When to go?

There are a many considerations in determining when you will plan your trip to France. This information will get you started on some of the things you should consider before you choose the time of year that suits you.

Puy l'Enveque France

Holiday season in France

Like the rest of Europe, summer is peak tourism season in France. As a rule peak season runs from mid-June to the end of August. As a result, you can expect that prices and crowds will be at their highest, furthermore day time temperatures will be at their hottest, especially as you move further south. We provide details of regional temperatures on our page regarding weather.

The shoulder season runs from April to mid June in the spring and again September to the end of October in autumn. Crowds are generally smaller at these times and, as a result, prices for accommodation and travel are cheaper than during peak times. Temperatures are milder and there are plenty of daylight hours still. Attractions are all still open although you may find some things with slightly reduced hours, especially areas that are weather dependant. Accordingly, it is best to check opening times for any attractions you are planning to visit. As an example, when we visited Chamonix in late September we found that some of the gondolas that had operated through the summer months were closed until winter.

Finally, the off peak season runs from November to the end of March. The winter months are generally quiet. Consequently attractions operate on reduced hours or can be closed altogether in the summer destinations. In some areas accomodation can be closed. For example, the hotel we have stayed at in the Pyreenes is closed from early October to May each year. Therefore, if you plan to travel during these months you will need to check the specific places you would like to visit to make sure the things you want to do are open and you have somewhere to stay. We will provide as much information possible on our destination pages to assist.

Cycling

Time of year is also important from a cycling perspective. For instance, most of the high mountain passes are closed in winter each year as they are covered in snow. Generally, you could expect that most passes will be closed come late November and not reopen until May the following year. This obviously depends on the snow each year and some passes are higher than others. You will find specific information on our pages around rides in each destination and when they are open and closed each year. However, there are still plenty of areas at lower altitudes and away from the mountains that would be perfect for riding at this time of year.

The middle of summer can also be very hot for riding. Many of the valleys in the mountains are at lower altitudes and can still be quite warm during the day. As you climb higher temperatures obviously drop. After planning most of our trips in the July period we planned our last one in September to escape the heat and to a lesser extent the crowds and were very happy with the decision.

If you are bringing your own bike and planning to travel on trains or other public transport the quieter seasons are less crowded and as a result it makes it a bit easier hauling bike bags on and off trains or buses. But, that is not to say don’t come in the busier months, it’s all part of the fun.

Two older cyclists resting on the road side at the Col du Soulor in the French Pyrenees, joined by a large flock of sheep.

The Tour de France

If you are planning to go and watch the Tour de France, or at least some of it, you will need to be there in July and there is no getting around that. The 2020 Tour de France starts on Saturday 27 June in Nice and finishes on Sunday 19 July in Paris and the 2021 Tour de France is starting on Friday 2 July in Copenhagen and finishing in Paris on Sunday 25 July.


Depending on how much of the tour you wish to see you can start or end your trip to overlap with a small part of the tour either at the beginning or the end. We also provide further information about this in our Tour de France section.

School holidays

The school holiday periods will generally be busier and as a result a period you may want to avoid. The major school holiday periods for 2020 are:

Winter holiday – 9 February to 8 March

Spring break – 5 April to 3 May

Summer holidays – 5 July to 31 August

Autumn break – 18 October to 1 November

Christmas break – 20 December to 3 January

France is split into 3 zones for the purposes of schooling. The Winter and Spring holidays are staggered across the 3 zones therefore, the whole country is not on holidays across the entirety of these dates.

Public holidays

While not a major consideration in planning a trip it is still good to know when the major public holidays are. For the most part, you will find most shops, attractions and possibly transport will be closed or operate significantly reduced hours on the Christmas, New Years Day, May Day and Bastille Day holidays. However, on the other holidays you will likely find some things open but maybe operating on reduced hours, there is no hard and fast rule. Generally attractions will be open on public holidays during the summer peak period. We would generally recommend that you check directly with any attractions you are planning to visit on a public holiday and especially public transport changes.

In 2020 the public holidays are:

1 January – New Years Day (Fixed date)

10 April – Good Friday (Alsace and Moselle Regions only)

13 April – Easter Monday

1 May – Labour Day (Fixed date)

8 May – Victory in Europe Day (Fixed Date)

21 May – Ascension Day

1 June – Whit Monday

14 July – Bastille Day (Fixed date)

15 August – Feast of the Assumption (Fixed date)

1 November – All Saints Day (Fixed date)

11 November – Armistice Day (Fixed date)

25 December – Christmas Day (Fixed date)

26 December – St Stephens Day (Alsace and Moselle Regions only) (Fixed date)

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