When to go to France
France is a year-round destination, offering plenty to do in every season. The best time to visit depends on what you hope to see and do. Are you looking for a sun-soaked vacation by the sea, a tranquil getaway without the crowds, or perhaps to ski the French Alps? While winter is obviously the time to go for snow sports, summer is ideal for spending days at the beach along the magnificent French Riviera or the Normandy coast. It’s also when many fabulous festivals are held, including the Menton Music Festival featuring classical music concerts under the stars right along the Mediterranean. If you head to the Alps now, especially between mid-July and mid-August, you’ll have to prepare to bump elbows with others on the hiking trails.
Spring and fall often mean pleasant weather and fewer tourist crowds. Many feel these shoulder seasons are best, especially for sightseeing. While winter weather is grey and sometimes wet, it can be a good time to enjoy off-season rates in Lyon, Nice, and Paris. Snow is unlikely to be an issue outside of the mountains and you’ll have the opportunity to explore the cities through the eyes of a local.
With its varied climate, France is truly an all-year-round destination. Below is an overview of climate season-by-season.
One of the best times of the year to visit France, spring is a shoulder season, with temperatures beginning to rise, flowers starting to bloom and markets reopening or expanding, yet it will still be relatively peaceful without the big crowds that summer brings. It’s a time of renewal, with the songs of the birds often heard and some impressive festivals too, including the Cannes Film Festival in May, the world’s premier film festival. Local artists will be returning to city and village streets to perform and it’s a great season for wine-tasting tours in the countryside. While you might need an umbrella occasionally, it won’t be too cold, other than in mountainous areas which may have snow through April.
Summer is the warmest and liveliest time of year in France. For those seeking a beach getaway, this is when you’ll want to come although the country’s coastline will be jam-packed with crowds soaking up the sun. The Alps will be lovely, if busy, for epic hikes, and in Provence, not only can you enjoy beaches, but the fragrant lavender fields that blanket landscapes with purple. Many festivals can be enjoyed now, including the World Cultural Festival, the perfect place to experience a wide range of cultures from many different countries all in one spot. As it’s the peak tourist season, you’ll want to book airfare and accommodation well in advance and expect to pay the highest prices of the year.
While there may be a bit more rain than in the spring or summer, fall is a wonderful time to visit France, particularly through around mid to late October. If the weather turns damp, enjoy indoor activities like the galleries and museums. The vineyards will be especially picturesque, ideal for sampling the famous full-bodied reds in Burgundy and Bordeaux. You can expect a spectacular mix of vibrant colors, wonderful for a hike in the French Alps, and you’re likely to enjoy discounted rates on hotels too. If you’re here on the first weekend of October, you can take advantage of Nuit Blanche (White Night), when the galleries, museums, and cultural institutions keep their doors open all night and are free of charge.
Winter is a popular time to visit despite being the wettest season, with plenty of rainfall and snow in the Alps. Winter sports enthusiasts will be flocking to the mountains to take advantage of some of the world’s best skiing, not only in the Alps but the Pyrenees. Ice skating, snowshoeing, and sledding are popular too. There are dazzling Christmas markets and lots of twinkling lights and décor in places like Colmar, Strasbourg, and Paris, while along the French Riviera, the Nice Carnaval, often held in February, is one of the world’s most famous events, lasting for two weeks. Outside of the popular ski resort areas, this is a good time for a more budget-friendly trip, often with lower airfare and discounted hotel rates.
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