Checking out local food festivals in France is a wonderful way to get to know a region. And there are plenty of them. Here are a few of the large, small and quirky food festivals in France. You’ll come across many more. So please do let me know and I can add your favorites.
At the moment, in March 2020, many of these are in doubt. But France being France, they will do them in 2021 if they have to postpone. And they will follow the same format, tried and tested in many cases over decades.
I hope you enjoy reading about these food festivals in France and that they’ll give you inspiration to visit as soon as it becomes possible.
The Intriguing story of Food in France through the ages.
January Food Festivals
Fête de la Truffe (Truffle Festival) Sarlat-la-Canéda, Périgord. Mid January
The ‘black diamond’ is celebrated in many places but this festival in mid January is well known throughout France. It’s held in the historic, picturesque town of Sarlat-la-Canéda in the heart of the Dordogne. The market takes pride of place, with local producers selling bread, cheese, meat, charcuterie, jams and preserves.
There are truffle identification workshops and truffle-hunting demonstrations for the uninitiated, plus demonstrations and cooking classes from local chefs.
Book at one of the restaurants for croustous, tapas-style snacks of truffle and foie-gras.
Make sure you see the prestigious Jean Rougié Award for truffle-cooking where young chefs from all over France pit their skills.
Fête de la Truffe
February Food Festivals
Le Salon des Vignerons et des Terroirs (Wine Growers and Terroir Show), Calais, Pas de Calais. End of Jan-beginning of Feb
Plenty of small vineyards from all over France set up stalls offering excellent wines and gastronomic treats from snails to cheese. It’s in the forum Gambetta.
Le Salon des Vignerons et des Terroirs
March Food Festivals
Sarlat Fest’Oie (Foie Gras Festival), Sarlat-la-Canéda, Périgord. First weekend of March
This rich area is famous for foie gras, celebrated in pretty Sarlat on Place de la Liberté on the first weekend in March. Lovers of foie gras can book for the banquet to taste the likes of grillon paté, stew or duck pot-au-feu. Or sample the Périgord Carcass soup made from goose at one of the stalls. There’s a large market to buy products and flocks of geese are ceremoniously, if noisily, guided around the city.
April Food Festivals
Fête de la Coquille Saint-Jacques (Scallop Festival) Paimpol, Côtes-d’Armor, Brittany. Late April
Scallop fishing is one of Brittany’s great industries. The scallop fishing season in St-Brieuc bay opens in October and ends in April. Even then, fishing is only allowed for 45 minutes twice a week. It protects the species but makes scallops an expensive delicacy. Remember as you taste the delicious shellfish that this is your last chance for the year.
At the festival, you can board a fishing boat and go out to sea to watch how they catch the scallops. You can also take learn-to-dive sessions. On land follow the ‘Knights of the Scallop’ parade then enjoy plenty of street music and entertainment.
The three fishing ports of Erquy, Saint-Quay-Portrieux and Paimpol take it in turns to host the festival.
Both Brittany and Normandy take pride in their fishing heritage with an abundance of food festivals in France devoted to the sea.
Fête de la Coquille Saint-Jacques
Fête de la Crabe (Crab Festival), Audresselles, Côte d’Opale, Pas de Calais, Mid April
For ten days each April the small fishing village of Audresselles honours the crab. Crabs and shellfish have provided the living for decades before fishing became industrial and the fishing industry slowed down. But still the fishermen bring back crabs in small fishing boats. The festival has meals, live music which includes old sea shanties, dancing, and excellent freshly cooked crabs served with warm freshly baked bread.
Fête de la Crabe
More Events in April in France
May Food Festivals
Fête de la Fraise (Strawberry Festival), Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, Limousin, 2nd Sunday in May
May is the month for sweet, succulent strawberries. 60% of France’s strawberries are grown in the pretty small town of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne. The festival has stalls groaning with the glorious fruit, as well as sweets and cakes made from strawberries. In good French food tradition, a giant 8-metre wide tart filled with 800 kgms of fresh berries holds pride of place, cooked by the bakers and pâtissiers in the town.
Strawberry production became serious here in the 19th century after the vineyards were attacked by pheloxora.
As a piece of fun but fairly useless information, there are 500 varieties of strawberries; each of the around 200 tiny yellow seeds in each individual strawberry is technically an individual fruit in itself.
Fête de la Fraise
Taste of Paris, Grand Palais, Paris. Mid May
Since 2015 the Grand-Palais has hosted the ‘Taste of Paris’ festival. It’s the place for taster-sized signature dishes from the great chefs of France at pop-up restaurants, tasting sessions and free cooking classes.
Taste of Paris
More Events in May in France
June Food Festivals
Vitiloire, Tours, Loire Valley. Early June
This free event was started to promote Loire Valley wines. It’s a producers’ and crafts’ village with cookery demonstrations, a market, wine bars, bookshop, walks or cycle rides through the vineyards and dinner parties with dancing. And of course wine producers – over 150 of them.
