May in France: Weather, Travel, and Events

Visiting France in May? Get travel tips from the weather, average temperatures, where to go, top events, festivities, and more.
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So you have decided to visit France in May. Great choice! The weather is bound to be fabulous with the coming of summer, and kids are still in school so we should expect fewer crowds.

Actually, there are several public holidays in May in France (more on this later), but don’t let that put you off. Yes, it will be more crowded during the holidays, but the rest of the time you will certainly enjoy France at its finest.

Whether you like the long days of sunshine, the warmer weather or the French atmosphere, you will be spoilt for choice this month. From sitting out on a restaurant terrasse and watching the passersby, or sitting on a beach on the French Riviera, there is plenty to do and experience. So let’s check out the top travel tips for visiting France in December, shall we? Allons-y!

Weather

Spring is in full bloom in May, although there may be days that are colder, especially in Paris and the north where rain is common. Average temperatures in May in major cities across France are:

  • Paris – 14.3 °C (57.7 °F)
  • Lyon – 15.1 °C (59.2 °F)
  • Marseille – 16.9 °C (62.4 °F)
  • Bordeaux – 15.9 °C (60.7 °F)
  • Lille – 13.4 °C (56.2 °F)
  • Strasbourg – 14.8 °C (58.6 °F)
  • Deauville – 13.3 °C (55.9 °F)
France map with main cities, Paris, Deauville, Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux, Lille, Strasbourg, Amboise and Alps

Where to go

There are several events in and around France during May, such as the Formula 1 Grand prix de Monaco and the Cannes film festival along the French Riviera. Nearby, the smaller villages and town of Provence will start prepping for their summer season. This is one of the best times of the year to visit Provence as the weather is not yet too hot.

If you are heading to Paris, there is the start of the Roland Garros French tennis open, as well as La Nuite Européenne des Musées (the European Museum Night), when museums stay open late. Both events start in mid-May.

You may also wish to head to Normandy for the solemn Victory in Europe day on May 8th, as there will be several special events near the D-day beaches and military cemeteries around Normandy. This can get rather busy however, as there are usually official government events scheduled in the area.

In addition, seaside towns like Biarittz and Trouville-sur-mer will see an influx of visitors hoping to take advantage of the warmer waters along the coast.

May Holidays, Events, and Festivals

With several public holidays in May, this is usually the month where the average French worker does the “faire le pont“.

Jeanne d'Arc in Paris for labor day in France in May
Jeanne d’Arc leading the protest

Which is to say, if the public holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, they will take a vacation day on the Monday or Friday for an extra-long weekend.

So you can expect museums, châteaux, and other attractions around France to be more crowded during these long weekends given that spring is here after a long winter, and everyone is on holiday. The main festivities and holidays in May include:

1. Fête du premier mai – Labor day

  • Public holiday in France: Yes
  • When: May 1st

Labor day in France is not in September, but in May. It is a public holiday, and in Paris you will see large demonstrations and protests by unionists for May Day. They are demonstrating to preserve their employee benefits that have been fought for over centuries.

Muguet given out in France on 1st of May
Lily of the Valley flower

Even large museums like the Louvre will be closed on May 1st so check on their website if you are planning a visit.

In addition, the muguet flower, which is known in English as the lily of the valley, is traditionally offered in France at the start of May as a token of the coming spring and to bring good luck.

Un délicat brin de muguet pour du bonheur toute l’année. A delicate sprig lily of the valley for happiness all year long.

French saying

You could try to pick your own lillies, but either way you will see vendors on city street corners selling small bouquets of muguets (for which they require a permit). You can read more about the significance of May day here.

2. Jour de la Victoire en Europe – Victory in Europe day

  • Public holiday in France: Yes
  • When: May 8th

The end of World War II in Europe is an important holiday in France. With older generations still able to recount the wartime horrors in France, the day is marked with military memorials with foreign leaders.

There will be several special events marked along the D-day beaches and military cemeteries around Normandy.

3. Jour de l’Ascension – Ascension Day

  • Public holiday in France: Yes
  • When: Thursday, the fortieth day after Easter

It is the 3rd public holiday in May, so many people “faire le pont”, which is take a “bridge” vacation day to string together a longer holiday. (If you are a business trying to get some work done in May, be prepared to have a good percentage of your coworkers on holiday.)

The Ascension is one of 4 public Christian holidays noted in France. It was Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, who established these religious days as national holidays, one for each season: Ascension in spring (May), Assumption in summer (August), All Saints in autumn (November), and Christmas in December.

4. Fête des Voisins – Neighbors’ Day

  • Public holiday: No
  • When: Last Friday in May

It is not a holiday, but an evening when you are supposed to get together with the neighbors in your building for a moment of conviviality. It is usually organized in potluck style, with everyone bringing a little something.

5. Fête des Mères – Mother’s Day

  • Public holiday: No
  • When: Last Sunday in May, except if it conflicts with Pentecôte (decreed by French government

French people love their moms, too so it is Mother’s day! The standard greeting to your French maman is Bonne fête Maman ! with flowers and/or some chocolates.

6. Other events

Every May, the town of Flogny-la-Chapelle in Burgundy celebrates the feast of the gougère with a festival featuring various fêtes, competitions, and exhibitions. 

What to Pack

The sunshine may be out in May, but you will still need a light jacket in the evenings.

You can find more French style tips here.

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If you enjoyed reading this article, you may enjoy reading more about events in France in other months of the year. A bientôt!

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