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France’s best music festivals

Where to find the best in classical music in 2018

Throughout France, especially over summer months, and in every village, town and commune, you will spot publicity for musical events and festivals. 

These range from large-scale, internationally renowned events, through to local events barely known by anyone other than those who happen to see the tatty fly poster in the local tabac window.

But each has its own charm and appeal. What’s not to like with settling down to some seriously good music in some historic venue (maybe a Roman amphitheatre, a 16th century castle or medieval hall), perhaps in the open air as the sun goes down and the stars come out? 

A little al fresco music and culture goes a long way to adding an extra layer of enjoyment to your holiday. And it certainly is a pleasant way to spend an evening after a day’s gentle walking or cycling.

Here’s our Belle France round up of notable festivals, mostly showcasing classical music but also featuring jazz, dance and other art forms.

Flâneries 2014 | Concerto pour 4 pianos de Bach

Les Flaneries, Reims, June/July 2018

An eclectic festival, featuring jazz and world music as well as classical. Over 50 different concerts are staged around the historic city of Reims, from the St Remi Basilica to the Opera and from the Palace de Tau to the Reims Station forecourt. The atmosphere is always relaxed and good humoured with free tickets to many concerts and a vast open air picnic event to conclude the events.

Belle France recommendation Luxury Sparkling Champagne Walk

Saint-Riquier Festival, July 2018

Against the atmospheric backdrop of the Saint-Riquier abbey this festival attracts top-flight artists and musicians over a run of 10 days. Throughout each day a variety of classical music, jazz, literature and exhibitions takes place. There’s even a culture walk in the Somme Bay, renowned for the stark beauty of its wetlands and sand dunes.

Belle France recommendation Baie de Somme

The Berlioz Festival

The Berlioz Festival, August 2018 

This is a major, prestigious classical music event. Each year, towards the end of summer, La Côte-Saint-André (the birthplace of Hector Berlioz) is descended upon by concert-goers hungry for a dose of sublime music in evocative surroundings. Venues include the grounds of the Louis XI château, the medieval hall and churches in the area.

Colmar International Festival, July 2018

This is a top festival which prides itself on the world class standards and glittering musical stars who perform here. The line-up is always an exceptional showcase of international talent. The festival’s theme changes each year, with a tribute to one of the great composers or musicians.

Belle France recommendation Alsace Prestige en Vélo

Saint-Céré Festival

Saint-Céré Festival, July/August 2018

An innovative festival, often becoming something of a launchpad for aspiring young artists and musicians. At the end of the festival a touring production is assembled which tours France, providing experience and exposure for all the participants. The concerts are held in imaginative locations – in the courtyards and grounds of historic castles, churches and cloisters.

Belle France recommendation Dordogne Prestige a Pied

The Chorégies in Orange, July 2018 

Founded in 1869, this is the oldest festival in France and concerts are staged in the vast and well preserved Théâtre Antique with seating for over 8,500. With the original stone wall behind the stage standing 37 metres high, the acoustics are incredible and has ensured the festival remains one of the top events of its type in Europe. 

Avignon Festival

Avignon Festival, July 2018 

This is perhaps the largest cultural and performance festival in the world. The rich and varied programme attracts many thousands of locals and tourists, drawn by the menu of music, theatre, art and dance on offer. Many venues are open air, with numerous premières and artistic directors so it’s a complex undertaking but always an exciting few weeks. 

Belle France recommendation Provence Prestige à Pied

Monte Carlo Spring Arts Festival, March/April

Ok, so it’s not exactly France, but it is just over the border. This is a classical music festival that lasts for four or five weekends in early spring. The concerts take place in several concert halls in Monaco as less obvious venues like the aquarium. Founded by Prince Rainier and Princess Grace, the festival has become known for a diverse inspiration and artists, from the London Symphony Orchestra to the Cambodian Royal Ballet. 

Belle France recommendation Mountains to Med Walk