Stunning scenery, fantastic food and an eclectic choice in music styles; the French festival experience is definitely one to put on your travel list. Here’s a top selection for every musical taste.
La Route du Rock - February & August - Saint Malo
An aerial view of Saint Malo
The seaside town of Saint Malo in northern Brittany rocks the world with its seafood platters, medieval ramparts and the Route du Rock, France’s finest indie festival.
The days of French corsairs may be over, but musical pirates are still welcome here. Stay at Loft Pirate 1676, one of the original 17th-century buildings that survived the bombings, now a retro-chic apartment where you can rock in style.
Hellfest - June - Clisson
Hatebreed from Connecticut, USA performing live
Each year, excitement in the world of heavy metal builds like a Game of Thrones episode until the line-up for Hellfest is revealed, and leaves you making a strategic stage-hopping plan well before you get there.
If you’re not quite up for the camping experience, why not stay at the highly rated Homgaia bed & breakfast in Clisson, just a few minutes’ walk from the train station where frequent shuttles can take you to and from the festival grounds.
Festival Interceltique de Lorient - August - Lorient
A Highland band at Festival Interceltique de Lorient
Prepare for a week of festivities, or Fest Noz in Breton, at the world’s biggest Celtic culture festival. The Festival Interceltique gathers 750 000 visitors and 4 500 artists for 10-days of spectacular concerts, free gigs in the streets and bars all over the city, and the Sunday parade with every Celtic nation on glorious display. You’ll be spoilt for choice in food and drink too, with steaming hot crêpes, cider and beer around every corner.
Regain your strength after a big night by hopping on a boat to the stunning Ile de Groix where you can savour the silence of southern Brittany’s wild nature just 100m from the beach at Amour d’Armor bed & breakfast.
Les Vielles Charrues - July - Carhaix
Les Vielles Charrues is France's biggest music festival
Les Vielles Charrues started out in 1992 as a party of about 500 friends of friends. Since then, its attendance has grown to a staggering 200,000 making it France’s biggest music festival.
Today’s acts include superstars such as Gorillaz, Depeche Mode and Massive Attack, while French acts include recent sensation Jain, rappers IAM and Orelsan, and 80’s post-punk revenants Marquis de Sade.
After the flat-out festival rhythm, you may want to retreat to the wild Breton countryside to recover. Carhaix is known for its conservation of Breton culture, which you will be sure to discover staying at Moulin de la Civiere, a B&B in a renovated former flour mill.
Les Francofolies - July - La Rochelle
Les Francofolies’ yearly celebration of francophone music
La Rochelle’s medieval towers and city walls are the impressive backdrop to Les Francofolies’ yearly celebration of francophone music. This year’s line-up covers all bases from rap legends Suprême NTM, MC Solaar and Orelsan to classic singer-songwriters Calogero and Véronique Sanson, without missing youngsters Jain and Bigflo & Oli, and electro-rock favourites Shaka Ponk.
Don’t miss the free concerts all over the city streets and bars, and with sounds ranging from reggae to punk to minimal house. Appartement Les Rochelais is in a sweet spot in the town centre, a short walk from the festivities but just far enough to still get a good night’s sleep.
Worldwide Festival - July - Sète
Go clubbing beneath the clear night sky
Gilles Peterson, renowned BBC Radio DJ with razor-sharp, eclectic taste, holds his Worldwide Festival in beautiful, sunny Sète in the south of France. It’s an electronic music festival with a mellow vibe that lets you slip seamlessly between daytime beach beats and drawn-out French lunches, to late-night outdoor clubbing beneath the clear night sky.
The festival takes place in several locations including the magical Théâtre de la Mer, an 18th-century fort transformed into an open-air theatre overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. La Singulière is an ideal place to stay, with modern, self-catering studios giving you independence, but where you still get served a fantastic breakfast when you most need it.
Festival Lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence - July - Aix-en-Provence
Festival Lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence photographed by Vincent Pontet
From grand opera productions to classical performances for kids, Festival Lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence has been providing a diverse classical programme since 1948. You could go all-out and attend Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos followed by champagne and a banquet at the grand opening this year, or simply a concert or two while enjoying all that summer in Provence has to offer.
Aix-en-Provence itself is a cultural treasure, nestled in the South of France. Paul Cézanne painted there, and with its universities and art schools there is a youthful, intellectual vibe. Have the magic follow you out of the opera by staying at the Villa Gallici Hotel & Spa, a treat truly fit for royalty.