The Côte d’Azur (French Riviera) is famous the world over for its glamorous cities, beautiful coast, dramatic landscape, and fabulous climate. So what better place than the Côte d’Azur to enjoy magical outdoor summer music festivals? We have them in abundance from June to August on the Côte d’Azur, covering a variety of genres and musical tastes from world to classical, jazz to electronic and most styles in between. All these music festivals on the Côte d’Azur take place in unique and beautiful locations on balmy Mediterranean nights under palm trees and pine trees, in ancient city squares, on the beach or olive groves. Here are 8 of the best summer music festivals on the Côte d’Azur.
Photo courtesy of Les Nuits Guitares festival in Beaulieu sur Mer
Fête de la Musique, everywhere
21 June one day only
La fête de la musique is not strictly a music festival but it is a day dedicated to live performances of music across the country and sort of kicks off the summer music scene. Created in 1982 by the then Minister of Culture this music fest has only one rule: the music must be free. You’ll find musical performances of all standards and styles in every town across France: kids playing the recorder, string quartets, amateur rock groups, village choirs, brass bands and so on. Big cities put on concerts with big names, all for free. Read more about this national mid-summer music festival here: Music, Music Everywhere
Jazz à Juan, Juan les Pins « Parasol Pines and Sea Views »
10 nights from mid July. Click here for exact dates and programme
It’s hard to beat the sublime setting of Jazz à Juan, in the Pinède under giant pines facing the Mediterranean sea, with the Estérel mountains in the distance across the bay. Its intimate setting sells out fast, with big names going as soon as they’re announced. And there have been many big names…the biggest in jazz from Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis via just about everybody to contemporary stars Norah Jones and Jamie Cullum. The Jazz à Juan music festival was created in 1960 and nowadays has 2-3 acts per night and an “off” programme.
Photo credit: 14 JUILLET 2012 / JAZZ A JUAN REVELATIONS JEAN LOU TREBOUX A LA PINEDE GOULD G. Lafrancq courtesy of Jazz à Juan
Nice Jazz Festival, Place Massena Nice « Under The Palms »
5 nights in mid July. Check here for exact dates and programme
The Nice Jazz Festival began in 1948 with none other than Louis Armstrong and his Allstars headlining. Since then it’s become an annual event and one of the most prestigious jazz festivals in Europe. Nowadays it isn’t strictly about jazz but offers a more varied programme including such genres as world music, French rap, dance-pop, techno and funk-soul. It takes place in the Jardin Albert 1er off Place Massena in the centre of Nice, with 2 stages under the beautiful palm trees. There are usually 3 acts on each stage per night and an “off” programme throughout the 5 nights. Top tip: it’s rare that you can’t just walk up and buy a ticket on the night, but if it is full, you can sit in Place Massena and hear the music perfectly (you just can’t see the acts!)
Les Nuits Musicales du Suquet, Cannes « Medieval Charm »
3 nights at the end of July. Check here for exact dates and programme
The Musical Nights of the Suquet festival takes place in the square in front of the church of Notre-Dame d’Espérance in the medieval centre of Cannes, “le Suquet”. This classical music festival offers a programme of mainly chamber music over a period of 4 nights, featuring young talented French artists and international names as well.
Photo credit courtesy of Les Nuits Musicales du Suquet
Nuits du Sud, Vence « World Music »
2 weeks mid July to early August. Click here for exact dates and programme
The Southern Nights music festival takes place in the main square of the town of Vence, la Place du Grand Jardin. Its charm (of which there is plenty) is that the restaurants and bars around the square are open for business so you can reserve a table (well in advance) at one and watch the show from there. Of course you can also stand with the crowd and push to the front of the stage if you prefer! It’s completely relaxed and not so crowded that you can’t wander around the different bars and cafés. This is a very family-friendly festival, making it an easy way to introduce kids to live music. The programme is an eclectic mix of world music featuring 2 or 3 acts per night, several times a week over a period of 2 weeks. Over the years I’ve seen such varied artists as Toots and the Maytals, Suzanne Vega, Youssou N’Dour, Earth, Wind & Fire and Gilberto Gil. *** UPDATE 2023 This year due to the ongoing economic crisis the festival is reduced to one weekend of free music. 28 & 29 July 2023. Let’s hope it’s back in full in 2024.
Les Nuits Guitares, Beaulieu sur Mer « Among The Olive Trees »
3 nights in late July. Click here for exact dates and programme
In the bucolic setting of an ancient olive grove the “guitar nights” festival offers 3 nights of concerts with 2 acts per night. Over-looked by a flood-lit fortress high on the hill behind and hundred year old olive trees strung with fairy lights this family-friendly festival is gorgeously picturesque. There are food trucks and enough space to lay out a rug for a picnic in this enchanted garden. The initial idea for this festival which began in 2000 was to create an association between the town of Beaulieu sur Mer and the guitar. Nowadays the programme is fairly eclectic along a pop/funk/soul theme.
Festival du Musique, Menton « Baroque Magnificence »
3 weeks from late July to mid August. Check here for exact dates and programme
The Festival du Musique is one of the oldest and most prestigious classical music festivals in Europe attracting some big names and the very best musicians. It was established in 1950 and has been running annually ever since. Its setting in front of the imposing baroque basilica Saint-Michel Archange, under the stars, with views stretching out over the Mediterranean is hard to beat. The varied programme offers more than 3 weeks of nightly concerts as well as an “off” series.
Photo credit courtesy of Festival du Musique Menton
Les Plages Électroniques, Cannes « On The Beach »
3 days in August. Check here for exact dates and programme
Les Plages Électroniques gathers some of the biggest names in electronic and urban music from across the globe for an enormous beach party in Cannes. It’s 3 days of partying from 2 pm till 5 am, 4 stages and more than 50 artists. Megastars, up-and-coming acts and new discoveries make up the festive, cosmopolitan programme. For fans of electronic music, the beach setting between the renowned Palais des Festivals and the seashore in glamorous Cannes makes this festival unbeatable!
Do you enjoy going to music festivals? Have you been to any of these festivals on the Côte d’Azur?
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Photo credit Alain Morana for Best of Nice Blog