• France's news in English
What's on in France: Ten things to do in February
Photo: Blondepatrice/Flickr

What's on in France: Ten things to do in February

The Local · 19 Feb 2016, 10:45

Published: 19 Feb 2016 10:46 GMT+01:00
Updated: 19 Feb 2016 10:45 GMT+01:00

Paris face cachée, Paris, February 5th-7th

Photo: Flickr/David McKelvey

Here you can get a glimpse of Paris's hidden side when the city opens up 90 sites that are normally inaccessible to the public. One of the most intriguing places to visit, if you don’t mind climbing some stairs, is the clocktower at the Gare de Lyon train station.

Just a few steps from the Seine in the 12th arrondissement, the station can boast of welcoming the first European high-speed train in 1981. The clocktower was built in 1900 and was, at the time, the second largest in the world after Big Ben in London.

It’s currently the home of some SNCF offices, so be sure to take advantage of this public opening while you can. At the top, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of the Arc de Triomphe and the Notre Dame cathedral.

Trois étoiles Michelin, un autre regard Exhibition, Grand Palais, Paris, February 11th-14th

Photo: AFP

February 1st marked the release the 2016 edition of the famed Michelin guide, showcasing the best gastronomic experiences in France and around the world. If you’re interested in the talent behind the world’s top restaurants, you’ll want to check out a photography exhibition at Paris’ Grand Palais in the middle of the month.

“Through this exhibition, Michelin celebrates the influence of French gastronomy,” says the guide. It also mentions that “only about a hundred restaurants in the world today can boast of having three stars.”

France has 26 of them.

Carnaval, Albi, February 28th-March 6th

Photo: Flickr/Nebunel1

The southern city of Nice might have the most famous French Carnival celebration, but there’s a strong case for heading slightly northwest for this festival.

Albi, a medieval city on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, hosts one of the oldest carnivals in France. This Venetian-style festive celebration is a bit more laid-back than in Nice, so you’re sure to enjoy it without being suffocated by tourists.

It’s a time for eating, drinking, dancing, lavish parades, and general merriment. Albi’s carnaval is known for its parade floats, handmade out of cardboard by volunteers in the months leading up to the festival. 

Nut Festival, Sarlat, February 13th

Photo: Flickr/Patrick Nouhailler

The Périgord region takes its nuts very seriously. They’ve been given the AOP label, or “controlled designation of origin”, which specifies the region in which a product must be made.

Happily, this festival is geared not only toward professionals of the nut industry, but also to the ordinary public, with activities for children as well as for adults. You can taste samples and learn about all kinds of different nut products made in the region. There’s even a nut oil contest. Sarlat’s historic center has been nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site, so it’s best to visit now before it’s overrun with tourists.

Short Film Festival, Clermont-Ferrand, February 5th-13th

Photo: AFP

Move over, Cannes. This event is the largest film festival in the country in terms of attendance, bringing over 150,000 filmmakers and short-film buffs from around the world to central France. Films fall into one of three categories: National, International, and Labo, the section for experimental and avant-garde films.

The festival has jump-started the careers of many film directors such as Cédric Klapisch, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and Erick Zonca. For its 38th edition, the spotlight is on Swedish cinema and the retrospective Star System for space and science-fiction lovers. Most films can be seen with French or English subtitles. 

Festival Sons d’Hiver, Val-de-Marne, January 29th-February 21st

Photo: Flickr/Service photo du département Val de Marne

If there’s ever a reason to venture out into the suburbs, this is it. The Winter Sounds Festival is a huge contemporary jazz and world music festival that takes place southeast of Paris. The wide variety of musical groups includes artists such as Mulatu Astatke, Yasiin Bey, Tony Allen, the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Dee Alexander Trio, and Illtet.

As a bonus, certain discounts are available for students and seniors. Click here for more info about the lineup and how to buy tickets.

Valentine’s Day, Anywhere in France, February 14th

Photo: Flickr/Roberto Trombetta

Celebrating Valentine’s Day in the City of Love is a tired cliché. Any couple can go to an overpriced restaurant and declare their love for each other in front of the Eiffel Tower. But did you know that France used to have a Valentine’s Day tradition called a “loterie d’amour” or a “drawing for love”?

For this event, singles would line up opposite each other and call out to each other flirtatiously until they eventually paired off. The women who were left single at the end would build a bonfire and chuck in photos of the men who rejected them while hurling insults and curses. So if you find yourself single this Valentine’s Day, get some girlfriends together and celebrate the traditional way.

Transjurassien Cross-Country Ski Race, French Jura mountains, 13th-14th February

Photo: AFP

If regular skiing is a bit too tame for your tastes, why not try a ski marathon? The Transjurassien is a 76 kilometer race in the Jura mountain range in eastern France, just north of the Alps. It’s part of the Worldloppet Ski Federation, a Swedish association of long distance cross-country skiing events around Europe.

The first day of the event focuses on classic-style race while the second day shifts to free-style. The course connects the towns of Lamoura and Mouthe, the latter of which holds the record for the coldest temperature ever recorded in France. (It’s nicknamed “Little Siberia”.) So remember to dress warmly. Although if you take part in the ski race, you’ll probably be toasty warm. Anyone over 16 and able to provide a medical certificate confirming good health can participate.

