May is a marvelous time to think about taking a well-earned holiday. The month is bookended with two days off - the early May Bank Holiday (May Day) and the late May Bank Holiday. Both bank holidays are on a Monday so you can think about maximising a cheeky city break in Europe or a longer beach break (without asking for too much time off). While Spring has well and truly sprung by May, it can be a little bit hit or miss in terms of the weather in the UK. But this is the time it starts to heat up elsewhere in Europe, so it's a great time to visit before the summer temperatures on the Mediterranean start to rocket.
These are the May Bank Holiday dates for 2021
Monday, May 3: Early May bank holiday
Monday, May 31: Spring bank holiday
We’ve spoken to our travel experts to find out where you should be heading for the early May Bank Holiday. Unsurprisingly, Spain features high on people’s destination lists. Cultural city breaks are also popular. So here’s where we think you should head to at the start of May.
When it comes to cities with beaches, there are few better than Barcelona. You’re kind of getting a two-for-one deal here, as you have all the culture of a city break, with all the fun of a beach holiday. This is one Instagram-friendly destination. Go for Gaudi alone - his glorious buildings, even the unfinished ones like the Sagrada Familia, really are magical to visit. If you’re football fans, a trip to Camp Nou is a must, even it’s just a stadium tour. There are nine beaches in Barcelona to choose from, so you’ll find a spot to put your towel down. The tourist bus is really fun and you can hit all the best sites (and have some help getting up the hills) by taking a day pass. The food here is exceptional, so bar-hop and try the local tapas.
Portugal’s southern tip has lovely warm weather in May, which is just as well as when you see the beaches there, you’ll be wanting to spend a lot of time on them. It’s so versatile that you’ll meet all sorts of holidaymakers down here, families on half-term, golfers, mates on a group break. Albufeira is one such place. Once a fishing village and now a small coastal city, you get the lovely old town with fabulous fish restaurants near the beach. And then you get the nightlife strip which is open until the sun comes up. The craggy Cape St Vincent headland is worth going to, if only to say you’ve been to the most southwestern tip of Europe.
While brilliant all-year-round, in May you really get to enjoy the open spaces in the city. Once an airfield, Tempelhofer Feld, has now been transformed into a park with barbecue areas for picnics. Gorlitzer Park is where the cool kids hang out and there’s some great cafes to hangout there. Tiergarten is one of the most famous parks in the city and you can do a three mile lap if you want to see it all. You could head out of town to Brandenburg which has swathes of lakes if you up for some swimming with your sunbathing. The iconic Brandenburg Gate and the Holocaust Memorial are within walking distance of Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall. The nightlife here though is something else and this is the place to come and party over a long weekend. You can go from beers in a normal bar to cocktails in an underground cellar playing EDM.
There really is nowhere else like Venice, so be prepared to pack in as much as possible over the May Bank Holiday weekend. It’s going to be a balmy average of 21C, so cool down on the waterways - there’s 177 canals to explore. You’ll also be walking over a lot of bridges (c400) from island to island. Of course you can’t be a tourist without a ride on a gondola, no one will judge. Art is life here and you can find some incredible paintings at the Gallerie dell’Accademia (mainly Renaissance) and Peggy Guggenheim Museum (more modern).We should mention it’s most famous piazza, St Mark’s Square, along with the Doge’s Palace. Try the local Veneto food, dishes like salt cod (baccalà mantecato) and fried sardines in caramelized onions (sarde in saor).
Probably one of the most iconic beach breaks, there’s a good reason the Brits keep heading here. Built for tourists and enjoying temperatures into the twenties in May you can hit the beaches every day - the waterparks tend to open towards the end of May, start of June. As the hit TV show features, there are loads of great all-inclusive options if you’re looking for a longer holiday taking in the bank holiday weekend. While lazing around the pool all day is a great way to pass the time, you can head into the old town for some sightseeing. It’s got churches, castle ruins and plenty of shopping. While Benidorm is famous for its English pubs and breakfasts, you can find authentic tapas bars to try Spanish food in. The nightlife is lively here if you want to dance the night away - and there’s always karaoke.
