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Official May Holidays
May 1st: Fête du Travail (Most museums closed)
May 8th: Fête de la Victoire 1945 (V-Day WWII)
May 25th: Ascension
May 1 It’s the annual Fête du Travail in France, one of the biggest national holidays when almost every museum and shop is closed. Most museums are closed but some are open, as are the Tour Eiffel and Notre Dame – see what’s open May 1st for a full list. Traditionally there are parades by French workers’ unions; the big question this year is how many people will hit the streets to show opposition to Marine Le Pen and the Front National in the current presidential elections…Whatever the case, if you’re in Paris you may find metro Republique closed and other disruptions.
Looking for a killer deal on used clothing? The charity thrift shop Emmaüs is holding a five-day Vente au Kilo (sale by the kilo) of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing at their Davout Boutique (105 blvd Davout, 20th, metro Porte de Montreuil). At the same time, brand-name clothing will be on sale at their Saint-Mandé Boutique (11 avenue Joffre, metro Saint-Mandé).
‘De Plus Belle’ starring beloved French comedian and actress Florence Foresti (she hosted last year’s César awards ceremony) is the first Lost in Frenchlation screening for May. Lost in Frenchlation screen French films with English subtitles each week, with a cocktail hour before the film; follow them on Facebook to keep up with the program. Tickets €10, online only.
The big event of the rapidly growing craft beer scene in Paris, the 4th annual Paris Beer Week offers events all over town, from tastings to tap takeovers to brewing workshops. The focus is on local French brewers (and especially those from Ile de France); the grand final, at Le Centquatre on May 13, features 75 brewers both French and international. See the full program and reserve your place.
The first Sunday of the month in Paris means two things: pedestrian-only Sundays on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées from noon-8pm, and free museum entry. Here’s a list of the museums that are free; if you want to take advantage, go early and be prepared to queue.
through May 8
The annual Foire de Paris (Paris Fair) is one of the biggest events of the year, occupying the entire Paris Expo Porte de Versailles (15th arr.) with hall after hall of food and wine, home and garden, fashion and accessories, travel and world cultures, arts and crafts, the famous Inventions Contest, and a ‘Makers Fair’. It’s chaos, it’s fascinating, and there’s always something interesting to learn (or buy, or eat). Just don’t go on the weekend unless you like being trampled!
Gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, nut-free or meat-free? The Salon des Allergies Alimentaires et des Produits Sans is a trade show of producers specializing in foods for those allergic to or avoiding certain ingredients. At Paris Porte de Versailles, entry €10 (or €7 if you pre-book online).
A host of superstar chefs will descend on the Grand Palais for Taste of Paris. From long-revered chefs like Thierry Marx and Guy Savoy to the hottest things in town like Frenchie’s Gregory Marchand and Pierre Sang Boyer, they’ll be pumping out Paris’ current ‘it’ dishes at pop-up restaurants for a fraction of their à la carte prices. Plus cooking workshops and demonstrations and a gourmet producers’ market. Entry from €18, dishes €5–12.
One of the biggest flower shows in France, Journées des Plantes de Chantilly (formerly Courson), takes place this weekend at the Chateau de Chantilly, just 45 minutes north of Paris from the Gare du Nord. Entry €20 (or €17 if you get your tickets online before May 18).
The 28th annual Artists’ Open Studios in Belleville takes place for four days in over 120 ateliers in Belleville (centered on the 19th and 11th arrondissements). It’s a great chance to see some real Paris neighborhoods, meet local artists, and of course purchase some lovely artworks! See a map of all the open studios, or visit the HQ at Galerie des AAB (1 rue Picabia, 19th, metro Couronnes). Free entry. Studios are open 2-8pm over the four days of the event.
The 11th annual Fête de la Nature is a five-day festival celebrating nature with a full program of 5000 free events in parks, gardens, nature preserves and forests all over the country, with 36 events in Paris alone.
The Paris Fringe festival presents shows in English from international and local companies with a focus on innovative approaches and contemporary themes. Over 20 events – theatre, dance and comedy – at nine venues across the 9th and 10th arrondisements, plus workshops, talks and events to allow artists and audiences to interact and exchange. Purchase tickets, €10-15, on their website.
Check out your favorite Paris museum at night during the 13th annual Nuit Européenne des Musées, when all over Europe museums stay open until midnight…for free! Special flashlight tours, live music, installment arts, film screenings, costumed museum guides, and other fun events throughout the evening at each museum.
