Weather in France

France, officially known as the French Republic, is located in Western Europe and borders a number of countries and water bodies that contribute to France’s diverse range of climate types. While there are four main climate types, oceanic, alpine, continental and Mediterranean, the country is generally characterised by consistent rainfall and moderate temperatures throughout.

Temperatures are mild, rarely dropping below freezing (0°C, 32°F) or going above 25°C (77°F), and rainfall is at least 50mm (2in) in most regions throughout the year. The only exception to this broad description is the South of France, where temperatures often hit 30°C (86°F) at the height of summer. The weather in France is unpredictable and it's famous for having all four seasons in a single day.

France draws millions of tourists annually to its popular attractions in Paris, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, lavender fields in Provence, snowy slopes in the French Alps and luxurious beach resorts in the South of France; many Brits enjoy a short trip to Brittany for a dip at one of the popular coastal resorts in the summer. In addition, French cuisine is among the best in the world and its world-famous wine-producing regions are equally popular, including legendary Champagne, homely Burgundy and the specialist vineyards of Lower Normandy.

The South of France is always warmer than the rest of the country and the northeast is often the coldest part, a few degrees above or below the average respectively. Additionally, France has a diverse range of climactic conditions, including microclimates in the Alps where weather conditions drop far below freezing.

Spring in France extends from March to May and it is an affordable time of year attractive to many hikers and cultural enthusiasts as the flocks of summertime tourists haven't yet arrived. Temperatures range from 3°C in early spring and heat up to 20°C (37°F to 68°F) prior to summer. The average rainfall is 50mm to 70mm (2in to 2.8in) and some southwestern areas have considerably more rain, reaching up to 100mm (3.9in) or more.

Summer in France continues from June to August and it is a very popular European, summer holiday destination. It is pleasantly warm throughout France, and particularly hot and sunny in the South of France. Average temperatures range from 20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F) and often reach up to 30°C (86°F) in the South of France. Northeastern and western areas, such as the popular holiday resorts of Biarritz, are cooler and wetter than others are and there are occasional thunderstorms in the South of France.

Autumn in France lasts from September to November and it is refreshingly cool, with temperatures ranging from early autumn highs of 20°C to 3°C lows before winter (68°F to 37°F). Despite the drop in temperature, southern areas and resort towns like St Tropez often remain hot and relatively dry well into September. Autumn is the rainy season in France with an average of 70mm to 80mm (2.8in to 3.1in), with many places experiencing well over 90mm (3.5in) per month.

The heart of winter falls over the Christmas and New Year period in December and January. Average temperatures in France in winter range from between 4°C to 11°C (39°F to 52°F) and some places, especially in the Alps, the north and northeast, are often below freezing. There is consistent rainfall in winter ranging from 50mm to 70mm (2in to 2.8in) and there will be snowfall in the Alps and some northern areas.

The regions of France

France can be divided into four climate types: Mediterranean (south), continental (northeast), alpine (mountainous and some elevated areas) and oceanic (central, north and west). Mediterranean climates are warm and dry, continental and oceanic climates are typical mild and wet, and the alpine climates are cold and often have snowfall. Some of the provinces occupy more than one region so bear this in mind when planning a holiday, as the climate can vary considerably in different parts of the province.

Central France

Central France has a mild climate and is home to Paris, renowned winemaking valleys and some picturesque elevated areas closer to the South of France. This is a warm region in summer, with averages of 18°C (64°F), 20°C (68°F) and 21°C (70°F) in the main provinces of Central Val de Loire, Burgundy and Auvergne respectively. Winter temperatures average 2°C (36°F) or lower, and it rains consistently during the year, with the greatest showers in autumn. The Massif Central is Europe’s largest range of inactive Volcanoes and is a popular winter skiing holiday destination that is also great for spring and summer treks.

Western France

Western and northwestern France stretches from Lower Normandy down to Aquitaine and its oceanic climate means mild weather year round. It is warmer in the southwest, closer to the Mediterranean, and areas that border the English Channel are typically colder and wetter than the rest of the West.

The summer is warm and averages  17°C (36°F), while mid winter temperatures hover around 4°C  to 5°C (39°F to 41°F). Northwestern regions are the wettest and there is rain throughout the year, which makes it a lush environment and one of the most productive agricultural, diary producing and livestock farming hubs in the EU.

