What to Do in France in May

What to Do in France in May

The promise of warmer days and plenty of bank holidays in May are the perfect excuse to get out and about in France. Here is France Today’s round-up of events, new exhibitions and openings in May 2023 

May events in France 

Tous à l’Opéra, Paris – May 5-7 

Enjoy an exclusive tour of the opera houses of Paris and around for free! For its 16th edition, this event invites visitors to attend public repetitions, explore backstage, try out stage make-up workshops and enjoy concerts for free at the Palais Garnier, the Opéra Comique, the Opéra Royal de Versailles, and the Opéra de Massy. Some activities must be booked in advance. 

The Carré d’Art in Nîmes turns 30 – May 9 

The museum of contemporary art of Nîmes is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a host of events and exhibitions throughout the southern city.  

Grand Palais Ephémère in Paris © Patrick Tourneboeuf

Taste of Paris – May 11-14 

The Grand Palais Éphémère transforms into a temple of gastronomy for Taste of Paris: savour four days of tastings, demonstrations, innovations, and a peek at the latest foodie trends 

Musée Rodin in Paris © Musée Rodin

La Nuit des Musées, France-wide – May 13 

Discover a different and fun museum experience as more than 1,300 museums and monuments all over France open for free during the European Night of Museums. A unique opportunity to discover the permanent collections as well as special exhibits and one-off activities such as workshops, guided tours, musical performances and more. 

Strawberry festival of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne – May 14 

Enjoy a taste of springtime at la Fête de la Fraise in Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne in Corrèze with a splendid market, tastings, arts and crafts, music, games and, of course, a giant strawberry tart. 

Tall ships during the Semaine du Golfe parade in Morbihan, Brittany © Dominique Morel

Semaine du Golfe du Morbihan – May 15-21 

A tidal wave of maritime activities will be descending on the beautiful gulf of Morbihan for a week of celebrations. Hundreds of boats of all shapes and sizes will be navigating on the “small sea” (Mor Bihan in Breton) of Brittany with land-based festivities taking place in the 17 ports where the ships will stop at. Spectacular ship parades, concerts, exhibitions, tastings and fun activities await visitors. 

Cannes Film Festival – May 16-21  

The most talented filmmakers and actors of all genres gather from the four corners of the globe to showcase their latest creations in the glitzy seaside town of Cannes, on the Côte d’Azur. 

Vauvert Abrivado, Gard – May 18-21 

Come to Vauvert in the Gard for a seriously competitive Abrivado horse and bull weekend, followed by a convivial peña, folk music and parade. The Abrivado recreates the ancestral tradition of moving cattle from the pastures back to the arenas by leading bulls through the streets of a village.  

Sedan’s fortified castle plays host to the yearly Medieval festival © Thierry Michel

Sedan’s medieval festival – May 20-21 

Step back in time at this celebration of all things medieval in Sedan’s fortified castle in the Ardennes. Enjoy live music and performances from travelling companies of musicians, street theatre, and combat demonstrations and amble along the camps to watch shows, workshops and re-enactments of daily life (cooking, smithy, glassmaking, making clothes, etc.) as well as a medieval market with over one hundred stalls. 

Monaco Grand Prix – May 25-28 

Rev your engines for the 80th edition of the legendary Monaco Grand Prix F1 motor race. 

FISE, Montpellier – May 25-29

Celebrating its 25 years of existence, FISE is back on the banks of the Lez river in Montpellier. This hair-raising festival is Europe’s biggest extreme sports competitions and sees amateurs and professionals compete for the most impressive freestyle tricks on roller blades, skate board, scooter, bmx, mountain bike, wakeboard and Block climbing. Visitors can visit a pop-up ‘surf village’ where they can try different sports and, in the evening, enjoy live DJ sets.

Beaune’s sparkling new Cité des Vins et des Climats

Opening of Burgundy’s Cité des Climats et Vins de Bourgogne – May 3 – June 17 

Three brand new centres dedicated to Burgundy’s wines, terroirs and climats will be opening throughout May and June, first in Mâcon on May 3, then in Chablis on May 17 and finally in Beaune on June 17th, before the grand opening festivities in June.

