The South of France has some excellent festivals that perfectly sum up the relaxed way of life in Southern France. Festivals in this part of the world are often centuries old and some performed important social functions such as enabling young people to meet up people from different villages, or celebrating working collectively. If you are visiting the South of France, then follow our guide to find the best festivals in southern France, month by month.
March - South of France festivals
Pezenas: Le Poulain festival, South France
This South France festival at the start of Lent in late February or early March features a parade led by the local totem-animal from Pezenas: Le Poulain. This is a mock horse, constructed of a cloth head draped over a wooden frame. It is pushed through the streets in a grand procession. The history dates back to 1226 when a foal was born to the favourite mare of King Louis VIII. The festival kicks off a three-day Mardi-gras festival in the town.
Nimes: Feria de Primavera festival, Southern France
Held four weeks before Easter, this is the first Feria of the season in Nimes. Nimes knows how to do street festivals and it is definitely worth the trip to see it in action. This street festival also features music andthe obligatory tauromachie (bull fighting festival). See the Nimes Feria website for more details.
April - festivals South of France
Sommiers: Medieval festival, South of France
It is well worth the visit to Sommiers at any time of the year, it is a beautiful little town. However, on the first weekend in April, the whole town is taken up with a street festival featuring costumed merchants and performers, markets and music. See the Sommieres town website for more details.
May - festivals Southern France
Pezenas: Cavalcade festival, South France
The Cavalcade is a popular local festival celebrating the golden age of Pezenas when it was the capital of Languedoc. The festival features a large handicraft market and a medieval costume procession through the streets. .
Nimes: Feria de Pentecost festival, South France
This is the Nimes' most important festival, held on the fifth weekend after Easter. There is a heavy bullfighting emphasis (tauromachie), but there is also plenty of music, dancing and a large street market in the old town. There is also a great site with up to date information on the Ferias in Nimes.
Saintes-maries-de-la-mer Gypsy Fair
Saintes-maries-de-la-mer is situated on the Camargue coast and holds ahuge gypsy fair every year towards the end of May. This fair has a long old history. The story starts shortly after the Crucifixion of Christ, when Mary Magdalene left Palestine for France. Some of her companions built a small church in the Camargue and they employed a local gypsy servant girl called Sara, who has since been adopted as the patron saint of all gypsies. Click here for more information on the Gypsy Fair and Saintes-maries-de-la-mer itself.
June - festivals South of France
Beaucaire festival, Southern France
Beaucaire is a pretty little place, with parks situated all along the canal banks. The best time to visit Beaucaire is either during June's Fete du Drac, a traditional festival in honour of the town's dragon mascot; or during the Estivales in July, a reconstruction of the town's medieval fair (see the Beaucaire tourism website for more details).
Pavalas festival, South France
The Maguelone music festival situated in the famous cathedral, features medieval and baroque music concerts taking place over a two week period. The Cathedral is on the site of some of the earliest Christian communities in the South of France and the place certainly has a special feel.
Montpellier: Le Printemps des Comediens festival, Southern France
This is a theatre, dance and music festival held in the gounds of the Chateau d'O, situated in the Northwest of the city. More information and dates can be obtained from Printemps des Comediens.
Narbonne: Festival National de Theatre Amateur festival, South of France
Held in late June and early July, free nightly performances are held on the Cours de la Madeleine at the Archbishop's Palace. For more information see the Narbonne festival website.
July - South of France festivals
Montpellier Danse festival, South France
In late June and early July, Montpellier is home to a three week festival of traditional music and danse from around the world. The festival takes place in the old Ursuline convent, the Comedie, Le Corum and other venues around the city. For information please visit the Montpellier Danse website.
Montpellier: Festival de Radio-france festival, South of France
This international music festival has become a real fixture in the Montpellier calendar. Featuring all music genres from classical to Jazz. Held at various venues across the city. For more information and the artists appearing see the Festival de Radio-france website.
Nimes: Les Jeudis festival, South France
Every Thursday night in July there are street markets with live music through the centre of Nimes. Nimes is also a wonderful city to visit and the Pont du Gard is a must on any tour to the South of France (see our article on Nimes for more information).
Sete Fete de la St-pierre festival, Southern France
During the first weekend in July, the local fishermen of Sete hold their Fete de la St-pierre, a street festival and religous procession. Water jousting also takes place during the afternoon. There is an excellent local website detailing all the events of the various Sete Festivals.
Narbonne: Bastille Day festival, South France
A huge four-day outdoor party in the cours Mirabeau. For further information see the Narbonne festival, South France website.
Sete: Fiesta de Sete
Sete is a busy place for festivals in July & August. The Festival de Sete is a two-week long Mediterranean music festival covering folk and pop music from North Africa and Europe. The festival takes place in late July to early August. There is plenty of street theatre and parties going on, as well as nightly performance in the Theatre de la Mer. For more information visit www.fiestasete.com
Beaucaire Medieval Fair
Beaucaire is also famous for its annual fair held since medieval times on the fourth week of July. This ten day fair dates back to 1217 when the town was granted an annual trade fair by the Count of Toulouse. This was in memory of a famous victory against Simon de Montfort's forces in the town. At its height this fair would attract upwards of 300,000 people and was famous throughout the South of France (see Beaucaire Medieval Fair for more details).
