Blooming apple trees, new green leaves covering the trees, spring flowers in full bloom in the gardens, fields and forests… this explosion of new life tells us that spring is in the air. Spring in France is my favourite season to discover the country, from Paris to the French Alps and from Alsace to the French Riviera.
About Spring in France
Spring is known as ‘printemps’ in French, from Old French ‘prins’ (first) and ’temps’ (time as in weather).
Springtime heralds the coming back to life after the long cold months of winter. Buds on the trees finally open up after having slept all winter. Leaves burst out of the buds in fresh green colour when the sun gets brighter and warmer. In spring, the trees’ bare branches change into leafy shade towards summer.
This season is full of bird songs in the forests or the gardens while nesting. The sparrows are back in the north of France, as are the white storks in Alsace. Small and colourful butterflies start appearing as plants and trees come back to life.
Dandelions begin to invade the garden lawns and the fields. May is one of the best months to see spring wildflowers such as cowslips, wood violets and lilies of the valley in bloom. From late winter, flowering and fruit trees produce flamboyant blooms on bare branches: magnolias, apple, cherry, and almond trees. In many French gardens, the bright yellow flowers of the Forsythia shrub are amongst the first to be in full bloom in March.
In spring, some plants bear vegetables and fruit that will be picked in June: asparagus, artichokes, carrots, radish, french beans, potatoes, lettuce, cauliflower, spinach, cucumbers, courgettes, rhubarb. strawberries, raspberries and cherries.
Calendar of Spring in France
After the long months of winter, spring is synonymous with rebirth and resurrection.
Officially, the spring season starts on 21 March and ends on 20 June. However, for meteorologists and many others, spring starts on 1 March and ends on 31 May.
Spring in France Calendar
- 21 March – beginning of Spring
- 1 April – April’s Fool Day (le 1er avril)
- March or April – Easter (Pâques)
- April, May or June – Ascension Thursday (Jeudi de l’Ascension)
- May or June – Pentecost Sunday (Dimanche de Pentecôte)
- 8 May – Victory in Europe Day (Armistice 1945)
- 9 May – Europe Day (Journée de l’Europe)
- last Sunday of May – Mothers’ Day (Fête des Mères)
- third Sunday of June – Fathers’ Day (Fête des Pères)
- 20 June – start of Summer
Popular events in France during springtime
- March – Paris Book Fair (Salon du livre de Paris), an event attracting more than 180,000 visitors at the Parc des Expositions in Porte de Versailles.
- April – Nancy Travelling Funfair (Foire attractive de Nancy). France’s second-largest funfair.
- April – Bourges Music Festival (Printemps de Bourges).
- April – Paris-Roubaix cycle race (Course cycliste Paris-Roubaix). A one-day professional bicycle road race in Picardy and Nord-Pas-de-Calais.
- April and May – Paris Travelling Funfair (Foire du Trône). France’s largest funfair in the Vincennes Wood, Paris.
- Late April or early May – Transhumance Festival of Saint-Remy-de-Provence (Fête de la Transhumance de Saint-Remy-de-Provence).
- Saturday around 18 May – The Long Night of Museums. The European cultural event is known as Nuit Blanche in Paris and La Nuit des Musées in France.
- Mid-May – Cannes International Film Festival (Festival International du Film de Cannes).
- May – Monaco Grand Prix (Grand Prix de Monaco). A Formula One motor race is held annually on the Circuit de Monaco.
- Late May-Early June – The French Open (Tournoi de Roland Garros) in Paris.
- June – Annecy International Animation Film Festival (Festival International du Film d’Animation d’Annecy).
- 6th June – Commemoration ceremonies of the D-Day landings in Normandy.
The weather during Spring in France
From April, the weather slowly but surely turns milder. With lots of unpredictable spring showers and clearing skies, spring is one of the most beautiful seasons to visit France when the throngs of tourists are not yet invading the country’s most famous sites. Cold days can unexpectedly make a harsh comeback with snow and frost until May in the plains.
On the other hand, high temperatures can suddenly occur, announcing summer. Either way, the nights stay pretty chilly for a little while. Variations in the spring climate in France greatly depend on regional areas: Nice and the French Riviera enjoy mild and beautiful spring days, whereas temperatures in Alsace range from 5 to 18 degrees. Snow is still present in the mountainous parts of the country, particularly in the Alps and the Pyrenees.
The Saints de Glace period
Picnic one day, snow next… We call these cold days in May “Saints de Glace” (Ice Saints). In Europe, the period from the 12t May to the 15th of May is often believed to bring a brief period of cold weather, including the last nightly frosts of the spring. This is what we experienced in our alpine village on 14 May 2018:
Visiting France in Spring
Spring is a beautiful season to visit France when wildflowers grow in the fields, and village life returns to a new life. The tourist season restarts in May with extended hours at museums, gardens and sites of interest. Most hotels and flights to France are affordable until 1 July.
The season is perfect for discovering Paris (see Spring at the Eiffel Tower) and the many castles, palaces and châteaux around the capital: Versailles, Chantilly, Vaux-le-Vicomte and their respective gardens. In Normandy, the apple trees are in full bloom, and Monet’s Garden in Giverny is well worth a visit.
The Loire Valley and its numerous royal residences and gardens are also a highlight in spring, as is the south of France. In Provence and Languedoc, the mild weather allows for nice excursions in the countryside or along the coast without the risk of bushfires. The main tourist resorts of the French Riviera (Nice, Monaco, Menton and Saint-Tropez) are still off-peak and not as busy as in summer except during special events.
You may still find a lot of snow in the mountains, such as in the Pyrenees and the Alps. Although Spring should be in full swing in the valleys, tracks in ‘haute montagne’ and high pastures might still be impassable.
Spring flowers and flowering trees
Spring flowers bloom from the first weeks of March to the warmer month of May. There’s a kind of magic when the first burst of colourful flowers begin to be spotted in gardens, fields and forests in France.
Find out more about Spring flowers and flowering trees.
Spring in France: English-French Vocabulary
(f) for féminin, (m) for masculin, (adj) for adjective and (v) for verbs
- apple tree = pommier (m)
- to blossom = fleurir (v)
- butterfly = papillon (m)
- cherry tree = cerisier (m)
- Easter = Pâques (f)
- field = champ (m)
- flower = fleur (f)
- flowering tree = arbre en fleur (m)
- forest = forêt (f)
- fruit = fruit (m)
- garden = jardin (m)
- leaf = feuille (f)
- meadow = prairie (m), pré (f)
- plant = plante (f)
- rain = pluie (f)
- season = saison (f)
- shrub = arbuste (m)
- sparrow = hirondelle (f)
- spring = printemps (m)
- stork = cigogne (f)
- summer = été (m)
- sun = soleil (m)
- tree = arbre (m)
- vegetable = légume (m)
- winter = hiver (m)
- wood = bois (m)