All there is to know about Autumn in France

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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. In this article, I have listed plenty of information about the autumn season in France as well as our favourite Autumn spots in France. I promise you lots of bright colours, from red to yellow to orange! 🍂🍁🍃

 

Autumn in France: the Calendar

In 2021, Autumn (or Fall for our American friends!) officially started on 22 September in Europe, the date of the Autumn equinox and will end 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.

Around Annecy - The village of Thorens-Glières, birthplace of St. François de Sales © French Moments

The village of Thorens-Glières, birthplace of St. François de Sales © French Moments

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.

Autumn Calendar:

  • Beginning of September – la Rentrée (return to school)
  • 22 September 2021 or 23 September 2022 – the 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 2021 or 21 December 2022 – the start of Winter

The celebrations and commemorations of Autumn

Autumn is a season rich in celebrations and commemorations.

Locally, there is a multitude of traditional festivals related to the harvest and grape harvest. I will talk about them later in this article.

Nationally, autumn has three main events:

La Toussaint (1st November)

All Saints’ Day in France marks a school and work break halfway between Summer and Christmas. For the French Catholics, “Toussaint” is a special time for honouring the dead. It is time to visit cemeteries and put flowers on the graves.

Toussaint Day at the Père Lachaise Cemetery © French Moments

Toussaint Day at the Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris © French Moments

However, for others, the end of October is associated with Halloween.

Halloween in France - chimera of Notre-Dame de Paris © French Moments

Halloween in France – a chimera of Notre-Dame de Paris © French Moments

Read more about All Saints Day in France on the blog…

L’Armistice du 11 novembre

The Public holiday commemorates the Fête de la Victoire when the Armistice after World War I was signed on 11 November 1918. Official ceremonies and military parades take place on 11 November, in the same manner as Americans celebrate Veterans’ Day.

11 November ceremony in Maisons-Laffitte © French Moments

11 November ceremony in Maisons-Laffitte © French Moments

Read more about the WWI Armistice commemorations in France on the blog…

La période de l’Avent

Advent in France is a time of waiting and preparing for Christmas. It lasts for four weeks, starting on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. ‘Advent’ derives from the Latin ‘adventus’ meaning “coming”. The preparation for Christmas makes the sad days of November into an exciting time, particularly for children.

Advent in Wissembourg, Alsace © French Moments

Advent in Wissembourg, Alsace © French Moments

Read more about Advent in France on the blog…


Why you should visit France in Autumn

Pont Mirabeau in Autumn © French Moments

Pont Mirabeau, Paris in Autumn © French Moments

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 weekdays. 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.

Square du Vert Galant © French Moments

Square du Vert Galant © French Moments

Therefore, it is 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.


From colourful foliage and weather: what to expect?

Place Louis Aragon, Ile Saint-Louis © French Moments

Place Louis Aragon, Ile Saint-Louis © French Moments

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 St. Martin Summer whose celebration day occurs on 11 November. Autumnal colours are typically at their peak in France in early to mid-November.

Autumn in France - Semnoz, Annecy © French Moments

The colours of autumn near Annecy, Haute-Savoie © French Moments

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.

Autumn in France - in Poissy © French Moments

Parc Meissonier in Poissy near Paris © French Moments

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.


This is Harvest Time!

Autumn in France - pumpkins © French Moments

Return from the Alpine Pastures Festival, Annecy © French Moments

In France, Autumn is also a season associated with the harvest. It is in Autumn that most ripe foods are harvested: corn, maize, rapeseed, sunflowers, pumpkins, apples, pears, quince, blackberries and also chestnuts, nuts and walnuts.

The pears are ready to collect! Near Annecy © French Moments

The pears are ready to collect! Near Annecy © French Moments

In regions such as the Loire Valley, Champagne, Alsace, Aquitaine and Provence the highlight of the year is the wine harvest (les vendanges).

Autumn in France: in Alsace © French Moments

The vineyards of Alsace, Autumn in France © French Moments

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.

Autumn in France: in Annecy © French Moments

Return from the Alpine Pastures Festival, Annecy © French Moments

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.

Paris in Autumn

As long as the sun is willing to grace us with its presence, fall in Paris is my favourite season to visit the French capital.

The colours of Autumn bring out the beauty of Paris

The vivid colours of autumn only accentuate the beauty of this city and add depth to the architecture. The best places to enjoy it, however, are away from the hustle and bustle of the city. That is, wherever there are trees, from the banks of the Seine to the many parks and gardens!

My favourite Autumn activities in Paris

I love to stroll along the Seine, at dawn or dusk, to admire the soft reflection of the light on the water.

Then I head to the Jardin des Tuileries, the Place des Vosges or the Jardin du Luxembourg which are home to magnificent trees.

