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The best of the French summer music festivals

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This article is in English. Click here to read it in French.

Every summer, France is overtaken by music festivals that take place all over the country – in the towns and villages, and even some of the country’s most famous historic sites.

Not only are they very important cultural events, but they also attract a large number of tourists, and can generate significant revenue.

The Vieilles Charrues Festival, western France

The Vieilles Charrues Festival is held in Carhaix, Brittany, in mid-July each year, and remains the most popular festival amongst young people. Finistère, the westernmost department of France, has attracted more 250,000 festival-goers every year since 1991.

In this small village, of hardly 8,000 inhabitants, the surrounding fields transform into makeshift campsites to accommodate a crowd from all over Europe, and beyond.

In fact, the headline acts are sometimes so remarkable and exclusive that fans travel thousands of kilometres to get to the Brittany countryside. This year, Elton John, Phoenix, Rammstein and Santana will be taking to the stage.

The musical legends will take turns over the six stages, supported by artists from differing genres; from pure rock to electro, including pop and traditional music.

The beer flows freely and the village is taken over by stalls offering local food and activities for people of all ages.

Rock en Seine in Paris

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Rock en Seine is undoubtedly the second most popular summer festival in France. An event that should not be missed, it occurs in the heart of Paris at the end of August, and is organised around the touring circuit of major American tour operators.

Three big stages are set up on the banks of the Seine at the Domaine National de Saint-Cloud, near Porte d’Orléans, and completely transform the cluttered streets of western Paris.

This year, System of A Down, Phoenix and Franz Ferdinand will be headlining. Including more rock than its counterpart in Brittany, the festival is pumped up by electro groups like The Bloody Beetroots, and indie bands such as Tame Impala from Australia, and Alt-J from the UK.

The Ferris wheel overlooking the festival is a must, providing a breathtaking view over Paris.

Festivals in provincial France

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There are also a dozen other famous festivals in France such as Le Printemps de Bourges and Les Francofolies de La Rochelle, which both celebrate Francophone music. There is also Solidays, which raises awareness and funds for HIV/AIDS; a unique event that always features big French names like David Guetta, Patrick Bruel and Tryo.

Other festivals are held in historic sites across France. The Festival de Nîmes takes place in the famous Nîmes amphitheater dating back to Roman times.

Built at the end of the first century AD in Nîmes – the administrative centre of Gard, Provence – these Roman ruins contribute to shaping the historic identity of the town.

The amphitheater will welcome festival-goers from 29 June to 18 July this year with Depeche Mode, Green Day and Patti Smith as the main acts on the line-up. Previously, some of the biggest names in music have played there such as Brits David Bowie and Muse, and French acts Noir Désir and Daft Punk.

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The season continues for a little longer in Carcassonne, where the entire summer is packed with tourist activities and concerts in the medieval city. These nearly intact remains, from the Gallo-Roman period, feature on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.

From 19 June to 4 August 2013, The Smashing Pumpkins, M, The Blues Brothers, and even Elton John feature on one of the largest and most eclectic line-ups in France. So join thousands of punters to bring these historical and legendary French sites to life this year.

If you liked this, you’ll enjoy our French Music Monday column on music festivals!

Will you be there? 

Translation by Kyla Vaz.
Image credits:
1. Rock en Seine 2012, by Florent Rols
2. Elton John, by ZioWoody via Flickr

3. Festival de Carcassonne, by Jean-Baptiste Bellet via Flickr


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