Odyssée Sonore at the Roman Theatre of Orange – May 1 to December 31 

From May to December, you will be able to attend one of the 73 performances of the Odyssée Sonore and experience immersion in a completely unprecedented acoustic and visual show, held in one of the most famous ancient heritage sites in the world. Equipped with your smartphone and binaural headphones, visitors will follow a route of their choosing from sound to sound while enjoying impressive videomapping. 

New exhibitions in France starting in May 2023 

Max Ernst, Aix-en-Provence – May 4- October 8 

The stunning Hôtel de Caumont in Aix-en-Provence devotes its summer exhibition to the genius of Max Ernst, erudite artist and prodigious experimenter.   

Victor Hugo museum when it first opened in 1903 © Paris Musées / Maisons de Victor Hugo Paris-Guernesey

Victor Hugo’s house turns 120, Paris – May 10 – September 3

The house of Victor Hugo, on place des Vosges in central Paris, is celebrating its 120th anniversary this year. A special exhibition will be held within the walls of this hôtel particulier where you can discover over 230 works of art, commemorating the founder of the museum and close friend of Hugo, Paul Meurice, but also some of Hugo’s works.

Douce France, Atelier d’Art Lepic, Paris – May 11 – June 25 

Take a tour of France with Paris-born artist Henry Landier and his colourful paintings of French life, from the Norman coastline to Marseille, crossing through the Auvergne, Aveyron or the Lubéron. The exhibition is held in the Atelier d’Art Lepic in Montmartre. 

Regards Croisés at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris © Plantu-Reza

Regards Croisés Plantu/Reza, Musée de l’Homme, Paris – May 11 – December 31 

Le Monde’s illustrator Plantu and photo-journalist Reza come together for a powerfully visual exhibition mixing photography and illustration, held in the Musée de l’Homme. With years of experience covering news and events all over the world, the two reporters denounce inequalities and document conflicts with one voice. 

Women Matter, Gaîté Lyrique, Paris – May 12 – July 9  

In the newly reopened Gaîté Lyrique cultural centre, this photo exhibition by the group of photojournalists Dysturb highlights various portraits of women around the world to defend their rights, encourage their talents and develop their potential. 

Sous le regard de Méduse, Musée des Beaux Arts de Caen – May 13 – September 17 

Instantly recognizable by her hair swarming with snakes and her wide eyes, the figure of Medusa has constantly been renewed through the ages. This exhibition at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Caen is devoted to the evolution of these representations, from the first iconographic sources of Antiquity to the most recent artistic productions. 

Tim Burton’s labyrinth is coming to Paris © Fabian Morasut

Tim Burton’s labyrinth, La Villette, Paris– May 19 – August 20 

Immerse yourself in the deliciously macabre universe of Tim Burton! The Hollywood master of dreams, nightmares and the absurd takes you on a new adventure, not on movie sets or in dark rooms, but in a gigantic labyrinth set in the Villette in the north of Paris. You choose your own route with over 300 possible itineraries within the film-makers unique film universe. 

Destins de Verdun, Meuse – May 25 – April 28 2024 

A new exhibition will bring visitors to the heart of Verdun’s former battlefield. The exhibition, held across 4 sites of the battle of Verdun, invites visitors to listen to the individual stories of women and men involved in the 1916 battle through the voices of actors reading letters and accounts of real soldiers and civilians affected during World War I. 

Lead photo credit : La Semaine du Golfe de Morbihan, Brittany © Erwan le Cornec

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Sophie is Digital Editor for France Today. Raised in Burgundy to British parents, she grew up bilingual in a small village where summers were about forest walks and lazy swims in the river. A Franco-British citizen, she studied literature, then journalism in Paris and Cardiff before quickly dipping her toes (and quill) into travel writing. She’s been specialised and writing about France since 2016 and now works from her home office in north-east France.

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