Best Time to Visit France (Weather and Costs)

Best Time to Visit France (Weather and Costs)

Best Time to Visit France (Weather and Costs)

France is a year-round destination, with countless attractions and reasons to visit throughout the year. I have visited the country more times than I can remember, in all of the seasons. However, the best time to visit France depends on a few factors.

Firstly and most importantly, when deciding when to travel to France, you need to consider what it is that you want to do there.

If you’d like to enjoy the country’s world-class ski resorts, you’re best off visiting in the winter; whereas if you’d prefer to spend time relaxing on France’s stunning Mediterranean beaches, you may want to come when it’s a little warmer.

Overall (outside of the mountains), the summer months tend to coincide with the peak tourist season, when accommodation and other costs are highest and crowds are at their worst. If you’re looking to visit France on a budget, it might be a good idea to travel outside of these months.

Overall Best Time to Visit France

In my opinion, May or September are the best times to go to France.

With its varied landscape and extensive coastline, France has an impressive range of climates ranging from dry and hot Mediterranean in the south to wet and temperate in the north.

However, wherever you are in France, the weather is generally much better in summer than in winter.

Given the increased prices and crowds of the peak summer season (June-August), personally, my favorite time to visit France is either in the late spring (May) or early autumn (September).

Temperatures are still likely to be warm but there will be far fewer crowds and you can often secure discounts on accommodation.

A beautiful scenic view of Eiffel Tower from afar along the river.

Unless I’m coming to France for winter sports, I usually avoid visiting during the winter months. Temperatures can get pretty cold, it rains quite a lot, and you can’t enjoy the beautiful scenery or the amazing outdoor cafe culture in the same way.

Peak Season in France (June – August)

The peak season for tourism in France runs from June to August.

This is usually when the weather is at its best, with long, warm days, and many weeks of uninterrupted sunshine. However, along with the great weather, this period also draws much larger crowds.

This time of year is popular with both international travelers and domestic holidaymakers, and the country’s best attractions tend to be packed with tourists.

Additionally, hotels and other accommodations can get expensive during this time, with prices often being up to twice as high as they are in low season. If you’re traveling then, it’s best to book things as early as possible.

Bikers at the Tour de France driveway to Col d'Izoard

No matter when you visit France, there will likely be some kind of festival or event taking place. Bastille Day (La Fête Nationale) is France’s national holiday, held on July 14 every year and marked by fireworks, street parades, and other events.

The Tour de France bike race is usually held during the summer, causing road closures in certain parts of the country. Village, town, and city parties are also common throughout the summer months.

Shoulder Season in France (April – May and September – October)

The best time to visit France for budget travelers is during the shoulder season, which runs from April-May and September-October.

The weather is often still quite nice at this time of year and you can expect plenty of sunshine, especially in September.

Furthermore, accommodation prices are often lower than during peak season, and the crowds tend to be smaller at all but the most popular attractions.

Festivals held during these months include the Cannes Film Festival in May and the Paris Marathon in April.

Off Season in France (November – March)

The off-season in France runs from November to March, when temperatures are often cold and wet.

Apart from ski resorts (which are particularly busy from December through February), most places receive their lowest numbers of visitors. Some attractions and hotels shut down altogether.

Avoriaz Ski Resort in France, viewd from a chair lift above the town

It can be possible to score rock-bottom prices on accommodation during the winter months. However, personally, I tend to avoid traveling during this period as the weather is often a bit depressing and there isn’t much to do.

When to Visit France For Beaches

July and August are popular months for beach vacations, with the best weather, longest days, and warmest temperatures.

Some of the best beach destinations in France include the French Riviera (also known as the Cote d’Azur), Biarritz, the Médoc Natural Regional Park, and the beautiful French Mediterranean island of Corsica.

These destinations all enjoy daily temperatures from 25-30 degrees Celsius throughout the summer. However, the main downside is that they can get a little crowded.