While it’s hot all-year-round, in May you’ll find averages in the mid-twenties. This is the oldest of the Canary Islands, and you can find things to do if you’re on a family holiday, a couples break or away with friends. Like it’s sister islands, it’s windy in Lanzarote. But this means watersport options like surfing and windsurfing are ace here. It also helps when you out walking, cycling or horse riding around the island - as it will keep you cool in the afternoon heat. Head to the Timanfaya National Park to see the lava fields created from volcanic eruptions through the ages. And then spend the day like a pirate, when you check out the caves (Cueva de los Verdes) they once used to spirit their plunder to and from the island.
We’ve gone for a mixture of short-haul beach breaks and medium-haul escapes for the end of May. The Mediterranean is getting hotter but not yet at peak season, whereas the likes of New York offer great weather with some cool deals to be had.
Spending a long weekend on the biggest Balearic Island is the way to kick-start your summer. Magaluf is one of the party capitals of Europe, and you can enjoy the beach bars by day and the clubs at night. It’s also home to a fantastic theme park to while away the hours - Katmandu Park. I mean who doesn’t love mini-golf. Over on the opposite side of the island is Port d'Alcúdia - here you’ll find a superb old town for pottering around during the day. The capital Palma is also rather pretty. There’s over 200 beaches on the island, so you’ll not find it hard to bag a sandy spot for the day. You should also do a boat trip round the Coves del Drac. Near Porto Cristo these caves have become one of the most popular tourist attractions.
If you’re after a cheeky beach break with a difference, then head to the Dalmatian Coast this May. This is another combined sun and city break - meaning not only are you maximising your time off, but your holiday too. Banje Beach is right in the city and while quite touristy, it is good for the kids. You can however just jump on a bus and you’ll be at one of the local beaches in less than half an hour. The medieval Old Town of Dubrovnik is one of the loveliest in Europe. Keep your eyes peeled for all the Game of Thrones locations here.
Just a little reminder, but Croatia does have its own currency - Kuna if you’re looking to change money before your trip. Check out the top of Mount Srd for views of the city and coast - take the cable car up, you’re on holiday after all.
Skyscrapers, yellow taxis, hot dogs - nearly everything seems iconic here. You’ll need at least four days to scratch the surface of this amazing city. Spring weather is similar to the UK, so it should be warm enough to wander (and maybe even picnic) round Central Park. The shopping is epic here, and you have to visit at least one of the famous department stores, Macy’s, Bloomingdales and Barney’s. Coney Island will have you feeling like a kid again. The world class museums, like MOMO and the Guggenheim Museum, are worth several hours. And you should go up at least one of these massive buildings, the Empire State Building (for the history) and the Rockefeller Centre (the view might be slightly better). Times Square, the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge are musts if you want to tick off your landmarks. To be honest, you’re probably going to have to go back.
Ibiza opening weekend takes place in May, so when you go expect the clubs to be in full swing for the season. You can get stuck into the sundowners by the beach in the evening, before seeing why clubs like Amnesia and Pacha are famous the world over. Of course it’s not just a party island, there’s loads of cool family resorts if you’re taking the little ones - like Playa d’En Bossa. The weather is going to warm so watersports, waterparks and sunbathing should be on your bank holiday agenda. If you’re looking to chill out, take a day trip to Formentera and walk around the tiny island.
You don’t need the investigative skills of the island’s most famous fictional detective, Bergerac, to realise that Jersey is brilliant to visit at the end of May. If you want a bank holiday staycation, popping over to the largest of the charming Channel Islands gives you time away, without hours of flying. In fact from London it’s just over one hour. For couples we recommend at looking at one of the spa retreats on the island. Take some time out to try some treatments, then visit the fine-dining restaurants on the island. Local crab, lobster and oysters are usually to be found on the menu. There’s also loads of great country pubs to chill out in. If you’re there with family or friends, hit the beach then take a boat tour round the island. You can also hire kayaks and paddleboards for some fun in the sea.
If you take off four days in May, you can get a restful nine days off work. This works for both the early May bank holiday and the late May bank holiday. Take annual leave on the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th May to make the most of the early May bank holiday or book off the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th June to make the most of the late bank holiday. Both will give you nine consecutive days off work.
New Year’s Day kicks off the bank holiday season, then we have to wait for the Easter bank holiday. We then have to wait until the end of the summer for the late August bank holiday. After that it’s Boxing Day.
May bank holidays 2022
Monday, May 2: Early May bank holiday
Monday, June 2: Spring bank holiday