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  • Writer's pictureDavid Viney

Fete de la Saint-Jean Bonfire in Valbonne

Updated: Jun 24

The Fete de la Saint-Jean is said to have been imported from neighbouring Catalonia in Spain but is now undoubtedly a fully french tradition of 1,000 years or so. There are many venues one could chose from in Provence to celebrate the festival, including a great event in Sainte-Maxime, but our considered No.1 recommendation is the festival in Valbonne.

As with so many traditions, the day ostensibly celebrates the Saints' Day of Saint John the Baptist (23rd of June), but is of course much older than Christianity and was originally a pagan celebration of the Summer Solstice (or longest day of the year). Locals (many dressed in costume) light torches in a tradition designed to warn off evil spirits. A procession leads to the bonfire and (for some) the brave but foolhardy jumping of the fire (for extra luck). There is also dancing to music in the main square.

Valbonne en Fete
Valbonne en Fete © Pascal Linte

Book a table at Cafe des Arcades or Auberge Provençal (well in advance) and you'll have a front-row seat for all the action. As dusk approaches. flaming torches are handed out to all those assembled in the main square in the middle of the village. Health and Safety is forgotten in the rush of adrenaline, so beware of burnt arms and singed hair!

The Procession and Fire Jumping

Then the drumming starts! Led by the band, a procession makes it gentle, primeval way through the village and out to the bonfire. Once there, everyone throws their flaming torches into it. Be alert. Not everyone hits the target! The dumming gets louder and the bonfire is raked down, so that those brave enough can start jumping over it. Traditionally, the mayor always goes first to cheering and clapping from the crowd. A few burnt shoes and plasters later, the fire dies down and everyone finally heads home.

A Video of the Festival

Here is a great video taken by Lisa Watson, which will give you an idea of what to expect:

How to Get there

  • By car: Valbonne lies halfway between Antibes and Grasse. The best way to get there is to drive. From Nice, follow the A8 to motorway exits at either Antibes or Cannes, then take signs to Sophia Antipolis and then to village of Valbonne.

  • By train: A train from Nice to Antibes is 4€. From Antibes, a bus service connects you to Valbonne-Sophia Antipolis bus station for just 1€. For more information on trains, call tel. 36-35, or visit the TER website.

  • By bus: The local bus network is run by Envibus who provides services in Antibes as well as the surrounding communes, including Juan-les-Pins, Biot, Châteauneuf, Gourdon, Vallauris Golfe-Juan and Villeneuve-Loubet. The Bus 10 route goes from Antibes to Valbonne, via Marineland and Biot village. Contact Envibus (tel. 04-89-87-72-00) or visit their website. Many prefer to just take a taxi from Antibes station (which should cost approx. 30€).


  • The closest thing to an official website for the event

  • The toursim site for Valbonne Sophia Antipolis


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