What is Going to Be Open on May 1st in France?
No city public transportation anywhere besides Paris
Most museums will be closed
Most stores will be closed
Some restaurants will be closed
La Fête du Travail
May 1st is a holiday in France because it is “la Fête du Travail”, a day off for workers to celebrate the 8-hour work day. This is a celebration that originated in the United States on May 1st, 1886 and has since spread all over the world, including France.
But May is a popular travel month, so a common question I get is what happens on May 1st in France? This is an excellent question because you do not want to be caught off-guard and lots of people are surprised how many things are closed on Labor Day in France!
Does Everyone Take May 1st Off?
Yes, pretty much! Most people do not work on May 1st. As a result, here are some things where you will find closed doors:
- City buses, trams and metros will not run anywhere (except for Paris, see below). No public transportation in Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, etc. No public transportation in smaller French cities either.
- Paris is the exception to this rule, there are some metros and RER trains, but at much slower frequency. You will have to wait, possibly with lots of other people.
- Stores will be closed, there will be exceptions, but most stores will be closed!
- Many restaurants will be closed (especially outside of Paris).
- Almost all museums will be closed all over France (a few smaller museums stay open in Paris).
What Stays Open in France on May 1st?
- A few pharmacies (they are called “pharmacie de garde”, google for one near you if you need it)
- A few restaurants (it will be easier to find a restaurant in Paris than other places)
- Disneyand Paris will be open and very crowded
- The Eiffel Tower is normally open on May 1st
- Bâteaux Mouches and other cruise boats on the River Seine should be open
- The Sewer Museum in Paris is open on May 1st
- Airports will stay open (with a reduced number of domestic flights)
- Trains will run (on a reduced schedule)
What Can I Do as a Visitor on May 1st in France?
If you’re only in France for a short time and want to find something to do, google the venues you have in mind to make sure they are open. Make a plan as to how you will get there.
Please note that if you’re thinking of renting a car to get around Paris for that day, you will find the roads very busy and parking spaces difficult to find.
My strategy is to plan on walking around pleasant places such as public parks and beautiful streets wherever I happen to be. In Paris, I love to walk around the Île de la Cité, followed by a stroll along the Seine River. You could also go visit the Canal Saint-Martin (which thankfully has gotten better since this episode was published).
You could also participate in one of the many “manifestations” taking place all over France. A large one in Paris starts at Place de la Bastille. Google the term “manifestation du 1 mai Paris” to find one that will suit your taste. Be aware that depending on the political climate and possibly terror alert, there may be some rough policing going on.
Most French people will be hanging out with family or practice their favorite sport. It is a day of rest and relaxation. I hope you have a great time in France on May 1st, take it slow and don’t try to make it a typical tourism day where you pack too much in. Sleep-in, enjoy the spring weather, and have a laid-back day like the rest of France.
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