Nice Festivals

Nice festivals and other special events occur throughout the year. From the internationally prestigious Nice Jazz Festival and the spectacular Mardi Gras Carnival to the relatively obscure Occitan Festival that celebrates the medieval Romance language spoken in this region, Nice France events comprise some of the best attractions of the city.

Some important Nice France events concern the sea, which is so much a part of life along the Riviera coast. December brings the Christmas Star International Regatta, with Olympic-caliber athletes from around the world participating in their two-person one-keel International Star (or Starboat) sailboats. It is held in the Bay of Angels, and it is possible to watch most of the competition right from the beaches of the Promenade des Anglais. Also held on the Promenade is the January Prom'Classic, an annual ten-kilometer (about 6.2 miles) running event in which you are also apt to spot future Olympians.

However, for the very best events in Nice you should look for the Nice Jazz Festival (July) and the Mardi Gras Carnival (in February prior to Easter). The Carnival celebration is an import occasion throughout France, but this city holds one of the best in the country, and some say it rivals the legendary celebration in New Orleans. Over two weeks ending on Fat Tuesday, the city erupts with parades, street parties, elaborate costumes, concerts...all fueled with excellent food and stellar libations. The quality of dining in this sophisticated city is superb, but you will find some of the best of traditional specialties of Provence in food stalls along the beaches and all over the city during Carnival. This is also one of the most festive times for shopping in the Cours Saleya open-air market, which is ramped up to meet the need for hundreds of thousands of blooms and the masks and other accouterments required for costumes.

The Nice Jazz Festival is one of the major such events in the world, drawing legendary headliners such as Al Jarreau, BB King, Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Cliff, and the 1970s band Earth, Wind, and Fire. The many concerts are held in the ancient Roman Amphitheather of Cimiez, and the history of this important event dates to the 1940s. Most of the major concerts and performances don't begin until about 7:00 pm, which gives you the daylight hours for tours of nearby places like the Matisse Museum.

Music plays an important part in many other Nice festivals as well. The Sacred Music Festival is held in Vieux Nice (Old Nice), with concerts occurring in the many churches and cathedrals in the district. Concerts in the Cloisters (July and August) occurs, appropriately in the cloisters of the lovely Franciscan Monastery of Cimiez. The Nice Festival Academie showcases new musical talent during the same time frame, also in the cloisters. The very last of the Nice France events is the annual New Year's Eve concert held in the Nice Acropolis, the city's premier convention center.

Other Nice festivals include the Christmas Village, a holiday market that rivals those of Munich, Cologne, and Vienna. Forty or more wooden chalets are erected in Place Massena where every imaginable Christmas decoration, handcraft, and holiday food item can be purchased. Even an ice skating rink is set up in the square. Cannes, of course, is the setting for the world's most glamorous film festival, but Nice boasts an important Short Film Festival in April. One thing to remember about the major events is to book your hotels as far in advance as possible.

Image: OTCN - H.R.


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