The Festival

Information about Festival des Arcs

What does Festival des Arcs offer?

It offers:

  • A programme of 2-3 weeks of FREE concerts at Les Arcs and the surrounding towns and villages. On many days there are two concerts, one early in the evening and the other later in the evening.
  • An Academy of lessons and master classes for young musicians, with the classes being given by leading professional French or European musicians, many of which are professors in various conservatoires. You can find more information about it here.

Thus it offers much, both for music lovers and for musicians. Information on the Academy is given after information on the Festival.


What makes Festival des Arcs really special?

Festival des Arcs is the “INTERNET” of the French classical music world. It is the annual meeting place for many French musicians and most of the professors and musicians are under 45. What makes the Festival really special is that the musicians play for almost nothing because they want to do so, and want to give something back for the benefits that they have obtained from the Festival and Academy in the past. This means that there is a very special atmosphere and you see many musicians listening to each other playing, and this is quite different from the “prima donna” atmosphere of parts of the music world.

Why should I be interested in the Festival?

Many people love both the mountains and classical music. The Festival provides the opportunity to have a holiday in the mountains with FREE concerts every evening. This is a wonderful recipe for a holiday!

What sort of classical music is played?

The programmes are normally organized to provide a wide range of music from early to modern.

Each year there is a resident composer present for some of the Festival, and when he is present a piece of his music is played each day and he introduces and talks about the composition.

Because of constraints on size, most of the music is chamber music. Each year on or around 28 July, the anniversary of the death of JS Bach, there is an afternoon of Bach’s music.

Each year’s Festival may have one or more themes. For example, in 2019, the theme was Hungarian music, in 2018 it was about Leonard Bernstein and the 20th century music in the United States, but you could also hear Beethoven or Schumann music.

Are the concerts really FREE?

Yes, there are no tickets and you just walk in. This is a long tradition that the Festival organisers wish to continue. There are no leaving collections only a general invitation to people to support the Festival by becoming members.

A very small proportion of the concerts may be organised in conjunction with another festival at a venue outside Les Arcs and there may be tickets and charges for these concerts.

Do I need to book at all?

No booking is needed to attend the concerts.

At the Coupole in Arcs 1600, which is a small venue, priority is given to members. At the large Bernard Taillfer centre in Arcs 1800 there is plenty of room for everyone and members may reserve seats at the front.

How is the Festival funded?

It is funded mainly by sponsorship and secondarily by voluntary membership fees and gifts.

Where is the Festival based?

The festival has its main office in Paris:

Musique et Danse aux Arcs
14 rue de Surène
75008 PARIS

The contact is Mrs Benedicte Ordody, +33 1 4007 1148 She speaks excellent English.

But during the Festival there is an office staffed by volunteer helpers close to the entrance to Hotel du Golf at Les Arcs 1800. During the Festival, the number for the office is also +33 1 4007 1148. This is the place to obtain information and become a member during the Festival.

Do I need to become a member of the Festival?

Many attendees will wish voluntarily to become a member and make a donation to the costs of the Festival. Memberships are as follows:

Active member:

  • Young person < 25 years old
  • Single person
  • Couple

Benefactor member:

  • Privilege member
  • Single person
  • Couple

Members have reserved seating at the front for many of the concerts and receive a free detailed Festival Programme.

You can make a donation via internet here.

Are membership fees tax deductible?

If you pay tax in France then you will be given a certificate that enables you to recover from other tax payments more than half of the cost of the membership. 66% of the cost of membership can be recovered from taxes paid making the net cost 34% of the sums shown above.

If you pay tax in the UK then a simple payment is not tax deductible.

What is Les Arcs like as a holiday resort?

Les Arcs is very attractive as a summer holiday resort even though it is better known as a winter ski resort.

There are three “stations” or separate villages:

  • Les Arcs 1600 – the original resort with a small concert hall
  • Les Arcs 1800 – the largest resort with its own large new concert hall and the home of the Festival
  • Les Arcs 2000/1950 – the newest resort about 15 minutes drive from the others and with poorer views

Les Arcs 1600 and 1800 enjoy wonderful views of the Isere valley with Mont Blanc in the distance.

In addition there are several mountain villages nearby such as Peisey, Vallandry and Villaroger.

The main town in the valley, Bourg St Maurice, is linked to Les Arcs 1600 by a funicular, which runs until about 1900 each evening, and there are free shuttle busses between the three main stations.

Les Arcs 1800 offers:

  • Tennis (many hard courts are available)
  • A modern open air and indoor swimming pool
  • A laser game
  • A full size golf course (18 holes) with reasonably priced green fees and tuition available
  • A 9 hole par-3 golf course
  • Walking trails
  • Mountain biking trails
  • A lift system that carries both walkers and mountain bikes so you can ride over the mountains just like you ski. Only some of the lifts used for skiing are open and the price of a week pass is much lower that in the ski season.
  • A variety of restaurants

There is more information on:

What is the weather like?

Mountain weather is always variable and unpredictable but late July-early August is the best period and there can be long sunny periods of a week or more.

Les Arcs 1600 and 1800 benefit from a microclimate and are drier than some nearby other areas.

Temperatures can reach 30C or higher at Les Arcs 1800 and in good weather many people relax around the swimming pool for part or all of the day.

Strong sun protection is essential because of the altitude.

What are the restaurants like?

There is a wide variety and prices are lower than in the famous resorts such as Meribel and Val d’Isere.

Many restaurants offer attractive lunchtime menus with prices in the range 13-17 Euros for 3 courses.

What are the options for accommodation?

Edenarc – a large apartment complex above Arcs 1800 booked via Odalys:

Chantel – booked via Pierre et Vacances

What is the best way to travel to Les Arcs?

The options are:

  • Drive (the journey is just possible in one day from South East England)
  • Fly to Geneva, Lyon, Grenoble or Chambery and then take local transport or hire a car
  • Take Eurostar then a French TGV train to Bourg St Maurice

Useful sites are:

Details of local trains are available from:

but please be aware that there are only a few trains a day to Bourg St Maurice the main town in the valley.

There is a bus service from the train station, which can bring you directly to les Arcs 1600 and 1800. See (+33 479070449)

Bourg St Maurice is linked to Les Arcs 1600 by a funicular that runs every 30-60 minutes until about 7pm. There is a free shuttle bus from Les Arcs 1600 to Les Arcs 1800 but it runs less frequently than the funicular.

Travelling by train at night is best avoided.

If you are driving please be aware that there are now many speed cameras in France, including on the motorways, and they are less obvious than in UK. Be especially careful on the road from Annecy to Albertville.

Please also be aware that the limits for alcohol are lower than in UK, and in Switzerland are exceptionally low – even a small beer would put you over the limit.

The French police are enforcing the laws quite rigorously and can impound your car for a more serious offence.

Do I need to be able to speak French?

Not really although some basic knowledge is always a help. Whilst the Festival is conducted only in French, most of the people can speak English and many speak excellent English. The restaurants, hotels and tourist organisations are all well used to looking after English speakers.

How easy is it to meet people and make new friends?

English people are warmly welcomed at the Festival but it is less common for French people to start conversations with strangers than it is for English people, therefore you may need to take some initiative. The best way to meet new people is to become a member and call in at the office occasionally and ask some questions.

There is often a meal or reception organised for members and these are good occasions to meet new friends. After the concerts, concert goers are more than welcome to meet the musicians over a drink at a restaurant (a few mn walk from the concert hall). All the musicians and most of the festival staff speak English.

English people can also meet French people by doing sports activities (Club des sports) during the day.