France National Holidays

by Christine Cantera on June 2, 2011

by Christine Cantera | June 2nd, 2011  

france holidays travelWhen you’re planning a trip to France, your own schedule is obviously important. But, it’s also a good idea to check when French holidays are as well. Not only are they different than ours – when they have a day off, they ALL have a day off. Although it’s gotten a bit more lax in recent years, it’s still possible to wake up on a random Tuesday morning to find something akin to the day after a zombie apocalypse. If France had tumbleweeds, you’d see them blowing down the cobblestone streets of even the largest cities.

This may be a godsend for some travelers, but for others who were planning to, I don’t know, eat, it can be a huge hassle. It should be noted, though, that all bets are off when it comes to Paris – there will always be something going on. Otherwise, ask your hotel, hostel or gîte owner in advance if they know of at least a restaurant that will be open.

Oh, one more thing – the “pont.” This means “bridge,” and it refers to holidays that fall close enough to weekends to change people’s work and travel schedules. Think of it like the Friday after Thanksgiving. While this usually only affects the French, it can also influence everything from train ticket prices to store hours. However, if a dated holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, unlike in the U.S. they don’t move it to a weekday. The dates are hard and fast.

Here’s the lowdown on major national holidays in France, and what you can expect.

French National Holidays

  • January 1: New Year’s Day (Jour de l’ an). Nothing will be open. Everyone will be hungover.
  • Easter (Pâques, pronounced “pack”): This is the holiday that never ends. Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, is a moderately serious holiday; Easter Monday, the day after Easter, is a very serious holiday. There’s also Ascension Thursday 39 days after Easter, and Whit Monday, the Monday after Pentecost. These usually happen in May. Check the Wikipedia page for Easter to see when it falls each year.
  • May 1: Labor Day (Fête du Travail). Nothing is open. Everyone will be outside.
  • May 8: Victory Europe Day (Victoire 1945). Businesses and stores are closed, but many restaurants are open.
  • July 14: Bastille Day (Fête Nationale). Nothing is open. Parades, parties and pyrotechnics.
  • August 15: Assumption of Mary. Businesses and stores are closed, but many restaurants are open. Everyone goes to the beach or the mountains.
  • November 1: All Saint’s Day (Toussaint). Businesses and stores are closed, but some restaurants are open.
  • November 11: Veterans’ Day (Armistice 1918). Businesses and stores are closed, but many restaurants are open.
  • December 25: Christmas (Noël). Good luck.
  • December 26: This isn’t an official holiday per se, but you’re not going to find a lot of businesses or stores open. Bars are open, and packed. Some restaurants are open.

Phew! OK. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here are some helpful trip planning links.

And, as always, feel free to hit up me on Twitter (@WhyGoFrance) with any quick questions, and follow WhyGo France on Facebook for daily France travel inspiration.

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