France has a predominantly oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa, Cfb). The southeast, including the island of Corsica, has a mainly Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csa, Csb), with a few arid swathes (Köppen BSk). The highlands and mountains in the east experience alpine climates (Köppen Df variants and ET). France occupies a significant portion of Western Europe and has several overseas territories that lie in different time zones. Land borders include Spain and Andorra in the south, Italy, and Switzerland in the east, and Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg in the northeast. The Mediterranean Sea in the southeast, the Atlantic Ocean in the west, the English Channel in the northwest, and the North Sea in the north, form the water boundaries. The location in the northern temperate zone and proximity to vast bodies of water influence the climate.
France has a diverse topography that consists of mountain ranges in the south and east, and coastal plains in the north and west. The Massif Central range lies in the south-central portion, while the Pyrenees are in the southwest. The valleys and river basins in the southwest and north have the most fertile grounds. The coastline of the French Riviera has a landscape overlooking mountain ranges, while the coast of Languedoc has sandy plains nearby. Rhone, Loire, Garonne, and Seine rivers and their tributaries constitute the four major river systems. Many of the rivers flow into the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Mont Blanc, on the border of the French-Italian Alps, with an altitude of 4810 meters, is the highest peak in France.
Summers are mostly warm, while winters are cold in France. The Atlantic Coast is usually cool and wet, with rain throughout the year. The northern coast near the English Channel is colder than the western coast, with average temperatures below 5°C (41°F) in January. Temperatures rarely drop below freezing on the western Atlantic coastal region in the winter, while summer highs mostly remain below 30°C (86°F). The south Atlantic region is mild and sunny than the north but is prone to frost in the winter due to cold winds from the northeast.
The interior areas, such as Paris, are generally cold in the winter and hot in summer. Temperatures above 32.2°C (90°F) are typical, as are those below -6.7°C (19.9°F), with snow or frost. Paris receives 635mm (25") of rain annually throughout the year. The northeast region is cold, while the central-east is temperate. Cold spells and snowfall occur during the winter, and heat waves are frequent during the summer. The eastern region has moderate winters, but the Rhine corridor sees cold winters, with regular snowfall. The mountainous region is the coldest, with frequent snowfall in the winter, and thunderstorms in the summer. The southeast portion of France has a mild and sunny climate. The areas near the Mediterranean Sea have hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters.
The annual precipitation in France ranges from 635mm (25") to 1016mm (40") and occurs evenly throughout the year. The Atlantic coast receives the highest rainfall, while the mountains in the east gather larges deposits of snow. The annual sunshine in France is between 1600 to over 2800 hours, with the longest days in June and the shortest in December. Lille in the northeast averages 1617 hours, while Toulon in the southeast receives 2839 hours of sunshine annually. The sea temperatures are cold to mild and are usually between 7.2°C (45°F) to 23.9°C (75°F), with the Mediterranean coast much warmer than the Atlantic. A significant amount of snowfall occurs in the high mountains, while the lowlands mostly receive frost.
The highest recorded temperature in France is 46°C (114.8°F), set on June 28, 2019, in Verargues, Herault. The lowest temperature on record is -23.2°C (-9.8°F), set on January 2, 1971, in Strasbourg, Bas-Rhin.
The best time to visit France
The best time to visit France is from mid-May to June in spring and September in the autumn. The Mediterranean region has mild temperatures in the shoulder seasons and is relatively less rainy. The summer is also a good time for beach holidays on the Atlantic coast in July and August, with warm sunshine. The inland areas, southeast, and Corsica are particularly prone to heatwaves during the hot season. Skiing enthusiasts find February and March to their liking when the days are longer than peak winter season, and there is ample snow. High altitude mountain resorts remain open even in the summer, with the availability of snow.
The worst time to visit France
The worst time to visit France is generally in the winter from December to February. The cold winds from Eastern Europe have a substantial impact on the temperatures. Snowfall is abundant in the mountains, and there is a risk of avalanches. Frosty conditions keep the nights and early mornings chilly. The days are short in the winter, and the sunshine limits to less than 4 hours in many places. However, winter is mild in some areas, particularly near the Mediterranean Sea, where the mountains offer a barrier to cold winds. Visits to places with mild conditions are usually less costly in the winter and offer plenty of deals for budget travelers.
