Official May Holidays
May 1st: Fête du Travail (Most museums closed)
May 8th: Fête de la Victoire 1945 (V-Day WWII)
May 10th: Ascension
May 21st: Pentecost Monday
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. Whatever the case, call ahead to make sure the places you’re going are open and count on public transport disruptions.
The largest gardening festival in Versailles takes place this weekend at the 10th annual Esprit Jardin: L’Art du Jardin, with free entrance exceptionally to the Potager du Roi. With more than 80 exhibitors, the festival runs from 10am-7pm in the Quartier St-Louis: rue du Maréchal Joffre, rue d’Anjou, Carré à l’Avoine, Potager du Roi et Parc Balbi. Free entry.
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!
May 18 (monthly event)
Theatre in Paris is hosting their second Expats Theatre Night with the show “Les Virtuoses” (with english subtitles above the stage) at the Théâtre Fontaine. “The Virtuoso brothers Mathias and Julien are unequivocally captivating on the piano and utterly hypnotizing with their clownish, yet tasteful magic tricks. Leaving audiences awestruck, Les Virtuoses is like something you’d see on Broadway, but with a Parisian twist. Perfect for the whole family!.” Tickets include a pre-show walking tour of the Comédie Française (5pm), the show itself with English-translated program, and post-show drinks at the after-party. The first two guests who use the discount code “SECRETSOFPARIS” get 10% off their tickets. Sign up here. Check back for the next event in June!
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 17).
Check out your favorite Paris museum at night during the 14th 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.
The 12th 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.
Chamber music and a three-course meal in a beautiful setting, tonight the Café de la Paix at the Hotel InterContinental (Opéra) is hosting “Bravo!” an event in support of Sinfonietta, a unique chamber music ensemble featuring some of the best up-and-coming musicians from around the world. Tickets are €60, and since there are just 24 places you’ll want to sign up quick!
Best-selling author Stephen Clarke, known for his fictional series of a British expat in Paris that started with “A Year in the Merde” and his hilarious history book about the relationship between England and France “1000 Years of Annoying the French”, is talking about his latest book “The French Revolution: What Went Wrong” tonight at the Abbey Bookshop (29 rue de la Parchiminerie, 5th, M° St Michel) from 7:30pm. Snacks and wine, books available for signing, and the usual good humor. Free entry, no RSVP needed.
The 29th 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.
Les Frigos, one of the oldest artists “squats” in Paris (legalized over 35 years ago) houses 200 artists of all kinds in a 1920s refridgerated warehouse converted into ateliers near the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand (13th). This weekend they’re open to the public for their annual Portes Ouvertes, with live music, entertainment, and art for sale directly from the artists. Free entry Saturday 2-10pm and Sunday 2-8pm.
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.
Plan Ahead for June
June 1-3: Rendez-Vous au Jardins
June 2: Paris Vegan Festival
June 3: Grand Siècle Day at Château Vaux le Vicomte
June 15-16: Music by the Glass
June 21: Fête de la Musique
Other Paris calendar links
▪ For French Theatre with English surtitles: Theatre in Paris
▪ For general events around Paris (including sports): Que Faire à Paris?
▪ For literary events, readings, and classes: Monthly Paris Listing
▪ For mainstream events visit the Paris Office of Tourism