If you’re looking to holiday in France but you’ve not yet decided when you’d like to travel, or you’re planning a holiday to France next month and are looking for entertainment ideas for your stay, then this guide is for you. Read on to discover just how much there is to do in France at any time of year and pick up some ideas on the way for planning your perfect break.
January is a great time to visit French cities, drink hot chocolate in cafés and browse bookshops, art galleries and museums. The weather may be cold but French towns will be buzzing with life and there is plenty of stunning architecture to visit, fabulous wine to sample and food to die for. Enjoy the calm of the French lifestyle out of the tourist season to truly immerse yourself in French culture. Or why not get a group together and stay in a cottage for a fabulously different New Year in the French countryside?
Alternatively, if you’re after a more active break, France has so much to offer as a winter sport destination. It’s quick and easy to get to – including by train – and there’s a great choice of resorts and accommodation that combine quality with value. You’ll find terrain for experts, schools for beginners, and everything required for family fun, along with excellent après ski. Browse our ski and snowboard guide to find the perfect location, resort, accommodation and travel.
Romance is in the air this month and where better to celebrate it than in France, the country of lovers and l’amour. Historic cities and towns, gorgeous gardens, fairy tale chateaux, dreamy coastlines, wonderful food, wine and champagne all are there to savour. And Valentine’s Day in France reveals all you never knew about the French approach to le 14 février. Paris is not only excellent value this month, but you’ll also find a wealth of events and exhibitions in the city. Don’t miss free skating at the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville, lunchtime concerts every Thursday in the Louvre and Art Deco jewellery alongside contemporary fashion at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs. Children will love family events at the Museum of Magic and the Paris zoo.
In ski resorts you’ll find firework displays, concerts, ice festivals and more throughout the month, which mark the peak of the snow sports season in France. The French Ice Climbing Championships take place in Champagny-En-Vanoise in the Alps in February and the great downhill snowboard contest at Bourg-Saint-Maurice, Les Arcs.
The first flowers and shoots of Spring are bursting forth and the days are getting longer – but the crowds have not yet arrived and there are bargains to be had. March is an excellent month to take some time out in France. Why not explore a new destination on a French city break? We all know that Paris is beautiful in the Spring, but there are many more cities all around France with enchanting history, architecture and gourmet traditions, some surrounded by lakes, mountains, beaches and glorious scenery for a day out. Browse our City Break guide for fresh ideas.
March is also the perfect time for an activity holiday, especially if you enjoy walking, cycling, riding or just being in the great outdoors. France has wonderfully varied landscapes and scenery and opportunities for just about any sport or activity you can imagine. The Festival du Boudin (Black Pudding Fair) is over 50 years old and is held annually in Mortagne au Perche in the Orne department of Normandy. Over 100 exhibitors, traders, artisans and butchers make up this event, with more than five kilometres of black pudding sold.
Printemps, or spring, has come to France. The countryside is bursting into life with verdant green hedgerows and meadows bordering country lanes. The milder weather makes April a great month to get out in the open air, blow away the winter cobwebs, and maybe enjoy the great outdoors in France with an activity holiday. Or, as France is the home of romance, what could be more special than long walks on one of France’s wide open beaches, or a visit to magical Paris on a romantic holiday to France.
The French love a festival, and April in France is no exception. Choose from large organised events like the Paris Marathon or Toulouse International Fair, to smaller intimate cultural events like the Joan of Arc Festival in Orleans. April is also a good time to take an invigorating visit one of France’s many beaches, for the Kite Festival or Sand Sculpture Festival, both easily accessible in Pas de Calais.
The month of May sees Printemps (Spring) easing into early summer and this progression of the seasons makes May one of the best times to experience France.
The trees are in spectacular blossom, providing a charming backdrop to a driving holiday or your journey to a countryside cottage, and the comfortably warm weather tells us that summer is just around the corner. May is a great month to take a romantic walk along France’s beautiful, sunny beaches – try the pink coast of the Cote de Granite Rose in Brittany or the green waters of the Emerald Coast, also in Brittany.
Festivals in France are flamboyant, joyous occasions, and May in France offers some wonderfully eclectic events. Check out Lille’s Soup festival, where chefs from around the world meet to celebrate the joys of soup; spoons are provided! If soup isn't quite what you have in mind then consider the famed and celebrity packed Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, near Nice.
June sees the first signs of summer in France. Temperatures are steadily rising, and you can expect periods of glorious sunshine before the main summer rush begins.
The French countryside is looking fabulous in June, so it's the perfect time to stay in a rural cottage and maybe enjoy some walking, fishing, painting or photography.
If you'd rather experience the hustle and bustle of the city, then consider a long weekend city break in France. For a city break full of culture and history, try Rouen in north-western France; this historical capital city of Normandy on the River Seine is famed for its medieval cobbled streets and antique shops, and boasts an astronomical clock, museums, and a botanical garden. France really starts buzzing in June, with cultural and sporting events around the country. Le Mans is host to the famous 24 hour race on 22nd June, while both Marseille and medeival Carcassonne host major arts festivals commencing 19th June. Early June is a poignant time to visit the D-Day landing beaches, when many veterans and families return for the anniversary of the event on 6th June.
