May in France: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

Palais des Festivals during Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France
Francois Durand/Getty Images

May is one of the most popular times for American tourists to visit France because of the mild and comfortable spring weather, plethora of events, and relatively small crowds at some of the country's most popular destinations.

Depending on which city or part of the country your visit on your May vacation to France, you can experience a wide variety of unique cultural events, including the famed Cannes Film Festival that attracts celebrities and commoners from around the globe.

Weather

In May, the weather is generally mild, though there can still be spring showers and chilly evenings across much of France.

Still, according to where you are in France, there are some variations in the climate due to geographic location and typographical features like mountains and valleys. From Paris to Strasbourg, you're sure to discover an excellent adventure no matter where you go in France:

  • Paris experiences temperature ranges from 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 Celsius) to 64 degrees Fahrenheit (18 Celsius) and an average of 57.2 degrees Fahrenheit (14 Celsius).
  • Strasbourg in northeastern France experiences temperatures to range between 46 degrees Fahrenheit (8 Celsius) and 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 Celsius) with an average of 57 degrees Fahrenheit (13 Celsius).
  • Bordeaux sees temperatures between 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 Celsius) and 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 Celsius) with an average May temperature of 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 Celsius).
  • Nice experiences a range of 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 Celsius) to 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 Celsius) with an average May temperature of 63 degrees Fahrenheit (17 Celsius).
  • Lyon sees temperatures between 48 degrees Fahrenheit (9 Celsius) and 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 C) with an average temperature of 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 Celsius). 

    Additionally, no matter where you go you can expect between eight to 13 days of rain in the month of May, with Nice receiving the least amount of rainfall and Paris receiving the most. However, it's important to keep in mind that the weather in France is rather volatile this time of year, so you should always come prepared for any weather condition.

    What to Pack

    Traveling to different cities can also make it challenging to pack for France as you will need a variety of spring clothing and layers. Days can be quite warm, Evenings can be chilly, and you'll probably find some rain and wind, especially in Paris. As a result, your packing list should include a warm jacket for the evenings, sweaters or cardigans, good walking shoes, and a sturdy umbrella that can resist the wind.

    Events

    Every year, France plays host to a variety of cultural events and celebrations, which really start to pick up steam as spring warms up over the month of May, making it an excellent month to plan your vacation—especially if you want to beat the summer tourist rush.

    • Cannes Film Festival: Perhaps the most popular and well-known event that happens each year is the Cannes Film Festival, which showcases the best in independent filmmaking from around the world. Although most of the screenings require industry credentials to access them, the Cinéma de la Plage is a nightly screening of Out of Competition films and Cannes classics, which you can experience by visiting the Cannes Tourism Office.
    • French Open: Sports enthusiasts might also enjoy the ​French Open Tennis Championships in Paris, but you should be sure to buy your tickets well in advance if you hope to get good seats for the tournament as the event tends to sell out quickly.
    • Taste of Paris: This gastronomic festival brings together large numbers of food vendors in the Grand Palais, but eateries across Paris join in on the fun and host special events.
    • European Night of Museums: Each May, museums across Europe—including many in France—stay open late with fun programming.
    • Nuit Sonores: Electronic music reigns at this festival in Lyon.
    • D-Day Festival Normandy: Though D-Day itself is on June 6, the festival celebrating it begins at the end of May across Normandy.
    • French MotoGP: This motorcycle grand prix takes place in Le Mans, a racing town, each May.
    • Festival Jazz à Saint-Germain-des-Prés: Jazz lovers descend upon Paris' Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood each May for a well-known music festival.

    Travel Tips

    Keep these tips in mind if you plan on traveling to France in May.

    • You can experience extended hours at tourist attractions as popular destinations gear up for summer crowds.
    • Rates on airfares and accommodations will also begin to climb this time of year as shoulder season makes way to high season, and the lines at France's most popular attractions will begin to get longer as the month progresses.
    • Book travel and accommodations well in advance of popular events like Cannes Film Festival, as flight prices rise and hotels reach capacity quickly.
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