It’s never too early to start planning for the vast array of events offered in Paris as summer approaches. Here’s our complete guide to Paris in May with the best places to go, things to do, and activities for families in the City of Light.
While it is a great place to visit no matter what time of year, this is the month of the year when the streets of Paris really come alive. Summer is around the corner and all over Europe, people are relishing the longer daylight hours. As the average temperature starts warming up, May is one of the best months to visit. If you want to encounter fewer tourists and fewer crowds, the beginning of the month is a better time to visit. You can start to expect large crowds and long lines at popular attractions moving into late May and early June when we approach high season. Low season returns in late September or so.
Late spring in Paris means (hopefully!) good weather. Still, pack an umbrella, a light sweater and a light jacket to transition from day to night. A hat and sunglasses are good if you’re lucky enough to have bright clear skies and sunny days in the French capital. The good news is that on average, there are only about nine rainy days in May. Expect an average high temperature of 67°F (19°C) and 50°F (10°C) for lows.
First time Visitors
If it is your first time to Paris, it is a great time to savor walks, a guided tour, market days, parks and green spaces, a glass of wine en terrasse and of course, picnics. One of the best things is that it is the start of Festival season. It is the perfect time to enjoy a short walk in the early morning, stroll in the Île de la cité, Père Lachaise Cemetery, the Latin Quarter and scale the steps of Sacre Coeur. Enjoy open and green spaces from the lawns of the Champs de Mars near the Eiffel Tower, along the Seine River, the Jardin du Luxembourg, Jardin des tuileries, Place des Vosges, Parc Clichy-Batignolles, and Square Gabriel Pierné, which is just a stone’s throw from the beautiful Pont des Arts and its sights and more.
In the approach to the summer months, it is the best time to enjoy outdoor events like a river cruise. It is a good idea to plan for day trips from Paris, to places like Disneyland Paris, Versailles and the Loire Valley.
There are a number of public holidays in France in May which may impact opening days and times for establishments:
- 1 May: Labor Day
- 8 May: World War II Victory Day
- 18 May: Ascension Day
- 28 May: Whit Monday (Pentecost Monday)
Tous à l’Opéra, Various locations – May 5-7
Tous à l’Opéra is an event hosted in almost every major city in France, from Montpellier to Lille. For its 16th year running, the theme is “Imaginaires en construction”, or “Fantasies in construction.” So take the opportunity to participate in these special events meant to make the opera more accessible for the public.
Musical Fountains Show, Palace of Versailles – Every weekend in May
The Versailles Palace hosts a musical fountain show with lights, baroque music, and circuits around the gardens. Immerse yourself in the height of the French court era. This is an excellent trip for families with kids as well, teaching them the history of the Palace and allowing them to experience the iconic gardens of Versailles.
Foire de Paris, Paris-Porte de Versailles – Until May 8
The Foire de Paris has everything from kid’s animations and workshops, products made in France, tempting gastronomym, wine tastings and more. The fair has exhibited products, companies, leisure activities, and international cuisine since 1904. Discover new products and experience the best of Paris in one place.
“Thinging” by Jan Rozman, Théâtre de la Ville – May 10-13
“Thinging” is a dance performance that brings inanimate objects to life and challenges our anthropomorphic view of the world around us. The performance presents questions about the intrinsic value of objects and what makes things valuable to some and insignificant to others. Presented by Théâtre de la Ville, it is shown in English with French translation available and affordable tickets from 5-15 euros.
Paris Beer Festival, Ground Control – May 8-14
If you need a good reason to enjoy a beer, Paris Beer Week is it. The festival celebrates independent and artisanal beer from Paris and throughout the Île de France region. This year, nearly 50 local and international microbreweries will come together for a week to show off and celebrate their craft. This event is perfect for those who enjoy supporting small breweries and this artisanal craft.
Saint Germain des Prés Jazz Festival, various locations – May 10-17
The Saint Germain des Pres Jazz Festival was created in 2001 to celebrate international jazz artists in the heart of Paris’ jazz scene. It is the must-see spring festival for European jazz lovers, with exceptional concerts, talented young artists worldwide, and their multicultural artistic ventures with jazz as their medium. The festival takes place in several unique locations throughout Paris, with notable locations at Musée Cluny, Sorbonne University, Maison des Océans, and the Odéon Theater.
Taste of Paris Festival, Grand Palais Éphémère – May 11-14
The Taste of Paris Festival is a must-see for lovers of French artisanal foods. Visitors can sample meats, cheeses, wines, and more from French vendors. This is the perfect opportunity to leave with a basket full of some of the best products from France.
