Albeit in a temperate zone, in France there are different climates: oceanic on the western and northern coasts, transitional continental in Paris and the central region, continental in the eastern region, and Mediterranean in the southern coastal region. In addition, there are of course mountainous regions, with a colder climate depending on altitude.


Atlantic coasts

On the Atlantic coast, the climate is generally cool and wet, rainy and windy all year round, but especially in autumn and winter.
In the north, the coast of the English Channel ("la Manche" in French) is generally colder than the western Atlantic coast. In these areas (Upper and Lower Normandy, see Mont Saint-Michel), the weather is dull and wet, cold but not freezing in winter (except during cold air outbreaks from Eastern Europe) and cool in summer: the average temperature in Dunkirk ranges from 5 °C (41 °F) in January to 18.5 °C (65.5 °F) in August.
Further west, in Brittany, the climate is even more influenced by the Atlantic Ocean: in Brest the average temperature in January and February reaches 6.5 °C (43.5 °F), while in July and August it doesn't go above 17 °C (63 °F). The islands of Brittany (Bréhat, Belle Île, Ouessant) have a very mild climate: the temperature almost never drops below freezing (0 °C or 32 °F), so that palm trees and tropical species can grow, while in summer it never reaches 30 °C (86 °F).


Here are the average temperatures of Brest, located on the west coast of Brittany.
Brest - Average temperatures
Min (°C)4456911131311975
Max (°C)9911131618202119151210
Min (°F)393941434852555552484541
Max (°F)484852556164687066595450

The rains are frequent throughout the year, and abundant from September to March, while frosts and snowfalls are rare.
Here is the average precipitation in Brest.
Brest - Average precipitation

In Brest, the average sunshine hours are not very high.
Brest - Sunshine

In summer, the temperature of the ocean is still very cool, so it's not the best for swimming: it reaches 17 °C (63 °F) in August in Brest, and 18 °C (64 °F) in Saint-Malo.
Brest - Sea temperature
Temp (°C)111010111214171717151312
Temp (°F)525050525457636363595554

More to the south along the Atlantic coast, summer is milder, for instance in Nantes the average temperature in July reaches 18.5 °C (65.5 °F). Further south, summer is quite warm, since the south-central area of France is often protected by the Azores Anticyclone.


Hence, in Bordeaux, Aquitaine, the average temperature ranges from 6.5 °C (43.5 °F) in January to 21.5 °C (70.5 °F) in July and August. During summer this area can experience cool and rainy days caused by Atlantic fronts, but also hot and sunny days, with temperatures around 33/34 °C (91/93 °F) and above. In autumn and winter, in addition to the rains, there can be strong winds, but this region is also exposed to the cold wind from the north-east, the (Bise), so it is more prone to frost than Brittany.
Bordeaux - Average temperatures
Min (°C)335711141616131064
Max (°C)101215172124272724191411
Min (°F)373741455257616155504339
Max (°F)505459637075818175665752

In Bordeaux, and in the central-southern part of the Atlantic coast, the sun shines a little more often than in Brittany and Normandy because this area can be affected by the Azores anticyclone.
Bordeaux - Sunshine

The sea temperature in Aquitaine is a bit milder, and reaches 21 °C (70 °F) in August.
Bordeaux - Sea temperature
Temp (°C)121111121417202119171513
Temp (°F)545252545763687066635955

In the southernmost part of the coast (see Biarritz), the sea temperature reaches 21 °C (70 °F) in July and 22 °C (72 °F) in August.

Inland areas

In the interior, the climate is halfway between the cool area of the Atlantic coast, and the more continental one on the border with Germany.


In the area of Paris, the average temperatures are quite cool: in January the daily average is 4.5 °C (40 °F), while in July it's 20.5 °C (69 °F). However, Paris is located in a continental area, which in summer can be heated by subtropical air masses brought by the Azores High, while in winter it is exposed to cold spells from Eastern Europe. Therefore, sometimes there can be hot days in summer, with temperatures about 32/33 °C (90/91 °F) or above, while in winter there may be some freezing or snowy days, with night temperatures about -6/-8 °C (18/21 °F) or even below.
Anyway, usually the westerlies prevail, so the weather is unstable, with many wet and rainy days, cool in summer and mild in winter. The most intense Atlantic low pressure areas, can bring strong winds from the ocean, especially in late autumn and winter.
Paris - Average temperatures
Min (°C)22571013151512953
Max (°C)781216202325252116118
Min (°F)363641455055595954484137
Max (°F)454654616873777770615246

Rainfall in Paris is lower than on the Atlantic coast, since it amounts to 640 mm (25 in) per year, although they are well distributed over the seasons. Here is the average precipitation.
Paris - Average precipitation

In Paris, the sun appears more or less as on the northern coast, and less often than in southern France.
Paris - Sunshine


In Le Mans, which hosts the famous car race of the "24 Hours", the climate is similar to that of Paris.

