Fundamentally, France is an all-year-round place to visit; each season has something special to offer, as well as something unpleasant, usually – this is Europe, after all!
Depending on the reason for your visit, spring, summer and autumn are the best seasons to visit, and the French like to think, probably correctly, that there is a region to suit every season. For winter sports, the season runs from December to April. For relaxing out of doors, summer is invariably beautiful, although the principal resorts and the sightseeing areas are more crowded then. For sitting on a sidewalk café drinking coffee and watching the world go by, any time will do.
A popular time to travel is May, June or September when French children are at school. These are times of moderate warmth, when you may need to wrap up in the evening, but many visitors prefer these months to the higher temperatures of July and August, especially in the southern half of the country. In the north, the weather is not dissimilar to southern Britain.
In addition, the month of August is when many French people take their own holidays, and during this time prices can be considerably higher, and many hotels fully booked well in advance.
In general the French climate is moderate, not unlike the UK; extremes of either heat or cold are rare for the most part, and outdoor activity of some kind is almost always possible.
Inland, the winters can be chilly and darkness comes early, especially in the north. As spring turns to summer, the days become long and warm and by June the sun shines well into the evening. Spring and autumn are by far the best times to explore the outdoors and enjoy the countryside and coastal areas. In winter, there is snowfall throughout much of the interior of the country, as well as in the mountainous regions, and this permits winter sports, including skiing and snowboarding.
By far the best resource for weather information is the national weather bureau website – www.meteofrance.com.
For Météo-France reports in French, dial 3250, then select from the recorded choices (€2.99/call). Information about the weather can be downloaded to mobile phones from mobile.meteofrance.com.
For departmental forecasts dial 08 92 68 02...followed by the number of the département you want, e.g. Ain 01; Aisne 02; Allier 03; Ardèche 04, etc.
Mountain weather forecast: Dial 3250 (select 4); for information about snow cover and avalanche risk, call 08 92 68 10 20.