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Paris in May

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There is no better time to visit Paris than in May. The city is a time of transition. It’s like they are shaping off the gloominess of winter and the unpredictable weather of early spring. The weather starts to be perfect with sunny days and the crowds are minimal, which means you will get to enjoy all of the best things that Paris has to offer without feeling like you’re being crushed by a crowd of people. The café terraces are open, and there’s a strange mix of people with nowhere to go yet or if they do have someplace to go, they’d rather dawdle in the sun!.

Paris terrace

If you are looking for an escape from winter’s chill, May is a great time to go. I have been to Paris during the month of May many times and except for a few gotchas which you can totally plan for it is an excellent time to go.

Why should you visit Paris in May?

Everything from the weather to seasonal events and art makes a May trip to Paris a great vacation decision. In May, Paris is a bustling hub of life. Warm weather brings visitors to the city, the locals are out and about and flowers blossom brightly. The garden and parks are also bustling with life and the terraces are wide open.

The Weather

It is incredibly pleasant in Paris during May. It doesn’t have the rain of early spring and hasn’t yet moved into the summer heat. The only weather downside in Paris during May is the chance of afternoon showers. Temperatures for Paris in May are considered perfect with an average of around 60 degrees during the day but can get up to 80 degrees. The average lows at night hover around 57 degrees at night, so bring sweaters and a jacket to be comfortable.

The Crowds

Paris always has its fair share of tourists, but the tourism season hasn’t hit full speed in May. That makes visiting all the touristy destinations much more pleasant, although there will still be lines at the more popular spots. Many of the tourist sites offer “skip-the-lines” passes for those who don’t mind paying a little extra to avoid standing in line.

What can you do in Paris in May?

tennis ball on dirt court

If culture and festivals are your things then a trip to France’s capital will be just what you need this year. With so many events happening on any given day, here are some key events to put on your itinerary.

European Museums Night (La Nuit des musées)

This event allows you to explore Parisian heritage sites for free, and it only takes place twice a year! For those of you who are interested in art history or European culture, this is an excellent opportunity!  It takes place on the weekend closest to the 18th. European Museums stay open overnight as part of this annual tradition which started in 2005. The 18th of May was chosen because it’s also Europe Day when people celebrate peace and unity across borders from both sides of World War II with celebrations including song festivals, theater performances, exhibitions, and more.

The French Open

This is an annual event is held from May through June. The French Open is also called the Roland Garros and is the premier tennis event at the Stade Roland-Garros in Paris. Tickets are extremely hard to come by but you can watch in bars!

The Grand Steeplechase

One of the most prestigious events in the horse racing world, this event (for 2021) is set for May 22 and 23. It covers 6,000 meters and includes 23 obstacles to challenge both horse and rider. Steeplechases have been in France since the mid-1800s with the Grand Steeplechase beginning in 1877. It is held at the Auteuil Hippodrome on Route des Lacs in the Bois de Boulogne in the 16th Arrondissement.

Festival Jazz A-Saint-Germain Des-Pres

The Festival Jazz A-Saint-Germain Des-Pres is a celebration of music and offers concerts by well-known artists in a beautiful atmosphere that is not always traditional to concerts. For 2021, it is scheduled for May 16 through May 27. The event was created in 2001 and is located in the jazz center of Europe which is the infamous district of Saint-Germain-des-Pres in the 6th Arrondissement.

Villette Sonique Festival

The Villette Sonique Festival is scheduled for May 27 through May 31 (for 2021). This 15-year-old festival is outdoors, free, and has a vast range of music to enjoy including jazz, post-punk, and rock. it’s the right place to plan a picnic at the Parc de La Villette – Plein Air in the 19th Arrondissement.

Printemps Des Rues

(Moved to July for 2021) This street festival celebrates street art. It is along the banks of the Canal Saint-Martin in the areas of the 10th, 18th, and 19th Arrondissements. This festival includes performances of all types. All shows are free.