North-east of Paris, in the region on the border with Belgium (Nord-Pas de Calais), the climate, apart from the coastal area of which we have already spoken, is similar to that of Paris but a bit colder: in Lille, the average temperature ranges from 2.5 °C (36.5 °F) in January to 18 °C (64 °F) in July.

Moving south, in east-central France, the climate is moderately continental, in cities like Dijon, Burgundy, and Lyon, Rhone-Alpes, where the average ranges from 3 °C (37.5 °F) in January to 21 °C (70 °F) July. In these region, cold spells with snowfalls are possible in winter as well as heat waves in summer.
Lyon - Average temperatures
Min (°C)01361013161512842
Max (°C)681215202427272217107
Min (°F)323437435055615954463936
Max (°F)434654596875818172635045


The eastern region, on the border with Germany, has a more continental climate. In Nancy, Lorraine, the average temperature ranges from a minimum of 1 °C (34 °F) in January to a maximum of 18 °C (64 °F) in July. Alsace, lying on the Rhine corridor, has a "German" climate, characterized by cold and gray winters, accompanied by frequent snowfalls, although generally not abundant, and warm summers, which are sometimes hot, and with some chance of thunderstorms.


In Strasbourg, the daily average temperature ranges from 1.5 °C (34.5 °F) in January to 19.5 °C (67 °F) in July.
Further south, in Mulhouse, which is sheltered from the mild westerlies by the Vosges Mountains, the average in January is around freezing and snowfalls are frequent.
Strasbourg - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-2-12591214131072-1
Max (°C)46111519232524211585
Min (°F)283036414854575550453630
Max (°F)394352596673777570594641


In the mountainous regions (Alps, Pyrenees, Jura, Massif Central), the climate varies mainly according to altitude: it becomes obviously colder with increasing altitude. In summer, there are frequent thunderstorms in the afternoon.
It could be useful to do a comparison between two cities located at 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) above sea level. In Lus la Croix-Haute, in the Isère Department (western side), the average temperature in January and July are respectively -2 °C (28 °F) and 16 °C (61 °F), while in Chamonix (Haute-Savoie, north of Mont Blanc) they are respectively -1 °C (30 °F) and 16.5 °C (61.5 °F).


Here are the average temperatures of Chamonix.
Chamonix - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-6-5-2258101084-1-4
Max (°C)2381216202222181373
Min (°F)212328364146505046393025
Max (°F)363746546168727264554537

In Chamonix, as usually happens in the mountains, summer is a rainy season because of afternoon thunderstorms. Here is the average precipitation.
Chamonix - Average precipitation


The south of France has a milder and sunnier climate, in fact it is often protected by the Azores' Anticyclone, especially in the warm half of the year, while the area at the foot of the Pyrenees is exposed to warm wind invasions from Spain. In contrast, the valleys between the mountains are exposed to cold winds from the north.
The regions of France bordering the Mediterranean Sea (south coast and Corsica) have a Mediterranean climate, with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. It's better, however, to distinguish between the different zones.
The sheltered areas like the Côte d'Azur (see Saint Tropez, Cannes, Nice) have a particularly mild climate, similar to the Italian Riviera.


Here are the average temperatures of Nice.
Nice - Average temperatures
Min (°C)5681014172020171396
Max (°C)131315172024272724211614
Min (°F)414346505763686863554843
Max (°F)555559636875818175706157

Rainfall along the southern coast follows the Mediterranean pattern, with a maximum in autumn and a minimum in summer. Here is the average precipitation in Nice.
Nice - Average precipitation

On the Mediterranean coast and in Corsica the sun frequently shines: even in winter there are several sunny days, while in summer the sky is often clear.
Nice - Sunshine

