May is a wonderful month in France and one of the most popular months if you want to see the sights before the crowds arrive. The weather is very good even in the north of France and the parks and gardens are at their Spring peak. Look out for these major events in France in May 2023.
To Nov 5, 2023: International Garden Festival at Chaumont-sur-Loire Château in the Loire Valley is a fabulous, huge Festival, the Chelsea Flower Show of France. The Château and grounds are lovely and the festival of a series of gardens from international designers always delivers some surprises.
To Jan 2024: Chartres en lumières (Chartres Illuminated). This was the first city to light up its glorious buildings every night and it’s still one of the best light shows in France.
Events in France starting in May 2023
May 1, 2023: Labor Day (Fête du Travail or Fête du Premier Mais). As with other French public holidays, some attractions and museums will close. (For all French public holidays, see the link at the end of the article).
May 6-8, 2023: Les Journées Romanaines de Nîmes (Roman Days of Nîmes) takes over the city and it’s quite a spectacle. This year it’s Vercingétorix where in the Arènes (grand arena) you can see the great battles of the wars of the Gauls against Julius Caesar with around 500 participants. There’s a Legionaires’ fort to discover, a grand banquet, and more. Events in the streets, brass bands and folk groups entertaining the crowd, exhibitions, a free concert and more to enjoy.
May 8, 2023: 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 12-14, 2023: 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 there’s a special motor show where 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.
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, mediaeval quarter at the heart of the city. Guide to Plantagenet Le Mans.
May 13-20, 2023: Jazz Sous les Pommiers (Jazz under the Apple Trees). This great jazz festival is now in its 40th 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 including one for amateur musicians and it ranges from New Orleans jazz to electronic music.
May 13, 2023: 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 16-27, 2023: Cannes Film Festival. The 76th 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 different film every night.
May 17-21, 2023: Nuits Sonores is 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 along with the music come contemporary art, exhibitions, screens and more.
May 18, 2023: Ascension day
May 20-21, 2023: 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 22-Jun 11, 2023: Roland Garros in Paris is one of the 4 major world 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 named after the great tennis player who (among other things) was one of the early famous women wearing a bra invented in 1889 by Herminie Cadolle. There are also trophies for the winners of the men’s doubles, ladies’ doubles and mixed doubles.
May 26-28, 2023: Monaco Grand Prix has taken place in the city since 1929. The slowest, hardest race in the Formula 1 championship, it runs over 3 days with free trials and qualifiers in the first days.
May 27-Jun 18, 2023: D-Day Commemorated. Each year, between late May and mid-June, the D-Day landing beaches host events commemorating the events of the great 6 June 1944 invasion of France by the Allies. 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.
Bayeux, Longues-sur-Mer, Arromanches, Sainte-Mère-Église, Carentan, Utah, Isigny-sur-Mer and Omaha take part.
D-Day Landing Beach Tour from Utah to Sword
For accommodation near the D-Day Landing Beaches, check my article here.
May 28, 2023: Pentecost or Whit Sunday and Whit Monday are official French holidays when shops, businesses, banks and more close so everybody can party.
May 31-Jun 4, 2023: Voiles d’Antibes on the Côte d’Azur is the start of the famous seaborne Mediterranean circuit races, when those beautiful rare, vintage and classic yachts unfurl their sails and race through the water.
Events in France in 2023
Have I missed an event you think I should include? Please do let me know.
Events in France in January 2023
Events in France in February 2023
Events in France in March 2023
Events in France in April 2023
Events in France in June 2023
Events in France in July 2023
I am currently updating the events for 2023. 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.
Events in France in August 2022
Events in France in September 2022
Events in France in October 2022
Events in France in November 2022
Events in France in December 2022
More about great Food Festivals in France
Public holidays in France
Here’s a quick guide to the French regions and departments to help you find where the events are taking place.
Regions of France