July is a popular month to visit France, and with good reason. Whilst the sun generally lacks the oppressive intensity that can be found further south in Spain or Italy, it still gives France more than its fair share of beautiful summer days.
The wide, sandy beaches provide the perfect place to soak up the rays, whilst the outdoor market stalls groan under the weight of locally grown produce. And of course on the 14th July all of France stops to celebrate the national holiday, Bastille Day.
France really surpasses expectations with the amount of gorgeous beaches it boasts. If you are a real sun lover, than consider Marseilles, in the South of France – not only does it have a Mediterranean climate and features over 20 small, secluded beaches, it’s a real haven for shoppers as the local fashion industry goes from strength to strength. July in France also sees the world's greatest cycle race take part – the annual Tour de France. The Tour de France 2012 begins with the Grand Depart in Liege on 30th June and concludes in great style on 22 July at the Champs d'Elysee in Paris.
By August summer is well and truly underway in France and if you travel during this month you are almost guaranteed blazing sunshine and clear skies.
The evenings are usually pleasantly warm, but can turn chilly, especially in the Northern regions, so do pack a cardigan or light jacket, just in case. Although accommodation and travel prices in France in August are usually at their highest, you can save money by checking out our last minute offers and special deals on accommodation.
The Monte Carlo International Fireworks Festival features wonderfully exciting and visually stunning event pyrotechnics displays that all take place over the harbour. Whilst you’re there, make sure you pay a visit to the world famous Casino of Monte Carlo, featured in two Bond films and the inspiration for Casino Royale. Check out accommodation near Monte Carlo.
In September you can enjoy plenty of sunshine and warm weather, long days and extended hours at attractions – but without the summer crowds.
And as the tourist season begins to wind down, the cost of travel and accommodation is lower. The countryside is mellow and fruitful, the beaches nearly empty. In Normandy and Brittany, there’s a hint of crispness in the air and a tinge of colour in the leaves, while further south the days are still wonderfully bright and sunny with a softer heat than scorching August.
This month sees the start of the wine harvest and all over France you’ll find celebrations and festivities. Explore one of the great wine regions of France to visit vineyards, see the harvest and pressing, sample and learn about the wines and enjoy convivial hospitality. Book a wine tasting break, rent a self catering property (it could be a chateau or wine domaine) in the heart of wine country and make daily excursions or stay at a selection of welcoming B&Bs as you tour the area.
October is a wonderful time to visit France. Picturesque towns and villages become almost enchanted as soft sunshine highlights the vivid colours of autumn.
The grape harvest is at its peak, wine festivals abound and cooler days make outdoor activities a pleasure. Both accommodation and travel are cheaper than in summer, with some real bargains to be had.
The wine harvest is in full swing this month, with traditional celebrations and festivities in all the famous wine regions of France. There’s even a wine festival in Montmartre, Paris, celebrating the fruits of local vineyards. Everywhere you’ll find a warm welcome from locals, see parades and musical spectacles, taste local food and drink a lot of wine. With a wine tasting break, you’ll even become an expert. Make your base for exploring the vineyards a fairy tale chateau B&B, a self-catering manoir or wine domaine or a pretty gite overlooking rolling slopes of vines.
Or give the whole family a half-term treat with a trip to one of France’s spectacular theme parks. The choice ranges from from Euro Disney to Futuroscope, Vulcania to Park Asterix and more. Visiting a theme park and staying in self catering accommodation nearby can be both affordable and flexible.
The days may be drawing in but November in France still offers colour and vibrant activity in cities and towns all over the country.
This month of remembrance is also a poignant time to visit the easily accessible battlefields and memorials of two world wars in Northern France. Further south you can still find sunshine and everywhere are hospitable chateaux and luxury B&Bs that tempt you to get away from it all, often at very reasonable prices. Stay and travel more cheaply than in summer, with some real bargains to be had.
It's easy to plan your own visit to the historic battlefields of France, using our Battlefield Tour Guide to sites and accommodation in the Somme region, Normandy or Verdun. Take in the sites that most interest you, make a special trip to visit the war grave of a fallen relative and perhaps combine it with local Armistice Day events.
Christmas is in the air, and at this time of year France’s streets are full of excited shoppers. Christmas markets are abundant.
As well as boasting fresh local foods such as cheese, wine and local produce, they sell gifts, ornaments, paper goods, craftwork and much more in a vibrant, truly French atmosphere.
Discover cosy bed and breakfasts in France where owners are welcoming and ready to share a real love and knowledge of their area, so you can enjoy exploring or relaxing by a blazing fire. Prices are often very reasonable and evening meals a convivial affair. For a grander experience, stay in an architecturally stunning chateau in France, either B&B or self-catering, for a unique taste of history.