August Food Festivals
Fête de l’ail rose (Pink Garlic Festival), Lautrec, Tarn – Early August
Founded in 1970, the Lautrec festival promotes the wonderful, protected pink garlic bulbs. There’s a market, soup tastings, contests for garlic peeling and plaiting plus a huge feast. And being France, the festival includes music and story-telling.
Lautrec Pink Garlic Festival
Fête de la Carotte (Carrot Festival), Créances, Manche, Normandy. Early August
A festival of the normally un-feted vegetable, the AOC labelled local carrot, takes place in Créances in Normandy. This is the region that grows the prestigious ‘red label’ variety. There’s a lot of food, music, fireworks and brocante sales.
Fête de la Carotte
Fête du Reblochon et de l’Artisanat (Festival of Reblochon and Crafts), La Clusaz, Haute-Savoie. Mid-August
For a true taste of tartiflette, the dish from Savoy made with potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardons and onions, go for this festival. There are cheese-making demonstrations, street parades and folk dancing. And of course, tastings and a giant tartiflette.
Fête du Reblochon et de l’Artisanat
Fêtes de la Mirabelle, Metz, Moselle – Mid-August
Try those gorgeous mirabelle plums at this festival. The large market gives you plenty of choice from different growers. There are fireworks, parades and concerts and the crowning of the year’s Mirabelle queen.
Fêtes de la Mirabelle
Le Pruneau Show d’Agen (Prune show of Agen), Lot et Garonne. End of August
The pretty town celebrates its status as the capital of prunes with an annual event. Taste the first prunes of the season, buy them at the market and enjoy the festivities. Agen makes it an excuse for excellent concerts and show.
Le Pruneau Show d’Agen
More Events in August in France
September Food Festivals
Fête de la Gastronomie (Gastronomy Festival), France. September
Launched in 2011 by the French government and overseen by Alain Ducasse, the gastronomy festival is celebrated throughout France, and also internationally. Restaurants serve a special French meal and there are local events. This year, Centre-Val de Loire is designated as the honoured area. It’s appropriate; it was in Tours in the region that the European Institute of the History and Culture of Food began pushing for the Gastronomy of France to be included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list.
Fête de la Gastronomie
Fête des coquillages (Scallop Festival), Granville, Normandy. September 26-27
Granville is France’s major shellfish fishing port and it really celebrates its importance on this weekend. Naturally there’s a great market to buy every kind of shellfish, but there’s an educational (and fun) side to the festival as well. There are films, exhibitions, demonstrations and workshops devoted to understanding more about the scallop. Great fun.
Fête des coquillages
Tous au Restaurant, Throughout France. Two weeks at the end of September and beginning of October
Started by Alain Ducasse, it’s a festival to show how diverse and deep the restaurant scene is in France and Belgium. Look out for special menus on a one-plus-one paying basis. It’s the chance to sample some of those high-end places less expensively. But look out for the menus at smaller bistros as well.
Tous au Restaurant
More Events in September in France
October Food Festivals
Lyon Street Food Festival, Lyon, Auvergne-Rhône Alpes. Early October
Lyon regards itself as the most important city in France for food…way better than that place…what’s it called? Ah yes, Paris. When you go there you see why. Its restaurants, particularly the famous bouchons are a revelation. So it’s appropriate for them to hold this festival. Filling the former Fabor Brandt factories in the Gerland it’s full of Michelin-starred chefs and small bouchons serving haute cuisine cooking and bistro-style dishes. Over 100 chefs hold cooking demonstrations; workshops let you try your hand. It goes on til midnight each day and there are evening concerts to keep you entertained.
Lyon Street Food Festival
Foire de la Châtaigne (Chestnut Festival), Mourju, Cantal, Auvergne. 3rd weekend of October
This chestnut fair is one of the best, held in the little village of Mourjou in the Auvergne since 1990. There’s a huge market with stalls selling different foods made with chestnut. You’d be surprised at how versatile the chestnut is, appearing in food from bread to chocolate, as chestnut liquor (of course, this is France), and in jam. During the festival around 4,500 pounds of chestnuts are roasted, washed down with cider. This is the event to stock up with raw chestnuts. It’s one of the smaller food festivals in France, but well worth the detour.
Foire de la Châtaigne
La Fête du Ventre et de la Gastronomie (Festival of the Stomach and Gastronomy), Rouen, Normandy.
The well-named Festival of the Stomach is understandably in Rouen in Normandy, a region well known for its superb food. Rouen fills up with market stalls selling local produce, from oysters to honey, apples (of course) to andouillette. It’s remarkably colourful, with stall holders dressed in traditional Normandy clothes; women wear veiled hats.