Fireworks Festival, Paris, February 23rd-29th

Photo: Flickr/blondepatrice

This is another great music festival not to miss. This one takes place in several well-known alternative music venues around Paris such as the Point Ephemere, the Trianon, the Trabendo, and Badaboum. The multi-genre music fest features headliners such as Empress Of, L.A. Priest, Saint Sister, and Oh Wonder. Check out the event’s Facebook page for lineup updates and to buy tickets. 

Violet Festival, Tourrettes-sur-Loup, February 27th-28th

Photo: Flickr/tmorkemo

Once a year on this hilltop village in southeastern France, when everything starts to bloom and the scent of springtime fills the air, the inhabitants get together to celebrate their agricultural heritage: the violet flower. Violet production was once the town’s main agricultural activity, so every year they proudly celebrate the end of the violet season and the beginning of spring.

The festival consists of shops and homes putting up lavish floral decorations, musical performances and dances, and the display and sale of local products such as olive oil, honey, jams, cured hams, and of course, violets. The day culminates with the Flower Battle, a musical parade through the village.

By Katie Warren

Today's headlines
'War crimes committed in Aleppo': French UN envoy
A tractor clears rubble after a government strike on rebel areas of Aleppo. Photo: Thaer Mohammed/ AFP

France's envoy to the United Nations has called for an urgent Security Council meet on the war crimes he asserts are being committed in Aleppo.

'Curse of Phantom' strikes as Paris theatre burns
Anthony Crivello and Elizabeth Loyacano in the New York production of Phantom of the Opera. Photo: Really Useful Group

The curse of Phantom of the Opera has struck with a fire at a Paris theatre threatening the musical's French debut.

Two teenage girls held in France over 'terror plot'
The girls came from the same part of Nice, near Route de Turin, as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who carried out the nice attacks. Photo: Jesmar/Wikimedia Commons

Two teenage girls from Nice are being held on suspicion of planning a jihadi attack.

French fighter jet deal: India 'a school of patience'
Rafale jets at an assembly hanger in Merignac, southwestern France. Photo: Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP

The less-than-supersonic sale of French Rafale fighter jets to India has highlighted the obstacles facing foreign arms firms seeking to do business with the world's biggest weapons importer.

Hollande vows to 'completely dismantle' Calais Jungle
French President Francois Hollande visiting a refugee centre in Tours. Photo: Guillaume Souvant/AFP

President Francois Hollande has bowed to right-wing pressure and stepped up pledge to combat illegal migration.

First driverless minibus goes on trial in Paris
Gilbert Gagnaire, Director General of Easy Mile, poses in front of his driverless EZ10 minibus. Photo: Eric Feferberg/AFP

The French capital's transport authority will carry out its first test of a driverless minibus on Saturday.

Room for improvement: Paris's matchbox apartments
Receptionist Ivan Lopez in his tiny "chambre de bonne". Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

Thousands of Parisians round off a hard day's work with a trudge up six flights of stairs to a tiny, stuffy room they resignedly call home.

Former president Chirac still in hospital but wife home
Bernadette Chirac executes a deal at the French Stock Exchange on September 12. Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP

Former French president Jacques Chirac remains in hospital in Paris but his wife Bernadette has now been discharged.

Pope holds multi-faith meeting with Nice victims
Pope Francis kisses a baby on arrival at his weekly audience in St Peter's Square. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/ AFP

Pope Francis will on Saturday hold a multi-faith meeting of grieving relatives and survivors of an attack in France in July when a jihadist ploughed his truck into a crowd in Nice.

Cameron school pal appointed UK ambassador to France
Ed Llewellyn has spent time in the European Commission. Photo: Gov.uk

Ed Llewellyn attended the Eton College at the same time as former PM David Cameron, and then served as his chief of staff throughout his eleven years as Conservative leader.

Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
France's Marion Cotillard rebuffs rumours of fling with Brad Pitt
Eight arrested over links to Nice truck attacker
Why everyone should party in a French chateau at least once
The Frenchman who hated 'Nazi-Zealand' after four-day hitch-hike fail
What's on: Ten exciting events across France in September
The 45-million year old underground shells that flavour Champagne
French job speak: All the terms you need to know
'Resilient' Paris now a more appealing city than New York
France says it's OK to warn drivers about speed cameras
Meet Honorine, 113, the oldest person in France
Grenoble named France's best city to be a student
New Metro map reveals cheapest pints of beer in Paris
Business & Money
How reliant is the French economy on Paris?
Here's why Parisians want to move to Bordeaux
And the 'best place to spend a weekend in Europe' is… Lyon
Analysis & Opinion
'Muslims in France must be considered ordinary citizens'
Armed guards to ride French trains from October
France among Europe's priciest for train travel
Paris set to make river bank car-free for six-month trial
Bordeaux hospital ranked as best in France
France rolls out 'world's first' driverless buses
15 things a Frenchwoman can do to feel more British
Every fact you need to know about France's 'départements'
jobs available