Want to know what’s on and where in France in May? Check out our handy guide to get the best from your visit in your area.
For an updated list of this year’s events in May head to our current May events page
National Holidays in France in May
May 1st Fête du Travail – Labour Day
May 8th Fête de la Victoire – Victory Day
May 17th Ascension – Ascension Day
May Pentecôte – Pentecost
All over France every May on the Nuits des Musées – hundreds of museums, churches and Government offices open their doors for free until 1.00 a.m. Many of them put on special exhibitions and demonstrations in a unique event each year when visitors can enjoy moonlit museum tours – see the official Nuits des Musées website for more details of 2012’s event which takes place on 19th May.
“Chocolate Days” in the town centre. Bayonne is historically the chocolate capital of France and celebrates this tradition every year during the Ascension weekend in May.
The dipping of the chocolate centres into their delicious coating takes place in the streets and the public is invited to partake of these delicacies prepared by master artisans.
Various activities, guided visits round the streets of Bayonne and the chocolate shops throughout the weekend.
Andalou Festival – Basque dancing in the streets of this lovely seaside town
Hautes Terres Festival – The Highland festivals celebrates the mountain culture at the foot of the Cantal mountains, concerts, artisan markets, dances and music.
The Atonement of St. Ives, which takes place every third Sunday in May in Treguier attracts thousands of pilgrims some in traditional dress to carry in a procession the relics of St. Yves.
Fête de Nautisme – set along the harbour, the festival celebrates all things nautical from model boats, real boats to jet skis.
Central – Val de Loire
Le Mans – French motorcycle Grand Prix, speed and thrills at the International circuit at Le Mans.
Fiera di u Casgiu – Cheese fair and competition to find the best cheese
International University Music Festival – some 2700 musicians and singers, orchestras and bands from all over the world gather for a three day festival.
Féria de Pentecôte – One of the liveliest festivals of the year, the Feria de Pentecôte (Pentecostal Fair), takes place May 23-28, 2012. A sexy mix of French and Spanish cultures dotted with vestiges of local Roman history – this town celebrates in style with street shows, paella and bull fights in the Roman area. Mingle with the locals to watch the grand Pégoulade (procession) — a giant snake of dancers, singers and illuminated floats undulating through the streets. The air is filled with music of the peñas (small brass bands), everyone dances the ‘Sévillane’, there is water-jousting in the Canal de la Fontaine, an evening market and mass in the cathedral. It’s one big outdoor Spanish-accented French soirée, complete with fireworks and Provençal-style bullfights in Nimes’ Roman amphitheater, the best-preserved in the country.
Festival de la Randonee – international walking festival, see the beautiful sights of this lovely place on foot.
Fete de la Fraise – the strawberry festival – every kind of strawberry cake for you to try and the biggest strawberry tart in the world is made here – everyone can have a piece!
La Louche d’Or – The Golden Ladle festival – more than 100 different soups can be tasted through the town’s streets and squares, plus artists and street celebrations in this vibrant city, see the Lille Tourism website for more details.
Giant Sand Sculpture exhibition – every year a different theme and the exhibition runs from May to September
Grand Petanque competition on the beach at Le Touquet
Paragliding Day – Over 100 paragliders from all over the world are scheduled to participate in a ride and landing on the beach at Le Touquet – it is weather dependent though so check the website for confirmation and details.
La Fête des Marins – Sailors Pilgrimage held every Whitsun in Honfleur. Fishing boats decorated with ribbons and flowers which sail out of the port and into the Seine Estuary to be blessed by the priest. There are exhibitions, performances and food stalls as the town celebrates sailors – find more details on the Honfleur tourist website.
Festival de l’Oh! Celebration of water – rivers, streams you name it, parade and animations on the river bank plus boats sailing up the Seine.
Porte de Versailles
Foire de Paris – the Paris Fair has crafts and cuisine from 70 countries, concerts, performances and shows, 2000 exhibitors of home furnishings, garden styles, DIY, health and leisure products – you name it this fair has it all. 27th April to 8th May. For details and tickets see the Foire de Paris website.
The town celebrates Joan of Arc’s last visit to the town before her capture on 23rd May 1430. There’s a medieval processecion and re-enactment of her visit.
Les fêtes du Bouffon– Festival of the jester From 25/05/2012 to 27/05/2012 – Herbert the towns giant galivants amongst the crowds and there are parades, a fair, shows, carnival and mayhem in this joyous celebration.
Ild de Ré
Tour de L’ile de Ré – Grand nautical event as around 400 yachts make their way round the island – a fabulous spectacle, see the La Rochelle website for information.
Provence Côte d’Azur
Film Festival Cannes- the International film festival in this trendy town allows you to mingle and gawp at the stars who fly in for the greatest cinema festival in the world.
Expo-Rose – the annual Rose exhibition is held in Grasse and for three days the town welcomes lovers of roses, horticulturalists, growers and others to take delight in the roses.
Roms (Slovak gypsies), Manouches, Tziganes (Hungarian gypsies) and other gypsies come from all over Europe and even from other continents to worship their Saint, Sara the Black to this town where they settle in the squares, and on the sea front. The pilgrimage is also the opportunity to meet up again and most of the children are baptised in the church of the Saints.
Legend has it that a boat containing the two Marys and Sara was cast our of Palestine and drifted to the Rhône estuary and the bodily remains of Saint Sara are said to be in the crypt under the church.
Her statue is carried by the gypsies to the sea, to symbolise the waiting and the welcoming of the Saintes Maries de la Mer by Sara, patroness of the gypsies. Then the procession goes back to the church with delight expressed by cheers, musical instruments and the peal of church bells.