Let’s talk about the weather. France’s weather is truly, truly varied – north to south, east to west, and even within areas the same can be applied.
After all, it is a big country, with an ocean to the left, mountains to the right, flat plains to the top and a warming sea and more mountains to the bottom. There’s a big rise in the middle and an ancient seabed slightly left of centre. All contribute to the variety of weather.
It’s Always Sunny
France is generally thought of as a good weather destination, but like everywhere there are good days and bad days. Or should we say seasons? Overall there are good days, but it is worth researching where you want to go when.
Generally you can count on the sun here all year round, though not every day. The south east certainly gets more sunny days than the north west. Summer of course gets more sunny days than winter, as is true of most northern hemisphere countries.
Wind plays a big part in varying temperatures and climate within France. Especially the west coast and the south coast. The west coast winds come in from the south west, eg over the Atlantic. This tends to bring more wet and warm weather into this area. Whilst the south coast winds come from the Alps. These winds are infamously known here in France as the Mistral.
The Mistral brings very cold and dry air to a region which is normally warm or hot. On the plus side, the winds can be so strong they literally clear cloud cover, giving the area an abundance of sunny days. (Found this fun article on how the Mistral affects wine making if you would like to read more about this unique phenomena in France: The Mistral – it ain’t just some breeze.)
Autumn in France reminds me of a warmer New England. The fall foliage does its colour change in France with gorgeous reds, yellows and ever greens. It does happen a little later than New England’s famous colours, with colours changing mid to late October. Though the north starts off of course earlier. You could actually follow the change if you time it right. Starting in the north and heading south with the colour.
To my mind the best colour changes occur in the vineyards. The vines go the most amazing deep burgundy red. Think oak tree, but much darker richer red. The vineyards in autumn are truly wonderful to behold.
Autumn brings the most changes to the weather in France. It’s a little more volatile. Rain makes an appearance around mid-September and gains in momentum as we wax towards winter. Sunny skies are still the norm, but with more clouds passing over. Sometimes fluffy white, sometimes threatening grey. Thunderstorms become frequent, but also short. Each day might bring both sun and rain, but very rarely only rain.
Winter is short lived here. And this is the season where north and south really differ the most. If you head up to the Alsace area in December you are more likely to enjoy a little snow with the Christmas markets. The middle of the country is more varied, depending on altitude.
Where we are near Beaune, in Burgundy, temperatures can dip below freezing, but snow is short lived. We anticipate a dusting that may last a day, but that’s our lot. And winter’s colder temperatures last about 6 weeks, from end of November into early January.
Head further south again towards the Mediterranean and cloudier skies may be the norm. Cooler temperatures for sure. This is not where to go for snow. But this is also when the Mistral can be at its most fierce.
Spring is long winded in France. For us it starts at the end of January. The first week of February at the latest with daffodils showing their sunny faces. Here in the middle of the country we enjoy my favourite season until into June.
It’s a time of cool nights, and sunny warming days. It’s that time of year when the sun can almost be hot, but you need only head into the shade for much cooler temperatures. Rain still comes, but tends to do its thing in the nights. Perfection.
The north hangs onto winter a little longer. Whilst the south hangs onto spring the shortest time. The weather in France is changeable, but non-confrontational. Rather, no matter where you are, spring eases you towards the summer sun.
Summer’s in France are hot. North or South, sun and high temperatures are the norm. Sunshine becomes a daily occurrence and can be counted on. It’s one of the reasons why much of France is outdoors as it is easy to plan gatherings, picnics and barbecues. We anticipate the sun will shine every day.
Humidity lowers as summer reaches its peak, with most of the country drying out to a yellow tint. Temperatures soar into August when much of France goes on holiday. If you are a fan of the heat of never ending sunshine, this can be a great time to visit. However, it is also the time when the French go elsewhere. Yes, some vacation in France. And many head north to Scandinavia and Scotland for cooler wetter weather.
For those of a geeky mindset, or those that maybe wish to explore an unknown area of France, here is a very in-depth reference guide on weather, temperatures and what to expect: Climates to Travel – France.
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