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 film-lovers from around the globe.

May Weather in France

In May, the weather in France is generally mild however, you can still expect spring showers and cool evenings. The climate and weather can vary depending on where you are with cooler and rainier weather in the north of France and warmer temperatures and drier days closer to the Mediterranean.

 City Average High Temperature   Average Low Temperature
Paris  64 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius)  50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius)
Strasbourg  68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius)  46 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius)
Bordeaux  66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 degrees Celsius)  50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius)
Nice 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius)   55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees celsius)
Lyon  68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius)  48 degrees Fahrenheit (9 degrees Celsius)

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 rather 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 and layers you can easily add or remove like a sweater or cardigan. A good pair of walking shoes is a must-have as many French cities are best explored on foot. Make sure the shoes are close-toed as rain is always an option and you'll need a sturdy umbrella that can withstand the strong winds as well.

May Events in France

Every year, France plays host to a variety of cultural events and celebrations, which start to pick up steam as spring warms up over the course of the month, making it an excellent month to plan your vacation—especially if you want to beat the summer tourist rush. In 2021, some events may be canceled or postponed so be sure to check with official organizers for updates.

  • 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. The 2021 festival has been postponed to July.
  • 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. The festival has been postponed to September 16 to 19, 2021.
  • Nuit SonoresElectronic music reigns at this annual festival in Lyon however, it has not been rescheduled for 2021.
  • D-Day Festival Normandy: Though D-Day itself is on June 6, the festivities commemorating the anniversary will take place from May 29 to June 13, 2021.
  • French MotoGP: This motorcycle Grand Prix takes place in Le Mans, a racing town in northwestern France, from May 14 to 16, 2021.
  • 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. In 2021, the festival will take place virtually.

May Travel Tips

  • May 1 is Labor Day in France, and except for essential services, most workers will have a paid day off so the majority of businesses will be closed.
  • In May, tourist attractions typically extend their hours as popular destinations gear up for longer days and big 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 the Cannes Film Festival, as flight prices rise and hotels reach capacity quickly.
  • At the end of April and the beginning of May, French children usually have a two-week break from school which many families use as an opportunity to travel and leads to more crowded destinations.
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