Other Events/Seasonal Sensations

wisteria in front of a building in Paris

  • May Day: If you are in Paris on May 1 buy some lily of the valley for good luck. They are sold in sprigs, bouquets, or whole plants.
  • Foire de Paris – (Postponed until 2022 will take place April 28 – May 9.) This home decor event takes place at the  Grand Paris Expo at Porte de Versailles in the 15th Arrondissement
  • Paris Jazz Festival: (moved to July for 2020) Originally known as the À fleur de Jazz because it is held at the Parc floral de Paris within the Bois de Vincennes in the 12th arrondissement.
  • Belleville Artists Open Studios is an art event with over 200 exhibitions throughout the Belleville neighborhood in the 20th Arrondissement.
  • FestiWall is a street art festival in the 19th Arrondissement along the Ourcq and Saint-Denis Canals.
  • Yoga Festival (Le Yoga Festival Paris ) takes place Porte de la Villette Convention Center in the 19th Arrondissement.
  • Livre Paris is a massive book fair that takes place towards the end of May at the Porte de Versailles in the 15th Arrondissement.
  • Wisteria Bloom: Check out the wisteria in Montmartre in the 18th Arrondissement. These beautiful purple vines can only be seen for a few short weeks and smell heavenly! BesidesMontmartre, the wisteria at the Grande Mosquée de Paris in the 5th Arrondissement shows up on Instagram a lot!

Culinary Delights of May in Paris

baguette in a bag

Besides all the wonderful events listed above, there is plenty of events to take in when it comes to food and beverage. May is the month with my favorite food festival, Taste of Paris.  Here are the best ones.

  • Bread Festival (Fête du Pain): (moved to July for 2020) the first weekend of May. You know that time of year when the smell of fresh bread fills your nose and makes you hungry? Wait, what? That’s not every day in Paris? Just kidding. Or maybe not. The Paris Bread Festival has live demonstrations and recipes for croissants, baguettes, and other treats alongside samples (yes!). The event used to take place at Parvis de Notre Dame, but since the fire, it now happens at Place Louis Lépine in the 4th Arrondissement.
  • Taste of Paris: (moved to September for 2020) the biggest and best food (and wine) festival in Paris! It generally takes place in mid-May at the Grand Palais Éphémère in the 7th Arrondissement.
  • Paris Beer Festival: (moved to October for 2021) festival dedicated to independent craft beer.

What to eat in Paris in May

strawberry pastries

Eating in Paris any time of the year is good, but in May some of the produce is at its peak, which means you can get some really delicious fresh fruits and vegetables. Many restaurants offer season menus so it is always good to know what is actually in season! Paris has many tastes to experience, but during the spring there are some seasonal specialties. If you visit the marchés (farmer’s market) you will see many of these items listed below.

  • Fruits in season: cherries (cerises) especially Burlats from Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur available starting mid-May; strawberries (La Ciflorette, Cléry, Darselect, and Gariguette), passionfruit and rhubarb. Also available: lemons, limes, mangos, and pomelos.
  • Vegetables in season: broccoli (including Romanesco), aubergines (eggplant), red and green cabbage (chou rouge and chou vert), fennel (fenouil), asparagus, cucumbers, cauliflower (chou fleur), artichokes (artichaut), new garlic, endives, peas, green beans (haricot vert), radishes (radis), shallots (échalote), dandelions (pissenlit), arugula (roquette), chard (blette), sorrel (oseille), carrots, watercress (cresson), and fava beans (fèves).
  • Seafood is in season: trout and striped red mullet (rouget-barbet), also it’s the beginning of sardine season.
  • Did you know that there are seasonal cheeses (fromages)? It’s true! Beaufort AOP, a cow’s milk cheese from Savoie is especially good. There is also Banon (goat’s milk), Boulette, Cabecou, Crottin de Chavignol, Epoisses, Fontina, Livarot, Maroilles, Roquefort, Saint-Marcellin, and Saint-Pierre.

