France is a country with many regional differences and cultural highlights. While the summer can be extremely busy, as it's one of the most popular countries to visit in Europe, the shoulder seasons can be a fantastic time to travel in France - especially in the warm southern regions.
Winter can also be a good time to visit some of France's top museums and châteaux, avoiding the crowds and inflated prices of the busier seasons. December is a hive of activity throughout France with Christmas markets and the arrival of ski season ramping up the tourism scene once more.
Spring is a fantastic time to visit France with a raft of seasonal flowers and cultural activities after Easter. The south starts to warm with beaches opening up for the year. Though the Med may still be chilly, it's a great time to avoid crowded beaches.
Summer is the peak season in France, with prices and tourists to match. Places like Paris are uncomfortably busy, although the streets can empty out on weekends as locals head out to the countryside to escape the city. It’s best to book everything in advance to avoid disappointment, especially when there are events on.
In September and into October, accommodation prices drop as the holidays end, but temperatures remain warm and smaller villages hold markets and festivals after the harvest season. There is still a buzz, with many shops and restaurants remaining busy until November.
In winter, France’s rural regions go into a kind of hibernation mode. With short opening hours and local restaurants only open three or four days a week, it can be a difficult time to travel outside of the major towns and cities.
The French Ski season is very popular. Although prices are best outside of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays in December, there may be a lack of snow if the weather fails to cooperate. January is generally the best time to book, before the busy and expensive February half-term holidays.
Southern France has a pleasant Mediterranean climate with hot summers, comfortable winters, and little rainfall. Temperatures in the summer average at around 25 °C but can reach up to 35 °C during heatwaves.
The French Riviera (Cannes, Nice and Monaco) has its own warm microclimate as it’s protected from the Mistral winds by the Alps. Some of the areas near the French Alps and Pyrenees tend to be a little cooler due to the mountains, and have a higher chance of rainfall.
Central France (including Paris and the Alsace) tends to have more precipitation, and colder winters with a more continental climate. Summer temperatures average at around 20 °C, while winter temperatures average at around 4.5 °C in cities and 2 °C in the countryside.
The western coast of France is affected by weather fronts from the Atlantic Ocean with more temperate winters and summers, and higher levels of rainfall year round. Areas like Brittany and Normandy can see an average of around 1,000 millimetres of rain per year, which also means that it’s a green and fertile part of France.
Nuits des Muséesis a nationwide event that happens throughout France every May. Hundreds of museums open their doors and allow free entry to all from dusk till 1 a.m. - it’s a great time to fit in some of France's best art collections and historical museums.
The Fête de la Musique celebrates the arrival of summer across the country on June 21, the day of the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. Many locals take to the streets to play music outside in their neighbourhoods or parks. Famous musicians also put on free concerts in larger areas, focusing on community rather than making money.
Sport plays a huge role in the social calendar in France with events like the Le Mans 24-Hour Grand Prix (June), Tour de France (July), and the Monaco Grand Prix (May) shutting down entire cities for several days. Get tickets early, and expect to pay high prices for accommodation anywhere near these events.
In July, Bastille Day rules the French calendar with joyous celebrations happening all around the country on the 14th. Also known as French National Day, it signifies the Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789 and the following Fête de la Fédération on 14 July 1790.
Another public holiday to be aware of as a traveller is the Feast of the Assumption on August 15th. Expect everything to be closed, especially in more rural areas where attending church and village fetes are the main order of the day.
L'Assomption de Marie celebrates the Catholic belief that the Virgin Mary's spirit and body was assumed to heaven. Special celebrations are held in Lourdes, a site of Christian pilgrimage where millions of people visit on this day every year.
Last Updated 28 November 2023