21 new travel experiences to enjoy in France in 2021

Sculptures being positioned at the Musee Subaquatique de Marseille. Pic: Wallis/MSM

Sculptures being positioned at the Musee Subaquatique de Marseille. Pic: Wallis/MSM - Credit: Archant

When it’s safe to travel again, here are some of the fantastic new museums, galleries, exhibitions and more to see in France in 2021

Dive into the Med to visit the Musee Subaquatique de Marseille. Pic: Wallis/MSM

Dive into the Med to visit the Musee Subaquatique de Marseille. Pic: Wallis/MSM - Credit: © Wallis.fr /Msm

The coronavirus outbreak may have put the brakes on travel for now, but when it’s safe to do so again, the first place we’ll be going is (surprise, surprise) France. With new openings and events from 2020 rescheduled to 2021, there’s an incredible amount to look forward to, wherever your French holiday takes you. From the Côte d’Azur to the Loire Valley – and not forgetting Paris – we’ve rounded up some of the best things to do in France in 2021. Before travelling, please check the organiser’s website for updates and follow the latest government advice regarding coronavirus restrictions. Bon voyage !

1) Immerse yourself in the works of Cézanne at Provence’s Carrières de Lumières

Perhaps you’ve already experienced Paris’ Atelier des Lumières - the immersive exhibition space where art is projected onto 10m-high walls, accompanied by a moving soundtrack. Next on your list should be one of its sister sites, Carrières de Lumières in Le Baux-de-Provence, where Cézanne, the Master of Provence will be the exhibition from 4 March 2021 to 2 January 2022.

2) Celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of Amélie by (re)visiting Montmartre

Follow in the footsteps of everyone’s favourite whimsical Parisian by revisiting the cobbled streets of the 18th arrondissement. Enjoy a crème brulée at the Café des 2 Moulins or catch a film at the retro Studio 28, just like Amélie does.

3) Dive into an unusual sculpture gallery in Marseille

Frank Gehry's striking tower at LUMA Arles. Pic: Ricochet64/Getty

Frank Gehry's striking tower at LUMA Arles. Pic: Ricochet64/Getty - Credit: Getty Images

We weren’t joking about the diving part! The Musée Subaquatique de Marseille, 100m from the city’s Plage des Catalans, is an underwater sculpture exhibition that’s accessible to divers from this spring.

4) Stay in regal surroundings at the new hotel at Versailles

The 14-room Le Grand Contrôle, part of the prestigious Airelles collection, will offer guests privileged access to the Versailles Orangerie, which dates back to the 17th century. Dine like royalty in the Alain Ducasse restaurant and enjoy behind-the-scenes tours of the Petit Trianon. Rooms start from €1,300 a night; reservations open from February.

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5) Enjoy the best of Celtic culture at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient

It was due to toast its 50th birthday last year, but with coronavirus throwing it a curveball, 2021 will mark the legendary festival’s anniversary instead. A different Celtic region is honoured at every festival and this year Brittany will be in the spotlight. The event is set to run from 6 to 15 August.

6) See the latest addition to the skyline of Arles

Become a spy for the day at the Cite des Sciences et de l'Industrie. Pic: Ph Levy/EPPDCSI

Become a spy for the day at the Cite des Sciences et de l'Industrie. Pic: Ph Levy/EPPDCSI - Credit: Archant

The LUMA Arles tower, masterminded by Canadian-born American designer Frank Gehry, is the centrepiece of the LUMA Arles art campus in the Bouches-du-Rhône city. The twisting mass of aluminium and glass stretches to 56 metres and is a sight to behold.

7) Experience a fantastical night’s stay at the Maison Heler in Metz

The new hotel in the Moselle capital, designed by Philippe Starck, will be like no other when it opens this year – it’s a 14-storey tower topped by a château! It will be part of Hilton’s Curio Collection.

8) Wave off the Tour de France 2021 from Brest

Fingers crossed spectators will be allowed to cheer on this year’s peloton! This year’s Grand Départ on 26 June takes place in the Breton town of Brest. Other highlights will include the riders tackling Mont Ventoux twice in one day - rather them than us...

