Normandy Herring Festivals take the otherwise rather humble fish and celebrate it in great style. I love herrings and claim to know a little about them (my Finnish relatives are responsible for that). But even I have to admit that nowhere in Finland rivals Normandy in its herring adulation and public festivities. 

Smoked herrings hanging in long rows from sticks
Smoked Herrings © Wolfgang Sauber/CC-BY-SA 3.0

The Poisson Roi

The King Fish (also called the ‘silver of the sea’) is a noble beast, a staple food for our ancestors and a major factor in the prosperity of Yarmouth in the UK, and towns and cities along the Normandy coast. 

I did a little research and was astonished. Do you know about the Hatchet, the Big eyed long fin, the Sanaga pygmy, the fierce sounding Wolf, and dozens of other herring varieties?

They are fascinating, but let’s not bother with those living in seas far away; what we are dealing with here is the abundant, glorious, Atlantic herring which can be eaten raw, pickled, fermented, barbecued and smoked (kippers).  

Still Life of 1647 with glass of red wine, bread, and herring on a plate
Still Life by Pieter Claesz , 1647 LACNA Collection

Herrings have been a staple diet since Roman times and probably way before that. Above all, herrings are very good for you and are in no danger of being overfished.

Normandy Herring Festivals 2023

In fishing towns from Le Tréport, along the Alabaster coast ports of Dieppe, St-Valery-en-Caux, Fécamp and inland Lieurey, herring festivals dominate November’s food festivals. 

Tons of herrings are served up, many cooked on huge open barbecue style fires, and washed down with good wine. There’s entertainment and the locals dress up in traditional costume. It’s a fabulous day (or weekend); even non devotees are converted.

Le Tréport Herring Festival: 11-12 November 2023
The historic fishing port is dominated by the highest chalk cliffs in Europe (106m/348 ft.) These dramatic cliffs are lit up every evening from  June to September and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from October to May, making a dramatic backdrop to the town. Take the funicular railway up to the top, a delightful neighbourhood of old streets and houses, originally inhabited by the Cordiers (line fishermen).

Very high snady coloured cliffs in Le Treport with beach below and beach huts plus some houses along the beach long view
Cliffs of Le Tréport © Philippe Ales/CC BY-SA 4.0

Lieurey Herring Festival: 11 November 2023
Lieurey may be inland but 10,000 visitors come here every year to celebrate a tradition that goes back to the 15th century. Merchants who were delivering herrings to soldiers stopped in Lieurey during a snowstorm and sold their herrings to the villagers instead. And it’s a charming, little known town to visit as well.

Lieurey in Normandy © Stanzilla/CC-BY-SA 4.0

Dieppe Herring and Scallop Festival: 18-19 November 2023
Over 100,000 people descend on this popular port for the best known festival in Normandy, and probably the whole of France, which includes the classier scallop. At any time of the year, stroll through Le Pollet, the former fisherman’s quarter with its old houses and small streets. Dieppe’s Saturday morning market is not to be missed; it was voted (a few years ago but hey ho that hasn’t changed), as France’s best.

Dieppe Herring Fair © Normandy Tourisme/Miles-Love

Saint-Valery-en-Caux Herring Festival: 19 November 2023
The town of St-Valery-en-Caux shelters under the cliffs, making it the perfect safe fishing port and seaside resort. Walk along the promenade that stretches out beside the sea for a healthy dose of ozone.

St-Valery-en-Caux view from marina of yachts in blue water with houses and hill behind
St-Valery-en-Caux © Jean Pol Grandmont/CC BY-SA 4.0

Fécamp Herring Festival: 25-26 November 2023
If you’re here for the festival, don’t miss a visit to Les Pêcheries Musée which takes you back to the glory days of the fishing industry when the fishing boats set out for the Iceland and Newfoundland banks to fish for cod, fishing trips that lasted for months and were sometimes fatal. If it’s cold, make a quick trip to Palais Bénédictine, the main distillery for the famous liqueur.

Fecamp Normandy with harbour and yachts moored on left and quays with houses on right
Fécamp © Jean-Pol Grandmont/CC BY-SA 4.0

While we’re on the subject of herrings…

Dunkirk Carnival: 10 Jan-14 Apr 2024
The Dunkirk Carnival is a totally bonkers event, celebrating 300 years of those departures to the New World for cod. Plan to be there on Shrove Tuesday. Why? Well to make sure you’re there to receive herrings thrown from the Town Hall balcony. Don’t worry; the smoked herrings are wrapped. But do dress up if you can so you fit in perfectly with the locals. It takes place over weekends in January to March each year.

Dunkirk Carnival. Two men almost kissing with faces made up white with colours and crowd behind. Everyone dressed in wierd costumes
Dunkirk Carnival © Ville de Dunquerque

More Information

How to get to Normandy from the UK
Normandy Travel Guide

Events in France in January
Events in France in February 2023
Events in France in March 2023