is divided into 26 different regions - amongst these the weather conditions
vary significantly. As you travel from north to south, from east to west you
will find your self experiencing a smorgasbord of weather conditions - ranging
from Continental to Oceanic, from Semi Continental to Mediterranean and Alpine.
you can get a taste of everything. There is the glamorous French Riviera with
its Mediterranean climate; the temperate climate of the rolling hills of the
wine regions of Dordogne and Aquitaine; Central France with its impressive
historic architecture in Dijon, brings slightly more extreme conditions but
also plays host to the picturesque French Alps to the south; lastly you have Paris
and north and western France which has a pleasant, mild maritime climate of
warm summers and cool winters.
The west coast of France
has a temperate maritime climate. Due to the flat, low-lying topography of the
large coastal plain the moderating effects of the ocean reach far inland.
Maritime climates generally have a narrow annual temperature range
characterised by mild winters, warm summers and year round precipitation. It is
warmer than might be expected at this latitude due to the Gulf
Starting in the very north of France,
a 90 minute ferry ride from Dover you will
find Calais. Calais is the closest French town to the United Kingdom, only 34km from the English
mainland, meaning that on a fine day the white cliffs of Dover are clearly visible. Obviously, as the
region (Nord pas de
Calais) is the closest to the UK, its climate
is very similar to south-eastern England, though temperatures have a tendency
to be 1°C or 2°C warmer year round.
The summer months, from June though to September see the region at its
warmest and it is not uncommon for the mercury to reach the high 20s or low 30s.
The most rain falls in late summer/early autumn; summer could be considered the
‘rainy season’, but is generally drier than the southeast of England.
Once you move inland toward the Ile
de France region, the temperature range begins to widen. Inland regions
typically have hotter summers and colder winters than coastal areas as they are
less influenced by the ocean currents and winds.
Paris¸ in the heart of the
Ile de France region, experiences the country’s lowest rainfall. However, it
still falls in quite high frequency. You can expect rain at any time of the
year. April through until August sees the greatest rainfall, with May and June
generally being the wettest months.
Summer in Paris and
the surrounding region sees maximum average temperatures of 24°C to 25°C, with
daytime temperatures in the 30s not being uncommon. Summer is sometimes
affected by heat waves; Paris
has been known to see days in excess of 40°C in the past. July and August see
the hottest temperatures and it remains warm and sunny through until the end of
If visiting the north of France
during August, keep in mind that many locals take their summer breaks during
this month so they often leave the north and head to the southern coastal towns
for some well earned time off. So while the weather is pleasant and hot your
time may be less than authentic as the ratio of tourists to locals is higher
during this period.
Late September and early October see the north experiencing crisp autumn
evenings. This can be the perfect time to visit if you’re trying to avoid
crowds, though keep in mind that October weather has a tendency to be
unpredictable and can get quite chilly.
Winter across this region of France
is relatively mild with inland areas seeing cooler temperatures than the coast.
There is moderate rainfall across the regions and sometimes snow, though this
rarely settles for long. In the Ile de France region December and January
generally see average maximums of about 8°C and average minimums of 2°C to 4°C.
It regularly falls below freezing at night and frosts are common.
Winters can get very chilly, particularly when there is no cloud cover. However,
the 2007/2008 winter was France’s
its warmest and sunniest winter since 1950!
This region is very similar to the north Atlantic coast but is warmer and
sees the majority of its rain in the winter. The region receives about 2,600
hours of sunshine per year. The combination of the Atlantic airstreams from the
west coast with the continental conditions from the east and the north creates
unpredictable, changeable conditions.
Starting at La Rochelle,
a resort town located in the coastal heart of the Poitou- Charentes region, the weather is fairly typical of
a coastal town. While it is not as warm here as in its French Riviera
counterparts, it certainly does experience its fair share of hot summers days.
Average summer temperatures sit at 17°C to 19°C from June to August, with
temperatures in the high 20’s frequent. The summer is also when La Rochelle and neighbouring
areas receive the least amount of rain, though rainfall levels remain moderate,
falling in short showers and thunderstorms.
