Summer Festivals and Events in Provence 2020
During the summer in Provence and the Côte d’Azur, daytime temperatures range from warm to hot. So, you don’t need an excuse to laze by the pool. At this time of year, the lavender is in bloom, and the sunflowers put on a spectacular floral show. From music under the stars to bulls in the streets, June through September are by far the busiest festival months in Provence. However, summer is also the most active period for visitor traffic, so plan your days accordingly.
So far, 2020 has delivered a new decade and a global health situation most of us never imagined. Sadly, as a result of the Covid-19 virus most, if not all, significant festivals are cancelled this season. The list below includes the current details, please check with your local tourist office or Marie (town/city hall) for the latest updates.
Summer Festivals and Events Provence
Summer is festival time. The problem is choosing from an overwhelming variety of events. World-famous events like Jazz à Juan (started in 1960) and le Festival d’Avignon (since 1947) attract large crowds and celebrated performers. All the principal cities and many small towns in Provence host at least one noteworthy celebration during the warmer months.
The events listed below are annual happenings in the Provence and the Côte d’Azur, but the actual dates may 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.
June in Provence and on the Côte d’Azur
Calling Foodies (Returns June 2021) to Les Étoile de Mougins for the bi-annual food lover’s event. The town of Mougins is probably most famous as the one time home of Pablo Picasso. However, this chef-led festival includes cooking demonstrations, local producers, food trucks, workshops and more. Oh and plenty to eat!
June 5–7, 2020 (check for local details): Discover the public and private gardens of Provence and the French Riviera. It’s the 17th edition of Rendez Vous aux Jardins. In 2019, the theme was the animals of the garden. At some of the gardens, there are workshops, family-friendly activities and even guided visits.
Whit Monday 2021: St Remy de Provence’s transhumance is a must-see with 4,000+ sheep and goats passing through the heart of the Provencal village. Fête de la Transhumance de Saint Rémy de Provence happens on the Monday of Pentecost (Pentecôte). Depending on the holiday, the date fluctuates between the end of May and early June. It’s a great day to visit St Remy, watch the animals, shop at the brocante (flea market), sample some goat cheese, and taste some local wine. For more information, please consult the St Remy tourism office website.
Returns in 2021: Dating from 1869, Les Chorégies d’Orange is one of the oldest festivals in southern France. This year to commemorate the 150th anniversary there are three shows: William Tell, Romeo and Juliet, and Don Giovanni. Buy a ticket to one of the performances and enjoy an evening under the stars seated in this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Constructed in the 1st Century AD, the Roman Théâtre Antique d’Orange is well-preserved, and some experts argue that it is the best remaining structure of its kind from that era.
June 21 (check for local details): Summer solstice and Fête de la Musique. On the day with the most daylight hours of the year, it’s time to enjoy some free music. Since Joel Cohen launched the concept in Paris and Toulouse, in 1976, the Fête de la Musique expands to musical stages around France and beyond each year. Enjoy the tunes!
June (delayed – possibly cancelled): Formula One Grand Prix Race at Circuit Paul Ricard at Le Castellet in the Var. The track initially opened in 1970 the vision and financing provided by Paul Ricard, who made his fortune selling pastis. After his passing, the facility sold to Excelis in 1999.
June (usually the 3rd weekend): Fêtes de la Tarasque – Four days of festivities Tarascon: Every year at the end of June, local legends and fictional characters come back to life and parade through the town. The festival runs through the last weekend in June.
Returns in 2021: Festival International de Danse in Vaison la Romaine. On a warm July evening, the setting sun kisses the Rhone Valley grapevines good-night as dancers perform in a 7000-seat Roman theatre. No, you are not dreaming. For 22 years, the Vaison Danses festival brings together international dancers to perform for audiences in the Vaucluse.
July in Provence and on the Côte d’Azur
Returns July – September 2021: In 2019, Arles celebrates the 50th anniversary of 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. The goal of the Rencontres is to make photography accessible to all with 40+ installations throughout the city of Arles in museums, chapels, cloisters, bookstores, and industrial spaces. Although many venues are within close proximity, it is practically impossible to see all of the exhibits in one day. There are options for day passes and festival passports. Purchase tickets online or at the tourist office in Arles. Download the festival app and start planning your visit.
July 6-15, 2020 (online and free!): The Festival International d’Art Lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence (Festival d’Aix), held every July, since 1948, is primarily oriented towards opera. There are also recitals of chamber music, vocal concerts and orchestral sessions. The Festival d’Aix is the largest annual tourist attraction for the city of Aix.
Will return July 2021: During the Festival d’Avignon, the Papal City turns into a theatrical stage. This arts festival, which was founded in 1947, features performances throughout the city and in the Cours d’Honneur inside the Palais des Papes. The official festival is known as “In” attracts both professional and amateur actors from around the world.