The stunning coast of French Riviera in France

One of my favorite beaches to escape the summer crowds is Plage Sud, in the Médoc. At 14 kilometers long, it’s really enormous, so you can always find a private spot to yourself among the soft golden sand and towering dunes.

If you’re into snorkeling, the Mediterranean sea is usually warmest in August and September, as it’s had the whole summer to warm up!

When to Visit France For Festivals

The best time to go to France for festivals is during the late spring and summer months.

During this period, some of the best festivals to attend include Bastille Day (July 14), the Cannes Film Festival (May), and the Carcassonne Festival of contemporary music, theatre, and dance (July).

During each of these festivals, you’ll find vibrant street parades, fireworks displays, and other cultural events. You can expect temperatures to range from 20-30 degrees Celsius throughout these months.

When to Visit France For Cities

This is a slightly tricky question to answer as, again, it largely depends on what you want to do and see.

Overall, I think the best time to travel to France for sightseeing in its many wonderful cities is during either May or September when temperatures are comfortable, prices are moderate, and there are fewer crowds.

The gorgeous Marseille Old Port with yachts and Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde

Some of the best cities to visit during these months include Paris, Marseille, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, and Nice.

When to Visit France For Historical Sites

France is home to some of the most impressive castles, ancient ruins, and other historical sites in Europe. If I had to pick the best time to visit France for seeing historical sites, I’d probably go with late spring or early autumn.

A few of the best places worth visiting include the Carcassonne Citadel (a fairytale 13th-century fortress city), Mont Saint-Michel (a similarly-fairytale-like island monastery), and the Pont du Gard (an amazing 2,000-year-old ancient Roman aqueduct bridge).

There are pros and cons of visiting these places at each time of year. For example, while they look incredibly picturesque and beautiful in the snow, in the spring and summer the weather is more pleasant and the days are much longer for exploring.

Panaromic view of Carcassonne from the citadel inner wall at sunny day

When to Visit France For Wine

Happily, you can enjoy fantastic wine in France any time of year! There are many excellent wine regions throughout France, some of the most famous being Burgundy, Champagne, and Bordeaux.

Most French winemakers harvest their grapes around September, so this is probably the best time of year to visit France if you’re interested in visiting a vineyard and watching the masters at work.

If you have time, I highly recommend doing a wine-tasting tour during your time in France.

Young woman tasting wine standing outdoors on the vineyard in Bordeaux region during a sunset in France

You have many to choose from, but some of the best ones include this wine and cheese-tasting lunch in Paris, this Moët & Chandon champagne tour, and this Bordeaux vineyard tour in Saint-Émilion (the region that produces some of my favorite French red wines).

When to Go to France For Cheap Prices

The lowest prices in France are often found during the winter months. However, because this is very much off-season, you’ll find that many places are shut and there isn’t much to do in some of the smaller places.

A good compromise if you’re looking to save money is to visit at either end of the shoulder season, so in either April or October, when more places are open and the weather is a bit better. It’s often still possible to make considerable savings on accommodation, airfares, and other travel expenses in these months.

When to Visit France For Hiking

Spring and autumn are usually the most pleasant times for hiking. It’s warm but not too hot, the trails aren’t too crowded, and there are fewer bugs. Temperatures typically range from 12-22 degrees Celsius, ideal for a long hike.

Some of my favorite hikes in France include the 13-kilometer Blanc-Martel trail in the Gorges du Verdon, Provence, the hike to the top of the Brèche de Roland pass in the Pyrenees, and the Chemin Des Muletiers which climbs to the summit of the Puy de Dôme, an iconic volcano in the Auvergne region.

Hiker looking at Lac des Cheserys on the famour Tour du Mont Blanc near Chamoniz, France

Vanoise National Park in the Alps is also absolutely stunning. It’s a skier’s paradise in the winter, but once the snow has melted there are many amazing trails to explore.

The Best Time to Visit France By Month

As I mentioned above, the best time to travel to France largely depends on what it is you plan to do there.

Here I’ve broken down what each month of the year is like, including the weather and what there is to do, to help you decide when to visit France.

