Moving to the beautiful French countryside for a slower pace of life? You might just get exactly what you bargained for! Opening hours in France (les horaires d’ouvertures) may be very different to what you are used to and there are often very specific times for dining or shopping. Here’s what you need to know.
Standard French Opening Hours
Most shops, banks, offices, and services in France open at 9am in the morning. This might be 8.30am for supermarkets or some services (doctor’s practices for example), or more like 10am for shops in rural areas. Closing times are generally between 6pm and 8pm. Pharmacies and banks typically close at 6pm, while some larger supermarkets may stay open to 8pm or 8.30pm.
It’s unusual for French shops to have late-night openings as in other countries, and you won’t find 24-hour supermarkets or all-night services in France either. One exception is the 24/7 emergency pharmacies which are available in some cities.
Most establishments are open Monday through Saturday, and many places close over lunchtime. Sunday openings are rare and strictly regulated.
Many establishments close between 12 and 2pm for lunch, and this can include shops, banks, and offices. Some also extend this to 3pm, especially in rural areas. You may find shops reopen at 3pm or even 4pm and stay open until 7pm or later in the summer months.
Supermarkets, shops within shopping centres, and some large shops do not close over lunch, but it’s always worth double-checking before you head out.
French Opening Times: Sundays, Jour Fériés, and Holidays
Typically, shops and businesses do not operate on Sundays or Jour fériés (bank holidays) in France. However, these rules have started to relax slightly in recent years and you may find some shops and supermarkets opening on a Sunday morning, especially in tourist areas or large cities.
Small shops and services in rural communities often close on Mondays, and may only be open for a half-day on Wednesdays and Fridays too! Shopkeepers often close on a Monday if they are open on a Sunday.
Trades often close in August as most of France goes on holiday. Although emergencies will still be catered for, it can be a tricky time to get appointments for non-urgent medical procedures, consultations with your bank, or even an appointment with your favourite hairdresser at this time. Renovation works will likely also be halted throughout August. It’s a good idea to anticipate this and schedule any important rendez-vous for July or September.
In rural areas, especially in non-tourist areas, some shops or restaurants may also close down over August or close for a week or two holiday, so double-check opening hours to avoid disappointment.
Restaurant Opening Times in France
As shops and services close down for lunchtime, restaurants open up. Most restaurants offer service between 12pm and 2.30pm, and 7.30pm and 9.30pm. Depending on the restaurant, these hours can also be quite specific (12.15pm to 1.45pm, for example!) and restaurants are often very strict about only serving within the designated hours. As a general rule, arrive at the restaurant before 1pm or 8pm, or you may not be accepted.
In cities, some restaurants will stay open later, but it is very difficult to find lunch and dinner options outside of these main service hours. Even bar-restaurants and bistros that stay open all day will typically only serve food during the lunchtime and dinnertime periods. Occasionally you may find restaurants or bistros that offer all-day service, especially in tourist areas, but the food available outside of the main service hours will likely be from a different menu and limited to easy-to-prepare food such as sandwiches, fries, or galettes.
Adapting to the French Way of Life
The shopping hours might be the singularly most frustrating thing you have to get to grips with during your first year in France – especially if you are renovating!
The truth is, while many people move to France for a slower pace of life and a less stressful lifestyle, that change does take a little getting used to. Especially when you find yourself mid-DIY task and in need of a specific product, then pop to the local DIY store only to find it is closed! No matter how many times you are told that most shops close for lunch between 12 and 2pm, it just does not quite seem to stick in that first year.
While in large cities and out-of-town shopping areas, opening hours are typically adhered to, in rural areas they can be a moveable feast! Forget punctuality – instead, opening hours are often from ‘around 9am’ onwards, appointments are rarely on time, and life in general has a slower rhythm.
However, this difference can be a good thing. What may seem frustrating to those used to a fast-paced, at-your-fingertips lifestyle at first, can make you appreciate that there is more to life. Those tasks will be completed, just maybe not right this minute! In the meantime, you may just find that you have more time for yourself and your loved ones.