Returns July 2021: Festival Off d’Avignon. Running in parallel to the official Festival d’Avignon promotes work by amateurs, stand-up comics, street performers. The festival offers non-stop entertainment with 1000 performances throughout the period.
July 3-5, 2020, on the radio: Les Rencontres Économiques d’Aix-en-Provence is an annual business forum in Aix. Created in 2001 by le Cercle des économistes, this conference is an opportunity for European thought leaders, business heads, NGOs, economists, academics and students to converge in one location. “Conceived from the beginning as an intellectual terrain of encounter among diverse viewpoints, the forum has most recently taken the initiative of enlarging the roles of young people and entrepreneurs in its economic discussions. The theme for 2020 is the very topical “Dealing with world Disorders.” Read more about this enlightening forum in an article written by Anne-Marie Simons.
Returns in June and July 2021: Festival International de Danse. On a warm July evening, when the setting sun kisses the Rhone Valley grapevines, professional dancers perform in a 7000-seat Roman theatre in Vaison la Romaine. For over two decades, the Vaison Danses festival brings together international dancers to perform for audiences in the Vaucluse. Additional reading, Vaison Danses One of Many Reasons to Visit Charming Vaison La Romaine.
July 2021: Since 1960, Juan à Jazz is a significant event for jazz musicians and their fans. Held in the seaside town of Juan les Pins musical performers play to the gathered crowds in the pinède (pine grove) Gould overlooking the Mediterranean. Over the years, Juan à Jazz has attracted prominent musicians including Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Michel Legrand, Carlos Santana and Jessie Norman. However, it’s not all about jazz. There are free performances in the streets of Juan les Pins as well.
July 14: Bastille Day is a national holiday filled with plenty of pomp and circumstance. In Paris, there is a huge parade. The Patrouille de France perform their aerial acrobatics show. And, in the evening, fireworks light up the Capital’s skyline. The celebrations are not exclusive to Paris, check for local events near to you.
July 2021: The Nice Jazz Festival gets the crowds out to Place Masséna. This flashy music festival began in 1948. Covering a range of music styles, this popular concert series continues to attract big-name acts every summer to Nice. Liz Lord offers some tips for Jazz Festival goers here.
The program returns July 2021: Head to Eygalières for Calan d’Art, a four-night festival of contemporary art and music of the world (a mix of free and paid events), since 2008.
August in Provence and the Côte d’Azur
Rencontres d’Arles returns in 2021
August 1-21 – The International Piano Festival of La Roque d’Anthéron returns for the 40th anniversary season with a shorter program. Tickets go on sale on June 25th.
August 1 – 22 – The 20th edition of the Festival de Lacoste created by Pierre Cardin will take place in the Carrières du château du Marquis de Sade. Discover emerging artists and performers of dance, theatre and opera.
August 2021 – Les Chorégies d’Orange
The program returns July 2021:: Starting in 1981, the International Piano Festival of La Roque d’Anthéron brings artists and aficionados together for an annual concert series at the Château de Florans in this charming Luberon village. The park-like grounds of the Château shaded by plane trees (Platanes), and tall sequoias provide a comfortable outdoor venue for an audience of up to 2000 people (85,000 throughout the festival) and an excellent acoustic stage for the musicians. During the festival, watch for performances (often free) in local villages. It’s a chance to listen to wonderful music under the stars.
Likely cancelled check website for details: Saint Jazz Cap-Ferrat has a short run, but it takes place in the ever so lovely town of Saint Jean, overlooking the sea, under the massive pines, in a tiny venue holding about 150 folding chairs.
August 15: is a public holiday Assumption Day, or Assomption in French.
Typically on August 15th, the 2020 festivities TBC: Marks the official end of the Lavender season in Sault. The Fête de la Lavande is a family-friendly event at the horserace track (Le Déffends). Expect a day filled with the fragrance lavender, including artisanal products and a lavender-cutting contest.
Normally occurs on August 15th, the 2020 sale TBC: Antique lovers head to Isle-sur-la-Sorgue for “Antiques Art and You” the second annual fair in town. Ranked in the top three in Europe, these two antique fairs (the other is Easter Sunday) started over 100 years ago. The market attracts 300+ dealers and 100,000 visitors. Looking for a place to stay near to Isle sur la Sorgue? Read about Le Domaine de Palerme for a Poetic Stay in Provence.
August 29, 2020: The 25th annual Ban des Vendanges des Côtes du Rhône takes place in Avignon. The event is a celebration surrounding the launch of the annual grape harvest. Head to Avignon for the festivities centred around the Rocher des Doms near the Palais des Papes.