France Weather, climate and geography

Weather & climate

Best time to visit

A popular year-round destination, France has an affable climate with long hot summers and cool winters, which bring snow to higher ground. Summer (June-August) is the peak season, when it is warm and sunny across much of the country. If you’re visiting at this time, prepare to face higher-than-usual demand at major sights, attractions and coastal resorts, particularly along the French Riviera. 

Southern France remains balmy throughout spring (March-May) and autumn (September-October), which are decidedly quieter times to visit. Prices are also considerably cheaper. The crowds return during the ski season (December-March), packing out resorts in the Alps and Pyrenees, which offers excellent conditions for skiing. 

Northeastern areas have warm summers and colder winters with rainfall distributed throughout the year and snowfall likely in winter. The Atlantic influences the climate of the western coastal areas from the Loire to the Basque region, where the weather is temperate and relatively mild with rainfall throughout the year. Summers here can be very hot and sunny – sunburn may be a risk if you’re unprepared.

One of the prettiest natural spectacles occurs in Provence between the last week of June and first week of August, when lavender fields in The Luberon are in full bloom.

Required clothing

Light breathable clothing for summer in all areas and waterproof winter gear for the mountains all year round. In winter even the Mediterranean resorts often require a sweater or jacket for the evenings.

Geography

France, the largest country in Western Europe, is bordered to the northwest by the English Channel (La Manche), to the northeast by Belgium and Luxembourg, to the east by Germany, Switzerland and Italy, to the south by the Mediterranean (with Monaco as a coastal enclave between Nice and the Italian frontier), to the southwest by Spain and Andorra, and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean. The country’s loose six-sided shape means it often gets referred to by the informal nickname “L’Hexagone”.

The island of Corsica, southeast of Nice, is made up of two départements. France is home to an astonishing range of scenery, from the mountain ranges of the Alps and Pyrenees to the attractive river valleys of the Loire, Rhône and Dordogne, and the flatter countryside of Normandy and the Atlantic coast. The country has some 2,900km (1,800 miles) of coastline.

Away from the mainland and Corsica, there are a number of French-administered overseas departments and regions outside of Europe. These include Guadeloupe (an island in the Caribbean), Réunion Island (located in the Indian Ocean just east of Madagascar), French Guiana (on the northeastern coast of South America), Martinique (another island in the Caribbean) and Mayotte (an island in the Mozambique Channel).

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