Save on food costs by visiting the local markets and shops.

Paris restaurants can be expensive, and while it’s worth splurging on one good meal, you don’t want to blow your entire travel budget just on food. Luckily, you can find a lot of treats at the local markets (here’s the etiquette). You can also ask the hotel staff or locals to recommend small cafes and bistros that they go to. This may save you from “tourist rates” and will definitely have good food. May is wonderful for picnics in the parks. Buy at the local market and head to one of the 9 ideal picnic spots in Paris.

Important tips to remember

pot of lily of the valley flowers

Visiting Paris is an exciting experience but there are things you can do to make sure you avoid glitches.

  • There are 4 holidays in France in May: May Day (the 1st), Victory in Europe Day/Armistice Day (the 8th), Ascension Day Around (mid-May), and 24 May 2021 Pentecost Day/Whit Sunday (the day moves it is generally anywhere from the 20th to the end of the month) and Whit Monday. All our national holidays where the French have the day off. That can definitely impact your visit!
  • Besides the “regular” national holidays the tail end of Easter/Spring holidays where the children do not return until the first week of May (generally). Account for French families being on holiday too for flights, trains, and restaurants.
  • And lastly, French Mother’s Day is the last Sunday of May so the parks may get crowded. Restaurants will be crowded ALL day.
  • For many of the Mays I have been in Paris, there have been transportation strikes which can impact you moving about the city and the country!
  • Book your attractions early. While it isn’t the height of the tourism season, there are still visitors and crowds. Booking early ensures you get into the attractions that truly interest you. Try out any skip-the-line options to avoid long waits. It is worth the money.
  • May is not a month you can generally book a spur-of-the-moment trip! You should book in advance. Watch for deals on flights, hotels, and tours.
  • It does rain in Paris in May! Ask about rain dates. While most tours carry on regardless of weather, some are best enjoyed under clear skies so ask if you can get a rain-check in case of rain.
  • Don’t go to restaurants in heavily touristy areas. True for any time of year, but with all those May holidays, it will be even harder.
  • Learn some basic French. You know how I feel about “Bonjour!”

What to Pack

suitcase with clothes, camera, passport

Paris is a city that attracts travelers from all over the world. It’s one of the most popular destinations, and for good reason- there are so many things to see and do! You can spend days in Paris without even starting to scratch the surface. Whether you are coming for a weekend or a week, it’s important to pack wisely. Paris is a city known for its fashion, and the people of Paris are usually dressed to impress. But what about you? What should you pack when traveling to Paris in May? 

While the weather is not as temperamental as April, layers are always your best option. Bring a light jacket (great if it is also waterproof if it rains). I am a big fan of scarves or pashminas which have multiple functions. It will likely be sunny, so don’t forget sunglasses and maybe a hat ( a nice one not a baseball hat!). Always pack comfortable walking shoes and socks, as wearing heels in the city can be tiring. If you’re planning on doing any shopping, a pair of flats will come in handy!

When it comes to bags, it’s important to pack light since you will likely be carrying your bag for most of the day. A cross-body tote is perfect for this type of trip, as it can easily go from daytime outfit to nighttime attire and still look fashionable. I always bring foldable bags of various sizes for shopping and food.

Why is May the best time to visit Paris?

Tuileries Garden Paris in May

If you have your heart set on visiting Paris, May is one of the best times to visit. Visting in May offers many events and activities, great weather to enjoy, and fewer crowds to contend with at attractions. The mild temperatures make for excellent walk or biking tours and the cool evenings are a great addition to wine, food, and music. You cannot go wrong with Paris at this time of year!

Have you ever visited Paris in May? What was your experience? Did you go to any events? Do share!

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wisteria in front of a building in Paris terrace chairs and tables in paris pot of lily of the valley flowers
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