Fête du Pain, Notre Dame Cathedral – May 13-21
Fête du Pain is a staple of spring in Paris. This year it will take place near Notre Dame Cathedral. This festival is an opportunity to learn about the insider secrets to making bread, pastries, and other French staples from the most well-known bakers in Paris! You’ll learn about the essentials, rules, and the art of the baguette tradicion and witness competitions for the best almond galette, apple tart, and butter croissant.
Les Printemps des Rues, various locations – May 28-29
Les Printemps des Rues is an art festival hosted in three arrondissements of Paris over one weekend at the end of the month. It highlights the diversity of street artists, from music to spray-paint art. Ultimately, the festival brings out artists’ inner worlds and connects them to more prominent societal factors to unite the artists and the public. With live music, dance exhibitions, theater, and even marionette performances, there is something to discover for everyone.
Breaking the Waves, Opéra Comique – May 28-31
“Breaking the Waves” is an opera about the heroine’s struggle with love and faith in her relationship and her community’s moral standards. The work received the International Opera Award for Best Creation in 2017 for its narrative and musical harmony. Hosted by the Opera Comique, it is a must-see for opera lovers and mature audiences.
Renaud – Concerts at La Scala, Casino de Paris and Olympia – May 9/10, 26/27, 30/31
Renaud is a famous French singer-songwriter known for his distinctive voice and vocal style. He is one of the most popular singers in France. His career evolved through the ‘70s and into the 2000s, which spotlights his reservations. The singer returns to the stage in Paris at La Scala on May 9-10, the Casino de Paris on May 26-27, and Olympia on May 30-31.
“How to Become a Parisian in One Hour”, Théâtre des Nouveautés – Through July 2023
This one-man comedy show is an intensive training session in all things Parisian, and it’s perfect for anyone who has lived in Paris or is fascinated with Parisian culture. Performed by Olivier Giraud in English, it focuses on audience participation in the format of ‘lessons’ on everyday Parisian life. It is recommended for audiences aged 16 and above.
La Fête du Travail – May 1
La Fête du Travail is the French version of Labor Day and is known as a national strike day. Workers take to the streets to celebrate their right to protest to protect their rights and the standardized 8-hour work day. This is an important day to mark in your calendar if you visit France around this time of year.
“May Day” – May 1
May Day is celebrated as the official arrival of spring in France, and it is the only day in the year that flowers can be sold on the street without a permit. Historically, a lily of the valley is presented to mothers and close family. Called muguets in French, lilies of the valley have been a symbol of good luck since the 16th century.
Le jour de la victoire en Europe “Victory Day” – May 8
“Victory Day” in Europe is celebrated for the Allied victory in World War II and the announcement of Germany’s surrender. It is a public holiday in France, including a commemorative parade down the Champs Elysées. In addition, the president leads a ceremony honoring the Unknown Soldier buried under the Arc de Triomphe. It is an important day in history and includes many French history and culture displays. If you are in Paris on Victory Day, you should witness the great traditions of the day.
La nuit des musées (European Museums Night) – May 13
The European Museums Night (La nuit des musées) is an event throughout Europe in which over 3,000 museums across 30 countries offer free admission, with various activities for their patrons. Enjoy this unique opportunity to have free access to some of the world’s greatest art held in permanent collections and temporary exhibitions.
Funny Women at Coucou Comedy, The Highlander – May 16
“Funny Women” is an hour-long standup comedy event with an all-female lineup. Entrance is free, and comedians of all nationalities and skill levels are welcome, so each night is distinct. Shows are in English. This event is in an expat-friendly bar, so enjoy a night of standup comedy with friends at Coucou Comedy.
The French Open: “Roland-Garros” – May 22-June 11
Roland-Garros is on of the world’s great sporting events. Featuring some of the biggest stars in tennis to the game’s ambitious up-and-comers. There are a variety of tickets for various experiences, so there is something for everyone.
Improvised PowerPoint Comedy Show, La Pomme D’eve – Every Wednesday
This comedy show is in English and challenges some of Paris’ best stand-up comedians to present a PowerPoint presentation on a topic they have never seen before! The show is the only one of its kind in Paris, and a crowdfunded performance means it is accessible for a reasonable price. So enjoy a night of standup comedy in an intriguing format and support Paris comedians all in one space.
Matisse: The Turn of the 1930s, Musée de l’Orangerie – Until May 29
Centered on Matisse’s iconic works during the 1930s, this exhibition is a lens into his life during this decade and the pivotal events he experienced, displayed mainly through drastic changes in his art and medium. Many works are brought to Musée de l’Orangerie from American museums and have never been shown together before – so don’t miss out on this window into Matisse’s life and experience.
