The best time to visit France

The lavender fields of Provence turn deep purple in June and are all aflutter with bees and butterflies – and photographers.
For most people, the best time to visit France is summer (June to August). Of course, deciding exactly when to go depends on what you want to do when you’re there. May and June are France’s spring, a temperate time for walking when the wildflowers are in full bloom. Trekking between mountain refuges across lofty terrain reaches fever pitch in mid-July, when the snow has cleared and the risk of avalanches are minimal. If you’re heading to the South of France, May to July is the best time to visit the French Riviera for warm sunshine and a less crowded coastline. Late November to early April is winter: the optimum time for cross country skiing, snowshoeing and mountain sports in the Alps and Pyrenees.

A month by month guide on when to go to France

January in France

    Showshoeing and cross country skiing Winter wilderness Paris
Late January is great for deep winter conditions in the mountains; avoid the busy early January school holidays for a wilderness experience on the snowshoe trails. January is also a good time to explore Paris in (absolutely freezing) peace. Instead of going into hibernation, the city’s Seine-side paths are aglow with lamplight and winter markets light up royal parks. Choose to begin or end your holiday here, arriving in style by high-speed rail. Some chateaus are closed in France in January.

January is great for a winter activity holiday in the French Alps

February in France

    Winter sports Carnival Easter break
Temperatures can be very cold in France in February – although, as always, that depends on where you go. Embrace winter amongst the snowy mountains and frosty countryside by going on a winter activity adventure around Mont Blanc. It’s worth noting that February is when lots of European children get a chance to go on a ski trip with their school, so the popular ski towns get very busy around half-term. For milder temperatures, go south to the sunny French Riviera.

March in France

    Wolf tracking Sunny South of France Snow and sunshine in the mountains
France in March sees a sunny and pleasant southern Mediterranean coast. It’s also a glorious time to be in the mountains, with weather that combines snow with plenty of early spring sunshine. March is the best time to track wolves in the French Alps. The paw prints of these elusive animals reveal themselves in snowy valleys, while longer days mean more time for tracking. Lots of shops shut during Easter (which usually falls in March or April), but you’ll also see lots of grand masses and family celebrations.

April in France

    French Riviera Hiking Culture and cooking
April is one of the best times to visit France. Spring has sprung in most regions, offering some of the best weather and least busy beaches along the chic French Riviera. Packing layers wherever you go is a good idea, as showers can pop up at any time and temperatures outside mountain regions can swing from 7°C in the evenings to the low 20°Cs in the day. It’s still considered a shoulder season, so prices are lower too. Snow remains throughout France in April and even into May in the high-altitude mountains, blocking paths.

May in France

    All-rounder Kayaking, hiking and cycling Mountains
May is generally a good month wherever you go in France – it’s when the weather starts to improve all over. However, it can still be cool and wet on the Atlantic coast, around the Bay of Biscay. Later in the month is a great time to head to lower paths in the mountains, where snow will have receded. There’s less rain and lighter days for walking and outdoor activities in France in May.

June in France

    Mountain hiking, including Mont Blanc Wildflowers in the Pyrenees and Alps Loire Valley and Provence
June in France is a brilliant time – your chance to catch summer before the busy school holidays begin. You can step back a season in the high altitudes of the Pyrenees, where early June is the beginning of spring and hiking is idyllic. Birds are at their most active now, zipping between hedgerows and meadows while foraging for food for their young. The summer heat starts to kick in at the end of June in the South of France, so stick close to the coast where you can cool off in the Mediterranean.

June is great for Mont Blanc hiking
The spring reawakening after winter is the favourite time for folk living in the countryside
– Peter Roche, from our partner Moulin du Chemin

July in France

    Open mountain trails French Pyrenees and Alps Lavender fields in Provence
Things start to get pricier, busier and uncomfortably hot for hiking and cycling in France in July – unless, that is, you’re in the fresher mountain regions. July is one of the best times to be in the French Pyrenees and Alps. You’ll have the biggest choice of defrosted trails, plus high Alpine regions are covered in wildflowers that stick around well into August. Combined with the snow that remains on the highest peaks, it makes for a pretty picture. July is also when the lavender fields of Provence are in full bloom.

