Winter in Provence Events Calendar 2020
Winter Festivals and Events in Provence
What is winter like in Provence? It’s a good question. So, many images of the South of France are summer scenes; ribbons of blooming lavender fields, glasses of rosé with beads of condensation and beautiful people in enjoying their holidays. Perhaps wintertime in Provence garners less attention on social media channels, but it’s a great time to enjoy the region during the “quieter” season.
Hiking during the winter months is fabulous, as the fire risk is low, there are no bugs, and scorching heat is not an issue. Although you might start walking all bundled-up before too long you will be shedding the layers. It’s common to see hardy cyclists out on the roads during the winter months.
Winter is the time of year to visit an olive mill or vineyard when their workload is less intensive period. The demand for black truffles reaches a peak at Christmas and New Year’s. However, the truffle farmers will tell you the best truffles often appear in January and February. Invite some friends over for a winter dinner party inspired by Provencal flavours. Or light a fire and curl up with a good book for some armchair travel to the South of France.
The Winter Months in Provence
December is always festive in Provence with Christmas markets, elegant decorations and wonderful gastronomic delicacies. Watch for holiday markets with seasonal treats like vin chaud (mulled wine), pain d’épice (gingerbread), black truffles, foie gras, citrus and supplies for the traditional 13 desserts.
January can be cold, but sunny the first month of the year in Provence can be a series of surprising contrasts. On the French Riviera, some of the diehards are still devoted to their early morning swims, although wrapped in wetsuits. Away from the coast, mornings are crisp with a dense layer of frost. At higher elevations, skiers head to the Southern Alps, near Nice or Gap, or Mont Ventoux, in the Vaucluse, for some fun on the slopes. Some years, the la Rotonde fountain in Aix-en-Provence even freezes.
February may be a short month, but there is plenty of activity with the start of the carnival season on the coast. The cobalt blue sky and the dazzling sun might even allow for lunch on a sheltered terrace. However, on a day (or days) when the mistral wind is blowing, find a warm table indoors.
NOTE: The cultural events and festivals listed below are annual (or bi-annual) happenings in December, January and February 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.
December: Provence and on the Côte d’Azur
November 20 – December 29, 2019: Marché de Noël in Aix-en-Provence. The trees along the Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence are adorned with strands of little white lights and small cabins (market stalls) line the street.
November 30 – December 31, 2019: the Avignon Christmas market takes place in Place de l’Horloge.
December 6, 2019 – January 5, 2020: Village de Noël, the Christmas marketplace, in Nice includes some 60 market stalls selling gourmet food and goodies for those on your shopping list. While you are out and about check-out, the festive light displays in Place Massena and Place Garibaldi, enjoy the lights and snap a few photos of the palm trees with holiday lights on the Promenade des Anglais.
Discover the santons Provence’s “little saints.” The tradition of setting a nativity scene with these clay figures dates back to the 13th-century, thanks to Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, merchants, and santonniers (the makers of santons). Christmas in Provence would not be the same without the santons markets. You can also order the holiday figures online from Remember Provence.
December 7 – 29, 2019: Carpentras Santons market – le Marché aux Santons – open Monday to Friday 14h30 – 18h30 and on weekends 10h to 12h and 14h30 to 18h30.
December 6, 2019: the Christmas concert takes place at the Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur in Aix-en-Provence. This concert is a top-rated event. Make sure to buy your tickets early.
December 7, 2019: the same concert takes place in Lourmarin in the Luberon.
December 6-8, 2019: Visit Pélissane and the festive market (Marché de Noël) this weekend.
December 20 and 21, 2019: The Nice Opera performs its Christmas concert at Eglise des Dominicans. Buy tickets here.
Until January 5, 2020: Sound, Light and Art the last chance to see the Vincent Van Gogh show at Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux de Provence, a production by Culturespaces. Here are some tips for your visit to Carrières de Lumières.
December 31st: The ball drop in Time’s Square has nothing on the countdown on the French Riviera. Cannes (Promenade de la Croisette) and Nice (Place Massena) are particularly festive with fireworks displays.
In France, New Year’s Eve is La Sainte-Sylvestre, and it’s a day for feasting. Most restaurants and hotels offer exclusive menus with wine pairings. Do book in advance!
January: Provence and on the Côte d’Azur
January 1st at 11 am enjoy the annual New Year’s Day concert in Nice performed by Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice at the Acropolis. The concert is free to attend, but the spots are limited, so plan to arrive early. The concert lasts for 1.5 hours, for more details follow this link.
January 1st at 11:30 am the brave (or crazy) head to Salis Beach in Antibes for a group dip in the Mediterranean known as le bain du nouvel an.
January 6th is the Epiphany the day to eat Galette des Rois guilt-free. Here is a recipe for this delicious pastry fit for a king.
Until March 22nd: Head to the Hotel Caumont Centre d’Art in Aix-en-Provence to discover Hokusai, Hiroshige, Utamaro… The Great Masters of Japan
The Georges Leskowicz Collection.
January 19, 2020: starting at 10:30 am attend the blessing of the truffles – Messe des Truffes, in Richerenches, falls on the Fête de Saint Antoine each year. This one-day festival includes a blessing of truffles in l’Église Saint-Denis. Don’t count on snagging a place inside the church. The village installs a video screen (outside), for the standing-room-only crowd. Following the religious part is a public auction of the truffles offered by the rabissers (truffle farmers), in lieu of communion, to the church. Once the formal part of the day is over, it’s time for a truffle-themed lunch and a glass of local wine.
January through the end of March: Drive along the 130 kilometre Route du Mimosa from Bormes les Mimosas to the perfume capital of Grasse. The bright yellow Mimosas are not native to the Côte d’Azur. British visitors who wintered on the coast originally planted the bushes to add colour to their gardens. The plants flourished in the climate and now “paint” the coastline in shades of yellow in the winter months. There are festivities, parades, exhibitions and guided walks throughout the season.
February: Provence and the Côte d’Azur
Valentine’s Day is February 14th (in case you need reminding)!
February 15 – March 3, 2020: The annual Menton Fête du Citron. There are many reasons to visit Menton, but this citrus-themed festival might be near the top of the list.
February 15 – 29, 2020: The Nice Carnaval theme changes annually. This year the program is called Le Roi de la Mode (King of Fashion), the floats should be a riot of colour. Many events are free, but for some of the extended programs, you might want seats in which case tickets are a must.
Sundays in February – Head to the Côte Bleue town of Carry-le-Rouet for the les Oursinades festival on the seafront celebrating sea urchins and other local specialties. Considered the “capital” of sea urchins and the festivities have taken place in Carry since the 1960s.