France in January

January is arguably the worst time to visit France, unless you’re coming for skiing and other winter sports.

Weather in France in January

The weather in France in January is usually cold and wet, the days are short and the nights are long.

Temperatures range from 0-10 degrees Celsius on average, and it’s common to have rain, mist, and thick clouds for days on end. Snow is fairly common, especially in upland and inland areas.

The beautiful Pyrenees mountains in France during January

The best places to visit in France in January are the Alps and the Pyrenees mountains, where thick snow adds to the spectacular scenery.

Things To Do in France in January

The best things to do in France in January include skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports.

If you do find yourself in one of France’s major cities during January, this can also be a good time to explore indoor attractions such as museums and galleries. These places are often at their least crowded in January.

France in February

February is still a cold month but it’s slightly better than January, with more sunshine and longer days.

Weather in France in February

The weather in France in February is usually cold and dry, with temperatures ranging from 4-12 degrees Celsius. It’s generally cooler and wetter in the north, and coastal areas often have milder temperatures too.

If you’re traveling to France in February, I recommend either visiting the mountains (as per January), or the southeast which tends to be slightly warmer and drier than the rest of the country.

Things To Do in France in February

While it’s not really warm enough for many outdoor activities, there are still plenty of things to do in France in February.

You could enjoy a crowd-free city break, or surprise your loved one with a romantic Valentine’s Day trip. Don’t just think Paris though: Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Marseille are all great, and much cheaper.

Again, skiing and snowboarding are very popular activities in February as well. Prices tend to be a little lower too compared with December and January.

France in March

March sees the first signs of spring in France, and there are many more things to do.

Weather in France in March

The weather in France in March is much milder than the two previous months, with temperatures ranging from 8-17 degrees Celsius. It’s also a lot sunnier and more pleasant.

Rainfall is more common than in February though, so it’s a good idea to pack some waterproofs if you plan to spend any time outdoors.

Young female traveler enjoying great view on French Riviera in Cannes City

The south of France is particularly nice at this time of year: Cote d’Azur towns like Nice, Cannes and Saint Tropez enjoy plenty of sunshine and the mildest temperatures.

Things To Do in France in March

March is a great time to visit France if you’re looking for outdoor activities. Hiking, cycling, and water sports such as kayaking are all popular in the spring months.

It’s also a great month for food lovers. March marks the beginning of France’s spring mushroom season, and restaurants all over the country prepare seasonal dishes showcasing local chanterelles, morels, and other tasty varieties.

Finally, if you’re looking for a bargain, March is a great time to find deals on flights and accommodation as well. It’s still a very quiet month for tourism in France, so prices can be significantly lower than during the late spring and summer.

France in April

April is a colorful month in France, with blooming flowers, longer days, and warmer temperatures.

Weather in France in April

The weather in France in April is often pleasant, especially in the south of the country, with temperatures ranging from 10-20 degrees Celsius. You can expect plenty of sunshine and blue skies throughout the month.

There’s even more rain in April though, so this is worth bearing in mind if you’re keen to do any outdoor activities.

A beautiful lavender field in Provence, France

My favorite place to visit in France in April is Provence. This region is known for its stunning landscapes and vibrant colors, which are best seen during the spring months.

Things To Do in France in April

As long as you’re not put off by a bit of rain, April is a great month to visit France if you’re looking for an outdoor adventure. Cycling is a popular activity at this time of year, as are water sports like canoeing and kayaking.

In terms of cultural activities, April can also be a good time to visit some of France’s gorgeous medieval towns and cities, which will be decorated with spring flowers and much quieter than during the summer months.

France in May

May in France marks the start of summer, with pleasant temperatures and plenty of sunshine.

Weather in France in May

The weather in France in May is mild and pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 16-24 degrees Celsius. It’s also sunny, especially in the south of the country.

May tends to be drier than March or April, and the days are long but not too hot, making this another great month for outdoor activities.

