September is a lovely month to visit France. The days are warm and the sea beckons; the trees begin to change colour; the crowds have largely gone, and the country starts the first celebrations of the grape harvests. Here are some great events in September in France.
Mid-September onwards: Wine harvest festivals across France. Check the local tourist offices for celebrations where you are as the wine harvests are always one of the major events in September in France.
To September 6, 2020: Normandy Impressionist Festival returns with a new theme – Everyday Colour (La couleur au jour le jour). 20 Impressionist exhibitions, 30 contemporary art exhibitions, performing arts, street theatre, and multiple events take over the glorious Normandy region down the coastline and inland.
To Sept 20, 2020: Rencontres d’Arles is a huge international photo expo, now 50 years old. Most of the events take place in the opening week, but the exhibits remain on view to the end of the show.
To Sept 30, 2020: La Gacilly is the largest open-air photographic festival in France. Created in 2004 by Yves Rocher in southern Brittany, it combines art and photojournalism. Large format photographs fill the parks, squares and streets with images.
To Oct 10, 2020: Chartres en lumières sees this wonderful city in the Loire Valley illuminated for its annual festival of light. It’s nightly so there’s no excuse to miss it.
To Nov 3, 2020: The International Garden Festival at the beautiful Chaumont-sur-Loire château in the Loire Valley is like the Chelsea Flower Show of France, except that it goes on for just over 7 months. It’s a series of gardens from international designers and always delivers surprises.
To Nov 15: Le Voyage à Nantes takes you around this gorgeous west France city via works of art, some odd, others more conventional but always interesting. They’re places on the streets, in the squares and in places you don’t expect. 30 works starts at the former LU factory and take you on a tour of the city.
September 4-13, 2020: The American Film Festival at Deauville is a well established event. It shows over 60 films in 3 different locations in the seaside resort.
September 5-6, 2020: The famous Lille Braderie takes over the city for a non-stop antiques and bric-a-brac fair. It starts at 2pm on Saturday and finishes at 11pm on Sunday. Wander among the streets of 10,000 exhibitors, both amateur and professional. To keep up your stamina, eat endless portions of mussels and chips, then pile up the shells outside the restaurant. It’s a competition for the largest pile, kept going by the 3 million or so visitors.
Sept 5, 2020: Saint-Viâtre pyrotechnic and music show starts at 5pm in Nouan-le-Fuzilier, in the Sologne south of Orleans. There’s also a whole side show of musical entertainment and craft exhibitions, a bar and food stands. You sit on seats on the grass and wait for the first part of this spectacular show. At 8.45pm, there’s a projection onto an enormous façade. At 9.30pm the big fireworks start, synchronized to music. This might be a bit off the beaten track but it’s one of the events in September in France to try to see. You must buy tickets in advance from the website.
Sept 12, 13, 2020: The Feria du Riz (Rice Festival) in Arles sees bullfighting as the main event. But if you’re not into that, there’s also a horse festival and Camargue Gourmande for food fans.
Sept 9–Dec 31, 2020: (Dates to be confirmed). The Paris Autumn Arts Festival covers everything, pitching Paris as a cultural capital. From dance to films, theatre to music; it’s all here for the tasting at locations from the Pompidou Centre to the Ménagerie de Verre.
September 19–20, 2020: European Heritage days (Journées du patrimoine) when monuments and historic site throughout France put on a special show. You can get inside buildings not normally open like the Élysée Palace and private villas and castles. It’s not just about seeing the places; there are guided tours, skills demonstrations, theatre and music.
Sep 29-Oct 4, 2020: The distinctly nautical town of La Rochelle hosts The Great Bulwark, an impressive and important international nautical fair at Minimes Harbour. Check out more than 800 exhibitors, look at the boats, try one out and buy it!