May is a magical time to visit Paris. You can feel summer is around the corner, yet popular attractions have yet to fill up with tourists. For Parisians, there are several public holidays to enjoy, with events across the city lighting up those extended breaks from work.
Indoor and outdoor events occur across the city, including some of the biggest free events in the city. There’s life in every quartier, as you can see in our roundup of the best things to do in Paris in May.
The 15 best things to do in Paris in May
Explore museums for free during La Nuit des MuséesStreet Fair in Paris
The free cultural events flow in May, and The Night of the Museums invites Parisians and travelers to discover world-class museums for free. Compellingly, the museums are open late into the evening.
The event is part of a European-wide initiative, and Paris’s superb museums lead the way. In most museums, small events like concerts and workshops enrich the experience.
Many public museums in Paris are free anytime you visit. During the La Nuit des Musées, other museums join the fun. They include headliners like the Musée National Picasso, Musée de la Monnaie de Paris, and Musée des Arts et Métiers.
For one night in May, the museums of Paris are the place to be.
The artists of BellevilleWalking Tour in 20. Arrondissement
The Belleville district is a bohemian district noted for its numerous art studios. During May, artists across the neighborhood open their doors and invite curious art lovers to see them at work.
The event is organized by the local artists’ guild, Ateliers d’Artistes de Belleville, with over 200 artists participating over several days.
The Belleville district is off-the-beaten-path for tourists, yet is one of Paris’s trendiest neighborhoods and worth a visit if you want to see an alternative side of the city. It is an absorbing place to explore, with some fine examples of street art and edgy bars. During the Portes Ouvertes (Open Doors,) there is an extra frisson of excitement that makes exploring the neighborhood one of the most rewarding things to do in Paris in May.
Enjoy live music for free at Villette SoniquePark in 19. ArrondissementOur highlight
Nothing says summer is coming more than the ever-popular Villette Sonique free music festival. Taking over the dynamic Parc de la Villette, Villette Sonique is over 15 years old and is a much-anticipated fixture of the Parisian social calendar.
A series of concerts are hosted over 4-5 days during the event. The program is diverse: rock, experimental music, electronica, and more are on the program.
The concerts are daytime events. And there is room for everyone in the wide green spaces of Parc de la Villette. In the evenings, DJ parties are held in the nearby venues, Grande Halle de la Villette, Cité de la Musique, and Trabendo. That means the festivities go on all night (evenings charge entrance fees.)
Villette Sonique is one of the most exciting things to do in Paris in May. If you can, make time to explore the canals and museums around Parc de la Villette, one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the city.
Shopping at Foire de ParisShopping Tip in Paris
The fabled Paris Fair continues into May. The retail spectacular was first held in 1904 and is a hugely popular place to find quality vendors and discounted goods from just about every retail sector. The event showcases the latest technologies, introduces innovative new products, and offers high-end goods with discounts. Many boast the mark, ‘Made in France.’
There are food sellers (great for gifts), home furnishings, electronic goods, and just about everything you would find in what is briefly the world’s greatest department store. If you like shopping, the Foire de Paris is one of the top things to do in Paris in May.
The ‘Taste of Paris’ food festivalEat & Drink in 8. Arrondissement
If working your way through the gastronomic delights of France tops your vacation itinerary, you’ll love the Taste of Paris food festival. The gourmet event fills the magnificent Grand Palais (éphémère for 2023) with first-class chefs and kitchens from across France. The aim is to showcase the best of French cuisine, from the traditional to the innovative.
The format encourages visitors to enjoy a moveable feast, with small plates served fresh and hot from hundreds of food stands.
Plates cost €6 upwards, which you pay with a prepaid card. The idea is you wander around sampling foods that pique your interest. Many top chefs and fashionable restaurants are represented. Your senses will be assaulted by the mouthwatering flavors and enticing smells throughout the vast exhibition hall.
At the Taste of Paris, some of the best restaurants in France come together under one roof. For foodies, it is unmissable.
Fête de la nature - stroll through the green areaStreet Fair in 16. Arrondissement
Every year, local municipalities across France organize events in outdoor spaces, so people can get closer to nature in an urban setting. Paris is no exception, with walks, workshops, and outdoor activities organized across the city.
The parks of Paris are a joy to explore during May. The weather is agreeable, and the days are long. The Fête de la nature encourages parkkeepers to pull out all the stops to make the most of the improving weather with a series of creative outdoor activities.
