Things to Do in May in and around Nice

May is a month of glamour on the French Riviera, with the world’s most prestigious film festival, the Cannes Film Festival and then the the world’s most glamorous racing event, the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix!

fermeThe month starts with May Day on May 1st, which is Labor Day in France, meaning that almost everyone takes the day off!  It’s the one day a year when there are no buses or trams, and all the museums are closed.

In fact, May is chock full of French public holidays, where banks and post offices are closed, buses and trains are on a reduced holiday schedule, and taxis charge double (…but not Ubers!)  Here is the holiday schedule for 2018:

  • May 1               May Day/Labor Day (No buses, no museums)
  • May 8               V-E Day (WWII Victory in Europe)
  • May 10              Ascension
  • May 20/21       Pentecost/Whit Monday

May is also a prime month for transport strikes; between the high-profile events, the weekend holiday travel, and plus Mother’s Day at the end, it’s like catnip to French transport workers.  Just an FYI…

Jean Dujardin at Cannes by Totally GoneCannes Film Festival  May 11-22, 2022 – Some Free

The Cannes Film Festival is a badge-driven industry-only festival, but if you know the inside tips on how to do it, you can experience parts of the Cannes Film Festival.  Including how to see films without a badge and where to spot the stars.

Monaco Historic Grand Prix  May 13-15, 2022.  Step back in time with a Grand Prix of classic racing cars, run on the same Grand Prix track as the Formula 1.

Pastor_Maldonado_2009_GP2_Monaco_Grand_PrixMonaco Grand Prix May 19-22, 2022 – Free day May 20

Here’s a secret: The most glamorous and prestigious racing event in the world, the Monaco Grand Prix… has a free day!  You can go sit in the normally super expensive seats and watch the races all morning… and all for free!

Fete-des-Mai-NiceNice Fete des Mai Folklore Festivals May 1 and then every Sunday in May – Free

The 1st of May and then every Sunday in May, the free Nice Folklore Festival, Fete des Mais, takes over the Jardins de Cimiez.  This centuries-old festival  features traditional dancing, costumes, roving musicians, animations and folklore, plus local food and lots and lots of picnicking!

Museums by Moonlight: the Night of the Museums Saturday mid-May – Free – Europe-wide, this nighttime museum-fest features special guided tours, music and surprises.  All museums in Nice are open until 11pm, and all are free, so bounce from one museum to another for a night of culture, surprises, and fun!  Target your museum choices here and then pop into the Tourist Office for the schedule of events.

Dime-on Music Festival – 3rd Saturday in May – Held in a 500-year-old olive grove on Cimiez hill, this music festival showcases emerging local talent, and produced by local artist and record producer Medi.

Fete de la Vœu – 3rd Sunday in May – FREE – In 1832 a Cholera epidemic swept through France, and local residents prayed to the Virgin Mary that if she saved them they vowed to not only build a church in her honor but they would also give her an annuel procession.  Well, apparently she came through, and now Nice keeps its vow with a procession from Place Saint Francois to the Church of the Vow, followed by a fun celebration in the orange grove in front of the church, and spilling out into the Promenade du Paillon.  Food stands, music, and lots of animations all afternoon.

Les Visiteurs du Soir (The Visitors in the Night) – 2 nights of surprising art in unexpected places, mid-April or May tbd – FREE.  Les Visiteurs du Soir is a kind of sprawling, ephemeral, almost ‘underground’, yearly contemporary art festival. During two days, the public is invited to a free nighttime self-guided tour to discover approximately sixty locations in Nice: artists’ studios, private apartments, cultural or offbeat locations… even a fabulous abandoned mansion, the Villa Cameline. The purpose of this event is to have contemporary art leave its walls and make it more accessible through a surprising itinerary that shows today’s creation where it is not expected.  Check with the Tourist Office for dates and map.

1MDB Max de Bruit Rock Fest – Theatre de Verdure – A super-fun fest that is 100% tribute bands with the proceeds going 100% to charity. The first day is mostly metal (AC/DC, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden…), and day-two is more towards classic rock legends like Coldplay, Muse, Pink Floyd, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rolling Stones, Doors, Kiss, and Led Zeppelin.

May is full of flower festivals

The month-long Festival des Jardins Garden Festival offers special presentations, tours, conferences, workshops, and special access, all up and down the entire Cote d’Azur.

Fete de la Rose at the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Saint-Jean-cap-Ferrat – first weekend in May – Roses were Beatrice the Baroness of Rothschild’s favorite flower, and it shows in this magnificent celebration.

ExpoRose in Grasse – second weekend of May – tickets 5€-  The perfume capital of France honors the majestic rose in this weekend festival.

Les Floralies Antibes Juan-les-Pins en Fleurs – third weekend of May

See Related Pages:

  • What to do on Sundays in Nice – free afternoon concerts, free museum days, Catholic masses, special family Opera matinees, plus a Sunday night open-air drag show in the Old Town…
  • Nice by Nite – concerts, jazz clubs, salsa and tango venues, pub quiz nights, English-language theater and movie venues…

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