A particular feature of the French heritage
industry, and seen par excellence in the
châteaux of the Loire is the son-et-lumière.
The phrase literally means “sound and light”
but there’s no real translation. These shows
are designed to turn a château into a kind of
musical-historical extravaganza using elaborate
sound and lighting effects, sometimes
with a melodramatic voice-over or antique
music, sometimes with professional actors
and local townspeople in costume. The trend
BASICS | Festivals
these days is to allow visitors to wander freely
around the site admiring the various effects.
At their worst, son-et-lumières are dreary
affairs, a travesty of the history and architecture
of an ancient building; at their best and
most original they can transform the way you
see a château. Children may find them equally
hit and miss as well. Starting times usually
vary according to season between about
9.30pm and 10.30pm. The list below covers
all the major son-et-lumière performances.
Festival dates are notoriously changeable
from one year to the next, depending on
factors such as Easter, when the weekend
falls or the whims of the organizers. Many of
the dates given below are deliberately
vague, therefore, and you should always
check with the local tourist office or online –
websites are given where appropriate.
Where festivals straddle more than one
month, they are listed below under the
month in which they begin.
Amboise À la Cour du Roy François
.com. Costumed spectacular on the high terrace in
front of the château with seemingly hundreds of
dancing locals and images projected onto the walls.
Wed & Sat from late June to end Aug. Adults e13
(e17 in the grandstand), children aged 6–14 e7.
Azay-le-Rideau Songes et Lumières
t02.47.45.42.04, wwww.monum.fr. Original and
enthralling use of just light and Renaissance music,
allowing you to wander freely round the château
grounds. July to early Sept. e12 combined entry with
château (e9 separately); young people aged 12–18
e5; under-12s free.
Blois Ainsi Blois Vous est Conté. t02.54.90.33.32.
One of the best, in the atmospheric setting of the
enclosed courtyard. Actors’ voices tell the story of the
château and its bloody history while ultra-high-tech
lighting effects pick out details of the architecture.
English-language version on Wednesdays.
Mid-April to end Sept. e10 combined ticket with
château (e6.50 separately); children aged 6–17
e5.50 (e3 separately).
Bourges Les Nuits Lumière de Bourges. Low-key
but relatively sophisticated circuit of the old city,
following a trail of blue streetlamps past historic
buildings lit up by moving projections, while soft music
plays. July & Aug daily; May, June & Sept Thurs–Sat.
Chambord Les Métamorphoses de Chambord.
t02.54.33.39.16, wwww.chambord.org. Freeranging
“promenade” round the château grounds,
taking in clever lighting effects playing on the surface
of the stone, and piped Renaissance music. Daily July
& Aug; Fri & Sat in Sept. Free.
Chenonceau Nocturne à Chenonceau. wwww
.chenonceau.com Little more than an evening stroll in
the elaborately lit-up gardens – to the tune of Corelli.
No need to book. July & Aug, plus weekends in June.
e5, under-7s free.
January and February
Angers Premiers Plans (second half of Jan;
wwww.premiersplans.org) Season of European
directors’ first films.
Montlouis-sur-Loire and around Les Rencontres
Musicales de l’Est Tourangeau (late Jan and early
Feb) Diverse and high-quality two-week programme of
mostly classical concerts.
Chalonnes-sur-Loire (first Sat of March) Festival
of Anjou wines, with parades and outdoor banqueting
over one weekend.
Orléans (second week of March;
wwww.oci-piano.com) Prestigious, week-long
competition for young international players of
twentieth-century piano music.
Bourgueil (early/mid-March) Annual wine fair.
Vouvray (late March) Annual wine fair.
Azay-le-Rideau (late March) Annual wine fair.
Prieuré de St-Cosme, Tours Le Printemps
Musical de St-Cosme (late March) Two weekends of
Around Easter (variable)
Amboise (Easter weekend) Wine fair.
Selles-sur-Cher (second weekend after Easter)
Annual wine fair.
Montrésor (Pentecost, ie seventh weekend after
Easter) Medieval festival every even-numbered year,
with night-time market, processions and dancing.
Saumur (April) Books and wine fair, with celebrity
Le Mans 24 Heures Motos (mid-April;
wwww.lemans.org) Le Mans’ classic 24-hour
Chinon (mid-April) Wine and food fair.
Bourges Le Printemps de Bourges (April;
wwww.printemps-bourges.com) Huge, week-long
rock festival featuring artists such as The Dresden
Dolls and Arctic Monkeys (in 2006).
Pierrefitte-sur-Sauldre Les Musicalies de
Sologne (last weekend in April; wwww.ucps.fr.st)
Eight thousand people come for this festival of
Sologne folk music.
Orléans (29 April) Commemoration of Joan of Arc’s
entry into the city, followed on May 1 by celebrations
of the taking of the Bastille St-Loup.
Orléans (May 7–8) Presentation of Joan of Arc’s
standard to the people of Orléans, in front of the
cathedral in the evening of May 7, followed by Mass
and a long procession on the morning of May 8.
Le Mans Festival de l’Epau (mid- to late May;
wwww.epau.org) High-quality classical concerts.
Tours Aucard de Tours (last week of May) Big rock
festival with a one-off free concert.
