France in May: 6 reasons why it’s the worst month to visit

May in France is wonderful except if you’re a tourist. May is the month with the most French holidays when businesses close or have reduced hours.

By Annie André ⦿ updated January 10, 2024  
Is May the worst time of month to visit France because of all the French holiays?
Is May the worst time of month to visit France because of all the French holiays?

Spring is a beautiful time of year in France. However, as a tourist or newly arrived expat, you could be caught off guard by all the French Public holidays and celebrations in May, which could put a crimp in your holiday plans. However, if you know when they are, what to expect and what you can and can’t do on these days, you’ll be just fine. 

French Holidays In May:

No other month can boast as many holidays.

I’ve had the privilege of living in France since 2011, and to be perfectly honest, there is no “BAD TIME” to visit France. There are, however, specific periods that are better to visit than others. 

For instance:

  • Visiting Paris from Mid-July to August is the busiest time of the year with horrific amounts of tourists. Expect long lines and lots of crowds. 
  • Airline tickets to France in September and November tend to be cheaper; however, the weather is not always optimal. 
  • The month of May can have as many as 5 different bank holidays (six if you count Mother’s day) that can affect public transportation, tourist attractions and other services like grocery stores.

Let’s not forget that children also get a 2-week spring break which sometimes spills over into the first week in May. This means French parents are also vacationing with their children in various places around France, making public places like beaches and museums super crowded. 

Of course, some public holidays, like Bastille day on July 14th can be culturally interesting with lots of parades and fanfare. Other Public holidays in France are low-key and are perfect for spending quality time with friends and family, but for the average tourist or newly arrived expat, it can put you in a bit of a predicament. 

Paris and larger cities are the exceptions: Always check websites or call any tourist attractions, businesses, restaurants and other establishments you want to visit during a public holiday in France to ensure they are open for business. 

When And What Are All The May Holidays In France

jour-ferie- bank holiday possibly closed

If you ever hear or see a sign with the French word férié ” /Fey-REE-Yey/, it means it’s a French public holiday, aka bank holiday, 

Click below to hear how it’s pronounced.

French Holidays And Celebrations In May

Calendar French Holidays in May


1-) Labour Day / International Workers Day :

  • La Fête du travail
  • French Public Holiday
  • Date: 1st of May

Why is everything closed in May 1st In France?

May 1st is labour day in France. It’s the only day on this list that celebrates two separate holidays on the same day.

Don’t plan on doing very much today because it’s the one day of the year where all workers legally must have a paid day off from work. Except for vital services like hospitals, you can expect most things to be closed.

2-) Festival of the Lily of the valley flower: 

  • La Fête du Muguet
  • French Public Holiday
  • Date: 1st of May

The tradition of giving the LIly flower Muguet in France on May Day

In addition to Labour day, May 1st is also The Lilly Of The Valley Day.

In the days leading up to May first, you’ll see plants with tiny bell-shaped flowers sold in most florist shops and grocery stores. On the day of May first, many people sell these plants on street corners so make sure you buy one for your wife, daughters, and even female friends. In French, they’re called “Muguet”. 

Fun fact: Lilly of the valley flower is also one of the ingredients in Chanel no 5.

3-) Victory in Europe Day aka V-Day :

  • la Fête de la Victoire or Jour de la victoire
  • French Public Holiday
  • Date: 8th of May
    Pintrest pin about What Is Victory In Europe Day And How Is It Celebrated In France?

The 8th of  May is Victory in Europe Day, and it’s an important day to many European countries because it marks the official end of the Second World War and the end of Nazi Germany in 1945.  

Most large stores will be closed so this is a good day to go to the park or head to one of the many public pools in France

4-) Ascension Day : 

  • Jour de l’ascension:
  • French Public Holiday
  • Date: Always on a Thursday-exactly 40 days after Easter Sunday

Pintrest pin about Ascension Day In France. What Is It And What Do People Do?

Ascension day is always on a Thursday in France, exactly 40 days after Easter. Ascension day usually occurs in May but can occur as late as the 3rd of June. The date changes because Easter is a moveable feast (i.e. the date of Easter changes from year to year). The last time Ascension day occurred in June was in 2011, and the next time it will occur in June is 2038, 2079 and 2095.


If you’re unfamiliar with this religious holiday, it’s the day that Jesus ascended to heaven following his crucifixion and resurrection. Many French people attend a special church service, but most use this day to spend time with family and loved ones. Because this day falls on a Thursday, people often take an extra-long weekend from work called “faire le pont.” 

5-) Mothers Day : 

  • Fête des Mères:
  • Observed French Holiday
  • Date: Always on the last Sunday of MayPin: Mothers day in France plus dates around the world

Technically, Mother day isn’t a French bank holiday; it’s an observed holiday, so things don’t shut down on this day. However, if you plan on eating out, make sure you check to see if you need a reservation and be aware that many restaurants might have a fixed menu at higher prices for Mother’s Day.

Like Mother’s day in the US and Canada, Mother’s day is on a movable date. But unlike the US and Canada, Mother’s day in France is celebrated on the last Sunday of May, not the 2nd. 

6-) Pentecost Monday aka Whit Monday :

  • Lundi de Pentecôte
  • Public Holiday
  • Date: Always on a Monday- Exactly 50 days after Easter Sundaypintrest pin about Pentecost in France

Pentecost Monday is exactly 50 days after Easter Sunday and always occurs on a Monday. Like ascension day, Whit Monday is a religious holiday that has a movable date and can happen any time in May or June.

Many people spend Pentecost Monday quietly in the company of friends and family or enjoy a picnic in the park. 

Check the dates of public holidays in France.

Here’s a complete list of all public holidays in France.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a 'petite commission' at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through my links. It helps me buy more wine and cheese. Please read my disclosure for more info.

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Annie André

Annie André

About the author

I'm Annie André, a bilingual North American with Thai and French Canadian roots. I've lived in France since 2011. When I'm not eating cheese, drinking wine or hanging out with my husband and children, I write articles on my personal blog for intellectually curious people interested in all things France: Life in France, travel to France, French culture, French language, travel and more.


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