The region is topographically diverse, with the Armorican Massif Mountains in the northwest, dense forests closer to Central France, as well as beautiful beaches and coastal cliffs. Western France is one of the most luscious and diverse regions in Europe, ideal for beach holidays, hiking trips and cultural excursions into small towns for an authentic experience of French lifestyles.

Eastern France

The eastern and north eastern regions of France are the coldest in the country and winters can be tough. While this is true of the region in general, there are exceptions, especially closer to the south of France and areas protected from the wind by the Vosges Mountains.

The summers in Eastern France are warm, at an average of 18°C (64°F), and winter averages 2°C (36°F), dropping below freezing at times. It snows in areas surrounding the Vosges Mountains, sometimes in high amounts during the middle of winter, so be aware of any weather warnings for severe weather.

Two of the key features of the region are the Vosges Mountains, which attract winter sport enthusiasts and hikers to the area, as well as the world famous winemaking regions of Burgundy, Alsace and Champagne. Holidaymakers are encouraged to visit in late spring and early summer to avoid the crowds and, the December-January holiday period is peak ski season.

The South of France

The South of France has a Mediterranean climate and is the warmest region in France, an ideal destination for a relaxing summer holiday on the beach. While the beaches of the South of France are very famous for their popularity, there are plenty vineyards to visit, charming small towns and villages to explore, and of course, the famous French Alps are there waiting to be conquered. The Gulf Stream keeps the region warm and the South of France is close to many other popular summer holiday destinations on the Mediterranean including Spain and Italy.

Spring quickly becomes summertime in the South of France, with highs of 26°C and 27°C during the peak tourist months of July and August (79°F and 81°F) and it sometimes reaches 30°C (86°F) or more at the height of summer. A summer holiday in the South of France will have travellers skiing on Monday and sunbathing on the beach on Wednesday, and it is a great time of year for a full tour in the South of France. 

The average temperature in winter in the South of France is 6°C (43°F) and this is ideal for a comfortable winter holiday in the French Alps. Beware of ‘the mistral’, an icy winter wind that adds a chill to winter holidays in the South of France.

The region is famous for its beaches but the Midi-Pyrénées and the Rhône Alpes are two of Frances most notable mountain ranges,  the  Rhône Alpes playing host to the first ever Winter Olympic Games. So, a summer or winter holiday in the South of France will always be memorable.

When is the best time to go to France?

Different seasons will suite different itineraries, but late spring, summer and early autumn are the best times to go to France. Summer in the South of France is a popular holiday destinations for Europeans and Americans, an ideal season for meandering along the Mediterranean coast, or for taking a stroll through the charming Parisian streets and alleyways. Peak season is in July and August, so accommodation and airfare will be most expensive in this season.

The late spring and early autumn months are warm and quiet, great for budget travel because accommodation and airfare is cheaper than summer. These are wonderful times to go to France in order to experience the natural beauty of the country, because of the full spring blooms and autumn leaves.

Finally, winter is ideal for snow sports and, airfare and accommodation costs are lowest during the winter. While it will be raining and cold, there are plenty of indoor activities to undertake throughout France and there will be no queues. Bear in mind that some resorts and hotels only open for the summer. 

What to pack for a holiday in France

When travelling to France in summer, pack some T-shirts, shorts, dresses and skirts, long sleeved tops, and a jersey for cooler evenings. Comfortable walking shoes and sandals will be ideal for summers, especially at the coast, and hikers should pack along some sturdy walking shoes. The Alps are cold in the summer so pack a warm coat, gloves, scarves and hats for alpine travel.

Pack layers of clothing for spring and autumn because the weather in France varies at this time of year. Pack some long sleeved shirts, jeans and trousers, long skirts and dresses, a warm coat and raincoat, some thermals for cold nights, and hats, scarves and gloves will serve early spring, late autumn and winter travellers very well. Wear closed toe shoes and trainers, and some boots will be good for the wet weather. It is best to pack darker clothing in spring, autumn and winter as light clothing will get dirty easily because of the wet weather.

Pack warmer clothing for winter in France, much the same as spring and autumn, but add thick coats for areas with high snowfall and gloves, goggles, scarves and hats for skiing trips.

Hikers and people travelling to the Alps should pack along extra layers of clothing and a warm coat to prepare for the cold in elevated regions, as well as sturdy hiking shoes or boots for a comfortable journey.

Always carry raincoats and umbrellas, year round and even in summer, as there are often light showers and an occasional summer thunderstorm in the South of France. Finally, remember that French weather is full of surprises, don’t be shocked when there are four seasons in a day!