• Provence Paradise

18 Hidden Autumn and Winter Festivals in Provence France

Updated: Dec 15, 2018

One of the glorious truths about Provence, is that the locals will celebrate the seasons all year long. The climate is warm, the food is fresh, and there are always exciting new things to see and places to explore, no matter what time of year it is.

Here’s a guide to 18 of the best annual festivals in Provence that shouldn’t be missed!

Autumn Festivals:

Summer in Provence is swell, but the true nature and all the splendors of Provence can only be experienced in Fall. With milder, more bearable temperatures, harvest festivals boasting the best food and wine in Europe, price drops, and fewer crowds, you can enjoy the peaceful countryside of Southern France as it was meant to be.

Find more ideas on planning your stay in Provence, HERE.

Flâneries au Miroir

For one weekend each year in September crowds of masked and costumed visitors from all over Europe converge on Martigues for the Flâneries au Miroir, which recreate the spirit of the Venetian carnival.

The Flâneries au Miroir features musicians as well as the costumed guests who can be admired and photographed elegantly posing in the area all around the canal.

Septembre en Mer (September by the Sea)

The entire month of September offers over 200 marine themed events along the coast of Provence. The celebration encompasses everything from seafood feasts and scuba diving lessons to shipyard visits and excursions to the Riou or Frioul Islands in RIBs (rigid inflatable boats) or traditional pointus (fishing boats). The majority of these activities are available during this event only and is a fantastic way to introduce yourself to the rich culture and bounties the Mediterranean has to offer.

Fête de la Gastronomie

This event, the Festival of French Gastronomy, was added to UNESCO's list of "intangible cultural heritage" treasures across the world back in 2010 and is your chance to eat your way through the flavors and culture of Provence. Every town, city, and village has it’s own events, including tastings, cooking workshops, and outdoor banquets.

During this time, another related event is held, Tous au Restaurant, or restaurant tours, in which some of the finest eateries, including Michelin-Star restaurants, offer exclusive discounts and marked down specialties.

Individual festivals celebrating a specific food or crop can be found throughout the region as well, and often include all you can eat tastings, dancing, and music. Celebrated foods include mushrooms and truffles, chestnuts, saffron, grapes, and olives.

Wine Festivals

This is a big deal in Provence, as vineyards are transformed into a fabulous sight of bronze, golds, and reds. Each region hopes for it to become a vintage year, and the festivities are endless!

Harvesting in each region, Cassis, Avignon, Aix en Provence, and the like, often take place around September and October, but the parties continue well into November. You’ll find outrageously marked down wine, participate in harvests, be supplied with endless tastings and pairings, wine fairs, and as the harvest ends, locals and visitors alike are treated to gorgeous banquets in the vineyards and town squares.

The wine harvest is something anyone interested in Provence should experience at least once in their lives.

Heritage Days

You’ll also want to catch the Journées du Patrimoine, or Heritage Days, a once-a-year chance to take part in all sorts of cultural events, many of them unusual - and many of them free.

They are held over one weekend, not just in Provence but all across France and indeed all across Europe. In English-speaking countries they're variously known as European Heritage Days, Doors Open Days or Open Doors Days.

During the Heritage Days, entrance to many museums and galleries is free of charge or at a reduced rate and a number also lay on special extra activities such as tours, concerts, workshops and readings.

The Journées du Patrimoine are not just about museums, though: many towns offer a range of free guided walks and access to all sorts of oddball secret places, exclusively available during this event.

In previous years, visitors were allowed to tour the Mayor's office in Marseille, explored the Hôpital Caroline on the Frioul Islands, taken an historical tour of the Blue Coast train line and had a sneak peek inside the villa in La Ciotat, where the pioneering Lumière Brothers showed their first short films. It's now a private residence.

On another occasion visitors were able to tour the Citernes des Moulins in Marseille's Old Town or Panier: spectacular and enormous, 19th century underground water cisterns. Most of these amazing sites are normally closed to the public.

The exact program varies and there's a different overall focus each year (in 2016 it's "Patrimony and Citizenship"), but you'll find plenty of events and activities not directly linked to the main theme.

You don't have to be in one of the major towns or cities: even quite small villages often have some kind of program.

To get the most out of Heritage Days and the harvest festivals, plan a trip to Saint Remy de Provence.

In many years the SNCF, France's national rail operator, also offers cheap day and weekend tickets during the Journées du Patrimoine, enabling you to explore the region by train at very low cost.

Winter Festivals:

Winter in Provence is a special treat. Winter tourism in Provence began at the end of the 18th century and picked up speed with the arrival of the railway in the mid-19th century. Queen Victoria, Rudyard Kipling, Oscar Wilde and Robert Louis Stevenson were among the aristocrats and notables who over-wintered there because of its gentle and mild climate.

In areas such as St. Remy and Marseille, temperatures can even go up to 12 degrees Celsius / 53 degrees Fahrenheit. Not exactly swimming weather but pleasant enough to have lunch outdoors if you can find a sunny spot. It rarely snows in Southern Provence, though it's more likely further north in the Luberon and Haute Provence.

Of course, the people of Provence have found numerous ways to keep up the festivities even in winter, many of which center around food and wine, and Christmas, known locally as La Calendale, which takes up most of the winter, starting with the Fête de la Sainte Barbe on December 4th and continuing until Candlemas on February 2nd!

With its many festivities and ancient, mysterious and mystical Christmas traditions, Provence in midwinter reveals a hidden and magical side.

Many towns do shut down in the winter, but others like Saint Remy are open year round and are active participants in the annual festivities. You can find some of the best accommodations HERE.

Ban des Truffes

The season starts officially in mid-November with the Ban des Truffes in Richerenches, a solemn and ceremonial Truffle Proclamation, followed by the first truffle market of the season. If you come in mid to late winter you’ll find Provence's black diamonds at their best.

Various towns and villages all across Provence hold regular weekly truffle markets throughout the winter until the season ends in mid-March. Some tourist offices and private individuals organize truffle hunts too.

In Ménerbes, La Maison de la Truffe et du Vin serves truffle-infused lunches; the village's big truffle fair takes place on the last Sunday of December. And Richerenches has another big truffle-themed day on the third Sunday in January.

Olive Festivals

Also happening around this time of year are the region's olive harvest and olive oil festivals and fairs, with tastings, music, wine, cookery demonstrations, local food (often an aïoli) and general revelry.

Fête du Millésime (wine festival)

Many of Provence's wine festivals are held in autumn to mark either the grape harvest in early September or the first of the new year's vintage in November. But Bandol keeps the party going just a little bit longer with the last major wine festival of the year, the Fête du Millésime, on the first weekend of December. Expect plenty of tastings and street entertainment around a theme that changes yearly.

Fête de la Sainte Barbe (Feast of Saint Barbara)

Exactly as it sounds, this feast kicks off the holiday season in Provence, although there’s more to it than just eating. Wheat or lentil seeds are planted on damp cotton wool in three small saucers, representing the Holy Trinity.

Packets of these seeds are on sale in bakeries, pharmacies and certain banks in aid of the Marseille-based charity Le Blé de l'Espérance (The Wheat of Hope) which aids handicapped and hospitalised children.

Locals rally round to support this excellent cause and, in the run-up to Christmas, little pots of the wheat of Saint Barbara, or le blé de la Sainte Barbe, will be sprouting on shop counters and sunny window sills all over Provence.


On December 24th Christmas ushers in its own gourmet treats known as Réveillon. For a traditional meal, watch out for the Gros Souper (Great upper) and Treize Desserts (13 Desserts). If you're really lucky, you might be invited to one of these rituals by a local family but many villages hold such events which are open to the public.