Events in France in May this year are wonderfully varied. It seems the whole of the country is making up for 2 years of cancellations and postponements. The weather is good even in north France; the parks and gardens are at that lovely stage between Spring and Summer and the crowds have not yet gathered in force. It makes May a lovely month for a France visit.
To May 1, 2022: The famous north France International Kite Festival takes over the sandy beaches of Berck-sur-Mer as extraordinary looking kites fill the skies. It’s quite a site.
To May 2, 2022: Festival de l’oiseau et de la nature (Bird and Nature Festival). Try to get to this as it’s perfect for families with walks, trips on horseback, in a carriage, a kayak or boat that take you to places to watch birds, seals and more in the beautiful Somme Bay.
To Jul 31, 2022: Saint-Etienne Design Festival. Since 1998, the city of Saint-Étienne in the Auvergne has hosted the International Design Biennial. Organised by the Saint-Étienne Regional School of Fine Arts in this interesting industrial city, it promotes contemporary design through seven exhibitions and events. The theme this year is ‘Bifurcation’. Saint-Etienne is the only French city designated as a UNESCO-listed Creative City of Design, joining Berlin, Bilbao, Montreal and Beijing.
To Nov 6, 2022: International Garden Festival at Chaumont-sur-Loire château in the Loire Valley celebrates its 30th anniversary. This equivalent in prestige to the Chelsea Flower Show is fabulous. The château and grounds are lovely and the festival shows off a series of gardens from international designers. The theme this year is the Ideal Garden: designers have created gardens which aim to satisfy the following criteria. It must be beautiful, good, organic, healing, comforting, innovative, and water and energy efficient all at the same time. In addition it must glorify harmony and taste, and generate wellbeing and happiness. The French really do put the bar high don’t they?
To Jan 14, 2023: Chartres en lumières sees this wonderful city illuminated for its annual festival of light. It’s nightly so there’s no excuse to miss it.
Events in France starting in May
May 1, 2022: Labor Day (Fête due Travail or Fête du Premier Mais). As with other French public holidays, some attractions and museums will close. (For all French public holidays, see end of the article).
May 4-8, 2022: Les Journées Romanaines de Nîmes (Roman Days of Nîmes) takes over the city and its quite a spectacle. There’s a Legionaires’ fort to discover, a grand banquet, nightly visits to the Arènes and a Roman market on the Charles de Gaulle esplanade. Events in the streets, brass bands and folk groups entertaining the crowd, exhibitions, a free concert and more to enjoy.
From May 6-8, 2022 Les Arènes de Nîmes are putting on the grand Historical spectacle: Hadrien – the War of the Picts.
In 2023 The Roman Days of Nîmes takes place from May 6-8, 2023.
May 8, 2022: VE (Victory in Europe) Day (Fête de la Victoire 1945 or Jour de la Liberation) Like all public holidays in France, there are closures of attractions and parades in many cities, towns and villages.
May 13-15, 2022: The French Motorcycle Grand Prix takes place every year in Le Mans on the main racetrack. It’s an important event with around 100,000 people coming to the Bugatti circuit. You can see the race on giant screens. There’s entertainment including concerts, and a shopping village where you can buy all that gear.
On Saturday evening a motor show adds to the atmosphere and you can see and hear the riders talking about the sport and the race on stage.
If you’re in Le Mans, check out the fabulous 24-Hours of Le Mans car and motor bike museum. There’s plenty to see.
Le Mans is a great city. Here’s a general guide to Le Mans, a Tale of Two Cities: what to see and do, where to stay, eat and more.
What surprised me (and many first-time visitors to Le Mans) is the beautifully preserved, and extensive, medieval quarter at the heart of the city. Guide to Plantagenet Le Mans.
May 14, 2022: European Museum Night. Taking place throughout Europe, over 1,200 French museums open their doors, most free from 6pm to midnight. There are often special events from storytelling tours to screenings and fireworks.
May 16-Jun 5, 2022: Roland Garros in Paris is one of the 4 major Grand Slam tennis tournaments. It began in 1925 and today takes place on 20 clay courts. Each match is five sets with no deciding game in the last set. There are two major awards: the Musketeers’ Cup for men and the Suzanne Lenglen cup for women. The womens’ cup is rightly named after the great tennis player who was one of the early famous women wearing one of the bras invented in 1889 by Herminie Cadolle. There are also trophies for the winners of the men’s doubles, ladies’ doubles and mixed doubles.
May 17-28, 2022: Cannes Film Festival. The 75th edition of the most famous film festival in the world is a glittering occasion on the Cote d’Azur. Prizes include the best film, best director, best actor, best actress, Jury Prize, Grand Prix and the famous Palme D’Or. The main screenings take place on the Boulevard de la Croisette, in the Festival and Conference Centre. It’s for professionals but many go to Cannes to catch sight of their favourites. And the outdoor Beach cinema is open to all and shows a film every night.
May 20-28, 2022: Jazz Sous ls Pommiers (Jazz under the apple trees). This is a great jazz festival, now in its 39th year. It’s held at Coutances, in Normandy. Established and up-and-coming artists take part; there are performances in the streets and more. It’s spread over 7 stages.
May 25-29, 2022: Nuits Sonores is something different. It’s an urban-oriented electronic music festival in Lyon. The innovative and exciting programme welcomes performers from around the world. It takes place in museums, disused factories, a theatre and the city hall. And there’s more than music with contemporary art, exhibitions, screens and more.
May 26-29, 2022: Monaco Grand Prix. Petrol heads swarm to Monaco for the unusual Grand Prix held in the steep streets of the city. Started in 1929, it’s considered the slowest and the hardest circuit. There are free trials and qualifiers on the first two days and the race is on day 3.
May 28-29, 2022: Coutellia is an extraordinary knife-makers event that attracts exhibitors from all over the world. It takes place in Thiers, one of the great knife-making centres in the Auvergne. There’s more about Thiers and Coutellia on MechTraveller’s excellent website.
May 28-Jun 12, 2022: D-Day Commemorated. Each year, between late May and mid-June, the D-Day landing beaches host events commemorating the events. There’s a full programme with guided walks, historical re-enactments, exhibitions, fireworks, parachute drops in period costume, tours of the installation and bunkers, military vehicle parades, concerts and more. All in tribute to the Allied soldiers who liberated France on 6 June 1944.
Bayeux, Longues-sur-Mer, Arromanches, Sainte-Mère-Église, Carentan, Utah, Isigny-sur-Mer and Omaha take part. The major commemorative event is at Arromanches on June 6 when there’s a tribute ceremony to the veterans and a big air show with vintage aircraft.
For accommodation near the D-Day Landing Beaches, check my article here.
May 30, 2022: Pentecost or Whit Sunday and Whit Monday are official French holidays when shops, businesses, banks and more close so everybody can party.
May 31-Jul 3, 2022: Saint-Denis Festival has been putting on fabulous classical music concerts and recitals in Saint-Denis since 1970. Performances are in the basilica of Saint-Denis and the House of Education of the Legion d’Honneur. French and international orchestras bring Mozart, Schubert and modern works to life. Some concerts are broadcast on a giant screen in front of the basilica.
Have I missed an event you think I should include? Please do let me know.
I am currently updating the events for 2022. The articles here are not yet updated, but
they do give an idea of what might be on as many events take place each year.
More about great Food Festivals in France