9) Become a spy for the day at the Cité des Sciences in Paris

Saint-Etienne International Design Biennial. Pic: C Pierot

Saint-Etienne International Design Biennial. Pic: C Pierot - Credit: Archant

Have you been watching hit French TV series Le Bureau des Légendes? If so, you’ll love the Espions (Spies) exhibition at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, in partnership with the show and the national intelligence agencies. It’s on until 1 August 2021.

10) Join Jazz à Juan for its 60th birthday celebrations

Enjoy some of the biggest names on the world jazz stage at this long-running event on the French Riviera. This year’s line-up is better than ever, with acts including Lionel Ritchie, Diana Ross and The Roots.

11) See a Paris landmark in a whole new way thanks to an exciting art project

Originally intended for last year, L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped was first conceived in 1962 by the artistic duo Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Although Christo passed away in 2020 (and Jeanne-Claude in 2009), the work will be going ahead in autumn 2021 in accordance with his wishes. The monument will be covered in 30,000 square metres of fabric and wrapped in 7,000m of rope.

12) Admire some of the world’s best design talents at the Saint-Étienne Design Biennial

Villa du Temps Retrouve, Cabourg

Villa du Temps Retrouve, Cabourg - Credit: Archant

The international design show that lights up the Loire capital every two years is back with a bang, with more than 100 design-themed events taking place across the city from 28 April until 22 August 2021.

13) Explore Narbonne’s Roman roots at this new museum

Another postponed opening from 2020, Narbo Via is now set to open this February. It will shed light on the city’s vibrant history, from the end of the Iron Age until the Early Middle Ages, in a classy setting designed by the renowned Foster + Partners architecture firm.

14) Indulge in style at a new Paris food hall

Set to open in the Montparnasse district in September 2021, Food Society promises to be Europe’s largest food hall, with a range of cuisines to suit all appetites. When completed, the site will span 5000 square metres and have 35 dedicated street food-style outlets.

15) Discover Proust’s Normandy at the Villa du Temps Retrouvé in Cabourg

Bourse de Commerse - Pinault Collection under construction. Pic: Patrick Tourneboeuf

Bourse de Commerse - Pinault Collection under construction. Pic: Patrick Tourneboeuf - Credit: Patrick Tourneboeuf

With the buds of spring, a new museum blooms in the Calvados seaside resort. The Villa du Temps Retrouvé will welcome exhibitions on Cabourg and the Côte Fleurie, as well as Proust and his connection to the storied region.

16) See contemporary art in a historic Loire Valley setting

Opened in December 2020, the new modern art museum at Fontevraud Abbey hosts the extensive private collection of Martine and Léon Clignan, featuring works by Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Rodin.

17) Explore the deep seas at Europe’s biggest aquarium

Nausicaá in Boulogne-sur-Mer marks its 30th birthday this year. Visit to see the exciting In the Eye of the Climate exhibition, which uses the same video mapping technology as the Atelier des Lumières for an image show that engages all the senses. Visitors travel on the Nausicaá Explorer capsule to experience the effect of our changing climate on the underwater ecosystem.

18) Admire both the art and the architecture at the Bourse de Commerce

Delayed from 2020, the new gallery from billionaire businessman and art collector François Pinault is opening his third museum - his first in Paris, as the other two are in Venice. The Bourse de Commerce - Pinault Collection will be in the former Paris stock exchange building, with its gorgeous glass dome.

19) Visit Deauville’s newest museum at Les Franciscaines

In the breath-taking setting of the Saint Joseph building, once home to the Franciscan Order, the Normandy resort of Deauville is welcoming a new cultural institution, Les Franciscaines. This exciting new space will encompass a museum, media library and auditorium and it’s set to open from 20 March.

20) Explore Paris’ latest cultural hub dedicated to up-and-coming artists

Drinks brand Pernod Ricard (of anis and pastis fame) is opening the Fondation d’Entreprise Pernod Ricard in a 300-square-metre exhibition space in Paris’ hip Saint-Lazare district. They’re particuarly focused on giving up-and-coming talents their chance in the spotlight, so it promises to be a place to spot the stars of the future.

21) See two masters of the art world in a joint exhibition in Paris

The Musée Picasso and Musée Rodin have joined forces to present Picasso – Rodin, with dual exhibitions set to run at both museums this spring. Discover the intense processes behind each man’s work and their unlikely similarities.

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