About-France.com

Public holidays and Sundays in France

About-France.com - the thematic guide to France
Photo Steve Cadman - licence CC
There can be little more in the way of holiday dampeners than to turn up for an expected visit, only to find closed doors.
In France, it is an experience that can easily catch out the visiting tourist, since even major museums and monuments usually close at least one day a week, even at the peak of the tourist season.... This is true of state-run monuments and museums, though less so of privately run tourist attractions, where holidays mean extra business.    

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Sundays, public holidays and other closing times in France

NORMAL SERVICE IS SUSPENDED......... don't be caught out.

Public holidays in France, when most things are closed

The following days are public holidays ("jours fériés") in France, when  most shops tend to be shut. Many tourist attractions remain open during Spring and Summer public holidays
January 1st,
Easter Monday (in 2013 : March 31st) (though not Good Friday except in Alsace),
May 1st - La fête du travail, labour day
May 8th - Armistice day, World War II
Ascension Thursday,
July 14th, French national holiday, Bastille day
August 15th, Summer holiday day
November 1st, Toussaint, All souls' day
November 11th, Remembrance Day, Armistice of World War I
December 25th, Christmas. (though not Boxing Day, December 26th)
Unlike in the UK, when a public holiday falls during a weekend in France, there is no extra compensating holiday on the following Monday. However, "le pont" - the bridge - is a popular French institution, and when a public holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, many workplaces remain closed for the Monday or Friday too, meaning that certain services will be closed for four days. However, shops and banks and post offices tend to open normally when there is a "pont".
Note also that most public museums are closed on TUESDAYS - but this is not always the case.

Sundays in France, when most shops are closed

Don't expect to find shops open in France on Sundays. Sunday in France is still for most people a day of rest, and most shops are not allowed to open, except in specific locations at at certain times of year. Sunday is a day for window shopping in French towns, for most of the year. Large shops are only allowed to open on Sundays in tourist resorts in the holiday period; elsewhere, in the cities, Sunday opening is only allowed on a limited number of Sundays in the run-up to Christmas.
Nonetheless, small corner shops and essential services (such as boulangeries) can open on Sundays if they want to, and indeed Sunday is the busiest days of the week for many patisseries. So in any town, it is usually possible to buy fresh bread and groceries on a Sunday, particularly on Sunday morning. More information on the Shopping in France page.

Sunday opening in tourist locations

    The rules are more relaxed in tourist resorts - defined as places where tourism is a major activity - during their tourist season; which means that nowadays, in seaside resorts, Paris, and even in small country towns, essential supermarkets, shops that cater largely for tourists, and  and some other shops now open on Sundays in July and August and in the runup to Christmas. Sunday opening however is often just Sunday morning, so it is best not to plan a shopping trip anywhere in France on a Sunday afternoon, except in the busiest tourist hotspots.

Intercity train services operate more or less as normal on Sundays; suburban and urban transport operators, including the Paris Metro, run a lighter service, particularly on Sunday mornings.

Mondays in France
Particularly in small provincial towns, many shops are closed on Monday morning - so don't plan a big shopping trip on a Monday morning if you are on holiday in rural France. A lot of French provincial museums and monuments are also closed on Mondays. However supermarkets tend to be open as normal on Mondays, even in small towns.

Tuesdays in France
This is the day on which a lot of museums and national monuments are closed. It is particularly the case with national monuments and museums, such as the Louvre and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. 

Summer holidays
Many businesses, administrations and shops will actually shut down completely for a week or two in Late July or early August, though shops are unlikely to close during this period in tourist areas. The closure of public administrations during August can be particularly frustrating.

Other disruptions to normal service
Strikes and barricades France has the reputation of being a country prone to strikes. In actual fact, it is not a country where strikes are particularly commonplace; it is just that they tend to occur in high-profile sectors, in places where they are very visible and affect the lives of millions of ordinary men and women; i.e. in public services and in the transport sector.
Public transport is a sector frequently affected by strikes, that can bring rail services or airports to a halt nationally or regionally; and all kinds of workers in France have a habit of blocking roads, ports and railway lines in defence of their objective. Such events are strongly mediatized, but actually relatively rare. Foreign tourists often find it hard to understand why blockades are not quickly dispersed by the police; but this is part of the French way of life, a legacy of the Revolution and the spirit of the "barricades". Increasingly, police are brought in to disperse blockades, but generally not until after the striking workers or students have had time to make their point.


Traffic jams and congestion:
For information about travelling in France, and avoiding problems and traffic jams, see the Driving in France page. Roads are also particularly busy on weekends that mark the start of end of school holidays, particularly school holidays for the Paris region.


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