August in France

    Hot, sunny weather Kayaking and canoeing Family activity holidays in the Alps
The French bid adieu and flee for their favourite holiday spots in August – and most stick to their own country, heading for the sizzling South of France and the wine regions. It can get packed on the French Riviera in the first three weeks of the month. Roads can be congested too, lengthening journey times, so we recommend travelling by train through France in August. Temperatures hover around 30°C, so it’s best to avoid cycling anywhere other than in the mountains. Instead, do as the French do and spend August lounging beside the pool of a country gite, cooling off in the Alps or kayaking in Dordogne.

August is great for a France family adventure holiday

September in France

    Hiking and cycling Autumn in the Alps, Pyrenees and Mont Blanc Sunshine in the South of France
France in September is cooler, but warm temperatures still make exploring cities and countryside a pleasure. There’s a real feeling of breathing out as the high number of August visitors retreat from Paris, the coast and mountains. Autumn colours start to appear from late September in the French Alps and Pyrenees and vineyards are busy harvesting grapes. Corsica – an island closer to Italy than France – is a good choice from September onwards. It sunbathes under France’s longest summer.

October in France

    Walking and cycling Perfect for Provence Mild and sunny in the South of France
Autumn washes France’s bucolic countryside in warm golds, greens and reds – don’t forget your camera. The further south you go in France in October, the later winter will kick in. October is also great for walking and cycling, with comfortable temperatures in the south and far fewer crowds. Plus, this is your last chance for warm weather on the Mediterranean coast. Restaurants and hotels start to close in the countryside from late October, reopening in spring.

November in France

    Yoga retreats on the Riviera See the cities Late autumn
Autumn segues into winter in France in November, so cycling and hiking isn’t at its best during these shorter, rainier days. Cities like Paris and Lyon, however, are great for exploring in November. You’ll be able to see the paintings at the Louvre and L’Orangerie without standing on tiptoes. Alternatively, retreat to the French Riviera, where the 17°C air temps make it mild enough for activities and dining al fresco.

November is great for a French Riviera yoga retreat

December in France

    Cross country skiing and snowshoeing Christmas markets Festivities in Paris
December is smack-bang in the middle of winter in mountain regions like the Pyrenees and Alps. Now is the time to don cross country skis and snowshoes and ramp up the adrenaline with all manner of winter sports. Christmas in Paris is magic (and therefore popular); Parisians, of course, know how to celebrate in style, and with plenty of food and drink. Do book well ahead if planning a Christmas or New Year break in France in December.

French Alps Weather Chart

 
MIN °C
MAX °C
RAIN (mm)
JAN
-3
3
75
FEB
-1
5
75
MAR
0
9
75
APR
4
13
74
MAY
7
17
85
JUN
11
22
95
JUL
12
25
75
AUG
11
23
90
SEP
10
20
90
OCT
6
14
80
NOV
1
9
95
DEC
-2
4
85
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about France or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Best times to visit France for festivals & events

Fancy celebrating a French festival while on holiday? Remember to book well in advance for major national events such as Carnival and Bastille Day.

Nice Carnival (mid-February)

Nice holds one of the biggest carnivals in the world, where Catholics traditionally feast before observing 40 days of fasting for Lent. Nice Carnival bids farewell to winter in ecstatic style – and in the mildest and sunniest spot on the French Riviera. The carousing has been going on here since 1294, although these days it’s extended into a two-week extravaganza of parades with gigantic satirical floats and firework shows.

