Preparing your vacation in France
Would you like to discover the beauty of the French territory, visit historical and cultural heritage, enjoy the sumptuous landscapes of the French regions? Our advice about when is the best time to visit France should help you organize your stay in the best possible way.
Indeed, France is a popular tourist destination, thanks to its history, monuments and landscapes. Visitors flock here every year from all over the world, but not only. With local tourism booming, more and more French people are choosing to spend their vacations close to home.
Preparing a trip to France involves a number of key questions: Which destination should I choose? When is the best time to travel in France? How can I stay within my budget? Although France enjoys a temperate climate, weather conditions vary slightly according to region and time of year. So it’s possible to discover very different landscapes on the same trip, or depending on the time of year. Would you like to know when to go to France for a successful vacation?
This article presents the advantages of each season, so you can choose the most suitable period according to the criteria that speak most to you.
What is the climate in France?
Whether it’s a seaside vacation on the Mediterranean, a romantic getaway in Paris, a visit to wild Brittany or traditional Provence with its wine, olives and lavender, there are a thousand and one places to discover in France! There are as many climates as there are regions. In the north, the temperate maritime climate dominates, with mild, wet winters and mild, rainy summers. In the mountains, the climate is alpine, with cold, snowy winters and cool summers. On the Atlantic coast, winters are mild and summers hot and sunny. On the Mediterranean, summers are hotter than in the rest of the country.
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When is the ideal time to travel to France?
It’s pleasant to travel in France from May to the end of June and in September or October. In July and August, the beaches are crowded and the weather can be scorching. In late autumn and early spring, expect heavy rain.
Travelling in France in spring
Spring is the perfect season for hiking and enjoying the French countryside in the north, east, south, west and center. Temperatures are mild and the panoramas magnificent. April, May and June are the best months to visit France, rather than July and August. Prices are much lower than during the summer months. If you’re on a tight budget to visit France, spring is the best time to plan your getaway! The weather is pleasant and there’s a wide range of leisure activities on offer. This time of year is ideal for a weekend in the countryside or by the sea. Spring is a great time to visit cities famous for their cultural, historical or architectural heritage, such as Paris, Strasbourg, Nice, Nantes, La Rochelle and many others.
It’s a very pleasant time of year, with relatively few visitors and pleasant temperatures. Spring is also an opportunity to discover emblematic sites far from the tourist hustle and bustle of the summer season. How about exploring Mont-Saint-Michel, the villages of Provence, Lake Annecy, the cliffs of Étretat, Périgord or any of the other emblematic sites for which France is famous abroad?
Visiting France in summer – a must
The summer vacation season runs from June to September. During this period, tourism in France is in full swing. Temperatures are mild and days are sunny. This is the best time to discover the beaches along the coast, visit Mediterranean towns and enjoy the many leisure activities on offer. Destinations such as the Côte d’Azur, the West Coast and Brittany are very popular when the sun comes out, but prices soar quickly, as does the availability of accommodation. If you’d like to visit France’s historic treasures, the summer period is also a good time to do so, thanks to more than favorable weather conditions.
Summer is the perfect time to explore the most beautiful Provençal villages, visit must-see cities such as Nice, Marseille, Bordeaux or Toulouse, enjoy excursions to mythical islands such as Porquerolles or Ré, or soak up the sun on the beaches of Saint-Tropez, Narbonne or the west coast. The heat can be stifling, however, and lounging on the beach is not to everyone’s taste. The mountains are another popular summer destination. Even if rainfall can be more frequent than by the sea, nature is breathtakingly beautiful, temperatures are pleasant, activities are plentiful and the experiences on offer are out of the ordinary. A vacation in the Alps, Pyrenees, Jura or Massif Central in summer is synonymous with disconnection!
Visit France in autumn, a season that’s lived to the rhythm of nature
Autumn is the perfect season to visit France. Temperatures are pleasant and the air is cooler. The colors of the French landscape are magnificent, and the tranquility of the countryside makes all the difference. The autumn season begins in October and ends in November. Although the flamboyant colors of autumn bring a whole new dimension to the French landscape, and nature is unsurpassed in its beauty, the weather and climate are much less favorable.
November marks the start of the rainy season in most parts of France. Rainfall is much more frequent, so visiting conditions are less than optimal. Nevertheless, when the sun comes out, the show is well worth the effort. The atmosphere in France in autumn is unique. Even if the rain doesn’t always make things easy, the characteristic climate of October and November offers a simply sublime backdrop.
Discover France in winter, a memorable experience
The winter season starts in December and lasts until February. It’s the perfect time to visit France, to enjoy the beauty of the mountain ranges, go skiing and discover the cities of the south in a whole new way. Winter temperatures are mild, the days are sunny and the snow offers magnificent views of the Alps, Pyrenees, Jura, Vosges and Massif Central.
Whether you’re a fan of skiing, snowshoeing or unusual activities, the mountains will meet all your winter expectations. For those of you who aren’t fans of the cold and snow, the coast will guarantee you moments of real escapism to share with family or friends. In the south, winters are milder than in the north of the country, so you’ll be able to discover unmissable places in different, but equally pleasant, conditions.
When to visit the must-see sites?
Travelling to Brittany
The best time to travel to Brittany is May, June and September. Temperatures are pleasant and the sun makes its appearance in the region. Take long walks and spend time outdoors. Rough seas, steep cliffs and lush inland landscapes: discover the wild beauty of Brittany’s landscapes.
The best time to visit is between May and October. If you want to avoid the busy vacation periods, avoid July and August. However, July and August are also when the famous lavender fields bloom. Avignon, a city steeped in history, or the sumptuous city of Nice: it’s not for nothing that Provence, and more generally the south of France, is one of France’s most popular regions.