Things To Do in France in May

If you’re a fan of hiking, May is one of the best months for this (along with September). France has 8 national parks and many other areas of natural beauty, with thousands of kilometers of well-maintained hiking trails for you to enjoy.

Cannes hosts its famous annual Film Festival each May and the city really comes alive during this month, making it a great time to visit.

Alternatively, head over to the Loire Valley for some sightseeing and wine tasting. This region is known as the “Garden of France” and it’s best seen in May when everything is in bloom.

France in June

The peak tourist season in France starts in mid-June, and many places start to get busy from then onwards.

However, the crowds (and prices) tend to be smaller in June than in July or August. Therefore, if you would like to plan a trip during the summer, I recommend June as the best month to visit France.

Weather in France in June

June is often one of the best months for weather in France. In the south, it’s usually sunny and temperatures can reach up to 28 degrees Celsius, while in the north temperatures are milder but still warm enough for outdoor activities.

Rainfall is relatively low during this month, making it a great time for both outdoor adventures and city breaks.

Things To Do in France in June

One of the best things to do in France in June is to visit one of the many incredible beaches along the Atlantic or Mediterranean coasts. The weather is usually warm enough for sunbathing, swimming, and other beach activities.

If you’re looking for a more cultural experience, June is a good time to explore some of France’s best-known historical landmarks and monuments. There are plenty of events taking place at this time of year, including art exhibitions, music festivals, and gastronomic fairs.

Tourtour village in the hills of southern France in Provence

June is also the start of the lavender season in Provence. The hillsides turn purple and the air is soft with the scent of lavender – it’s really stunning. One of my favorite places to visit in Provence to see this is the picturesque little medieval town of Tourtour.

France in July

By July, the peak summer tourist season is in full swing. Schools are off for the summer and many people choose to take their summer holiday this month, leading to increased prices and crowds.

Weather in France in July

July is usually the hottest month of the year in France, with temperatures regularly exceeding 30 degrees Celsius in many parts of the country. The south, in particular, can get very hot – sometimes reaching 40 degrees for days on end.

The days are long and sunny, making this a good time for outdoor activities such as swimming and alfresco dining. Rainfall is also low during July, so it’s not likely to spoil your holiday plans.

Things To Do in France in July

If you do want to visit France in July, I recommend avoiding the most popular tourist sites (especially in Paris). Instead, head to one of the country’s less-visited regions, such as the central part of the country, the northeast, or Corsica.

The best thing to do in France in July is to take advantage of the good weather and enjoy some outdoor activities. Head to the beach for a spot of sunbathing, swimming or water sports.

Jazz night in Paris

If you’re in France on July 14th – Bastille Day, the national holiday – you’re in for a treat! All over the country, there are street parades, parties, fireworks, and other festivities to enjoy. July also marks the start of the Paris Jazz Festival, which celebrates jazz music from across the globe.

France in August

August is another busy month for tourism in France. Prices and crowds tend to peak during this month, so make sure you book your trip well in advance if you plan to visit then.

Weather in France in August

The weather tends to be similar in August as in July, although the evenings are usually a little cooler and the sun sets earlier. You might want to pack an extra layer to put on after dinner.

August is a great month to visit the northwest French region of Brittany. Due to its northern maritime location, this area is cool and wet for much of the year, but usually enjoys its best weather in August.

Things To Do in France in August

August can be a great time to visit Paris as long as you’re willing to brave the crowds and higher prices. The city is warm and buzzing with activity during this month, and you’ll find plenty of interesting events taking place.

Sunset view of marina in Biarritz, France

If you’re a keen surfer, head to Biarritz in the far southeastern corner of the country, close to the border with Spain. This little town is a world-famous surf spot known for its regular and powerful Atlantic swell.

For something a bit more relaxed, hire a bike and take a leisurely trip along a section of the Canal du Midi, a 240-kilometer canal in southern France that passes through beautiful and varied scenery.

France in September

September is one of my favorite months to visit France.

Weather in France in September

Throughout September, temperatures start to cool down, although the southern half of the country tends to stay pleasantly warm until at least the end of the month.

