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Three Must-Attend Festivals in Provence

Apart from unforgettable scenery, villages brimming with charm and a scrumptious cuisine, Provence has an interesting cultural agenda which includes three magnificent summer festivals that any culture devotee should take into consideration. Here are some tips to get the most out of them.

Festival d’Avignon

Apart from its popular Pont Saint-Bénézet (legend and song included), and having once been the Holy See, Avignon is known internationally for hosting one of the most long-standing and important performing arts festivals in Europe. Each July, the Festival d’Avignon, which was founded by Jean Vilar in 1947, fills all spaces in the city with theatre and dance performances, this year featuring a programme of some 40 works by artists from all over the world. As if that were not enough, this outstanding schedule is rivalled by a parallel Festival Off, a programme of fresher, more alternative performing arts shows. The streets, squares, bars and any imaginable free space in the city have been coopted into hosting the more innovative side of theatre and dance.

So, be sure to head for Avignon between 6 and 26 July and, while you’re there, see the stunning Palais des Papes – its sheer size and beauty will leave you open-mouthed. Soak up the different shows that will take you through the streets and mentally convey you far beyond the old “Sur le pont d’Avignon”.

International Photography Festival of Arles

Another major cultural event to bear in mind on your wanderings through beautiful Provence, held in another of its must-visit towns – Arles – adopts the form of an international photography meeting. If you stroll around Arles, which is inspiring in itself – otherwise, why should Van Gogh have been have been so fascinated by its light? – try to make your arrival coincide with Les Rencontres d’Arles (Arles International Photography Gathering). Created in 1970 by the photographer Lucien Clergue, the writer Michel Tournier and the historian Jean-Maurice Rouquette, this festival is a gem for photography enthusiasts who this year, from 3 July to 24 September, will be treated to the work of 250 artists displayed at 25 venues across the city, ranging from emblematic Arlesian landmarks to such unique buildings as the former rail sheds. Sixty scheduled exhibitions, in addition to conferences, workshops, talks and all kinds of activities, will lead visitors into the wonderful world of photography.

Marseille Jazz Festival

Marseille is the site of our third summer festival proposal in Provence. A city which embraces the Mediterranean, with the sightseeing hub of its Old Port (Vieux-Port),contemporary architectural offerings like the MuCEM and the Villa Méditerranée ready to seduce even the more staid visitors, and with such enchanting corners as Le Panier, this is the city chosen to host a jazz festival as its main summer attraction. The Marseille Jazz des Cinq Continents runs for ten days, from 19 to 29 July, and features such long-standing favourites as George Benson, Herbie Hancock, Roberto Fonseca and Guillaume Perret, as well as newcomers to this port city like Norah Jones, Kamasi Washington and representatives of the new generation such as Imany. Jazz arriving from all corners of the globe suited to all tastes.

Book your Vueling to Marseille and succumb to the magic of the leading festivals in Provence.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by jean-louis Zimmermann, Fred Bigio, Les Rencontres d'Arles  (Julio Perestrelo)