The best time to go to France

View of the beach in Nice, France, near the Promenade des Anglais. Tourists, sunbeds and umbrellas on hot summer day.
Use this guide to help you choose the best time for your trip to France © LiliGraphie / Shutterstock

France seduces travelers with its familiar culture, world-class art and architecture, iconic landmarks, beautiful beaches and lovely landscapes. But in the summer, it can be very hot with high accommodation costs, and if you're hitting the ski slopes in winter, you probably want to time your visit with the best conditions and the fewest crowds. Use this month-by-month guide to events, festivals and the weather, to help you decide the best time for your visit to la belle France.

Editor's note: during COVID-19 there may be additional travel restrictions. Check the latest guidance in France before planning a trip, and always follow local government health advice. All events are subject to change.

A small island at sea with its main monastery buildings lit up at twilight
Big tourist crowds head to destinations like Mont Saint-Michel in the summer months © bluejayphoto / Getty Images

High season: July and August, Christmas, New Year and Easter

Best time for hot weather

The summer high season is a busy travel period in France. Expect big lines at major sights and lengthy waits in traffic on the roads. The French tend to take time off in August, which can mean many local services shut down and major cities empty. Restaurants and shops tend to remain open, though. Be sure to book accommodations and restaurants in advance. Christmas, New Year and Easter are equally busy times. There is summer glacier skiing in two resorts: Les Deux-Alpes and Val d’Isère (Espace Killy) from roughly mid-June to August.

Shoulder: April to June and September

Best time for sightseeing

Accommodation rates drop in southern France and other hot spots. Spring brings warm weather, flowers and local produce. Since there are fewer crowds, this can be a great time for sightseeing. The vendange (grape harvest) is a good reason to visit in autumn.

Low season: October to March 

Best time for budget travelers

Low season brings up to a 50% drop in prices than compared to high season. Sights, attractions and restaurants open fewer days and shorter hours. Hotels and restaurants in rural regions (like the Dordogne) close.

A skier on a steep snowy piste surrounded by mountains.
Ski season tends to run late December through to April © Magnus Kallstrom / Shutterstock

Ski season

Best time for snowboarders and skiers

The ski season in the French Alps goes with the snow: the higher you go, the more snow-sure the resort and the longer the season. You can generally expect it to be late December through to mid-April. Crowds and room rates skyrocket during school holidays (Christmas, February half-term, Easter), so avoid these times if you can.

January

With New Year festivities done and dusted, head to the Alps. Most resorts in the Alps, Pyrenees, Jura and Auvergne open mid- to late December, but January is the start of the ski season in earnest. Whether a purpose-built station or Alpine village, there's a resort to match every mood and moment. Crowds on the slopes thin out once school's back, but January remains busy. On the Mediterranean, mild winters are wonderfully serene in a part of France that's mad busy the rest of the year. No culinary product is more aromatic or decadent than black truffles. Hunt them in the Dordogne and Provence – the season runs late December to March, but January is the prime month.
Key events: St Vincent Wine Festival, start of Carnival de Limoux.

A crowd of revellers in the street with colorful confetti falling from the sky
The Carnaval de Nice in February attracts thousands of revellers © frederic dides / Shutterstock

February

Crisp, cold weather in the mountains – lots of china-blue skies now – translates as ski season in top gear. Alpine resorts get mobbed by families during the February school holidays and accommodation is at its priciest. Elsewhere in the country, various lively festivals are taking place.
Key events: Carnaval de Nice, Mardi Gras, Fête du Citron.

March

The ski season stays busy thanks to ongoing school holidays (until mid-March) and warmer temperatures. Down south, spring ushers in the highly controversial bullfighting season and Pâques (Easter).
Key events: Féria d'Arles.

A solo hiker in a rocky mountainous area walks along in the sunshine
Hiking season starts as the ski season comes to an end © Miguel Sotomayor / Getty Images

April

Dedicated ski fiends can carve glaciers in the highest French ski resorts until mid-April or later at highest altitudes. Then it's off with the ski boots and on with the hiking gear as peach and almond trees flower pink against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks. Shepherds walk their flocks of sheep up to green summer pastures.
Key events: Fête de la Transhumance.

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May

There is no lovelier month to travel in France, as the first melons ripen in Provence and outdoor markets burst with new-found color. Spring is always in. No one works on May 1, a national holiday that incites summer buzz, with muguets (lilies of the valley) sold at roadside stalls and given to friends for good luck. Orléans residents celebrate the liberation of their city by Joan of Arc, as they have done since 1430, and Europe's biggest cinema extravaganza happens in Cannes.
Key events: May Day, Fête des Gardians, Fêtes de Jeanne d’Arc, Pèlerinage des GitansFestival de CannesMonaco Grand Prix.

Two men walk away from the camera. One has his arm round the back of the other in an embrace. Both are wearing rainbow-striped hats
Gay Pride, or Marche des Fiertés LGBT, takes place in Paris in June © Andrey Malgin / Shutterstock

June

As midsummer approaches, the festival pace quickens alongside a rising temperature gauge, which tempts the first bathers into the sea. Looking north, nesting white storks shower good luck on farmsteads in Alsace.
Key events: Marche des Fiertés LGBT, Fête de la MusiqueParis Jazz Festival.

July

If lavender's your French love, now is the time to catch it flowering in Provence. But you won't be the only one. School's out for the summer, showering the country with teems of tourists, traffic and too many complet (full) signs strung in hotel windows. Fireworks displays, balls, processions, parades are held countrywide to mark Bastille Day.
Key events: Tour de France, Bastille Day, Festival d'Avignon, Jazz à JuanFestival de Cornouaille, Festival Jazz en Ville.

Purple fields of lavender in bloom, overlooked by a small stone chapel glowing in the sunshine
Lavender fields in Provence are in bloom sometime between June and August © PHB.cz (Richard Semik) / Shutterstock

August

It's that crazy summer month when the French join everyone else on holiday. Paris, Lyon and other big cities empty; traffic jams at motorway toll booths test the patience of a saint; and temperatures soar (highs are around 82°F/28°C in the south). If that's not your vacation of choice, you'll want to avoid France in August. Alternatively, don your party hat and join the crowd!
Key events: Festival Interceltique de LorientRoute du Champagne en FêteHestiv' Òc.

September

As sun-plump grapes hang heavy on darkened vines and that August madness drops off as abruptly as it began, a welcome tranquillity falls across autumnal France. This is the start of France's vendange (grape harvest). It's also rutting season – get up early and you might spot stags, boar and red deer at play. Observatory towers are hidden in thick forest around Château de Chambord
Key events: grape harvest, Braderie de Lille.

Rows of yellow-green vineyards with a small village shrouded in mist in the distance
The grape harvest usually begins in September and continues through October © Matteo Colombo / Getty Images

October

The days become shorter, the last grapes are harvested and the first sweet chestnuts fall from trees. With the changing of the clocks on the last Sunday of the month, there's no denying that winter is on its way.
Key events: grape harvest, Nuit Blanche.

November

It's nippy now. Toussaint (All Saints' Day) on November 1 ushers in the switch to shorter winter opening hours for many sights. Many restaurants close two nights a week, making dining out on Monday a challenge in some towns.
Key events: Beaujolais NouveauVente aux Enchères des Vins des Hospices de Beaune.

December

Days are short and it's cold everywhere bar the south of France. But there are Christmas school holidays and festive celebrations to bolster sun-deprived souls, not to mention some season-opening winter skiing in the highest-altitude Alpine resorts from mid-December.
Key events: Alsatian Christmas Markets, Fête des Lumières.

Introducing France

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