Saturday, 13 March 2010

Best Languedoc Festivals




Le Poulain, Pezenas

The Languedoc region has some excellent festivals that perfectly sum up the relaxed way of life in the South of France. If you are visiting the Languedoc, then follow our guide to find the best festivals across the South of France, month by month.Please check the dates on the festivals' site.

March

Pezenas: Le Poulain

This 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 (see Le Poulain Festival for more information).

Nimes: Feria de Primavera

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 obligatorytauromachie (bull fighting festival). See the Nimes Feria website for more details


April

Sommiers: Medieval festival

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

Pezenas: Cavalcade

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. For more information, see our articleon Pezenas.

Nimes: Feria de Pentecost

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 (Nimes Feria).

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

Beaucaire

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


magulone
Cathedrale Magulone

The Maguelone music festival situated in the famous cathedral, features medieval and baroque music concerts taking place over a two week period. There is a very good website relating to Cathedral de Maguelone that may give more up to date details on the festival.

Montpellier: Le Printemps des Comediens

Printemps comedies
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

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

Montpellier Danse

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.

Sete


sete
Grand canal, Sete

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.

Montpellier: Festival de Radio-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 theFestival de Radio-France website.

Nimes: Les Jeudis

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).

Narbonne: Bastille Day

A huge four-day outdoor party in the cours Mirabeau. For further information see the Narbonne festival 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

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


meze
Overlooking Meze

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.


Festival d'Avignon

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

Throughout July Carcassonne throws open its doors to dance, music and theatre, with nightly performances in the castle's amphitheatre. See our article on Carcassonne for more information.

St Guilhem


st guilhem
St Guilhem

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

Aigues-Mortes: Les Nuits d'Encens

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 (see our article on Water-Jousting Sete for a full description of this amazing Languedoc sport).

Saint-Gilles: Feria de la Peche et de l'abricot

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 Languedoc. 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

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

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

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

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


aigues
Aigues-Mortes
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.




Beziers: Les Primeurs d'Oc

This is the premier wine festival in Languedoc. It features wine contests and awards, together with music, dance and theatre.


December

Pezenas: Occitan Christmas

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.

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