France faces weather hazards in the form of storms, floods, wildfires, mudslides, droughts, avalanches, and earthquakes. Floods and droughts are standard on the mainland, with significant loss to life and property. An average of 8 to 10 major floods occurs annually in the country. Cyclones, avalanches, and earthquakes occur occasionally but are more frequent in the southeast compared to the north and west. Hailstorms occasionally occur to decimate crops in southeast France. Mediterranean France has a higher hazard risk than the relatively safer northern continental region. Tropical French islands suffer a much higher risk of storms than the mainland. Heatwaves and cold spells are common in France due to its geographical location.
Weather in January
January is the coldest month of the year in France, with freezing nights in the north and west regions. Paris, the capital, in the central region, is cold, with average temperatures in the 2.8°C (37°F) to 7.2°C (45°F) zone. Cold air masses from Eastern Europe regularly keep the mainland under the cloak of cold and dark. Snowfall is significant in the Alps, as cities such as Lyon and Burgundy experience frost and register in the 0°C (32°F) to 6.1°C (43°F) range. Snowfall is frequent in the Vosges Mountains, which makes Mulhouse an attractive destination for skiing in the east. The French Alps and the Pyrenees are popular for cross-country skiing, snowboarding, dog sledding, ice rappelling, and other winter sports. Much of France receives 50.8mm (2") to 101.6mm (4") of precipitation in January amid 2 to 4 hours of daily sunshine. Scarves, hats, gloves, and a warm winter coat are necessary for the mountains. January is generally a slow month for tourism, but the New Year brings many visitors to France.
Weather in February
February is cold in France, with the landscape generally devoid of sunshine. Bordeaux, near the Atlantic coast, is cold and wet, with average temperatures in the 2.8°C (37°F) to 12.2°C (54°F) range. Cold winds from the northeast bring frost to the southwest coastal region. Wine festivals take place regularly in the winter in Bordeaux, which is a lovely destination for a visit during the slow tourist season. Nice, in the southeast, has mild temperatures in the 6.1°C (43°F) to 12.8°C (55°F) range and is moderately wet. The sunshine lasts for 6 hours in the southeast, and the sea temperatures are mild below 12.8°C (55°F). The mountains of Corsica are hotspots for skiing due to the abundant snowfall in the winter. Sweaters and jackets are standard in the majority of the country, with additional cold protection gear in the highlands and mountains. Camargue is popular among bird lovers, as many species spend the winter in the area. Expect the conditions to be cold, cloudy, and wet in much of France in February.
Weather in March
March is the beginning of the beautiful spring season in France, with milder temperatures and warm sunshine. Sunny conditions prevail in the south with at least 6 hours of daily sunshine in the southeast. Marseille, Montpellier, and Nice register temperatures in the mild 5°C (41°F) to 15.6°C (60.1°F) zone. The majority of France receives 25.4mm (1") to 76.2mm (3") of rainfall. The Atlantic Coast is the rainiest region, with up to 104.1mm (4.1") of precipitation in Biarritz in the southwest. The growing season receives a boost due to the sunny but wet conditions. The landscape changes from white to green as the land escapes from the clutches of the winter. The beautiful towns and azure blue seas of southern France are at their best, with mild temperatures and relatively less rainfall. The island of Mont Saint Michel in Normandy is an excellent spot for a day's visit during early spring when the crowds are fewer. Expect showers in the afternoon and keep a light rain jacket or an umbrella at hand during March in France.
