The best time to go to France (by a writer who has been every day of the year)

Thoughtful woman trekking in the snow mountains and looking happy smiling - alpinism concepts
Use this guide to help you choose the best time for your trip to France © andresr / Getty Images

France’s massive appeal – those top-class cities, beaches and landscapes – beckons all year round, but there are certain times when it’s better to visit.

Choose the best time for your visit to France with this month-by-month guide to the weather, events and festivals.

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High season – July and August – is the best time for hot weather

High season in France is hot and getting there can be hectic. Roads are usually a nightmare on the weekends, with traffic warnings going from orange to black. Hotel prices are at their peak, and you might need to book restaurants in advance. Many restaurateurs in larger cities will close for their own summer break. But it’s also the time when summer events and markets are in full flow, and you can enjoy glacier skiing in Tignes and Les Deux Alpes.

Woman riding a bike downhill in Tignes Bike Park in France surrounded by fields in bloom with yellow wildflowers
The spring flowers are in bloom in April © AlenaPaulus / Getty Images

Enjoy a more relaxed pace during the shoulder season of April, September and October

As France warms up from April onwards, particularly in the south, that’s the time for a more leisurely exploration among the spring flowers. Warm weather lingers well into September and even into October, when the seas have kept their summertime heat. Autumn is also the time for the grape harvest and wine festivals.

Many places are quiet in low season, which runs November to March

Apart a brief burst of activity during Christmas and New Year’s, France’s rural regions go into hibernation mode. Opening hours get even more restricted than usual, with many restaurants open three to four days a week. But cities are still lively.

Plan carefully for ski season

Early skiing in December can be tricky with the occasional lack of snow, but January is usually your best bet. Avoid February if you can, as half-term holidays are spread across the whole month. Prices rocket during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

January is for shopping and skiing

When you’re not on the ski slopes, head to the shops for the big January sales – les soldes d’hiver. Quieter streets will make city breaks a pleasure, especially in the south where the weather can already feel mild.
Key events: Historic Rally of Monte Carlo, La Folle Journée classical musical festival in Nantes, start of the three-month-long Limoux Carnival. 

A woman in a nude body suit waves at crowds from a parade float covered in flowers
Visit during festival season for a party vibe... but it will be crowded © Alamy Stock Photo

February is for festivals

Not surprisingly, Valentine’s Day is taken seriously in France, so book ahead if you’re planning a romantic weekend. February marks the start of carnival season, some in anticipation of Lent, others just for the sheer fun of it.
Key events: Nice Carnival, Menton Lemon Festival, Mimosa Festival in Mandelieu, Côte d’Azur.

March is for music

Spring comes with its own soundtrack in March, which is the time of two major festivals. Enjoy some late-season skiing without February’s crowds.
Key events: Grenoble Jazz Festival, Festival Banlieues Bleues north of Paris, Le Touquet Car Rally.

April is for getting outdoors

Even if Easter doesn’t fall in April, there’s a sense of France opening up and shrugging off its winter hours. Cafe terraces become full again as people spend more time outdoors enjoying the warmer weather.
Key events: International Garden Festival in Chateau de Chaumont, Bourges Spring Festival, Paris-Roubaix cycle race, International Kite Festival in Berck-sur-Mer.

A vast room with walls backlit showing a mural
It's free to visit museums on the Nuits des Musées in May © Izzet Keribar / Getty Images

May is for museums

With two to four public holidays in May (depending on when Easter falls), be prepared for plenty of places being closed. But May is also the month of the Nuits des Musées, when hundreds of museums around the country open their doors for free from dusk till 1am.
Key events: Nuits des Musées, Cannes Film Festival, Fête des Marins in Honfleur, Fêtes des Saintes-Maries-de-la Mer Gypsy festival, Camargue.

June is for more music

France celebrates the arrival of summer with the nationwide Fête de la Musique on June 21. Under hot summer skies, Nîmes and Arles get into a féria mood with Spanish-style parties and shows in their Roman amphitheaters.
Key events: Fête de la Musique, Le Mans 24-Hour Grand Prix, Paris Jazz Festival.

July is for full-on summertime fun

Everything happens in July: the fabulous Tour de France, Bastille Day celebrations all around the country on July 14, major festivals in Avignon and Aix-en-Provence and Provence’s lavender fields in full bloom. Brace yourself for busy crowds and high prices.
Key events: Bastille Day, Tour de France, lavender festivals, jazz festivals in Nice, Marciac and Juan-les-Pins, Champagne Route Festival.

A crowd at a rock concert with the performers silhouetted against the stage lights
A lot of France is on holiday in August, but Paris is alive with events © Christian Bertrand / Shutterstock

August is for lazy days

The Feast of the Assumption is on August 15 – another holiday when everything closes. Contrary to public opinion, Paris gently buzzes in August, especially on the Seine’s Paris-Plage and Parc de la Villette’s open-air cinema.
Key events: Feast of the Assumption, Rock en Seine in Paris, Colmar Wine Fair, Festival Interceltique de Lorient in Brittany.

September is for chilling out

La Rentrée – when France goes back to work and school – signals the end of summer, but that’s also when villages hold their own festivals. The weather is as hot as August, but prices start to drop.
Key events: Braderie de Lille, Festival of American Cinema in Deauville.

October is for wine and food lovers

An autumnal mellowness arrives, but you can still swim in the Med (and, occasionally, the Atlantic). It’s also harvest time, with wine fairs and food and drink festivals around the country. Join the party on Nuit Blanche when cultural sites are open all night.
Key events: Nuit Blanche, Fêtes des Vendanges in Montmartre and Salon du Chocolat in Paris, Fête des Vendanges in Banyuls-sur-Mer.

November is for cheaper city breaks

Temperatures plunge and two public holidays – November 1 and 11 – bring more closures as well as winter hours. But it’s a good time for a city break as prices go down.
Key events: Annecy Wine and Food Festival, Beaujolais Nouveau weekend, Burgundy Wine Auction, Fête du Ventre in Rouen.

A large stone fountain lit up with Christmas lights in Lyon, France
Lyon lights up in December © Sebarrere / Shutterstock

December gets festive

France loves to put on a big show for Christmas. Even if you don’t ski, the magic of the mountains goes into overdrive when festive decorations come out.
Key events: Christmas, Festival of Lights in Lyon, Braderie de l’Art in Roubaix.

This article was first published on April 14, 2021 and updated on July 31, 2022

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