La Fête du Ventre et de la Gastronomie
Foire aux Pommes (Apple Festival), Azay-le-Rideau, Indre-et-Loire, Loire Valley. Late October
Azay-le-Rideau is a lovely little town with a château that is one of the great treasures of the Loire Valley. Combine a visit there with their Apple Fair, one of the smaller but delightfu food festivals in France. Who could have known there were so many apple varieties in France? The fair has stalls selling all those varieties, cider-making demonstrations, music and of course a grand feast.
La Foire aux Pommes
Fête du Piment d’Espelette (Espelette Chili Festival), Espelette, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Late October
This Basque village in south west France is the home of spicy dried red peppers. There’s even a brotherhood, the Confrérie du Piment who of course take pride of place in the pepper procession. Chilli peppers first appeared in 1650 when a Basque navigator in Christopher Columbus’ ship brought them back. Harvested in August, the peppers are then hung inside and outside the houses to dry. You get a real flavour of Basque country here with music, dancing, peppers galore and games of pelota.
Fête du Piment d’Espelette
La Fête des Vins (Wine Festival), Chablis, Burgundy. October 24, 25
There are so many wine, as well as food festivals at this time of year that I haven’t tried to cover them. I am including this one as most people know Chablis and it’s in Burgundy, well known for its wines. Apologies to the other regions and festivals! Around 40 producers from Chablis and the Grand Auxerrois region set out their posh wares, offering tastings from different appellations and vintages. There are stands run by local food producers, organised walks in the vineyards and more events. It has one special ceremony: the baptizing of the new vintage by a godmother and godfather.
La Fête des Vins
La Fête des coquilles Saint-Jacques et les fruits de mer (Scallop and Seafish Festival), Villers-sur-Mer, Normandy. Oct 24-25
Another fishing village celebrates scallops and seafood in typical Normandy generous fashion. Two days of a great market, demonstrations, local specialties, a themed craft village, parades in the streets and of course, lots of entertainment.
La Fête des coquilles Saint-Jacques et les fruits de mer
Paris Chocolate Fair, Porte de Versailles, Paris. Oct 30-Nov 3
Food festivals in France don’t get much more self-indulgent that this one in Paris where 700 of those masters of fine chocolate, pâtissiers and professionals show off their best. It’s extraordinary to see what can be done with chocolate (watch the fashion show to be amazed). Tasting sessions are popular, naturally; there are cooking demonstrations, children’s workshops and of course chocolates to taste and buy.
Paris Chocolate Fair
More Events in October in France
November Food Festivals
Le Goût du Large (Taste of the Sea), Port-en-Bessin-Huppain, Normandy. Nov 7, 8
Food festival fans love this one; it’s a great seafood festival with the professional fish market open to the general public. There are special scallop and seafood recipes devised by the fishermen’s wives to try, guides explaining how scallops are fished, and fascinating demonstrations of how fishing net menders go about their skilled task. Another delight is the festival of European maritime songs and old sailing boats in the harbour.
An interesting aside about Port-en-Bessin-Huppain. It was the actual linkup point between the American and British forces on June 7, 1944.
Le Goût du Large
Millévin, Avignon, Provence. Nov 19
Avignon hosts the celebration of the new vintage of Côtes-du-Rhône valley wines. Good food like aligot, oysters and cheeses accompanies excellent wine from around 30 winemakers. And this being a serious business, there’s a parade of Brotherhoods through the centre of this magnificent city.
Foire Internationale et gastronomique de Dijon (International Gastronomic Fair), Dijon, Burgundy. End Oct to Nov (2 weeks)
This is a thoroughly serious event and the one to go to if you’re anything of a gourmet. Great stalls, demonstrations, tastings, workshops and a restaurant.
Foire Internationale et gastronomique de Dijon
More Events in November in France
December Food Festivals
Les Habits de Lumière (Clothes of Light), Épernay, Champagne. Dec 13-15
This pre-Christmas, thoroughly enjoyable celebration of Champagne in the second of the region’s great bubbly centres (after Reims) takes over the city. Lights twinkle and glow in the streets and Champagne houses, there’s a parade, fireworks, music and dancing, cellar tours, cookery demonstrations and lots of bubbly tasting. Don’t miss the vintage car parade on Sunday.
If you’re in Reims, consider a visit to one of the great Champagne houses in Reims.
Les Habits de Lumière
Fiera di a Castagna (Chestnut Fair), Bocognano, Corsica. Mid-December
The Chestnut Fair in Corsica includes all the local specialties grown and produced in Corsica. Taste and buy cheeses, olive oil, honey, wine and more. In fact all the goodies grown and produced in Corsica. There’s music, crafts and more. And of course, there are those chestnuts.
Fiera di a Castagna
And then there’s Christmas! No food festivals, but a cornucopia of ingredients in the big supermarkets to assemble that Christmas Eve feast.