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May 1st, 2008 - Labour Day AND Ascension Day in Paris - what will be open?

My husband and I are traveling to Paris for our first time, and while doing my research, I realize we will be there on May 1st, which this year happens to be Labour Day and Ascension Day.

Will many restaurants be closed? I know the museums will be. To anyone that is local to the area (Paris), or has traveled there during this time in previous years, what should we expect? And (to the best of your knowledge) what will/ will not be open?

Also, slightly off topic, but how would you spend your day? We only have four days in Paris, and we really want to make the most of it.

Thanks in advance for your help!

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  1. I highly recommend you get a Pariscope (the weekly What's On guide) at any newsstand which runs from Wed-Tue and costs around 0.40€. You'll find all information about opening hours of the museums, concerts, special exhibitions and events, etc.
    Expect the city to be packed, since lots of (European) visitors come for a long weekend (May 1-4).
    You can also check the site of the Paris Tourist Office later this year. They always have a link informing about the museums being open/closed during the holidays.

    Your best bet for food are the brasseries which are usually always open.
    Expect some small neighbourhood bistrots to be closed down.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dodo

      To add to Dodo's advice. You should also remember that as the 1st is on a Thursday many people will also take the 2nd as a vacation - faire le pont - i.e. make the bridge between the holiday and weekend. The good news is that a lot of local Parisians will have left for the country - making it less busy. A few smaller businesses may be closed as a result, but in my experience it isn't going to make a significant difference as many restaurants will still be open - i.e. it won't be anything like August or Christmas.

    2. Thanks, I appreciate it....any ideas on where to go? Would it be better to do a day trip, or would neighboring towns be just as bad/worse?

      4 Replies
      1. re: FoodieNess

        I will be there at the same time as well - I'm so glad I found this post! I have been to Paris before, but this is the first time I will be able to afford more than store-bought cheese and bread. If anyone has any must-taste restaurant recommendations, I would be grateful.

          1. re: FoodieNess

            I wouldn't worry Paris will be still be great fun even on a public holiday - lots of restaurants etc will still be open. Check out the galleries/museums on Dodo's link and plan accordingly - I see the Louvre and d'Orsay are closed, but others will be open. The towns outside Paris celebrate the holidays in much the same way as Paris and because they are smaller will be quieter, but again many restaurants will be open.

            One idea, why not check out "paris-walks.com" and give them a call to see what they are doing that Thursday, then find a good Brasserie in that area (they usually have good local inside knowledge) and enjoy a long, well earned lunch and relax in the holiday mood - one year I was in Avignon for May Day and after the unions had marched through town I enjoyed the festive atmosphere amongst the marchers as they relaxed after their exertions.

            1. re: PhilD

              I'd spend the day walking, as strolling is one of the great Parisian pleasures, and the pleasures include enough food-centred ones to be a topic appropriate to this site. I have often been in Paris on May Day and have never had a hard time finding a restaurant, bistro or cafe open. It is usually lovely that time of year, and even if there are showers, they won't be very cold.

              What district of Paris are you staying in?

          2. My wife, daughter (adult) and I will also be in Paris on May 1. We will be staying in the Rue Cler district. Does anyone know if Seine River cruises be open? Is there much impact on Metro or other transportation?


            1 Reply
            1. re: jwright1

              metro and the rest function like a sunday -- some buses don't run on sundays. Bateaux-Mouches and all touristic attractions work full gear.

            2. I appreciate everyone's advice. I think we are going to keep it simple as far as activities go for the day - the idea of taking a long walk through the various parks and gardens, or even sitting near the Seine with a bottle of wine and my beloved husband sounds like a great day to me. We may look into Paris Walks as well, or as my husband puts it, "Go for an organized stroll - a walk with a mission." :-)

              1. Now, on to my problem...

                I am still having the hardest time finding any restaurants open on May 1. So far, the only contender is Willi's Wine Bar, which I have read good things about on the board. Is this a good choice, and if so, should we venture there for lunch or dinner?

                I have not heard back, but I think Juveniles is also open. If we have the choice, which has the better food, the better atmosphere, the better value? I think going to both (one for lunch, one for dinner) would be a little much, since they seem so similar and are owned by the same people.

                I am interested in other recs, too, if you happen to know good places open for May 1.

                5 Replies
                1. re: FoodieNess

                  I think both are really good choices and deliver good value. I'd say Willi's is higher-end. The dining room is larger and atmosphere more refined. I am not positive that both partners are involved in both places anymore. It seems to me that Tim Johnston and his family actively run Juveniles, while Mark Williamson runs Willi's and Maceo next door. Juveniles has more of a feel of a bisto-pub feel to me, if that makes any sense. Tables are closer together and the overall atmosphere can be louder. I'd say reservations are necessary for Willi's, not so at Juveniles, but since it's a holiday, I'd suggest calling them to confirm this.
                  Another questions is the atmosphere that you want. All these places seem to frequently have a number of British ex-pats in them.

                  With only 4 days in Paris, do you have a list of the types of food and atmosphere you want to experience, and do you speak French?

                  1. re: souvenir

                    No, sadly, I don't speak French. I am trying to learn some important phrases and "Food French" before we go. Hopefully it won't impede me severely...

