge, jams, cakes and more.
Head to the Beach: Since the XII century, Saintes Maries de la Mer has been a pilgrimage site for the Romani people from Europe and around the globe. There is a large celebration in May, with a smaller version on the weekend of October 14-15, 2023 (details here). The pilgrimages to Saintes Maries de la Mer began in the 12th century with more conviction when relics of the saints were discovered in 1448. Keith Van Sickle asks, “Mary Magdalene in Provence Legend or Fact.”
Visit seaside Cassis, a picturesque town tucked into a curve along the Mediterranean Sea between the calanques. The town with 8,000 inhabitants is about 20 km east of Marseille. It’s a fishing port on a steep hillside with vineyards and pastel-coloured houses layering the slope to the seaside. Check the tourist office website for current events.
October 6 – December 30, 2023 – Phot’Aix 2023 – Festival of photography, the 23rd edition anniversary of this contemporary photography exhibit – this year’s theme is Regards Croisés et les Parcours. The concept is to bring photography to the street and to highlight talented photographers.
October 31 – Happy Halloween!
November: Provence and the Côte d’Azur
November 1 – Toussaint (All Saints) is a public holiday. Make sure to visit a cemetery to see the headstones decorated in chrysanthemums. Please read Virgnie’s articles on Halloween and La Toussaint.
November – 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, 2023): 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 of the energy surrounding this two-day festival.
Truffles the Black Gold of Provence at the beginning of December – Ban des Truffes in Richerenches marks the beginning of the truffle season in this village. Please read The Truffle Markets in Provence – Planning Your Visit and Recipes.
Christmas Shopping: (November 23-27, 2023) Salon Provence Prestige annual holiday fair in Arles at the Palais des Congrès with 170+ exhibitors. Perfect timing for Christmas shopping.
December 4-9, 2023 – PriMed takes place in Marseille for the 27th time. Previously called the International Festival of Mediterranean Documentary Film and Reportage, the festival began in Monte Carlo in 1994. This annual festival has been taking 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 better 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.
Late November – Annual temptation for those with a sweet tooth at the Palais des Congrès de Antibes – Juan-les-Pins for the Salon de Sucre et Chocolate.