The program changes annually. Private gardens open up, hikes are organized, and biodiversity workshops are offered. The activities are organized by volunteer associations, making it a rewarding way to discover the outdoor delights of Paris and meet some locals passionate about their urban green spaces.
In Paris, events center on the picturesque Seine island, Île de la Jatte, and in the western suburbs and the charming Jardin des Plantes in Bois de Vincennes. But there are other nature activities to be found in parks across the city, so check the program to find one near you.
Celebrate spring around Canal Saint-MartinNeighborhood in Paris
The residential neighborhoods bordering Canal Saint-Martin buzz with energy and vitality and come to life spectacularly during Le Printemps des rues (Spring Streets.) In the edgy BoBo (Bohemian Bourgeois) districts, street performers are invited to showcase their singular talents.
Singers, circus performers, street artists, dancers, actors, and more put on shows throughout the area. It’s like an impromptu street party lasting all weekend. And everybody is invited.
While there are many informal street performances, you can find the main events online when they are published. Far from the star attractions of Paris, Le Printemps des rues is one of the most colorful and spirited events in Paris in May.
Holi Festival in ParisMusic Festival in 16. Arrondissement
The effervescent Holi festival is a Hindu celebration that marks the end of winter. It is traditionally celebrated in March, but Paris puts on its own Holi festival in May.
Taking place in the Jardin d’Acclimatation, an amusement park in the Bois de Boulogne, Holi is a festival of color and sound and one of the most joyous things to do in Paris in May.
Like the original Holi festivals in India, colored powder is liberally sprinkled around as everyone parties for a day. A stage hosts a series of live acts and performances that showcase Indian culture. Entry is free, while food trucks and stalls sell themed products for a unique carnival experience.
Check the program to find out what to expect, and get ready to enjoy some frenetic, kaleidoscopic fun.
Tous à l’OpéraTheater in Quartier de la Madeleine
‘Everyone at the Opera’ is an event that makes opera accessible to all. Taking place in the resplendent opera houses of Paris, it is a rare opportunity for the curious to learn more about the centuries-old musical art form.
The program includes workshops, insights into how operas are staged, and free live performances. Outside of Italy, nowhere is better for world-class opera than Paris. This is your chance to find out why.
One of the biggest draws is seeing famous Parisian opera houses for free, including the majestic Palais Garnier. If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about the music of Puccini and Verdi, or what the difference is between a soprano and a mezzo-soprano, make sure to visit Paris in May.
Watch tennis at the French OpenSports Event in Quartier d'Auteuil
Top-class tennis action returns to Paris in May at the French Open, a Grand Slam event. The premier clay court tennis competition is one of the most exciting things to do in Paris in May.
Only the early knockout matches are available to watch in May, with the finals happening in June. Although you won’t see any champions crowned, you are at least guaranteed to see all the big tennis stars in action. Plus, tickets are inexpensive at that stage of the tournament.
Whether you love tennis or simply enjoy great sporting occasions, Roland Garros is the place to find some of the biggest thrills and spills in Paris all year.
Savor craft beer at the Paname Brewing CompanyBrewery in Canal St. Martin & La Villette
With the first hints of summer arriving in Paris in May, bar and café terraces rapidly fill up again. One of the finest spots to enjoy a leisurely drink in the sun is on the Paname Brewing Company terrace, which sits above the Canal de l’Ourcq in Parc de la Villette.
In tune with the rest of the beer-drinking world, microbreweries have become hugely popular in France. France was arguably the pioneer of craft beer: brasserie means brewery in France, and they were once informal places to enjoy locally-made beer and food. Today, brasseries can be found all over France, but Paname is one of the best in Paris. And there is no question their terrace enjoys stunning views made for sunny days.
After a walk around the scenic local environs stretching around Canal de l’Ourcq and Parc de la Villette, you will have earned a lingering pause with cold craft beer.
The Victory Day Parade in ParisHolidays in 8. Arrondissement
The Parade de la Victoire is held annually to mark the end of World War II. Taking place on the avenue where Charles de Gaulle heralded the liberation of France, the somber parade sees the President of France lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Arc de Triomphe.
The jour de la Victoire en Europe is a public holiday in France, and the public turns out in tens of thousands to pay their respects to veterans and the fallen who helped bring peace to Europe. You can join the crowds thronging the Champs-Elysées to mark one of the most important dates in France and Europe.
