The weather is usually fine all over France in May and that means it’s time to get out and about and enjoy one of the many events that take place. Don’t forget there are several national holidays this month, and that means shops may be closed all day or part day. And if you’re planning to visit a public building, museum etc, check before hand that it’s open if you’re going on a bank holiday.
National Holidays in France in May
May 1st Fête du Travail – Labour Day
May 8th Fête de la Victoire – Victory Day
May – Ascension Day varies
Pentecôte – Pentecost (may take place in June or May, it’s held 40 days after Easter Sunday)
National Event in May in France
All over France on a weekend in mid-May on the Nuits des Musées – hundreds of museums, churches and Government offices open their doors to public and offer free entry from nightfall until 1.00 a.m. 13 May 2023. Many of them put on special exhibitions and demonstrations in this unique annual event. Why not enjoy a magical moonlit museum tour! See the official Nuits des Musées website for more details of this annual event.
Our Festivals of France podcast covers some of the biggest, best and quirkiest events in France – from pig squealing contests to giant strawberry tarts, and giants!
Top events in May in France
Aquitaine, Bayonne – “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. Master chocolatiers take to the streets and conduct demonstrations of chocolate making inviting the public to participate – yes please! There are various activities, guided visits round the streets and chocolate shops of Bayonne throughout the weekend. VisitBayonne.com
Pyrénées-Atlantiques: Andalou Festival. 25-29 May, 2023. Basque dancing in the streets of this lovely seaside town – more details on the Saint-Jean-de-Luz website.
Brittany: Tréguier – The Atonement of St. Ives. 21 May 2023. The event takes place every third Sunday in May in Treguier and attracts thousands of pilgrims, some in traditional dress, to carry the relics of St. Yves in a procession. http://www.tregor-cotedajoncs-tourisme.com
12-14 May 2022, Pays de la Loire: Le Mans Motorcycle Grand Prix, speed and thrills at the International circuit at Le Mans. www.gpfrancemoto.com/en
Gard, Saint Jean-du-Gard 18-21 May 2023: Festival de la Randonee. An international walking festival, a great wat to enjoy the beautiful sights of this lovely place on foot.
Limousin, Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne – Fete de la Fraise. 14 May 2023. At this fabulous strawberry festival there’s every kind of strawberry cake for you to try. The biggest strawberry tart in the world is made here – everyone can have a piece!
Nord Pas-de-Calais, Lille – La Louche d’Or. 1 May 2023. The Golden Ladle festival offers more than 100 different soups which can be tasted throughout the town’s streets and squares. There are also artworks on show and street celebrations in this vibrant city. See the Lille Tourism website for more details.
Languedoc-Roussilon, Nimes – Féria de Pentecôte. From 24-29 May 2023, one of the liveliest festivals of the year takes place. An enticing mix of French and Spanish cultures dotted with vestiges of local Roman history in sultry Nimes. The town celebrates in style with street shows, paella and events in the wonderfully preserved Roman arena. Mingle with the locals to watch the grand Pégoulade a procession 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. Details: tourisme-occitanie.com
Pas de Calais, Le Touquet – Giant Sand Sculpture exhibition – every year there’s a different theme and the exhibition runs from May to September
Picardy, St-Quentin – Les fêtes du Bouffon. At the Festival of the jester, Herbert the town giant galivants amongst the crowds. Expect parades, a fair, shows, carnival and mayhem in this joyous celebration (26-28 May 2023).
Normandy, Honfleur – La Fête des Marins, 28-29 May 2023. The Sailors Pilgrimage is held every Whitsun in Honfleur. Fishing boats decorated with ribbons and flowers sail out of the port and into the Seine Estuary to be blessed by a priest. There are exhibitions, performances and food stalls as the town celebrates the role of sailors – find more details on the Honfleur tourist website. This may take place in May or June, it’s held the 7th Sunday after Easter.
Paris, Val-de-Marne – Festival de l’Oh 28 – 29 May 2023. Celebration of water featuring all forms from rivers to streams. There’s a parade and animations on the river bank plus boats sailing up the Seine. Details: www.valdemarne.fr
Paris, Porte de Versailles – Foire de Paris, 27 April – 29 May, 2023. The Paris Fair features 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. For details and tickets see en.foiredeparis.fr/
Picardy, Compiègne Fetes Jeanne d’Arc. 18-20 May 2023. The event celebrates Joan of Arc’s last visit to the town before her capture on 23rd May 1430. There’s a medieval procession and re-enactment of her visit. www.compiegne-tourisme.fr
Provence Côte d’Azur, Cannes – Film Festival Cannes. 16-27 May 2023. 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. www.festival-cannes.fr
Provence, Grasse – Expo-Rose. 18-20 May 2023. 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. The 2012 theme is the rose in fashion.
Bouches-du-Rhone, Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer. 23-25 May 2022. For the Fetes des Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, gypsies come from all over the world to worship their Saint Sara the Black, patroness of gypsies. Legend has it that a boat containing the two Biblical Marys and Sara was cast out of Palestine and drifted to the Rhône estuary. The remains of Saint Sara are said to be in the crypt under the church in the town. There’s music, parades and a colourful few days of celebration.
Brittany, Tréguier – The Pardon of Saint-Gildas, also called “Pardon the horses,” is celebrated on 28 May 2023. At low tide, pilgrims, hikers, riders and their mounts have exceptional access to the private island of St Gildas, off Port Blanc. tregor-cotedajoncs-tourisme.com