Provence Alpes Co^te d’Azur… What crosses your mind when this southern French region is mentioned? Is it the vineyards and rolling Leburon hillsides, made famous by A Year in Provence – the ultimate French escape? Is it the snow-capped peaks and breathtaking ranges of the Alps? Or perhaps the sparkling seas and glitzy lifestyle of the Mediterranean?
From sea to summit, this magnificent region is packed with diversity – and it shines through in a fantastic line-up of festivals and yearly events. Whatever you’re into, you won’t have to look far in Provence to find it. Discover black gold in truffle markets, taste local delicacies at the Aubagne fair, go celeb-spotting in Cannes or soak up every version of jazz imaginable at Jazz à Juan near Antibes. We’ve picked out ten of the best, and we hope you like it…
1) Truffle Festivals, Various Locations
December, January and February
Known as black gold and hailed as the ‘diamond of the kitchen’, truffles are a highly prized ingredient – and one that demands an equally high price tag. Provence Alpes Co^te d’Azur is a prime hunting ground and come truffle season, between December and February, the region comes alive with fairs, festivals and markets dedicated solely to the black pearl. Pop along to Carpentras (first Sunday in February), Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux (second Sunday in February) or the Festiv’Halles of Truffles in Avignon (10th – 12th February). If you still haven’t had your fill of all things truffle by then, there are daily markets taking place across the region too.
2) Nice Carnival, Nice
15th February – 6th March 2013
Far from a wallflower, Nice is a big and bubbly place – and its annual carnival certainly reflects its true spirit. One of the biggest in the world, Nice Carnival is a true spectacle. Expect huge floats, a riot of colour, dazzling figurines, theatrical productions, “flower battles”, music, dancing, and a diverse range of entertainment both day and night. 2013’s theme is “King of the Five Continents” so bring your gladrags and get ready for a celebration of truly regal standards.
3) Wine & Gastronomy Fair, Aubagne
March 2013 (date TBA)
Organised by the town council and the Aubagne Garlaban Lions Club, this annual food and wine festival is a great way to sample the delights of the region. Dozens of local suppliers come together to serve up a mouthwatering array of produce, ranging from foie gras and cheeses to olives and speciality wines.
4) Cannes International Film Festival, Cannes
15th – 26th May 2013
Now known simply as Cannes Festival, or Festival de Cannes, this glitzy annual event is a star-studded affair that draws Hollywood A-listers in their droves. Held in Cannes since its inauguration in the 1940s, the festival showcases new films of various genres from around the world, with numerous awards at stake ranging from the prestigious Palme d’Or for Best Film, to the Palm Dog award for best canine performance. It’s an invitation-only festival and you’ll do well to squeeze past the paparazzi to catch a glimpse of big screen royalty, but if nothing else you can enjoy the buzz and bustle that accompanies this annual event. And remember to keep your camera handy should you bump into a Hollywood superstar in the local boulangerie.
5) Festival of Marseille, Marseille
9th June – 6th July 2013
Also known as the Festival of Art and Dance, this is one of the biggest festivals in Marseille – and the city certainly doesn’t do festivals lightly. Expect lashings of contemporary dance, music, theatre productions and stage shows, with performers and artists from all over the world.
6) International Opera Festival, Aix-en-Provence
4th – 24th July 2013
This superb celebration of opera and classical music has been a firm fixture in Aix-en-Provence since 1948. It is one of the largest opera festivals in Europe, paying particular attention to the operas of Mozart. Initially, performances were held outside in the courtyard of the former Archbishop’s palace, but they have since branched out into a number of different sites – including the aptly-named Grand The´a^tre de Provence, the the´a^tre du Jeu de Paume and the Ho^tel Maynier d’Oppe’de.
7) Avignon Festival, Avignon
5th – 26th July 2013
Chief rival to Marseille’s event is the Avignon Festival, arguably the biggest theatrical and live performance event in France. Since its creation in 1947, this annual event now draws hundreds of thousands of visitors, with hundreds of performances taking place across the city. Main performances are held around the Palais des Papes, and still more fringe events are peppered across the city, ranging from local school productions to lively street performances.
8) Jazz à Juan, Juan-les-Pins (Antibes)
12th – 21st July 2013
Said to be the longest running jazz festival in Europe, Jazz à Juan – an annual jazz festival in Juan-les-Pins near Antibes – was first held in 1960. Over the years such jazz greats as Louis Armstrong played here, and today the festival provides a rich and eclectic programme of jazz as well as various other musical genres which have crept in over the years.
9) Photography Festival, Arles
1st July – 22nd September 2013
The Rencontres d’Arles is a summer photography festival that has gained worldwide acclaim since it was created in 1970. Photographers from all over the world and from all walks of life showcase their work in dozens of exhibitions across the city, which take place in various heritage sites ranging from ancient chapels to industrial mill buildings. It’s as much a celebration of photographic art as it is of the city’s architectural and historical greats.
10) Christmas Markets, Various Locations
November, December and January
Where better to pick up some last-minute gifts, sample the local delicacies and get into the festive spirit than in France? There’s a seemingly endless list of Christmas fairs and markets throughout the area. Here’s our pick of the best:
Marseille: 17 Nov – 31 Dec
Aix en Provence: 27 Nov – 6 Jan
Martigues: 1 – 24 Dec
Cassis: 7 – 16 Dec
Toulon: 1 – 31 Dec
Fréjus: 5 – 31 Dec
Avignon: 24 Nov – 1 Jan
Gordes: 5 Dec – 6 Jan
Nice: 1 Dec – 2 Jan
Cannes: 8 Dec – 6 Jan