St-guilhem-les-desert festival, Southern France
During July, St Guilhem holds its 'Musique Sacree'. This music festival performed in the abbey-church features religious and baroque music. Visit the St Guilhem website for more details about the Musique Sacree festival and sites to see in this beautiful village.
Meze: Festival du Thau
In mid-july Meze holds a week long alternative World Music festival. There are usually three concerts a week, along the banks of the Basin du Thau. The festival is very popular and consistently attracts some of the best music acts from across the mediterranean and North Africa. For more information visit www.festivalduthau.com.
For lovers of theatre, dance and contemporary art, the Festival d'Avignon remains a major yearly event. Having celebrated its 60th year in 2007 this festival is becoming a major event for this beautiful city straddling the regions of Provence and Languedoc. From 6 to 27 July. For more information on the Festival d'Avignon, please visit Festival d'Avignon.
Carcassonne, South of France festivals
Throughout July Carcassonne throws open its doors to dance, music and theatre, with nightly performances in the castle's amphitheatre.
St Guilhem festivals in South of France
From 21-23 July, St Guilhem-les-desert holds its local fete in the town (visit the St Guilhem website for more details). The fete fetures a big traditional market throughout the town as well as plenty of music and costume processions. St Guilhem is also a great spot to take children, with canoeing available up the Gorges du Herault (Best places for Kids in South of France)
August - festivals in Southern France
Aigues-mortes: Les Nuits d'Encens festival, Southern France
The town's 'Nights of Incense' offers a real mix of music and danse from European Chamber music to Arabic dance. Nightly performances are held in the courtyard of the Logis de Gouverneur. There is a good local website for Aigues-mortes that carries all the details on festivals and events in this picturesque medieval town.
Water Jousting in Sete
Originating in Sete centuries ago, this sport is now a passionate fixture of Languedoc traditional culture. The season runs from late spring through the early autumn, with more frequent tournaments taking place in the summer. The most important championships are held here on 25 August, the fete de St-louis, with accompanying fireworks at night.
Saint-gilles: Feria de la Peche et de l'abricot festival
Sitting on the edge of the Petite Camargue, the old town of Saint-gilles is a pleasant place to wander around, with its narrow windy streets. The biggest festival in Saint-gilles takes place in mid August, with the Feria de la Peche et de l'Abricot (Peach & Apricot Festival), which features street processions, dancing and the obligatory bull-fighting (see Feria de la Peche for more information).
Orb Valley: Festivale de la Vallee de l'Orb
Taking place in various town squares throughout the Orb valley, this festival features lots of wine and folk music activities.
Beziers: La Feria
Without doubt the greatest festival in southern France. Beziers comes alive in spectacular fashion with fireworks, street entertainment and a daily Spanish corrida. There is also an important wine festival. See Beziers Feria for more up to date information on the programme of activities.
Aigues-mortes: fete de St-louis
Held on the weekend closest to 25 August this medieval pageant features a reconstruction of St Louis' departure for the Crusades against the Muslims in North Africa. Read our article on Aigues-mortes for more information. Follow this link for specific information on the Fete de St-louis
Narbonne: Semaine Bavaroise festival, South France
This is Narbonne's version of the Munich Oktoberfest. Plenty of beer and entertainment. More information can be found at the Narbonne Festivals website
September - festivals in South France
Pavalas: Feria d'Automne
From 29 September to 1 October, Pavalas is home to a Camaguaise-style festival, featuring traditional horsemanship as well as the obligatory tauromachie.
Nimes: Feria des Vendanges
This is the last of the three great ferias in Nimes. This one celebrates the wine harvest. It includes a tauromachie, parades, open-air concerts and a grand market
Le Grau/Port Camargue South France festival
This fete is a major event on the Camargue calendar. This fete includes bull-running through the streets, camarguaises horsemanship and water-jousting, together with lots of street parties and general mayhem. The fete is held on the second week in September.
October - festivals South of France
Montpellier: Festival du Cinema Mediterraneen
This festival feturing feature-length films and short works, culminates in a symposium and award ceremony. There is an excellent website for Festival du Cinema that features full details of the films showing and the locations.
Aigues-mortes festival, South France
The three-day annual fete in Aigues-mortes is a great time to visit this medieval town on the edge of the Camargue. It features a tauromachie beside the walls of the town. Aigues-mortes is a joy to visit at any time of the year, but during this festival you get to see all the local Camarguais dressed up in their distinctive costumes. Read our article on Aigues-mortes for more information.
Beziers: Les Primeurs d'Oc festival, South France
This is the premier wine festival in Languedoc. It features wine contests and awards, together with music, dance and theatre.
December - South of France festivals
Pezenas: Occitan Christmas festival, South France
This festival features plenty of traditional Christmas festivities and customs from the Languedoc region.
Carcassonne: Marche au Gras
On 17 December, Carcassonne is home to a lively Christmas market featuring lots of regional produce and handicrafts.