Going to Paris
The best time to visit the French capital is spring or autumn. In summer, many restaurants are closed for the school vacations. In spring, the parks are in bloom and, in autumn, temperatures are still mild. Christmas also has much to offer travelers. The city is decked out in romantic lights for the festive season.
France’s best seasonal activities
Skiing conditions are ideal between December and March in the Alps and Pyrenees. The Jura mountains, the Vosges and the Massif Central also offer superb ski areas. Although the skiing season ends a little earlier, prices are more attractive.
The best time to go hiking is spring or autumn. This is because nature attracts you with its vivid colors, whether flowers in spring or leaves in autumn. Although you can expect showers and cooler temperatures in autumn, the days are still often sunny and warm.
The best time to fish is between April and October. So you can combine fishing and vacations perfectly. France is a prime destination for anglers. Thousands of kilometers of coastline and numerous fishing spots await you. You can even fish from the beach without a license!
The best time to surf in France depends on your level. The best season for beginners is summer or autumn. Experienced surfers can practice all year round, and even on the highest waves of the Atlantic in winter, with a thick wetsuit.
When to go to France, depending on your style of holiday?
Whether on the Atlantic or near the Mediterranean, the best time for a beach vacation in France is during the summer months of July and August. However, the summer vacations are also the peak period and, as a result, the beaches are crowded. If you’re more flexible, go as early as May and enjoy the fine weather.
Summer is the best time for family vacations in France. Note that this is the peak tourist season, which means more hustle and bustle and higher prices. There are also plenty of other families with children on site, which makes for a more convivial vacation. What’s more, the pleasant temperatures invite you to take a dip in the sea.
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The most popular period for cruising in France is summer. Many boats are available. Those who prefer a more leisurely vacation can plan their cruise for spring or autumn. In addition to Mediterranean cruises, river cruises are also available in France. Here too, spring and September attract visitors with colorful landscapes along the banks.
If you want to cover a large part of France, you’ll need to leave between May and June or September and October. However, the best time for a road trip depends on your itinerary. In principle, spring and autumn are good times to go on a road trip. Summer can be very hot, especially in the south. In winter, until March, there can still be a lot of snow in the north.
What is the cheapest time to visit France ?
The best time to visit France on a budget is from November to February, which corresponds to the winter months and the low season.
While visiting France is never “cheap”, you’ll find the best deals and rates on flights, hotels and attractions during winter, when tourism is at its lowest.
Expect temperatures around 8°C in November and 2-3°C from December to February. It’s cool, but not freezing. It’s great for sightseeing, as long as you dress warmly and bundle up!
The colder winter temperatures are the perfect excuse to stop off at a local café for a hearty hot meal. Skiing and snow sports are perfect activities for visiting France in winter, but they will be expensive and not suitable for budget vacations.
If you really want to hit the slopes in the French Alps, go in early to mid-December or January for the best prices. During winter, you’ll find numerous events and celebrations all over France.
In December, check out the Christmas markets and illuminations all over the country, the Paris Boat Show and the New Year’s Eve party, which usually includes fireworks, concerts and food in French cities.
If you visit in February or March, you can catch the excitement of Paris Fashion Week. Designers, models and spectators arrive in droves to spot the styles and fashions of the coming season. Flight and hotel prices are therefore higher in Paris during fashion week, so be sure to book before or after this event to get the lowest prices.
The least busy time to visit France
The best time to visit France without the summer crowds is from April to May (the spring shoulder season) and September to November (the fall shoulder season).
These less crowded periods are perfect for discovering France like a local, and you’ll be able to take advantage of lower rates while the crowds are less dense!
Visiting France in spring has its advantages – it’s slightly warm (between 12 and 20 degrees), the weather is fairly calm and colorful wild flowers are blooming all over the country. You’ll see swathes of yellow rapeseed in the north and red poppies in full bloom in the south.
Everything is lush and green in the countryside, and the vineyards are budding their grapes. May weekends are busy as events and celebrations begin to build up across the country.
But you’ll find that weekdays in most parts of France are quiet and peaceful until early June. April and May are wonderful times to go, but a little busier than the autumn months.
Visiting France in autumn is even less crowded, so you can visit more and relax. From September to November, you’ll see the last of the sunflowers, the newly golden vineyards and the colors of autumn foliage.
You’ll be there in time to enjoy cooler temperatures (between 15°C in September and 8°C in November), allowing you to stroll comfortably through the towns and stroll through the countryside.
Autumn festivals and celebrations in towns and villages are a special treat as temperatures cool before winter.
What is the worst time to visit France ?
The worst time to visit France is not really a single period or season. There are particular advantages to visiting at any time of year. The worst time to visit France really depends on what you’re going to see, do or experience. Take a look below to find out when you should avoid visiting France:
If you’re hoping for perfect weather, the worst time to visit France is May and October-February. May and October are the rainiest months of the year in France, which is a problem for sightseeing, sunbathing and excursions into the countryside. From November to February, temperatures plummet across France, with lows around 2° and highs struggling to reach 6°. Leave in April or June-August for ideal weather, more conducive to getting out and about and discovering the country.
If you’re on a budget or want to avoid the crowds, the worst time to visit is from June to August. This is the peak summer season in France, and you’ll have to contend with higher prices and longer queues for everything from flights and hotels to attraction tickets and food. It’s a great time of year to go, but not if you’re trying to stick to a modest budget or avoid the biggest crowds. Go in April-May or September-February to reduce crowds and prices.
If you want to discover France at its best, the worst time to go is from November to February. The winter months are cold (it snows in the French Alps and Pyrenees) and there are fewer tourists at this time of year. You’ll find that some of Provence’s picturesque villages are closed during the winter months, as the weather turns cold and gloomy. Go from June to August for warmer weather and more activities.