“I enjoy the spring more than the autumn now. One does, I think, as one gets older.”
― Virginia Woolf
Paris in May is the eternal spring. When you visit the city during le Printemps, it will be hard to experience it in any other light without thinking of spring. The warm weather and the light nights inspire good spirited nature all over Paris, and coffee outside finally sounds like the best idea.
May is also the time of a couple of the nation’s biggest holidays, Labour Day (1st May) and Victory Day (8th May), meaning that pretty much everywhere is closed. I mean, pretty much everywhere more than the “closed-after-lunch” special move loads of brasseries and cafés like to make.
Avoid those days (or stock up in advance) and you’re primed to experience the spring that inspired Monet. But better. Because in the latter part of the second decade into the new millennium, we have music festivals.
Music Festivals in Paris: The Lowdown
There are those who will rave about Paris in April - and with good reason. But April is prone to showers. Those showers help greeneries all across the city get to full bloom. It’s in May that the sun sometimes comes out for a few days at a time, and the Parisians are drawn to parks en masse.
For May and June are the months of citywide celebrations of music. And when Björk is scheduled to play her only French gig at one of them, you know they have to be special.
- Tous à l'Opéra: With the aim of broadening the age-old appeal of opera to younger generations and the curious, the Tous à l'Opéra event makes it free for everyone to attend shows through its duration. Not bad. Maria Callas would be proud. (participating venues across France)
- Festival Jazz à Saint-Germain-des-Prés: Every day for two weeks, Saint Germain and the surrounding area dedicates itself to the true art of jazz music. The Jazz festival brings together like-minded souls for whom Cole Porter is an institution and Chet Baker is a God. Most of the events are free or a bonus part of a good dinner and a great start to May in Paris.
- Villette Sonique: Uncover the newest (and oldest) in indie rock, post-punk and jazz at this yearly free event in Parc de la Villette. Music festivals of this caliber don’t happen everywhere for free, and any chance to dance barefoot to good tunes with friends is one worth taking. No matter how young you get.
- We Love Green Festival: Eco-friendly festival on the edges of Paris in the Bois de Vincennes, this event technically takes place on the first weekend in June but with such a stellar line-up, we’d be doing you a disservice not to mention it. That stellar line-up includes artists like Charlotte Gainsbourg, Beck, and Björk.
- Download Festival: Sister to the British rock festival, Download Festival France occurs in the southern suburbs of Paris. It occurs in the middle of June, but like the above, we’d never forgive ourselves if we didn’t mention these four words: Foo Fighters and Ozzy.
FOR MUSIC FANS
If you love your music more than anything, why not check out the best places to see live music in London?
Where to Stay During May in Paris
- BONAPARTE'S PARIS
- CHARMING TOURNON
- BOULEVARD DE LA BASTILLE
- RUE MICHEL-ANGE II
- AMÉLIE’S CANAL
- UNDER THE EAVES
What Else is on in Paris in May?
When you’ve had enough of festivities and fancy lying around your plush new Paris apartment with a glass of wine and a cheeseboard, there’s a lot of stuff going on for that sort of a mood. Why should parties in the park get all the fun?
- Held every year in Roland Garros, the French Open is to the French what the World Cup is to the Brits. (We just love our sport, we can’t help it.) It’s like Wimbledon but with more actual drinking and less Pimms. Every year, a giant screen is erected at the Eiffel Tower so you can go along and watch the French Open in the Champ de Mars.
NOT QUITE YOUR SPEED?
Sports bars across Paris show the French Open on their screens. Our notable mention here is Canadian bar The Moose! (16 Rue des Quatre Vents) It has 14 flat screen TVs and serves good old-fashioned North American grub.
- If horse-racing is your cup of tea, you aren’t alone. Every May, the Auteuil Hippodrome hosts one of the most iconic and challenging competitions on the equestrian calendar: the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris. For less than €10, members of the public can go along to Bois de Boulogne to experience what might as well be a national holiday. (PS, Rue Michel-Ange II, is just a 10-minute walk away!)
- Organised by the Ministry of Culture and Communication, the Night of Museums (Nuits des Musées) has inspired select museums all over Paris and Europe to open their doors after dark. Couples, families, and solo travellers can all experience places like the Louvre and the Musée de l'Orangerie in ways they never have before. The Night of Museums also inspires choice special events like concerts under the stars, secret jazz performances, and dances around famous monuments.
- Become a legit foodie when the Taste of Paris takes over the Grand Palais in a unique showcase of gastronomical proportions. For four days, the Grand Palais will be full of the ingredients to the perfect time. Cooking classes, meet-and-greets, and taste-testing may even be the most French of all festivals.
- If you don’t mind going too far out of the city, Sceaux’s Park’s cherry blossoms are mind-blowing.
Even More Reason to Visit Paris in May
You mean the promise of great food, sports, and Björk didn’t entice you? No worries, we’ve got more blossom up our sleeves and your enjoyment in mind.
- May is a great time to visit Paris on a budget - if not that, it’s just really good in making sure more euros go towards wine and cheese!
- Tourists are rare. In most parts of the city, there’ll be nary a selfie stick in sight. (Phew!)
- Dogs! Parisians love their dogs, and May is just the right weather to take them on long strolls around parks and along the river.
- Nights are getting lighter - as are all of our spirits spirits (and on that note, you get more spirit for your euro…)
Go-To Arrondissements in May
Saint-Germain-des-Jazz: The streets of Paris's incomparable 6th district are full of jazz and blues as venues, bars, and streets return to the Belle Époque.
La Villette and the Canals of the 19éme: Hidden in the upper corner of the overlooked 19th arrondissement, the Parc de la Villette is a centre for indie arts and culture.
Aristocracy in Auteuil: Avenues of the wealthy and their glorious, over-sized mansions, Passy-Auteuil and bordering Bois de Boulogne is a village-within-la-Ville.
The Charm of the Champs-Élysées: See the world from the Arc de Triomphe, shop at one of the area’s thousand stores, and get in touch with your sporty side... if you like.
Oberkampf in Bloom: Hotbed of nightlife and rock music, the thundering Bohemia of the 11th is a fab way to spend the light and warm evenings well beyond dark.
From Reuilly to Vincennes: 15 minutes from Paris proper, Vincennes is a stunning town that shares its park - the largest in Paris - with the easternmost border of the city.