September is one of the best months to visit the French Riviera. It’s much less crowded and usually cheaper compared with the summer, and the sea is still warm enough to swim and snorkel comfortably.

This is also a good time to visit many of France’s stunning national parks, gardens, and wine regions without having to worry about it being too hot or too cold.

Things To Do in France in September

September is another great month for hiking in France. I went hiking in the breathtaking Vanoise National Park in the Alps in September this year and it was perfect.

The stunning Vanoise National Park in southeast France's Rhone-Alpes region

If you’re craving some adrenaline, there are several places throughout the country known for their excellent white-water rafting, such as the Ardèche river near Lyon. This is a great rafting tour near Châteauroux-Les-Alpes.

Also, September is one of the best months to go wine tasting in France. The grape harvest takes place during this time, so many vineyards open their doors and invite visitors to take part in the festivities.

France in October

October is autumn time in France and the colorful fall colors are one of my favorite things about this month.

Weather in France in October

October is usually quite a bit cooler than September, with temperatures ranging from 8-15°C during the day and dropping to around 4-7°C at night. Rainfall tends to increase as the month progresses, but you can still expect plenty of sunshine.

At higher altitudes, such as in the Alps or Pyrenees, there is often snowfall at this time of the year.

Things To Do in France in October

October is an excellent time for walking and mountain biking, now that the weather is cooler and the crowds have dispersed a bit. You’ll find plenty of picturesque trails like those in the Vercors Regional Nature Park near Grenoble.

October is also another great time to sample some of France’s best wines. You can visit many of the best wineries in regions like Bordeaux and Burgundy, where you’ll find excellent opportunities for wine tastings and tours.

France in November

As the temperatures start to cool and there is more rain, November is the perfect time to bundle up and enjoy the stunning autumn colors, or even some snow in the higher altitudes.

Weather in France in November

November temperatures throughout France can range between 5-12°C during the day and drop to around 0-4°C at night. Rainfall is also quite common in November so it’s best to bring an umbrella or raincoat with you if you’re exploring outdoors.

Things To Do in France in November

November is a good month for low-cost sightseeing in cities like Paris which are usually much less crowded. You won’t be guaranteed good weather, but you’ll get to enjoy some of the country’s best-known landmarks mostly to yourself.

how to visit paris on a budget

November is also a great time of year for enjoying warming French cuisine. Visit one of the country’s many traditional bistros and sample some classic autumnal dishes like coq au vin, beef bourguignon, or steak frites.

France in December

Despite the poor weather, December in France is a festive and atmospheric time to visit. The country is full of holiday cheer, as Christmas decorations line the streets and traditional markets spring to life in major cities.

Weather in France in December

The weather in France in December is usually less than ideal. Days are short, it’s cold and it rains a lot.

However, temperatures tend to remain above freezing during the day, ranging from 2-8°C. In higher altitudes such as in the Alps or Pyrenees, you can expect heavy snowfall.

Things To Do in France in December

Despite the cold and wet weather, there are still plenty of things to do in France in December.

A visit to one of the country’s traditional Christmas markets is a must-do for any visitor. You’ll find festive stalls filled with local crafts, festive treats, mulled wine, and more. Some of the best ones are found in the eastern cities of Strasbourg and Colmar, but there are also plenty of others, in Paris, Lyon, and other cities.

At Strasbourg in Alsace, France, you see a traditional half-timbered homes and a water canal.

If you’re looking for a winter wonderland, head up to the higher altitudes like the Alps and Pyrenees where you can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, and magical walks through the snowy landscape.

If you’re looking to escape the colder temperatures, head down to the south of France – cities like Marseille, Nice and Montpellier tend to be more temperate at this time of year.

In Conclusion

Each month offers something different and exciting, so there isn’t really a “wrong” time to visit France. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, a culture-filled holiday, or an action-packed outdoor adventure, you’ll be sure to have a wonderful time exploring this beautiful place.

Personally, I think the best time to visit France is September. However, it’s a great country to visit all year round.