Léon Monet, Musée du Luxembourg – Until July 16
Chances are you haven’t heard of Léon Monet, but you are very familiar with his brother, Claude. Léon had a crucial role in his brother’s career, namely in creating a foundation to support Claude and his Impressionist colleagues. The Musée du Luxembourg presents this unique and unprecedented exhibition to spotlight Léon Monet’s major contribution to the world of Impressionism as we know it.
Sarah Bernhardt and the Woman Who Created the Star, Petit Palais- Until August 27
This exhibition featuring Sarah Bernhardt, an artist and actress in the 19th and 20th centuries, includes over 400 pieces related to her most notable roles in Shakespeare, Alexandre Dumas films, and Racine. She triumphed on stages worldwide, and her works demonstrate her challenging relationship with her public and private lives. She is regarded to be a star before her time, so take the opportunity to appreciate her contribution to the stage.
Logan Hicks –The Escape of Sequana, Fluctuart, all summer
A new mural by New York stencil artist Logan Hicks invites viewers to immerse themselves in a stretch of pond full of lily pads. Commissioned by Fluctuart, the floating urban art center docked just below Pont des Invalides, to kick off the reopening of their terrasse for the season on May 1st, the mural stretches for 25 meters on the walking path along the Seine. The Escape of Sequana celebrates the mythological tale of Sequana, the goddess of the Seine, who escaped Neptune by turning herself into water. Hicks’ signature photorealistic stencils show patches of purple and green lily pads, floating along a stream swirling with Art Nouveau patterns, which viewers can walk, run or lay on. The mural will enliven the entrance of Fluctuart all summer.
Manet / Degas, Musée d’Orsay – Until July 23
Icons of Impressionism, best friends turned rivals, and inspirations to their peers, the works of Manet and Degas are similar yet distinct in their own ways. In this exhibition presented by the Musée d’Orsay, the complexities of their relationship, professional and personal lives, and artistic techniques are explored in conjunction.
Picasso Celebration, Musée Picasso – Until August 27
One of the major events in the art world this year is the 50th anniversary of Picasso’s death. Museums worldwide pay homage to the iconic artist by hosting major exhibitions, including the Musée Picasso Paris. Incorporating artists from around the world, Picasso’s life milestones are highlighted by his impact on the art world, introducing new dialogues of his innovation in art during his life.
Basquiat x Warhol: Painting Four Hands, Fondation Louis Vuitton – Until August 28
Friendships between artists of similar styles are not uncommon. Yet, this uncommon pairing of artists is significant due to the societal pressures they faced through their partnership as artists, friendship as peers, and eventually as strangers. Explore their amazing yet complicated relationship conveyed through art instead of words at the Louis Vuitton Foundation.
Ramses and the Gold of the Pharaohs, Grande Halle de la Villette – Until September 6
This traveling exhibition will be in Paris until September 6th, where visitors will explore the extraordinary life of Ramses II. A warrior, a negotiator of one of the most famous ancient peace treaties in antiquity, and the architect of the pharaohs of Egypt, Ramses II was the longest ruler of Egypt, leading for 66 years. Discover the works of this period and more about Ramses II at the Grande Halle de la Villette.
Before the Storm, La Bourse du Commerce – Until September 11
This unique, thought-provoking exhibition presented at La Bourse du Commerce displays the abstract relationship between humans and animals, our planet, and our society through the works of 20 artists. The pieces are disjointed, distorted, and out of sync with expected reality, but they offer a valuable commentary on current events.
Best for Families
Foire du Trône Carnival, Pelouse de Reuilly – Until May 29
The Foire du Trône is back after a two-year break! It is one of Paris’s oldest and most festive fairs, celebrating many different cultures and their history. With 350 attractions and 80 rides, it is sure to enthrall people of all ages.
Voyage dans le temps / Journey through time, Cirque Bormann Moreno- Wednesdays and weekends in May
The Bormann Circus presents its new show, Voyage dans le temps, in which the audience will experience music and cultures throughout the ages in a journey through time. Combining familial history, juggling, horse training, and acrobatics, the show is a two-hour performance with music, comedy, and poetic commentary. With affordable tickets, you won’t want to miss it.
Musée Rodin Sculpture Workshop – Throughout May
Bring out your inner sculptor and discover the techniques and methods Auguste Rodin used through the Musée Rodin’s sculpture workshops. The activities are adapted to participants of all ages, and participants will see Rodin’s most famous works, such as The Thinker and The Kiss. There are many ways to engage with art outside the technological world, so take advantage of this unique workshop.
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Written by Reagan O’Brien for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Plum Guide and our Marketplace for fabulous vacation rentals in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long or short term, or buy in France? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person? Check out our marketplace shop and experiences.