The temperature of the Mediterranean Sea is higher than that of the Atlantic Ocean, especially in the French Riviera (Côte d'Azur), where it reaches 23 °C (73 °F) in August, yet it's a bit lower compared with other Mediterranean areas.
Nice - Sea temperature
Temp (°C)131313141619222321191614
Temp (°F)555555576166727370666157

On the other hand, west of this region there's an annoying wind, called Mistral, which often blows in the Rhone Valley, south of Valence, while the Tramontane blows over Languedoc-Roussillon. These dry and cold winds blow for about one hundred days per year, and can easily reach 80/100 kph (50/60 mph). So, cities like Nimes, Arles, Avignon, Marseille in winter have an average temperature a bit lower than the French Riviera, around 6/7 °C (43/45 °F) instead of 8/9 °C (46/48 °F); moreover, they are exposed to sudden drops in temperature, and even frosts during the cold season. However, summer is hot and sunny here as well because cold winds usually give a break in the warm season.
The sea temperature in this part of the coast is also slightly cooler than in the French Riviera (about 1/2 degrees Celsius).
The westernmost area of the Mediterranean coast, overlooking the Gulf of Lion, has mild winters but is also exposed to the north-west wind, which is channeled between the Pyrenees and the Massif Central, through the so-called gates of Carcassonne. In Perpignan, the average temperature is 8.5 °C (47.5 °F) in January and 24 °C (75 °F) in July. Further to the north-west and away from the sea, in Toulouse, the temperature is a bit lower, ranging from 6 °C (43 °F) in January to 22 °C (72 °F) in July.
Lourdes, at the foot of the Pyrenees, in the Hautes-Pyrenees Department, at 400 meters (1,300 feet) above sea level, is a bit cold in winter (it's usually above freezing, but on colder periods it can snow), while summer is warm or even hot during the day, but nights are usually cool.
Lourdes - Average temperatures
Min (°C)0135912141411831
Max (°C)9101415192323242218129
Min (°F)323437414854575752463734
Max (°F)485057596673737572645448


The island of Corsica has a Mediterranean climate on the coasts, with mild and wet winters, and warm or hot and sunny summers, even though it's exposed to both the Mistal and the west wind, which can be very strong, especially on the western and southern part of the island. In the interior, there are steep and high mountains, so the landscape is greener, and the weather gets colder with increasing altitude, until at the highest altitudes we find a typical mountain climate, where winters are characterized by abundant snowfalls.
Here are the average temperatures of Ajaccio, the largest city, located on the west coast.
Ajaccio - Average temperatures
Min (°C)445711141717151285
Max (°C)141415172125282826221715
Min (°F)393941455257636359544641
Max (°F)575759637077828279726359

Corsica is the French region where the sea reaches the highest temperature, ie, 24 °C (75 °F) in August.
Ajaccio - Sea temperature
Temp (°C)141414141720232423201815
Temp (°F)575757576368737573686459

Best Time

The best times to visit Paris are late spring (mid-May to late June) and early autumn (September). The mid-summer period (July-August) is a good time as well, but sometimes it can get hot. The same can be said in general for all the inland areas of France.

If you want to visit Brittany, Normandy and the Atlantic coastal areas, the best time is the summer (June to August).

If you prefer to visit the Mediterranean regions, the best times are spring and autumn, especially the months of May and June and the first half of September (in the second half the temperature is still pleasant, but the rains may become abundant, even with the risk of floods). In mid-summer (July-August), however, the heat is usually bearable because of the sea breezes, at least along the coasts.

For a beach holiday, the Mediterranean Sea (where the best months are July and August) is preferable to the Atlantic Ocean (especially to the northern part of the latter, which is cooler) because both the temperatures of the air and of the sea are higher, and sunshine is more frequent as well.

For a ski holiday, the months of February and March are the most recommended because the days are longer than in December and January. In some resorts at high altitudes, you can even ski in summer.

Summer is a good period to go hiking in the mountains, although there may be some thunderstorms in the afternoon.

What to pack

In winter: bring warm clothing, a sweater, a coat, a rain jacket or umbrella; scarf, a hat and gloves for the colder north-central area and the mountains.

In summer: for Brittany and Normandy, bring clothes for spring and autumn, a T-shirt for warm days, but also jacket, a raincoat or umbrella. For the rest of the country, light clothing, but also long pants, a jacket and a sweater for the evening and cooler days; a raincoat or umbrella. For the mountains, hiking shoes, sunscreen and sunglasses.

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