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Olympics isn’t France’s only marquee event

2024 will be a huge year in Paris and across the nation

By Scott Hartbeck, TravelPulse
Published: April 27, 2024, 5:45am
2 Photos
The 12th edition of Rouen Cathedral&rsquo;s sensational summer light and sound show will take place this year in Rouen, France.
The 12th edition of Rouen Cathedral’s sensational summer light and sound show will take place this year in Rouen, France. (Dreamstine/TNS) Photo Gallery

France is hot, and we’re not just talking about the catwalks in Paris or the yacht clubs on the Riviera.

There is no denying that 2024 will be a huge year for travel in The Hexagon, with so much going on across the country.

Plenty has been said and written about the Paris Summer Olympics (and will be in the coming months), but here I will set that massive event to the side and focus instead on other reasons to visit France this year.

Some of the events could be perfect bookends to a trip to see the Games or serve as inspiration for a completely different adventure.

Making an impression

After the Olympic Games, the second-most-talked-about celebration in France will be the events surrounding the 150th anniversary of Impressionism, with Normandy being the best place outside of Paris to celebrate.

The fifth edition of the Normandy Impressionist Festival (March 22 to Sept. 22) will take place across the region, and some parts will have an unexpected American influence. In Rouen, look for an exhibit showcasing the works of renowned American artist Whistler, as well as the 12th edition of the sensational summer light and sound show at Rouen Cathedral.

In Paris, the Normandy region will sponsor a spectacular exhibit titled “Paris 1874: The Impressionist Moment” at the Musée d’Orsay (March 16 to July 14). The event will feature over 100 masterpieces, including paintings, sculptures, photographs and much more.

Saluting the heroes of summer ‘44

The 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings and the ensuing Battle of Normandy will take place on June 6, and the military operation that forever changed history will be honored with pomp and circumstance all over the region.

In addition to official observations that will require invitations, there will be fireworks displays over the five landing beaches on June 1, art installations and dozens more events (think parades, parachuting, historical re-enactments and concerts) during the D-Day Festival Normandy (June 1 to 16).

There will also be events surrounding the 80th anniversary of Operation Dragoon, which was a significant French-American landing that took place in Southern France on Aug. 15, 1944. Expect commemorative events to take place in the region.

Tour de France cycles south

No discussion of sports in France would be complete without a mention of the Tour de France (June 29 to July 21), the most iconic bicycle race on the planet.

This year, the race will traverse a 2,000-mile-plus loop through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in France. The route changes for each edition of the race, but the mountain stages in the Pyrenees and Alps are a constant, and these regions make for exciting fan experiences. The 2024 race will start in Florence, Italy, before finishing somewhere other than Paris for the first time in a century. Due to the Olympics, the Tour will finish up in the jewel of the Riviera: Nice.

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Setting sail

The Vendée Globe, another one of the biggest French sporting events this year, will actually start in New York City.

On May 24, sailors will gather at the Statue of Liberty for a host of pre-race celebrations before embarking on a grueling 3,200-mile journey across the Atlantic Ocean to France. Then, on Nov. 10, the 10th edition of the Vendée Globe will set sail from the coastal town of Sables d’Olonne in the Vendée region of France. Known as the Everest of Seas, this nonstop solo race will see about 40 skippers navigating the globe, and while you’re not allowed to tag along with them, it will be the perfect excuse to discover the beautiful coastal region of Vendée, which is home to long sweeps of beach and a breathtaking bay.

Flower power

Also in the Vendée region, the Les Floralies de Nantes — one of Europe’s most prestigious international horticultural shows — will take place at the impressive Domaine de La Chabotterie (May 17 to 26). This 18th-century estate sits within 100 acres of meadows and forest, and the festival will showcase the imaginative creations of 200 participants hailing from France and beyond.

As a nod to the Summer Olympics, the 2024 edition has been dubbed the “Flower Games” and will feature five themed areas: water, childhood, intellectual, physical and garden.

Summer festivals galore

Bordeaux has been bubbling up on travel lists for a while now, and the 2024 edition of the famed Bordeaux Fête le Vin (June 27 to 30), the premier wine tourism festival in the city, will be the perfect excuse to get to know it better. Set against the backdrop of the Garonne River, the event will offer a delightful experience for wine lovers and curious travelers alike. The party will start early, as from June 20 onward, a host of events will take place in the lead-up to the festival at the city’s renowned wine cellars, restaurants and cultural venues.

You’ll be surrounded by tunes all over the country on June 21: The Fête de la Musique will see musicians of all levels (both amateur and professional) take to the streets across France to show off their skills. You’ll be able to experience a wide range of musical genres (and talent) as everything from rock groups to choirs and orchestras strut their stuff.

Every other year, the coastal town of Dieppe hosts one of the most colorful kite festivals in the world, and in 2024, the Dieppe International Kite Festival is back and better than ever. More than just a gathering of kite lovers, this festival celebrates global unity, highlighting the rich diversity of people and cultures on the planet. Expect the sky above the beach in Dieppe to be splashed with a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes and for you to leave feeling a little better about the state of the world.

Ending the year in style

The end of the year will see numerous reasons to visit France.

Montmartre — arguably the most atmospheric neighborhood in Paris — will bubble over with fun once again during the annual Montmartre Wine Festival (Oct. 9 to 13). This event celebrates the neighborhood and its winemaking tradition.

In Lyon, the Festival of Light (Dec. 5 to 8) will adorn the city with a dazzling display of bulbs that help illuminate the dark early winter nights and launch thousands of social media stories. From the special “light tunnels” to the experience of seeing the city’s fine architecture bathed in light, it’s an event you won’t soon forget.

While holiday festivities take place all over the nation, the Alsace region is arguably the capital of Christmas Markets as charming small towns like Riquewihr and Eguisheim shine bright in addition to the larger cities in the region: Colmar and Strasbourg. Expect timber-framed facades, warm baked goods and plenty of vin chaud, the local take on mulled wine.

Last but certainly not least, Notre Dame Cathedral is scheduled to officially reopen on Dec. 8, more than four and a half years after the devastating fire. This will be a special time to be in Paris, no doubt.