Autumn in France marks the end of the long Summer break and the start of a transitional season towards Winter. It’s a beautiful season to explore the country, from cities to rural places and remote valleys in the Alps.
Autumn in France: the Calendar
In 2017, Autumn officially starts on 22 September in Europe, the date of the Autumn equinox and ends on 21 December. For meteorologists and many French people, Autumn runs from approximately 1 September to the end of November. Although the last month of the year, December is often thought to be part of Winter because cold and snow occur throughout the country.
With the start of Autumn comes the “Rentrée” when children and teachers return to school at the end of their long Summer holidays. Unlike in Australia and New Zealand, this represents the start of a new school year.
- Beginning of September – la Rentrée (return to school)
- 23 September – start of Autumn
- 1 November – la Toussaint (All Saints’ Day)
- 11 November – la Saint-Martin (St. Martin’s Day)
- 11 November – Armistice of WWI
- End of November – l’Avent (Advent)
- 21 December – start of Winter
Visiting France in Autumn
Discovering France in Autumn is arguably the best season to do so. The vast car parks of major tourist sites such as Mont-Saint-Michel, Rocamadour, Sarlat, Lake Annecy and Les Baux-de-Provence look almost empty, especially on week days. September and October are the best touristic periods to discover France when the crowds of visitors have long gone and the places are left to locals and lucky visitors.
It is therefore easier to take photos of favourite places and to take the time to visit every little corner of a medieval castle or museum without queuing. Autumn is also a much cheaper season to visit France as the peak season usually ends towards the end of August.
Autumn in France: Foliage and Weather
The days of September can often be quite warm and it is not unusual to enjoy an “Indian summer” with the characteristic coloured Autumn foliage: yellow, orange and red.
This term, borrowed from the spectacularly colourful display of foliage in New England, is also known in Europe as the St. Martin Summer whose celebration day occurs on 11 November. Autumnal colours are typically at their peak in France in early to mid November.
Some of France’s most charming places become even more attractive with Autumn colours. Rediscovering the villages and castles of France is often breathtaking, particularly under a deep blue sky. Even the French capital, Paris, is enhanced by colourful tints in Autumn, thanks to the many trees found bordering its wide avenues or planted in one of its beautiful public gardens. We recommend visiting Parc Monceau, Jardin du Luxembourg or Parc de Saint-Cloud.
The weather will be slightly warmer in the south (Provence, Languedoc and Corsica) and cooler in the north (Paris Basin and Alsace). The mountainous regions of France (Alps, Pyrenees, Massif Central and Jura) can experience snow and frost as early as September and October.
Overall, mild temperatures can make a walk in the mountains or a cycle tour in the forest a very enjoyable activity.
Autumn in France: Harvest Time
In France, Autumn is also a season associated with the harvest. It is in Autumn that most ripe foods are harvested: corn, maize, grapeseed, sunflowers, pumpkins, apples, pears, quince, blackberries and also chestnuts, nuts and walnuts.
In regions such as the Loire Valley, Champagne, Alsace, Aquitaine and Provence the highlight of the year is the wine harvest (les vendanges).
Many parts of France organise harvest festivals such as the Collobrières Chestnut Festival in the Maures hills in Provence.
In the Alps, a few villages and towns continue the tradition of the return from the alpine pastures with festive events. One of the most famous festivals takes place in Annecy.
Traditionally, Autumn is also the season for ploughing the fields right after the harvest.
Our favourite Autumn spots in France
Here is a collection of photos taken during our travels across France between late September and late November.
Our pages on AUTUMN IN FRANCE
Autumn in France: English-French Vocabulary
(f) for féminin, (m) for masculin, (adj) for adjective and (v) for verbs
- Advent = Avent (m)
- Autumn = automne (m)
- bank = rive (f)
- castle = château (m)
- city = ville (f)
- colour = couleur (f)
- countryside = campagne (f)
- December = décembre
- fall = automne (m)
- forest = forêt (f)
- harvest = récolte (f)
- hill = colline (f)
- Indian summer = été indien (m)
- lake = lac (m)
- latitude = latitude (f)
- leaf = feuille (f)
- mountain = montagne (f)
- November = novembre (m)
- October = octobre (m)
- ploughing = labour (m)
- river = rivière (f)
- September = septembre (m)
- sky = ciel (m)
- Summer = été (m)
- tree = arbre (m)
- village = village (m)
- vineyard = vignoble (m)
- Winter = hiver (m)
- wood = bois (m)
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