France has eleven public holidays throughout the year. It’s important to be aware of them when travelling as many places are closed or have greatly reduced services.
There are other special days and observances that are important to the nation but are not public holidays. These do not usually affect businesses opening and closing times or public transport but be aware that things can become more crowded or have different operating hours on these days.
Below are France’s public holidays. The two biggest ones are Bastille Day and All Saint’s Day. Note that only May Day is a statutory holiday, meaning that
Also note that Alsace-Moselle (previously Alsace-Lorraine) has two additional public holidays: Easter Friday and St Stephen’s Day.
We’ve also included a few extra days that, while not public holidays, are still important and may, therefore, have reduced services. You will also find the school holiday calendar for 2021 – 2022 below, courtesy of Atout France.
01 January: New Year’s Day (Jour de l’an)
This public holiday, as in other countries, is for having fun and relaxation. In small towns, most places will be closed, although Paris and other big cities may have more places to visit. Advance bookings are strongly advised.
(06 January: Epiphany)
Not a public holiday but an important day for Catholics, nonetheless.
March/April (varies): Easter weekend
Many people in France are Catholic and, therefore, Easter is a very important time of great religious significance. If you are travelling over the Easter weekend, we recommend checking in advance what will be open and to anticipate that many of the places you’d like to visit will be closed or have restricted times, and that transport may also be restricted.
Good Friday (Vendredi Saint)
Only a public holiday in Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin, and Moselle departments (Alsace-Moselle). People usually go to church and may also fast. It is not a public holiday in the rest of France but bear in mind that many French people will take leave anyway and make a long weekend vacation, so many places are fully booked in advance and very busy. If there is something you want to do, we strongly recommend booking far in advance, including public transport tickets.
You may struggle to find anything open in France on Easter Sunday as this is a very important religious holiday, and many people attend church services.
Easter Monday (Lundi de Pâques)
Most shops and businesses will be shut, particularly outside Paris, and there is often a reduced service on public transport. Some towns and cities have parades on Easter Monday, and families usually spend time together.
01 May: Worker’s Day aka May Day (Fête du premier mai)
This is a major public holiday and almost everything is closed. It is dedicated toward celebrating workers’ rights and peaceful demonstrations often take place in towns. An interesting tradition is to give bouquets of Lily of the Valley to friends and family on this day and you will notice that most flower shops are bursting with these beautiful flowers.
08 May: Victory Day (Fête du huitième mai or Jour de la Victoire 45)
This commemorates the day on which the German troops surrendered and WWII ended. Church bells will ring all over France. In some countries, this is celebrated on 09 May. Parades, laying of wreaths, and flag ceremonies are held all over the country. The president lays a wreath at the Arc de Triomph at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, after which there is a military parade along the Champs Elysees.
40 days after Easter: Ascension Day (Jour de l’Ascension)
This Christian holiday celebrates the ascension of Jesus to heaven after his resurrection. Churches are full with people observing this day, and French people spend the day with family.
(Seventh Sunday after Easter: Whit Sunday aka Pentecost)
Not a public holiday but many Christians celebrate it by attending church services. This Christian holiday is to celebrate the Holy Spirit descending on the disciples. Devout Christians visit church. In smaller towns and rural areas, restaurants, bars, etc. may be closed.
Day after Whit Sunday: Pentecost or Whit Monday (Lundi de Pentecôte)
Pentecost Monday is a public holiday in France. Businesses, schools, government institutions, etc. are generally closed.
14 July: Bastille Day (Fête nationale OR Le Quatorze Juillet)
This is a very important holiday in France and commemorates ‘the storming of the Bastille’ in 1789, which is seen as the start of democracy in France. The famous military parade along the Champs Elysees toward the Place de la Concorde is attended by thousands of spectators. Military aircraft do flyovers trailing the French flag colours of red, white, and blue, and there is usually a big firework display over the Eiffel Tower. Expect places to be crowded and it is strongly advised that, if there is an event you want to attend, you book far in advance. In Paris, metro stations near the fireworks are usually closed so you need to plan your trip carefully. The Champs de Mars is a hugely popular place to sit and watch the fireworks so, if you want to sit there, you need to arrive early to ‘stake your place’.