Weather in April
April is a glorious month in France, as the land bathes in the rays of the warm sun. The majority of the regions in the south see sunny days, with 7 hours of daily sunshine. The average temperatures in the southern towns of Toulon and Toulouse are in the beautiful range of 7.2°C (45°F) to 18.3°C (64.9°F). The advance of the spring instills the sweet aroma of soil and blossoming flowers in the air. April sees moderate rainfall in the 50.8mm (2") to 101.6mm (4") range, with occasional cloudy skies. The seawater temperatures touch up to 15.6°C (60.1°F) on the Mediterranean coast. Cherry blossoms are a striking feature of the Alsace region in April by the time of mid-spring. Boat rides over seemingly endless canals and buzzing markets add joy to the glorious sunshine. The island of Corsica is one of the warmest places in France, which means that spring is the best time for a visit, compared to the summer. The tourist numbers rise dramatically by the second half of April in France.
Weather in May
May is sunny and beautiful in France as the skies remain blue most of the time. The daily sunshine lasts for more than 7 hours, even in the cold places of the continental north. The average temperatures in the north are between a mild 8.9°C (48°F) to warm 20°C (68°F), with an occasional cold spell from Eastern Europe. Expect eight to ten moderately wet days in the month, and keep a light jacket at hand. The weather in Saint-Malo, Brittany, is at its best during May. History lovers can head to Loire Valley when all buildings are open to the public and experience the spring bloom on the way. Paris has fewer crowds, mild weather, and beautiful cherry blossoms during late spring. Nights are lively and cozy, with mild temperatures and plenty of entertainment. Spring is an enjoyable season with ample daylight. May has one of the best conditions of the year to visit France, but also the beginning of the busy tourist season ahead.
Weather in June
June is the beginning of the warm and wet summer season in France, with bright skies amid moderate rainfall. The sunshine lasts for more than 10 hours in Corsica and at least 8 hours in the wettest places. The average temperatures are in the 10°C (50°F) to 28.3°C (82.9°F) in the majority of France. Much of the southwest sees at least 88.9mm (3.5") of rain, while the northeast is slightly wetter with an average of 101.6mm (4") in June. The long and lazy days of summer are best for picnics in gardens, parks, or in the shade of the trees along the riverside. A host of events take advantage of the bright sunshine, and there are plenty of parks where people can sit or lie on the grass or lounge chairs. Nights are cozy for sipping a cocktail on top of an elegant terrace under the open sky. Expect crowds everywhere, from museums to beaches, and markets to parks. A light rain jacket serves its purpose while outdoors. June is a busy month for tourism in France.
Weather in July
July is the hottest and sunniest month in France, with frequent hot waves and more than 10 hours of sunshine. The average temperatures in Marseille in the southeast are between 19.4°C (66.9°F) to 30°C (86°F). Biarritz, in the southwest, ranges from 16.7°C (62.1°F) to 23.9°C (75°F), while Brest in the northwest is mild between 13.3°C (55.9°F) to 20.6°C (69.1°F). The skies are clear, with moderate rainfall between 25.4mm (1") to 76.2mm (3"). The daily temperatures breach 35°C (95°F) in the southeast, where the heat index is the highest in the country. The Mediterranean and Atlantic beaches see a rush of visitors during the hot season. Wear plenty of sun protection. The flea market of Puces de Saint-Ouen is one among many that offer anything from vintage to modern in the extended hours of summer. Heatwaves are frequent at the peak of the hot season. The French Alps, over altitudes of 1000 meters, are perfect for a vacation or an escapade during a heatwave. Skip a July visit, if possible, to avoid the scorching heat in much of France.
Weather in August
August is a hot summer month in France, with plenty of sunlight. The seawater is warm, with average temperatures between 21.1°C (70°F) to 23.9°C (75°F). Lyon, in the southeast, registers between 16.1°C (61°F) to 27.2°C (81°F), while Paris in the central region remains warm in the 15.6°C (60.1°F) to 25°C (77°F) range. The rainfall is relatively low in August, with many places registering between 25.4mm (1") to 76.2mm (3") of precipitation. Hiking and biking are popular activities, while fishing and boating are not behind. Cruises abound, from inland waterways to offshore islands, and across the English Channel, to provide sightseeing in comfort. There is seldom anything close to history for a tourist than spending a summer evening near a French Chateau and enjoying a candlelight dinner. Fresh, homegrown produce is bountiful by late summer and available in much of the countryside. Spectacular fireworks in summer evenings are one of many reasons to visit Versailles. Carry a rain jacket to avoid inconvenience from rain showers. August is a beautiful month for a trip to France.