Les InvalidesMuseum in 7. ArrondissementOur highlight
A permanent tribute to France’s fallen is found at the Les Invalides. First built in 1670, the Hôtel des Invalides was a hospital and retirement home for injured veterans. Today, it is home to the national army museum. More famously, it is also where Napoleon Bonaparte’s tomb is housed.
Napoleon died on May 5, 1821. His legacy was immense and reshaped Europe. Aside from his role as France’s first emperor, he is best remembered as a brilliant general who won an extraordinary number of battles and wars.
Napoleon’s remains were repatriated from exile in Saint Helena, an event known as the Retour des cendres. A magnificent chapel in the Hôtel des Invalides was converted to house his tomb and allow the public to visit. The resulting tomb is a stunning sight fit for an all-conquering emperor. In later years, other famous generals and relatives of Napoleon were buried there.
A visit to the sprawling army museum and tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte will occupy a full day. It is a fascinating place to explore, capped by seeing the jaw-dropping chapel that houses the illustrious emperor’s tomb.
Visit the Home of Victor HugoMuseum in 3. Arrondissement
Another of France’s iconic figures should be remembered in May. Victor Hugo is probably France’s most cherished writer. The playwright, poet, and author was beloved in his day. Little has changed since he passed on May 22, 1885.
You can gain a rare glimpse into his life at the Maison de Victor Hugo in the august Place des Vosges in Le Marais. The fabled writer of Les Misérables and the Hunchback of Notre Dame lived there for 16 years. And the curators have painstakingly recreated the home to match how it was when he lived there. Even his deathbed is displayed, albeit moved from his final home on Avenue d’Eylau.
Victor Hugo’s funeral was attended by 2 million people. He was laid to rest in a crypt at the Panthéon with Alexandre Dumas and Émile Zola. He is one of the towering personalities of French history. And a visit to his former home is a compelling diversion when visiting the vibrant Le Marais district.
Foire du TrôneTheme Park in 12. Arrondissement
If you’re looking for family fun in Paris in April that will amuse children big and small, the sprawling Foire du Trône thrills and entertains all through the month.
The annual funfair is centuries old and has grown to be the biggest in Europe. With 350 rides and games, the fête foraine now occupies the open spaces of Pelouse de Reuilly in the expansive Bois de Vincennes. The high-spirited gathering fills up every evening and is packed with thrills, spills, and sugar-fueled mayhem.
Good craft beers during the Paris Beer FestivalFestival in Paris
There are multiple opportunities to sample craft beers from microbrasseries (microbreweries) in Paris in May. Organized by the L’association Paris Beer Club, the Paris beer festival encourages local breweries to host tastings and myriad beer-fueled activities. The aim is to showcase the mouthwatering diversity of artisanal beers that are growing in popularity throughout France, some even competing with fine wines for prestige.
The program varies annually. Check online to find an event and buy tickets for a taste of new France.
Is May a worthy time to visit Paris?
There is no better time to experience the magical atmosphere of spring in Paris as in May. The flowers start to blossom, the beautiful parks are getting greener and the cafés open their terraces for an excellent lunch. If you like mild temperatures, sunny days and a French… ahh fresh breeze, May is the perfect time for you to visit the City of Love!
What is the weather like in Paris in May?
The weather in Paris in May picks up throughout the month, with warm clothing increasingly abandoned and the public parks filling up for impromptu picnics. Average temperatures are comfortable and range between 48.2°F (9°C) and 65°F (18.3°C); highs of 70°F (21°C) are common. Daylight appears for over 15 hours per day, although rainfall is still ever-present, with between 13–14 days forecast for the month.
Are there any Jours fériés (Public holidays) in Paris in May?
Likewise to public holidays all around the world, there are some shops closed and only a few restaurants and malls are open to the public. So, if you are in town on any of those days, inform yourself about the opening hours of the places you want to visit.
- 1st—Fête du Travail (Labor Day)
- 8th—La Fête de la Victoire (Victory Day)
- 29th—Pentecost Lundi (Pentecost Monday). The date is moveable, but will be the last Monday in May 2023.
What to pack for Paris in May?
It’s getting warm in Paris! Yeah, how awesome. Finally, you can leave the umbrella at home and pack some fancy and chic clothes with fit perfectly into the spring day in Paris. Even though you should pack something fancy, always pack a comfy sneaker for your walks through the parks and visits of the museums.
What to wear in Paris in May?
The weather in Paris is perfect for some light clothing which are chic and comfortable. Boots and skirts or coats and a fancy shirt are always a safe option. You might even be able to wear cool sunglasses.