The best festivals in France

The French are fond of their holidays, and they take every possible chance to have a celebration. You can practically point to any day in the calendar, and there’s bound to be a festival in France somewhere, from saint feast days to official holidays, or less conventional celebrations. So if you want to make sure that you can attend at least one major French festival during your trip, check out this list of the best festivals in France.

Fetes Medievales du Dauphin d’Auvergne, Montferrand

Clermont-Ferrand

The town of Montferrand is now part of the city of Clermont-Ferrand in Auvergne, and home to one of the most exciting medieval festivals in France. It is held during the first week of June, and it has everything that’s best about a medieval fair: arts and crafts, people in medieval costumes, reenactments, medieval music and food, and even horse riding and duels.

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer Festival

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is a commune at the Mediterranean Sea, and a pilgrimage site of great religious significance. The yearly festival in honor of Saint Sarah is an occasion of pilgrimage for the Roma people of France, so at the end of May there’s a huge fair in this small town. While the festival is primarily an event for spiritual worship, there are lots of fascinating activities that will appeal even to the most non-spiritual traveler.

Festival of Lights, Lyon

This uniquely Lyonnaise festival is a celebration of the Virgin Mary, and according to tradition, every house in the city should place candles in front of its windows. Obviously, the streets of Lyon during the four days of the festival are absolutely amazing, especially the Basilica of Fourvière lit up in different colors, and the Place the Terreaux which holds spectacular light shows every year.

Xicolatada, Palau-de-Cerdagne

The Xicolatada festival in the village of Palau-de-Cerdagne in Languedoc-Rousillon has been celebrated every year for the past 300 years. The festival is a chocolate-lover’s paradise – every August 16, the village is turned into a hot-chocolate fountain. According to legend, the villagers used to drink quite a bit on August 15, so the village chocolatier would offer them hot chocolate the next day to cure their hangovers. Enormous amounts of hot chocolate are brewed in cauldrons over wood fires during the festival.

La Pourcailhade, Trie-sur-Baïse

Every August in the town of Trie-sur-Baïse, there’s a festival celebrating pigs. The Brotherhood of the Pig first organized the festival in 1975, and since then, various events such as eating contests, pig beauty pageants, races and other competitions are held in the town. One of the funniest events is the Le Championnat de France du Cri de Cochon, the French pig-squealing contest, when contestants try their best at imitating the cries of a pig.

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