Winter in Provence Events Calendar 2022
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
Ends December 31: Phot’Aix 2021 – Festival of photography the 21st anniversary of this contemporary photography exhibit. The concept is to bring photography to the street and to highlight talented photographers.
From November through early January, Marseille puts on the ritz with santon fairs, markets, light shows, and concerts.
November 17 – December 31: 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. Alongside the Christmas market, there are stalls dedicated to selling Santons with beautiful ideas for your family creche. Finally, shop for the 13 Desserts from December 16 – 24th at the fair run by the Bouches-du-Rhône Chamber of Agriculture (Marché des 13 Desserts).
November 26 – December 30: the Avignon Christmas market takes place in Place de l’Horloge.
December 2 – January 2: 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.
In December: Isle sur la Sorgue lights up to celebrate the festival of lights. This is Christmas magic at its best.
Until the end of December: Carpentras has a santons market – le Marché aux Santons.
December 5th: the annual Christmas concert takes place at the Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur in Aix-en-Provence. This concert now in its 20th year is a top-rated event. It is free to attend, but seating is limited and the doors open at 3:30 pm.
Early December: the same concert takes place in Lourmarin in the Luberon.
December 20th: The Nice Opera performs its Christmas concert at Eglise des Dominicans.
Until January 16: 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 31: 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!
Where to Stay near Aix
Located in the Provencal countryside outside of Aix-en-Provence is Les Arnauds, a delightful bed and breakfast. The owner, Sheila, welcomes you to relax in a traditional Provencal mas; this 17th-century was her family home. Whether you stay for a night or several days, Les Arnauds is a comfortable 3-bedroom B&B just four (4) kilometres from Aix. Book your stay!
Only 20 minutes from the centre of Aix-en-Provence is Rousset, a small Provencal village. Near Mont Sainte Victoire and the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence vineyards, Mas des Trois Pins’ studio apartment is available for holiday rentals. Here in the countryside, French teacher and masseuse Virginie Van Der Wees lives with her young family. Book Now!
January: Provence and on the Côte d’Azur
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.
The Ferris wheel in Nice might soon be “taking a rest” but the Riviera never sleeps!
January 6: is the Epiphany the day to eat Galette des Rois guilt-free.
Until March 27: Head to the Hotel Caumont Centre d’Art in Aix-en-Provence to discover Treasures of Venice The Cini Collection.
3rd Sunday in January: 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.
Discover the truffle markets around the region, here is a list of where to find truffles in Provence.
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. See the whole program here.
Where to Stay Near the Mimosas
Located on Villefranche’s shoreline, the Waterfront Penthouse is so close that you can see fish swimming while you sit on the balcony. This 2-bedroom, 2-bath holiday rental has a panoramic view of the sea, Cap Ferrat and the stunning cliffs of Villefranche. This building is one of the most photographed in Villefranche, appearing on postcards, paintings, and books about the area. Book your stay!
Clos des Vignes, in Old Town Antibes, is a charming two-bedroom rental on the French Riviera. Only steps from tempting boutiques and a selection of restaurants the house is a peaceful escape. Shop for supplies at the Provencal farmer’s market, or spend the day at one of the nearby beaches before heading back to your private terrace with seaside views for cocktails and dinner al fresco. Book Now!
February: Provence and the Côte d’Azur
Valentine’s Day is February 14th (in case you need reminding)!
February 12 – 27: 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 11 – 27: The Nice Carnaval theme changes annually. This year the program is called Roi des Animaux (King of Animals), 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.
Head to the Musée Matisse in Nice according to Lynne at Aixcentic, the Musée Matisse is a beautiful 17th-century villa set high up above Nice in the suburb of Cimiez. A renovation in the 1990s greatly expanded the exhibition space which now contains one of the world’s largest collections of the artist’s work.
Where to Stay near Nice
Beachfront Bliss is a delightful studio apartment on the Villefranche-sur-Mer waterfront. This south-facing apartment, bathed in sunshine, is all about being on the water with sea views in every direction. Double-glass balcony doors slide into the wall, so the entire apartment appears to be floating on the sea. Book Now!
Set in a quiet residential neighbourhood, five (5) bedroom La Calado is a quick walk to Antibes’ Old Town. This beautifully refurbished holiday rental has all you need for a stay on the Côte d’Azur. Initially constructed in 1926, the meticulously restored villa maintains its classic elegance. Spread out over four floors; the spacious home has plenty of private corners. Book your stay!