No matter when you will visit France, be prepared for the national holidays, typical weather, major events and more. The month-by-month calendar and trip planner discusses the pros and cons for each month, month-specific packing tips and more.
Here is a quick guide to choosing the timing of your next French vacation.
for the bargain hunger, the country's twice-annual government regulated sales begin.
Christmas might be over, but there's still the famous galette des rois cake celebrating ephiphay on January 6th.
Airfares offer special deals though shop around if you're going to the ski resorts. Hotels also will be offering deals, but not in the Alps and the mountain resorts unless you book last minute.
The country's semi-annual government-regulated sales begin.
This is the beginning of the peak ski season. This is a bargain time to fly to France. The country's semi-annual government-regulated sales are under way. The annual Carnaval, or Mardi Gras, celebrations begin, starting with the famous Nice Carnaval which is one of the the oldest in the world. Besides, what could be more romantic than spending Valentine's Day in Paris, though you might want to avoid the little village of St. Valentin itself?
March can be the last chance until late fall to visit France on a budget, find top package deals and avoid tourist swarms. The ski season is enjoying its last busy month. Paris in Springtime is close at hand. If Easter falls in March, many attractions will open.
Easter in France is a great celebration, with amazing displays appearing in chocolate shops and bakeries.
Different regions enjoy different traditions.
Also don’t miss events like the major antiques fairs that take place over Easter, particularly the Fair in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in Provence.
Spring is really getting under way, with flowers and trees beginning to show their spring colours. The weather is getting really warm in the south of the country so you can take an early hiking, horseback riding or outdoor activity holiday. All the major attractions, and many smaller ones will be open.
Some of the big events in France take place in April and the big jazz festivals are starting.
May is one of the most popular months to visit France, with good reason. The weather is warm, but still mild and comfortable. While there are crowds, they aren't at their summertime height. It’s a good time to visit some of France’s wonderful gardens and the châteaux of the Loire Valley. In the south of France, the Villa Ephrussi on the Cote d’Azur holds its famous Rose Festival.
There are many events, festivals and activities to keep visitors busy. Cannes Film Festival attracts celebrities and commoners from throughout the globe. Surprise your mother with a great getaway for France's Fête des Mères, or Mother's Day.
The tourist season is definitely here, but it hasn't peaked yet. The weather is beautiful. Attractions have long hours, and there are festivals and events aplenty. Of course, the crowds can be annoying but you can always avoid them by picking a less well known region and by arriving at attractions early or late on in the day.
In Normandy, events in June centre around the D-Day Landing Beaches and commemorate 1944. If you’re going, book your hotel way in advance.
Beach destinations are bustling, so choose your seaside resort with care. Everywhere outdoor markets are bursting with activity and produce. There are almost endless events and top festivals like the famous music and arts festival in Avignon. It’s very busy from July 14th, Bastille Day when the French traditionally take their annual holidays.
The Tour de France bicycle race storms through the country.
If you’re visiting one of the cities with a cathedral, you’ll find some wonderful illuminations at night time; well worth booking a table on a terrace café nearby and watching the son-et-lumière show flickering over the facades. Particularly good cities for these sound and light shows include Chartres and Amiens. And the official summer sales start in France.
August is a month with mixed fortunes. It’s normally a great vacation month, but in France (and especially in the north) it can be problematic. Most French people are on holiday, certainly for the first 2 weeks until mid August. But many take the whole month of August off, meaning you may find some shops are closed. Paris is particularly quiet, so it can be a good time to visit, though some restaurants might be closed.
Still, attractions are usually open and it can be a bit quieter than the rest of the year. The south of France tends to be packed, as many northerners head to the beaches.
September is a wonderful month to visit France. The tourist season is winding down, but you still get most of the positive aspects of summertime such as warm weather and extended hours at attractions. The prices at hotels and airfares start to dip a little. The evenings, especially in the north, begin to have that cool, crisp touch. There are numerous events, the highlight of which are the ferias, or bullfighting festivals, of the South of France. Anyone who loves Paris in the springtime would have to adore it as fall starts to tinge the tips of the French leaves.
There are plenty of jazz festivals still operating and events like the famous Braderie de Lille, the first weekend in September when the biggest antique and bric-a-brac fair in Europe takes over the north French city.
October is another ideal month to visit France. The leaves are turning as already picturesque French villages surrender to autumn. Halloween still retains its old-fashioned innocence in France, though it’s not as widely celebrated here as in other countries. As the peak tourist season has passed, there are fewer lines and crowds, and more bargains on hotels and airfare.
The grapes are being gathered in and it’s a good time to book a wine tour. In Amiens, a huge braderie antiques fair takes over the town.
November is an amazing, enchanting time to visit France. There are countless festivals and events to herald the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau wine. The leaves are changing colors in a glorious fall celebration, especially early in the month and in Northern France. Towards the end of the month, the Christmas markets get under way. Even expat Americans and Canadians can find ways to celebrate Thanksgiving in France. The best part of the crowds have dissipated and the hotel rates are dipping, yet the temperatures aren't insanely cold yet in most of the country.
Armistice Day is celebrated on November 11th and all the towns, cities and villages have some kind of parade or event, though you'll find most of France's attractions are closed on this public holiday.
December is the most magical and mesmerizing time to visit France. There are Christmas markets throughout the country, including the centuries-old Strasbourg market. The shopping is really good. Storefronts are decked in lights and brightly colored decorations for the holidays and the supermarket shelves groan with French delicacies, chocolates and Champagne. In the Pyrenees and the Alps, the ski seasons are beginning. The month’s finale is New Year's Eve, which is more of a public celebration than Christmas and is to be thoroughly celebrated and enjoyed in Paris and in France's other lively cities.