Attention equestrian fans: it’s time for the one of the legendary horse racing events in Paris, the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris at the Hippodrome d’Auteuil (16th). There will be food trucks, snack stands and you can also dine in the panoramic restaurant overlooking the racetrack. Tickets are €8.
through May 21
At La Maison Rouge in the 12th arrondisement, L’Esprit français, Countercultures, 1969-1989 is a fascinating collection of over 700 works and documents spanning newspapers, flyers, posters, and extracts from films, videos and television shows, showing how distinctly French dissident, subcultural and underground voices were created. Entry €10.
through May 22
The big exhibition of the spring is Vermeer at the Louvre, sets his greatest masterpieces and alongside those of his contemporaries to show how he was part of a dynamic network of ‘Golden Age’ artists. Entry (including the permanent collections) €15, open daily (except Tuesdays) 9am to 6pm, until 9.45pm Wednesdays and Fridays.
May 22-June 1
The annual French Open at Roland Garros takes place for two weeks in the Bois de Boulogne (16th). Tickets go fast, get yours on their official website.
American Memorial Day Ceremonies will take place in and around Paris at the Escadrille Lafayette Memorial, American Legion Mausoleum, American Church of Paris, US Military Cemetery in Suresnes, and Arc de Triomphe.
through June 17
At Bibliothèque Forney, the library at the magnificent medieval Hôtel de Sens in the Marais, is the fascinating Modes & Femmes 14/18, examining the role of fashion in the lives of women during World War I. In doing so, it shines a light on the difficult – and often conflicting – demands made on women during those turbulent times. Time your visit for a free guided tour on Saturdays at 3pm if your French is up to it; if not, the comprehensive explanatory panels are in English as well as French. Free entry.
through June 25
The Musée D’Orsay’s big spring show is Beyond the Stars: the Mystical Landscape from Monet to Kandinsky, focusing on landscape paintings by the Symbolist artists of the late 19th century. You’ll see works by European artists like Gauguin, Denis and Van Gogh, and North American painters such as Georgia O’Keeffe and Emily Carr (the exhibition is organised with the Art Gallery of Toronto). Entry €12.
through July 10
One of the city’s most charming small museums, the Musée Jacquemart-André in the 8tharrondisement, presents a collection of 52 works from the outstanding collection of Alicia Koplowitz – from old masters like Zurbarán, Tiepolo and Goya to modern works by Gauguin, Van Gogh, Picasso, Modigliani, Rothko Giacometti and Bourgeois. Entry €13.50.
through July 16
Musée Bourdelle, a charming exhibition space in Montparnasse which was once the studio of the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, is housing an exhibition of haute couture from Balenciaga, with over a hundred pieces from the Palais Galliera collection and the archives of Maison Balenciaga. The exhibition is part of a Spanish season by Paris’ museum of fashion, Palais Galliera, with other exhibitions to follow through the year.
through July 22
Government of the Parisians: Paris, its people, the state – a shared history (Le Gouvernement des Parisiens. Paris, ses habitants, l’État, une histoire partagée) is a free exhibition at Hôtel de Ville, with almost 300 documents, sculptures, posters, photographs and more from the Louvre, d’Orsay, Carnavalet, Petit Palais and National Archives.
through July 31
This year marks 100 years since the death of sculptor Auguste Rodin, and there is a calendar of worldwide events to mark the occasion. The centrepiece is the Centenary Exhibition at the Grand Palais, with 200 works by the master himself as well as sculptures and drawings by contemporaries such as Bourdelle, Brancusi, Picasso, Matisse and Giacometti. Entry €13.
through 30 October
The Holocaust and comics (Shoah et bande desinée), at the Mémorial de la Shoah, explores how artists working in this popular art form – from French and Belgian bandes desinées to American superhero comic books to Japanese manga – have tackled the Holocaust. Free entry.
Other Paris calendar links
▪ For French Theatre with English surtitles: Theatre in Paris
▪ For general events around Paris: Que Faire à Paris?
▪ For literary events, readings, and classes: Monthly Paris Listing
▪ For indie/alternative music concerts see Gigs in Paris
▪ For art exhibitions in galleries and museum see Slash Paris
▪ For mainstream events visit the Paris Office of Tourism