Pelerinage des Gitans (May)

Villages in France celebrate their patron saints throughout the year, but there’s perhaps no pilgrimage so lively as the hundreds of Roma who travel to the tiny village of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in the Camargue. It’s all in the name of Sara, their patron saint, who fled there from the Holy Land in medieval times, whom they celebrate with a flamboyant fiesta of processions, dancing in the streets, music and general merriment for three whole weeks.

Paris Pride (late June)

Part celebration, part protest, Paris Pride (Marche des Fiertés LGBT) has been raising the voices of France’s LGBTQIA+ community for more than 40 years. Half a million people pack the streets of Paris for events that range from exhibitions and debates to roller skating and club nights. The parade is the main event – a carnivalesque call for equal rights that starts from the bohemian quarter of Montparnasse.

Tour de France (late June-July)

The Tour de France is the most famous cycling race in the world. You can watch from podiums in the big cities along the route, which changes every year, but you’ll get a better atmosphere in small towns and villages that really get a kick out of the cyclists bursting through their usually sleepy backroads. The quickest cyclists will usually zoom past within an hour of each other… after which you can go back to your Brie and Burgundy.

Bastille Day (14 July)

Bastille Day celebrates the Storming of the Bastille, the medieval political prison that was overthrown in the early days of the French Revolution. In France, Bastille Day is simply called Fête Nationale – or National Celebration – and involves fireworks, parades and street parties that pop up from the biggest cities to the smallest villages.

Lavender fields, Provence (July)

While not exactly a festival, marvelling at Provence’s multitude of orderly striped lavender fields has definitely become something of an event over the last few years. The best time to see the lavender fields in Provence is in early July. Most of the fields will be a haze of purple, you’ll beat the school holiday crowds, and you’ll catch them before the harvest does.

Assumption of the Virgin Mary (15 August)

Don’t assume you’ll get anywhere fast on the Assumption of the Virgin Mary – a national holiday that sees most of the French population taking off to the coast or countryside with their families. It’s a Catholic celebration of when Mary was whisked up to heaven to be reunited with Jesus. Cue processions of Mary’s statue and street dancing that double as a send-off to summer.

Beaujolais Nouveau Day (third Thursday in November)

Wine snobs, move aside – Beaujolais Day is here. This is no Champagne; it’s an easy-drinking table wine made from Gamay grapes and painstakingly harvested by hand. What started as a celebration of the end of harvest hundreds of years ago has turned into a race to get the freshly pressed and bottled wine out into the world by 12.01am on the third Thursday in November – the time that Beaujolais bottles can legally be uncorked according to the strict AOC rules. Drink it then and you – along with hundreds of other Beaujolais devotees at events and tastings throughout France – will be sipping a wine that’s only a few weeks off the vine.

Our travellers also ask…

What is the cheapest month to go to France?

February is usually the cheapest month to visit France. It’s firmly in the low season when fewer people visit, so holidays and flights are usually lower priced. The mid-February school holidays are the exception, however – this is when lots of European school children head for the slopes.

When is the best time to visit Paris?

We think the best time to visit Paris is spring and autumn. Pink blossom trees flower along the boulevards in spring, while tulips stack Luxembourg Gardens. Autumn, meanwhile, is cool and crisp, but still pleasant enough for walks along the Seine. December also has its charms, especially when the Christmas markets light up the city squares. However, Paris is most popular in summer; you’ll find it busy with tourists but empty of Parisians as they go off on their holidays.

What is the best time of year to go to the South of France?

If you’re seeking hot, sunny weather, the best time to visit the French Riviera and South of France is in summer. Take note that its reputation precedes it – the coast is packed with people in August. Things quieten by the end of August as school holidays wind down and temperatures cool to warm-but-not-too-hot sunshine. It’s a great time for hiking and cycling… or just lounging by the sea. For warm sunshine minus the crowds, visit the South of France in spring (March-April).
Photo credits: [Page banner: Hervé] [Intro: Antony BEC] [Peter Roche quote: Helene Rival] [Tour de France: VELOBAR+]