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Summer Festivals in France: A User’s Guide

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Photo by Sacha QS
Photo by Sacha QS

There are so many summer festivals in France that it’s hard to know where to begin. The abundance of festivals means that no matter where you are traveling in France, there is sure to be a festival happening somewhere nearby.

Here’s a brief rundown of the heavyweights. Most are big ticket events which tend to be booked out in advance, but don’t be afraid to go along for the “off” events, which fill the streets of beautiful historic towns with live performances showcasing up and coming talents.

Theatre: The Festival D’Avignon (6 July-27 July) celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. Avignon has a huge “off” festival playing in parallel with hundreds of free performances of dance, mime, puppetry, circus, and street theatre. So you don’t need to understand French to enjoy Avignon’s “off” festival! A budget hotel with an excellent central location for festival-goers is the Mercure Cite des Papes, at 1, rue Jean Vilar.

Opera: Festival International d’Art Lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence (June 29 through July 22) is famous for lavish productions staged in magnificent outdoor settings, notably in the courtyard of the former archbishop’s palace in Aix en Provence. This year’s highlight is Leos Janacek’s “From the House of the Dead,” staged by Patrice Chereau and directed by Pierre Boulez.

Rock: Les Eurokeenes in the eastern town of Belfort (June 29 through July 1) is an institution. This year’s lineup includes Air, Phoenix, Antony and the Johnsons, Queens of the Stone Age, TV on the Radio, and Klaxons.

Photography: The Rencontres D’Arles (July 3 through September 16; see Arles above) is the photography rendez-vous of the season, with an eclectic selection, including the work of Spanish photographer Alberto Garcia-Alix.

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