The Best Time to Visit France

Streets of Barjols, town in Provence, France
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Generally speaking, the best time to visit France is during the spring (March through May) and summer (June through early September). Springtime brings milder temperatures ideal for open-air exploration, not to mention an abundance of greenery and color. Meanwhile, the summer months offer long days for exploring, whether you’re roaming the streets of Paris or riding a bike through the lavender fields of Provence. If you can tolerate large crowds, beaches on the French Riviera and Atlantic Coast offer plenty of relaxation and amusement, including for water-sports lovers. Summer is also peak time for festivals, from free concerts to open-air cinema screenings.

Popular Events and Festivals 

France draws millions of visitors a year for world-class festivals and annual events; spring to early fall are especially good times to enjoy some of the best. In the spring, the Loire Valley hosts the International Gardens Festival, showcasing impressive designs from landscape artists around the globe. 

Summer brings festivals such as the Bordeaux Wine Festival and the Fete de la Musique, a free music event that lets you take in hundreds of free street concerts. In early fall, France celebrates the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau wine and Paris celebrates the Vendanges de Montmartre Harvest Festival.

The Weather in France

Being geographically diverse, France’s weather varies significantly depending on the destination. The South of France—from Provence to the Riviera—tends to be quite warm, with temperate winters and sometimes scorchingly hot summers. Paris, central, and eastern France have colder winters and summers that can be quite muggy and hot, with frequent storms. Meanwhile, the Atlantic coastal areas tend to display an oceanic climate, with milder temperatures but frequently wet conditions. 

If you’re heat-averse, know that the summer months have seen record heat waves in the past few years, and plan accordingly. You may wish to avoid hitting the beaches of the Riviera during the high season, when temperatures routinely exceed 90 degrees F (32 degrees C). The beaches of Northern France and the Atlantic coast tend to see milder conditions during the summer. Paris can also be uncomfortably hot in late July and August, so make sure you stay hydrated and bring plenty of light, breathable clothing.  

Peak Season in France

The busiest times of year to visit tend to be between late March/early April and early October, with the highest numbers of visitors flocking to France in late spring and mid-summer. This is reflected in steeper rates for flights and hotels. If do plan to visit during peak season, we highly recommend that you book well in advance to lock in the best deals.

Traveling during peak season doesn’t mean huge crowds everywhere in France, luckily. Paris becomes remarkably quiet and laid-back in August when thousands of locals leave for summer vacation—many decamping to the beaches of the south. Brittany can also afford plenty of space to explore and boasts many off-the-beaten-path, inspiring places and attractions.

January

The Christmas festivities have passed in January, but many cities still display colorful lights and offer wintery activities like open-air ice skating. Crowds are relatively thin and you can generally get good deals on flights, hotels, and tours.

Events to check out:

  • Around the country, the French celebrate La Fete des Rois (King's Day, marking the Epiphany) starting on Jan. 6. The tradition is to share marzipan-laced, buttery galettes des rois (kings' cake) and don paper crowns.
  • Winter sales run for about two weeks starting in early January; this is an excellent time to find some original new pieces for your wardrobe, a rare book or an antique item to bring home.

February 

February in France is the height of the low season. It offers great opportunities for deals on travel, but it also comes with cold weather and closed tourist attractions in many places. 

Events to check out:

  • Ski stations in the French Alps and Pyrenees offer adventure during the day and a cozy ambiance in the evenings. The Pyrenees stations tend to be more accessible than their posh counterparts in the Alps. 
  • Take a romantic break to Paris, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, or Lyon to celebrate Valentine’s Day. A dinner cruise on the Seine, Rhine, or Rhone river can be a good idea. Or why not take a winery tour in Bordeaux? 

March 

Marchis the tail-end of low season and may represent your last opportunity to get an excellent deal on travel. Toward the end of the month, temperatures tend to warm up, making day trips and outdoor activities more pleasant. But some attractions remain closed. 

Events to check out:

  • This is the last major month for skiing, snowboarding, and other powder-related sports in the Alps and Pyrenees, with plenty of apres-ski activities to enjoy in resorts around France. 
  • While French carnivals kicked off in February, they tend to really warm up in March. Don’t miss the Carnaval de Nice, whose colorful, flower-filled floats, parade, and fireworks mark the occasion like few others.

April 

High season in France begins in April and brings larger crowds, warmer temperatures, and more opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities. Take some time to explore parks and gardens in bloom, or go on a coastal walk on the Atlantic or Mediterranean. Prices start to really climb at this time, but many attractions re-open after low-season closures. 

Events to check out:

  • Interested in antiques? Check out the biggest flea and antique market in Europe in the small French town of L’Isle-de-la-Sorgue
  • Easter marks a major holiday in France, and most French people take the Monday following Easter Sunday off. There are usually fun events and festive ways to celebrate wherever you’re visiting, but do be aware of potential closures. 

May

May in France may be the “Goldilocks” month: it tends to be warm, but not too hot. And if you want to attempt an early beach getaway in St. Tropez or see that blockbuster exhibit in Paris, you may beat the crowds compared to the summer. Rates for hotels and flights tend to be quite steep, on the downside. Bring a jacket with you though, chilly spells aren’t uncommon in May. 