Because of the Gulf Stream influence La
Rochelle doesn’t generally experience extreme winters;
the temperature hovers between 8°C and 3°C throughout winter. Sunshine through
winter stays plentiful.
Moving further south and slightly inland you will find yourself in the
famous Aquitaine wine region. Bordeaux
experiences slightly milder winters and moderate rainfall that is higher in the
winter months, similar to Mediterranean regions. December is when the region
records its highest level of precipitation, averaging 109 mm.
February to August will see Aquitaine at its driest, however there are still 12 - 14 rain days per month which isn’t
hugely different from the 15 to 17 rain days that are typical of the autumn/winter
As you head into inland France
the weather becomes slightly more extreme; you experience greater variation
between the seasons. The area experiences colder winters than the rest of France and
there is a greater chance of snow than in the northern and western parts of the
country. Rainfall is highest in the summer time, falling in the form of thunderstorms.
Once you are within the Dordogne region weather conditions go a bit haywire.
Within the region the temperature and rainfall can vary significantly within
quite a small area. This occurs because as you head from southwest to northwest
the height above sea level rises - as a result the north receives greater
rainfall than the south. In the south west of the Dordogne
an annual average 750mm of precipitation is recorded, whereas an average of
1160 mm annual precipitation is recorded in the north. Generally, Bergerac is the
driest area in the region.
The Pyrenees see winters with temperatures
way below freezing and heavy snowfall. As you head east along the mountain
range the precipitation (rain and snow) levels decrease. For examples, the East Pyrenees, unlike the West, doesn’t have enough
snowfall to support the formation of glaciers.
Dijon generally has cold dry
winters and warmer summers. Winters in Dijon have been
known to be harsh and humid, so girls - pack your hair straightens and
anti-frizz spray! The town is situated within the Burgundy
region which is characterized by pronounced seasonal variations. It generally
rains all year round, though this is broken up by periods of beautiful sunny
weather. Spring is the best time to visit and conditions are mild and rainfall
is minimal. Summer time sees the mercury rises, yet the conditions are rarely
extreme and the temperature will generally hover around the late 20’s.
is characterized by a semi continental climate, however in parts of the region
weather conditions are more typical of an oceanic climate, and as you head
further south toward the Mediterranean the
weather becomes, well... more Mediterranean!
Once you hit Lyon
the conditions vary quite dramatically from Dijon. Lyon’s weather is affected by the
Mediterranean and by the adjacent mountain ranges and the cooler Rhone Valley.
Summer conditions are warm and muggy, with average highs of 27°C. Throughout
winter the daytime temperatures can get pretty chilly, hovering around about 7°C.
In the winter months the region is surrounded by picturesque mist (or ‘fog’ if
you want a less picturesque term!) This can often linger through into the spring.
The Mediterranean Coast
A Mediterranean climate is witnessed in the Rhône Valley
south of Valence and
the coastal areas of Languedoc and Provence
at the foot of the southern Alps.
The glamour of this region is enhanced by a glorious Mediterranean climate
of hot summers and mild winters. The scorching summer days are broken by the
evening sea breezes which waft over the city and provide a cooling breaking
from heat, ideal for enjoying this picturesque area.
Along the coast, summers are hot, with scarce rain for a 3 month period in
the middle of summer. However, when it rains it pours and often thunders.
Sunshine is plentiful - up to eleven or twelve hours a day in summer and around
five in midwinter.
Winters in the region are generally mild and sunny but this pleasant weather
is often interrupted by very unsettled cold and blustery weather brought in by
the famous northerly ‘mistral’ wind. The mistral blows with particular strength
through and around Marseille
and through the Rhône
The mistral wind can often bring unseasonably cold weather for a few days in
spring and can have you wondering if you’ve just travelled back into winter.
The majority of the Côte d'Azur is much less exposed to the cold
blasts of the mistral and much of the region (including Corsica and Monaco) is
moderated by the warm waters of the Mediterranean.
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