15 August: Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (L’Assomption)
On this day, Christians believe that Mary, Jesus Christ’s mother, was taken to heaven. It is usually quieter but, in large cities and tourist areas, places are generally open. In small towns and rural areas, you may find most places closed and public transport reduced. Catholics attend mass and churches are usually packed with worshippers, and may be closed to visitors who are not worshippers. Village festivals and other events take place. The town of Lourdes, where, in 1858, a young girl claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary in a cave, is usually packed with people making a pilgrimage to the area. If you are planning on visiting Lourdes, as many Christian people from around the world do, be aware that it is usually extremely busy with millions of visitors attending special celebrations.
(Third week in September: European Heritage Days)
Not a public holiday but important for tourists to consider as monuments and other places that are normally closed to the public are accessible for two days. These include chateaux, mansions, churches, etc. so you can get a peek behind closed doors and experience what most people will never get a chance to see.
01 November: All Saints Day (La Toussaint)
This is a Catholic Holy Day honouring all the saints. Families come together to honour people who have passed away and, often, to clean and decorate graves, tombs, etc. Placing flowers, particularly chrysanthemums, on graves is traditional. Note that chrysanthemums are not given for anything other than bereavement.
11 November: Armistice Day (Jour d’armistice)
This solemn day commemorates the end of WWI on 11 November 1918. Businesses, banks, schools, etc. are closed, although, in large cities and tourist areas, there may still be places open. Special church services and remembrance events for those who died during the war take place. Wreaths are laid at war memorials, notably the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomph, and military parades take place. Wearing of black clothes is traditional.
(24 December: Christmas Eve)
Not a public holiday and businesses are generally open. However, smaller businesses and those in small towns may close early so that people can go home to prepare and to attend church. Children traditionally open Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve. We strongly recommend booking tickets for any kind of travel in advance as they are usually packed, and to be aware that congestion on the roads is common so plan ahead.
25 December: Christmas Day (Noël)
This is a public holiday across France and pretty much everything will be closed, except at places like airports, where you may find some things open. This day is usually spent going to church and/or visiting with family. Public transport is often reduced so be aware of this. It is best to plan something in advance and stay there, rather than trying to catch a train to a different place.
26 December: St Stephen’s Day (Deuxième jour de Noël)
This is only a public holiday in Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin, and Moselle departments (Alsace-Moselle) and most businesses in these areas will be closed. Churches may be full and closed to those not wanting to attend the service. There may be reduced public transport in these areas. However, it is not a public holiday in the rest of France.
Be aware that, St Stephen’s Day (what we call Boxing Day) in many European countries may be quieter. Although not a public holiday, many people are still on vacation and there can be reduced opening times and service.
(31 December: Old Year’s Eve)
This is not a public holiday but it is important to bear in mind that places and public transport is generally very busy. Booking things in advance is strongly recommended.
- Sunday/Monday: Note that in France if a public holiday falls on a Sunday, Monday is usually NOT a public holiday.
- Private transfers: An ‘out of hours’ rate is usually charged by transfer companies on public holidays.
- Car hire: Care hire companies are generally closed for pick-up and drop-off on public holidays.
- Long weekends: note that, although a day before/after a long weekend may not be a public holiday, it is common for people to take the day off in order to take a mini-vacation. Public transport, events, and attractions are likely to be booked in advance and very full. Eurostar to/from the UK also tends to be in high demands, thus prices are higher. Therefore, advance booking for these times is strongly recommended.
French school holidays 2021/2022
In France, there are three school holidays and the dates take place according to zones which are not continuous; this ensures that there is not too much overcrowding at attractions and on roads and public transport.
The image alongside, courtesy of Atout France, indicates the French school holidays for 2021-2022.