Tours Florilège Vocal (late May/early June;
wwww.florilegevocal.com) Weekend festival of
Various locations Jour de Loire (late May/early
June; wwww.jourdeloire.com) Concerts, fireworks,
nature walks and boat trips along the length of the
Loire, from Anjou to the Orléanais.
Blois Tous sur le Pont (late May to mid-June)
Festival of rock and world music attracting wellrespected
domestic names, with small free concerts
in the day.
Sully-sur-Loire (late May to late June;
wwww.festival-sully.com) Month-long programme
of classical concerts, attracting big names (Michel
Béroff in 2003!).
Amboise (early June) Marching and competing
brass bands in the streets of Amboise.
Prieuré de St-Cosme, Tours Les Journées de la
Rose (early June) Renowned exhibition of hundreds
of rose varieties.
Sancerre (early June) The big festival for Sancerre
Le Mans 24 Heures du Mans (mid-June; wwww
.lemans.org) World-famous 24-hour car race.
Orléans (mid-June) Jazz festival, with concerts in
the amazing setting of the Campo Santo.
La Châtonnière near Azay-le-Rideau
(mid-June) Garden festival of roses and lilies.
Anjou Festival d’Anjou (mid-June to mid-July;
wwww.festivaldanjou.com) A month of plays in
historic outdoor settings throughout Anjou.
Bourgueil, Langeais, Azay-le-Rideau (mid-June
to Aug) Gourmet night market (Fri 6pm–midnight),
visiting each of the three towns in turn.
Chambord (third weekend in June;
wwww.gamefair.fr) Europe’s premier game fair. Set
in the château grounds, with dogs, horns, all sorts of
manufacturers’ stands and hordes of hunt
Saumur (last Sunday of June) Festival of military
music in odd-numbered years; mask festival in evennumbered
Tours Fêtes Musicales de Touraine (late June/early
July) Ten days of top-quality classical music in historic
Bourges Un Eté à Bourges (late June to late Sept)
Programme of concerts and theatre.
Chartres (July & Aug; whttp://orgues.chartres
.free.fr) Two-month-long organ festival and
competition, with concerts every Sunday.
Angers Festival Angers L’Été (July & Aug) Lively twomonth
programme of world and French music concerts,
in the lovely surroundings of the Cloître Toussaint.
Le-Puy-Notre-Dame (second weekend of July)
Wine and mushroom fair.
Everywhere La Fête Nationale, or Bastille Day
(14 July) Fireworks and community celebrations in
every corner of France.
Doué-la-Fontaine (mid-July; wwww
.journeesdelarose.com) Thousands des3cend to see
the rose harvest arranged inside local caves.
Tours (July 23) Garlic and basil fair on the feast day
of Sainte Anne.
Saumur Carrousel de Saumur (mid-July) Three
days of horse spectaculars.
Richelieu (late July) “Cape and sword” seventeenthcentury
Northern Anjou (Aug; whttp://heuresmusicales
.free.fr/) Month-long programme of classical music in
churches and château across the region.
Genillé Festival Cosmopolite (second week in Aug;
whttp://festivalgenille.free.fr) Two days of rock,
reggae and metal, and one of world music.
Montoire-sur-le-Loir Folklores du Monde (second
week in Aug) Large festival of world folk music.
Beaulieu-sur-Layon (second weekend of Aug)
Wine and omelette fair.
Bourgueil Fête des Vins du Val de Loire (Aug 15)
Festival and showcase for all Loire wines.
Vouvray and Amboise (Aug 15) Wine fairs.
Thouarcé (Aug 15) Bonnezeaux wine festival.
Cunault Les Heures Musicales (mid-July to mid-
Aug) Week-long feast of organ and chamber music.
Chedigny (mid-Aug; wwww.blues-in-chedigny
.com) Three days of blues and gospel.
Sablé-sur-Sarthe (late Aug) Prestigious four-day
festival of Baroque music.
Bourges Fête des Marais (first weekend in Sept)
Garden and general town festival of Bourges’ marshes.
Angers Les Accroche-Coeurs (early Sept) Four
bizarre days of street art and theatre all over the city.
Montlouis Jazz en Touraine (early Sept) Major jazz
week in and around Montlouis.
Château de la Bourdaisière, Montlouis-sur-
Loire (second week in Sept) Gardeners’ tomato
festival, with tastings.
Château du Rivau (mid-Sept) Pumpkin, vine and
children’s fairy-tale festival.
Chartres and around (late Sept to early Oct;
wwww.journees-lyriques.com) High-quality, weeklong
festival of opera and classical music in historic
Various locations Journées du Patrimoine (third
weekend in Sept; wwww.journeesdupatrimoine
.culture.fr) Hundreds of historic buildings normally
closed to the public open their doors.
Orléans Festival de Loire (late Sept; wwww
.festivaldeloire.com) Scores of old-style boats
descend on Orléans for a five-day river fiesta.
Western Anjou Marathon de la Loire (end Sept)
Canoe race down the Loire from Gennes to
Montrichard Rendez-vous du Pain (first weekend
of Oct) Three-day fair of bread and baking.
Le Lion d’Angers Mondial du Lion (mid-Oct;
wwww.mondialdulion.com) Major date in the
eventing calendar, focusing on young horses. Held in a
small town northwest of Angers.
Romorantin-Lanthenay (last weekend of Oct)
Gastronomic festival of the Sologne, attracting twenty
Azay-le Rideau (late Oct/early Nov) Weekend