France enjoys a temperate climate and mild weather, with average winter temperatures ranging from 0°C to 7°C and summers between 16°C to 25°C. Like the UK, northern France is prone to showers and unpredictable temperatures, while in nearby Paris, temperatures can fluctuate between almost 30°C in high summer and freezing in winter. If you are after unfettered sunshine and heat, head to the county’s Mediterranean coastline. Boasting short winters of 10-15°C and highs and lows of 30°C and 17°C in high summer, the dependable island of Corsica and coastline of the French Riviera should be your first port of call when glittering seascapes, sun-drenched cities and maquis-cloaked mountains call. Further inland, in Burgundy and the Loire Valley, the climate is both oceanic and continental. Summers are surprisingly hot and long while winters are cold and short. And thanks to the nearby River Loire, the surrounding land is perfect for the vinification of white wine favourites, Chenin and Sauvignon Blanc. In the southeast of the country in Rhône-Alpes – a region known for its varied climate – summers are pleasant (thanks to the neighbouring Mediterranean) and winters cold. At sea level, temperatures remain moderate, while on the Massif Central and Alps mountain regions, the weather is colder, longer and prone to snow, making it a prime skiing destination. Read on for a more detailed breakdown of France’s regional climates.
Brittany and Normandy
Hugging the English Channel, Brittany and Normandy boast a very similar climate to the UK. Occupying France’s north-western coasts, their oceanic climate means they see predominantly mild and rainy winters (hovering at 6°C) and cool, breezy summers. While rain is common all year round, the driest months are June, July and August, with an average rainfall of just 45 millimetres. These north-west regions are less affected by the heatwaves that often hit central and southern France, yet it isn’t uncommon for temperatures to reach 27-30°C on some days.
Bordeaux, Aquitaine & South-West France
With sunshine levels that reflect its famed easy-going lifestyle (at around 2,000 and 2,200 hours annually), southwest France and the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region is known for its sub-oceanic climate and Mediterranean influences. However, as the country’s largest region, climates can differ across areas, such as in Poitou, which boasts a maritime climate (warm summers and cooler winters). Across the region, temperatures can vary from 3°C to 28°C. The region’s warm season tends to last from June to September, with average daily highs of 24°C. Winters span four months also, from late November to March. The coldest month is January, with an average low of 3°C and high of 10°C.
Burgundy, the Loire Valley and Central France
As one of the country’s premier wine regions, Burgundy and the Loire Valley really feels its four distinct seasons. Nestled in the heart of the country – and acting as the divider of its north and south – it enjoys the best of both worlds. In summer, thanks to the Mediterranean and the Azores anticyclone, average temperatures often reach 25°C. Meanwhile, in spring, with help from the Atlantic breeze that blows down from the north, temperatures remain pleasant and perfect for viticulture.
French Riviera and Corsica
The French Riviera is famed for its year-round sun, warm waters and balmy coastal cities. With a predictable Mediterranean climate and average summer temperatures of 30°C, the southeast of France is perfect if you are after a sunny (and scorching) escape. Yet, for those that suffer in the heat, you’ll be pleased to know that even in March, temperatures can still rise to just over 13°C and continue to comfortably do so into spring and early autumn (at around 21°C). Even its sea temperature sits around 14-17°C before spiking to 24°C in August, making it perfect for a pleasant and more temperate getaway. Just make sure to avoid the region’s rainy season (if you can call it that) from October to February.
The city of love is worth seeing all year round – it even sparkles on grey rainy days. Thanks to its location in north-central France, the capital maintains a moderately continental climate and balmy Gulf Stream temperatures, with an annual average of 12°C. In winter and spring, however, the weather can be unpredictable. Temperatures are known to drop below freezing for up to a month, and snow can fall on approximately half of those days. Surprisingly, May marks the city’s highest rainfall. In high summer, however, days are longer, more humid and reach an average temperature of 13°C.
As expected, the Alps plays host to a predominantly highland climate. Experiencing higher rain and snowfall, which usually starts to appear in November and lasts until April, the mountainous region can reach lows of −5°C in January and highs of 8°C in the mountains bordering the Mediterranean (thanks to climbing warm Foehn winds). During the summer months, temperatures in the southern Alps can reach as high as 35°C. While the mountain air is known to become cooler the higher you climb – said to be 1°C for every 300ft – it is perfect for active summer holidays spent hiking and biking, and nearby lakes and rivers make the region perfect for swimming, kayaking and canyoning as well.