Events to check out:

  • Rhe Paris Marathon takes place in May and the annual French Open sees tennis champions duke it out for the championship at the Roland-Garros stadium. 
  • Meanwhile, the Cannes Film Festival in the Riviera town of the same name brings star power to the red carpets, and it can be fun to be in its orbit. Open-air movie screenings on the beach and other events make it exciting even for non-attendees. 

June

June is the start of the summer festival season in France, and beaches swell with sunbathers and swimmers as temperatures continue to climb. Hotel rooms are scarcer and more expensive, and you can expect crowded conditions at many museums and monuments. Meanwhile, summer sales offer more opportunities for deals. 

Events to check out:

  • On June 6, the D-Day Festival in Normandy marks the arrival of Allied Forces soldiers on the region’s beaches, mourning the fallen and commemorating their bravery. 
  • The Bordeaux Wine Festival is held every year on the banks of the Garonne River. Taste wines from around the region for a reasonable fee, and stroll the river boardwalk for live music, tall old ships, and local street food. 

July

The mid-summer vibe is relaxed and fun in July, with more festivals on the program and long, warm days attracting crowds outdoors. Beaches are now full to the hilt, and temperatures tend to be hot and/or muggy in most places.

Events to check out:

  • Bastille Day on July 14th marks France’s historic transition from monarchy to Republic with fireworks, fireman’s balls, parades, and more. Paris is generally the best place to see the festivities, but other cities also celebrate with flair. 
  • In Provence, this is the peak time to see (and smell) large, rolling hills and fields teeming with lavender. Take a tour or rent a bike and take in the picturesque sight of “blue gold.” 

August

France in August can feel a bit odd. In Paris, many locals have fled the scene for vacations elsewhere, leaving an impression of semi-emptiness in places. In the South, beaches are so crowded that it can be hard to find a spot. But smart travelers will take advantage of the laid-back ambiance in the capital, and perhaps choose Normandy, Brittany, or Aquitaine for a coastal break. 

Events to check out:

  • A three-day music festival called Rock en Seine takes over a nearby suburb of Paris for three days in August, for open-air concerts from leading global bands. You can even camp onsite. 
  • In Arles, the Arelate Festival brings the Roman Empire back to life with gladiator games, chariots, and other lively festivities. 

September

September in France marks the unofficial New Year when vacationers get back to work and kids get back to school. Major exhibits debut at museums and restaurants open to crowds and fanfare. Wine harvests begin in some regions. Prices tend to dip slightly, but this is still generally considered high season. 

Events to check out:

  • The harvest in St-Emilion, near Bordeaux, celebrates the culling of the new crop in one of France’s major wine-producing regions. There’s a dramatic, solemn mass, and visitors can take a torchlit night tour of the old medieval town. 
  • Jazz à Beaune is a music and wine festival in one of Burgundy’s loveliest towns. You can take wine-tasting workshops and classes on jazz masters in addition to enjoying performances. 

October

Fall is well and truly here by October when leaves start to change and days grow shorter and colder. For some, this is the best time of year in France: the air is crisp and often clear, crowds have thinned out, there’s plenty to see and do, and prices are more moderate compared to late spring and summer. 

Events to check out:

  • Nuit Blanche is an all-night art and culture event in Paris that's become an October tradition. Major museums and galleries open all night, and the streets are transformed by elaborate installations and “happenings,” most of which are free. 
  • The Vendanges de Montmartre is a festival celebrating the last remaining vineyard within the walls of Paris that produces some wines. Elaborate processions and ceremonies, live music, food, and of course wine tasting make for a fun and festive three days. 

November

November in France marks the beginning of low season, and also brings much shorter, darker days and weather that can be wet and quite cold. For this reason, visitor numbers ebb and you can generally get excellent deals on flights, hotels, and tours.

Events to check out:

  • On the third Thursday in November, France fetes the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau, a young red wine. You can celebrate with a glass at a wine bar in Paris, Bordeaux, and most places around the country. 
  • Christmas lights, markets, and decorations start to go up in late November, bringing some much-needed cheer to the dark nights. Paris is a major destination to see the seasonal decor, with a major “switching on” ceremony held every year on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées late in the month. 

December 

Tourist numbers tend to temporarily spike again in December, when winter holiday festivities draw visitors to Paris, Alsace, Provence, and other destinations to take in a little seasonal cheer. Some ski stations start their season in December, too. 

Events to check out:

  • Christmas markets in France—especially inAlsace, Provence, and Paris—are especially enchanting, and sell seasonal treats such as mulled wine, traditional decorations, crepes, candied fruits, marzipan, and sausages. Bundle up and go enjoy a stroll through the warm wooden “chalets.”
  • Early-bird skiers and winter mountain enthusiasts can find potentially good deals at resorts, hotels, and spas in the Alps and Pyrenees. In addition to snow sports, a soak in a mountain spa can be a relaxing way to close out the year. 
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