Fêtes de Gayant 2024

3:00pm 09 Jul - 11:30pm 14 Jul, 2024

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Douai, France

Fêtes de Gayant otherwise known as Festival of the Giant in Douai, France

Thought of as members of their extended family, the French town of Douai celebrates its Flemish history by parading it’s twenty foot tall wicker handmade giant characters through the streets in a massive procession.

Monsieur and Madame Gayant are joined by their giant sized children Fillon, Jacqout, and Bin Bin, as they nimbly dance with each other and the crowds in the street. All are finely dressed and extremely life-like, this is because they are operated by up to six people dressed in white inside the giants. Little human white feet dance along in the giants, which makes them look like they are very light on their feet!

These giants are of vast importance to the people of Douai, and they even get invited to other towns to parade at other processions. They love their giants so much, that when one is retired due to ill repair, they have a public christening ceremony for the new giant that arrives. They also stage weddings between them.

All up, there are about 100 giants that parade in the town throughout the celebrations, all with their own identity and backstory that the townspeople have invested in. Behind them, there always must be a fool on a horse at the back of the parade, cos we guess, there’s always a fool with a horse in every town!

”Over 100 giant guests of honour dance with the crowds, while Douai celebrates its love for the giant family that they have created.”

Your experience at Fêtes de Gayant

You too will fall in love with these giants and become to know them as they parade daintily down the streets of Douai.

With over 100,000 people in town for the festival, the crowds can get dense, but the atmosphere is so light, patriotic and friendly as the whole crowd seems to dance with the gentle giants, who take on such a life like existence, they bounce around in a human manner and sway with the music.

It’s the real life Gulliver’s Travels as loud cheerful music plays, bells jangle loudly, there are many food and beer vendors , with a banquet feast held in the street.

Best views of Fêtes de Gayant

Cleverly built to be lightweight and tall means that the giants bop around the crowds in all directions and are easy to spot and enjoy, no matter where you are in the crowd.

What to wear

While the giants are very well dressed, there is no need for locals and visitors to dress up for the parade. Normal street wear is recommended and comfortable shoes of course. You may need an umbrella for summer rain.

What to pack

France in July is quite nice with average daily temperatures of 23-25 degrees Celsius.

Chargers and converters for power supply.

Money belt – for crowded areas.

Light jackets, runners and socks.

Tickets for Fêtes de Gayant 2024

There is no charge for the parade, as it is a traditional and cultural event put on by the city. However, you should book accomodation early and budget for extra events, meals and experiences that will be on in the town at this time.

Fêtes de Gayant 2024 Schedule

There are three days of parades and events during the Festival of the Giants from  July 9-14, 2024. 

There are events that take place away from the streets, such as archery competitions, jeux du billon game, and the giants are taken to local hospitals to dance and perform for patients. Folklore and music groups from around the world and other parts of France come to Douai to perform.

The biggest day for the public is the July 9, 2024 parade. Officials and a drummer wearing traditional white and red walk in front of Gayants as they are escorted to the Town Hall, ready for the gathering at 9.00am.

The Lord Mayor then gives an official speech. Pigeons are release and chocolates and sweets are thrown to the audience. Brass Bands set up and begin to perform as the parade commences.

Gayant and his wife leave first, followed by their children, then additional characters and the fool on the horse.

The parade also includes floats and costumed groups in masquerade. More like a circus at times, acrobats and musicians play important roles.

On the French National Bastille Day July 14, 2024 there will be a massive fireworks display in the evening. 

On the following Monday the giants are displayed around town, before heading back to storage for the rest of the year.

Top Tips

The baby giant called Binbin can be kissed but only by citizens of Douai.

Looking up at floating giants can make you a little sea sick, so bring some travel sickness tablets.

Do some research before you attend and find out about the characters backstory.

History of Fêtes de Gayant

The festival of the giants was born from a Flemish tradition that took it origins from Catholic Portugal and Spain. It is still celebrated in other parts of France and Belgium. The Spanish rulers of Flanders wanted a fresh version of the tradition that had been taking place for 50 years before that and the towns basket makers guild created a float featuring a wicker giant called ‘gayant’ from the Picardy dialect.

It was so successful that the following year they presented him with a wife, Madame Gayant and so the modern day version began and it grew to contain children and many other characters.

The tradition has come under threat many times in its long history, the Bishop of Arras tried to ban the giants when Douai became a French town in 1667. They were banned in 1892 during the French Revolution, as they believed the giants portrayed the aristocracy.

Thankfully the festival was reinstated following the defeat of Napoleon and continues to this day. Originally the celebration was always held on June 16th but today the celebrations occur for three days, the main parade is held on the Sunday following July 5th.

Things to do in Doluai

Douai is actually famous for its bells! Douai’s Town Hall and Bellfry, built in the gothic style similar to Notre Dame is rich in history. Statued on the River Scarpe the magnificent belfry is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which features a 62-bell carillon.

The views over the river from the top are breathtaking, you can see to the mountain tops. Below there is a Chartreuse museum, located in what was the former convent of the Carthusian monks. It is home to collections of paintings, sculptures and art. There are daily boat tours of the river.

What to eat in Douai

Confectionary! One of the most special souvenirs you could get in Douai is their oldest treat called ‘Gayantines’, which are sweets that are a soft caramel paste inside and have milk-caramel shell with a strong vanilla flavour. The giants are drawn on the packaging.

The area is also famous for another speciality called ‘Les Boulets du Ch’ti’, which is a praline filled chocolate shaped in pieces of coal, which is a tribute to Douai’s coal mining history.

How to get to Douai

The nearest international airport is Paris. It is then a 1 hour drive, bus or train from Paris to Douai.

The high speed rail runs numerous trains to Douai daily from Paris Nord Station, it takes about 2 hours.

From the UK the TGV train line run from Calais and Dunkirk, travel time is still around 2 hours.

Where to stay in Douai

There are many accommodation options in Douai, such as airbnb, hotels, hostels, guesthouses and apartments.

If you want to feel like you have slept in a palace then Hotel de Warenghien is for you! Filled with antique furniture, built in the 1700’s it features a special walled garden just for guests. But also includes flat screen tv and Wifi. Budget is around $200 per night and is only 5 mins walk from the train station.

How to get around

You can get around Douai on foot, rent a bike, local train, local bus or by UBER or town taxi services.

France Travel Tips:

Plan ahead: Book your perfect trip with our France travel guide and destination information. Does France require a visa? Check the visa requirements before you get caught up during your travel.

Spend money wisely: Take public transport and dine in from time to time are common saving tips during traveling. How to spend money wisely in France? Make use of technology. There’s an app for everything.

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