France Weather, climate and geography
Weather and climate
Best time to visit
A popular year-round destination, France has an affable climate boasting long hot summers and cool winters, which bring snow to higher ground. Summer (June-August) is warm and sunny across much of the country; this is peak tourist season. If you're visiting at this time, prepare to face crowds at major sights, attractions, and coastal resorts, particularly along the French Riviera.
Paris is best experienced in spring (March to May) as it is less crowded than summer. Visit the Weather in Paris and the best time to visit Paris guide for more information.
If you like intense heat, south of France and St Tropez are sizzling hot in June, July and August. Spring (March-May) and autumn (September-October) are decidedly quieter; prices are also considerably cheaper.
Bordeaux is one of France's most popular wine regions and the largest growing wine region in the country. Autumn is the best time to visit as the days are warm and the nights are cooler, plus there are plenty of wine harvest festivals. May and June are also good months to visit, with pleasant weather and wildflowers in bloom.
The Alps & Pyrenees draw the crowds during the ski season (December-March) as they fill up the resorts, ready for skiing and winter sports activities. Avid hikers take to the mountains in early June to trek the beautiful trails, lined with wildflowers.
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 is a risk if you're unprepared.
Provence promises one of the prettiest natural spectacles between the last week of June and the first week of August when the lavender fields in The Luberon burst into full bloom. By visiting in mid-June you'll likely miss the tourists, as mid-August is the busiest time of year.
Light, breathable clothing for summer and waterproof winter gear for the mountains all year round. In winter, even the Mediterranean resorts often require a sweater or jacket for the cool evenings.
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 several 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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