Weather in September
September is one of the best times to visit France, with the green countryside, beautiful colors, and many sunny days. The heat index is significantly down, but there is a slight increase in precipitation. Much of France receives 50.8mm (2") to 127mm (5") of rainfall. The average temperatures in Lille in the northeast are between 11.1°C (52°F) to 19.4°C (66.9°F), while Strasbourg in the northeast is in the 10.6°C (51.1°F) to 21.1°C (70°F) zone. The crisp autumn mornings are some of the best times of the year. Hues of red, orange, purple, and yellow adorn the landscape. The rustling of leaves is a familiar sound everywhere. The days are long and warm, while the nights are cool but cozy. The grape harvest season begins by late September, and there is plenty of farm produce that hits the stands. Hotels and flights are cheaper than the peak tourist season of summer, and the crowds are fewer. Budget travelers often choose the pleasant month of September for a vacation in France.
Weather in October
October is the peak month of the fall foliage in France, with lovely weather and adequate sunshine. The beautiful autumn paints the landscape in majestic colors and brings flora and fauna to life. Mountains, rivers, and land combine in the lap of nature to bring fairy-tale sceneries to reality. Grenoble, in the southeast, registers mild temperatures in the 7.8°C (46°F) to 16.7°C (62.1°F) zone. Nancy, in the northeast, is relatively cool, with average temperatures in the range of 6.7°C (44.1°F) to 15°C (59°F). October sees an average precipitation of 76.2mm (3") to 152.4mm (6") in all the regions. The fall foliage is at its peak in the middle of October in much of France. Autumn is the time of umpteen festivals, including wine and food, and there are plenty of enjoyable activities. Nights are cooler on the northwestern Atlantic Coast, such as Normandy and Brittany. Brittany is a little rainy, and the sea temperatures are mild in the autumn, but there are fewer crowds compared to summer. Expect rain and shine in October in France.
Weather in November
November is the wettest month of the year in France, with a few places registering as much as 177.8mm (7"). The conditions tend to be on the colder side by the second half of November, as the sunlight lasts less than 5 hours in many places. Bourg-Saint-Maurice, in the southeast, registers average temperatures in the cold 0.6°C (33.1°F) to 9.4°C (48.9°F) region, with occasional freezing nights. Poitiers, in the central region, sees average temperatures in the cold 3.9°C (39°F) to mild 11.7°C (53.1°F) zone. The average precipitation increases significantly to register in the 76.2mm (3") to 177.8mm (7") range in November, with frosty and even snowy nights at high altitudes. The evenings are windy in Paris as much as the coast. The autumn season sees a rise in rainfall everywhere that necessitates umbrellas and rain jackets. Sweaters are useful in the evenings, and it is a good idea to pack waterproof shoes. Lyon, in the east, is a great fall destination, as is Toulouse, the Pink City of France. November is a shoulder season for tourism that signals the onset on the cold winter.
Weather in December
December begins the cold and wet winter in France, with a general lack of sunshine. The northwest registers average temperatures in the chilly range of 1.7°C (35.1°F) to 9.4°C (48.9°F). Much of France receives 50.8mm (2") to 101.6mm (4") of precipitation, with frost in many places. Prevailing cold winds mandate jackets in the day. The northeast gets the least amount of sunshine, with Lille and Nancy often receiving less than 2 hours of daily sunshine. It is a good time to spend indoors and enjoy gourmet food, wine, and French hospitality. Marseille, the port city in the south, is mild in the winter, and often a sweater and jeans are enough for an outdoor ride. Cannes and the French Riviera offer refuge in southern France during the winter. Stroll in the marina or walk along the cobblestoned paths in Cannes when there are hardly any crowds in December. Expect the cold to increase gradually with each passing day. The Christmas spirit keeps the population lively during December in France.