                    I do have a list of potential restaurants and an idea of what we want to experience food-wise, and I will probably make another thread for that later in detail. But for starters, here is what we are thinking (in no particular order)

                    -Taillevent for a lunch
                    -L'As du Falafel for a lunch
                    -either Carre des Feuillants or Les Elysses for lunch

                    -Au fil des saisons for dinner
                    -l'Os à Moëlle for dinner
                    -We are going wine tasting one night at o' chateau, that may replace dinner on the Taillevent lunch day. If not, we may try a later meal (for us) at either Ze Kitchen Gallerie, Le Pamphlet, Les Papilles, or L'Oulette. Clearly we need to narrow down.

                    We were thinking Le Souk for lunch on 1 May, since it seems to be open (not positive, yet), and Willi's wine bar for dinner and drinks.

                    Sigh, 4 days is not enough, but alas that is all we have. So, how do our choices look?

                    1. re: FoodieNess

                      Not speaking French won't necessarily impede you, but I do give different advice for people who speak French and understand mannerisms of French people. It can be exhausting attempting to speak French, and/or understand English with someone when one of the two of you is always speaking in a second language. I speak French, but sometimes have a problem when I'm traveling with English speakers-- I mix up which language to use with whom... For example, I remember the first time I ate at Juveniles and realized that using English made more sense than speaking French with the native English speaker waiting on the table.

                      I took a quick look at your other posts and it sounds as though you are traveling to a number of places- London, a number of places in Italy and Paris. Depending on where Paris falls during your travels, you could be a bit jet-lagged, or just sick of eating in restaurants. The best advice I was ever given about Paris is don't worry about trying to see or fit too much in a single day. I'd suggest thinking about your pace, perhaps one higher end experience per day, and that may even be too much.

                      The great thing about Paris is that you can have great food for all meals, at all levels, and in many locations (restaurants, cafes, food stands, parks, your hotel room).

                      1. re: souvenir

                        Thanks, that helps. Paris is the 2nd city we travel to, right after London, so I don't think we will be tired of restaurants just yet. Paris is also the city we are the most excited about food-wise, so we will probably splurge the most there. Not to say that other cities will disappoint, as I know there are restaurant "treasures" in every city.

                        So, I'd love your feedback as to our potential food list, above.

                        1. re: FoodieNess

                          It appears you've done your homework and have a good list to choose from. Unless you are a very small eater, I would not worry about having 2 major meals in a day. Skip breakfast or just have a croissant, have dinner late and do a lot of walking and you should work up a major appetite. It is always a good idea to attempt to speak some French, but almost everyone in Paris speaks English, so when they see you struggling they will just switch to English. I usually get by in restaurants without resorting to English, but if the server asks me a complicated question, I have to say "en Anglais, s'il vous plait?" and it's never a problem. Of the restaurants you list, I have been to l'Os a Moelle, Carre des Feullants, and Ze Kitchen Galerie, and enjoyed all very much, but I know the rest get high marks on this board too.

                2. Just to help anyone else out there - here is what I found open on 1 May in Paris:

                  -First off, despite my previous post to the contrary, it turns out the wine bars that I mentioned above are NOT open. Sorry, I got bad info...

                  -Restaurants Joel Robuchon. All of these restaurants are open 365 days a year - who knew? :-) We are leaning towards La Table for lunch, since they have that amazing club menu for 55 euros (4 courses + coffee, tea, AND 1/2 bottle of wine!)

                  -A couple of Moroccan restaurants are open - L'Atlas and Le Souk. To be honest, I am torn, as I have heard good things about both. L'Atlas is closer to where we are staying (in the 5th), but that isn't the most important thing....I truly vacillate, and may not make up my mind until we get there. Your opinions most welcome.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: FoodieNess

                    I liked Le Souk quite a bit more the L'Atlas (and L'Atlas was right down the street from me). It's a nice walk - if you take Blvd Henri IV you only have to turn 2-3 times after you cross the Seine. You'll walk right past the rally (I'm guessing it's still there) at Bastille and you'll work up a nice appetite.

                    1. re: Bob Loblaw

                      That actually sounds perfect. I think walking through a city gives a better perspective than just about any other activity that we do there. Living in the 'burbs as we do out here (about an hour south of Los Angeles), we don't really get a chance to walk around all that much, so maybe that's why I favor it so much when we travel - and why we tend to travel more to "cities" than small towns.

                      I haven't read anything BAD about L'Atlas, but I have read more good about Le Souk, if that makes sense. They also seem a little more authentic (I think I read that L'Atlas is more of a fusion), and Le Souk is more reasonably priced. Oh, I really just need to close my eyes and choose, I'm sure they will both be fine, but I have been leaning towards Le Souk anyway, so .... :-)

                      Either way, I will come back with a full report!

                      1. re: FoodieNess

                        I ate at l'Atlas just once and it was probably in 2000... but it was much more formal than Le Souk; Le Souk was far hipper. Been back to Le Souk a few times since. (And au petit kahua, of which there are 2 - like them both, but not as much as le souk).

                        Keep in mind, Paris isn't that big, geographically - it's somehting like 6 miles N-S, 10 E-W. If you're starting in the center, there's a lot you can walk to, at least one way. But yeah, Henri IV to Bastille gets you most of hte way to Le Souk.

                        1. re: Bob Loblaw

                          We, my 14 year old daughter and I are going to be in Paris the same day. As well, when I booked our flights didn't think about it being a holiday. Thank you all for the info it's relief. Question: Do you think any of the markets are open so we can snack? She rarely eats a whole meal. Or restraunt recommendations for a younger crowd? All she wants to do is the eiffel tower..