What a pleasure to take a walk in a Parisian park while listening to the dead leaves crackling under my feet! I find myself walking happily in the big puddles. Around me, children collect conkers and some even play with snails…

And then there are these famous boulevards lined with trees with yellow and orange leaves.

Once the walk is over, I take refuge in a café to enjoy an old fashioned hot chocolate. La vie est belle!

Honestly, how not to fall in love with Paris in autumn?

Discover the Canal Saint-Martin in Paris © French Moments

One of the locks of Canal Saint-Martin in Paris © French Moments

Autumn in Buttes-Chaumont, Paris © French Moments

Autumn in Buttes-Chaumont, Paris © French Moments

Along the banks of the River Seine in Paris © French Moments

Along the banks of the River Seine in Paris © French Moments

Place Aragon, Ile Saint-Louis © French Moments

Place Aragon, Ile Saint-Louis © French Moments

Paris in Autumn © French Moments

The banks of the River Seine, Paris in Autumn © French Moments

Pere Lachaise Cemetery © French Moments

View of the Eiffel Tower from the Père Lachaise cemetery © French Moments

Père Lachaise cemetery, Paris © French Moments

Autumn in the Père Lachaise cemetery, Paris © French Moments

Tuileries Eiffel Tower Autumn © French Moments

The Tuileries Garden in autumn © French Moments

Autumn in France - in Paris © French Moments

Autumn in France by the Louvre in Paris © French Moments

Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

The central basin of the Jardin du Luxembourg © French Moments

Cité des Fleurs Paris

The pedestrian lane of Cité des Fleurs in Paris © French Moments

In the Paris region (Ile de France)

The Paris region, known as the Ile de France, has many parks and forest estates. The visitor expects a flowering of colours in the fall. And indeed, he will not be disappointed.

Having lived in the west of Paris, in Maisons-Laffitte, we loved the fall season. We walked almost every day in the park of the castle and took the opportunity to make beautiful excursions to Versailles, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Saint-Cloud, Fontainebleau, Chantilly and Provins, a medieval city on the edge of Champagne.

Autumn in Maisons-Laffitte © French Moments

The Park of Maisons-Laffitte in autumn © French Moments

Autumn in the park of Maisons-Laffitte © French Moments

Autumn in the park of Maisons-Laffitte © French Moments

Forest of Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

A walk in the Forest of Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

Town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye 11 © French Moments

View of Le Pecq from the Terrace of Le Nôtre © French Moments

Park of Saint-Germain-en-Laye 04 © French Moments

The Castle garden in Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

Autumn in France - Provins © French Moments

Autumn in Provins © French Moments

Autumn in Fontainebleau © French Moments

Conkers in Fontainebleau © French Moments

Etang aux Carpes Chateau de Fontainebleau © French Moments

Fontainebleau in Autumn © French Moments

Parc de Saint-Cloud in autumn © French Moments

Parc de Saint-Cloud in autumn © French Moments

In the French Alps of Savoie

In Savoie, autumn comes and goes earlier than in Paris… So you have to enjoy it during the month of October before the first snows come to sprinkle the mountain tops with white.

Everywhere nature turns yellow and red, contrasting with the turquoise blue of the Alpine lakes (including Lake Annecy and Lake Bourget).

In the high mountains, the landscape adopts a characteristic rust colour for the pleasure of amateur photographers.

Duingt in Autumn © French Moments

Castle of Duingt, Lake Annecy © French Moments

Parc de l'Impérial in Autumn © French Moments

Parc de l’Impérial in Autumn © French Moments

Lake Annecy in Autumn © French Moments

Lake Annecy in Autumn © French Moments

The Tarentaise Valley at Côte d'Aime © French Moments

The Tarentaise Valley at Côte d’Aime and Mont-Pourri (far-right) © French Moments

Village of Les Chapelles © French Moments

The village of Les Chapelles © French Moments

Granier-sur-Aime © French Moments

The village of Granier and Mont Pourri in the distance © French Moments

Mont Saint-Jacques, La Plagne in Autumn © French Moments

Belle Plagne and the Vanoise from Mont Saint-Jacques © French Moments

French Alps in Autumn © French Moments

The French Alps in Autumn (Vanoise, Savoie) © French Moments

Autumn in Savoie © French Moments

Saint-Michel Chapel, Le Châtelard, Savoie © French Moments

La Roche-sur-Foron © French Moments

The ruined castle of La Roche-sur-Foron © French Moments

In Lorraine

Lorraine is a large forest and rural region. It is therefore not surprising to see beautiful fall colours.

In the big cities (Nancy and Metz), the urban parks and the trees lining the streets or the rivers offer a beautiful sight.

In the countryside, autumn offers a picturesque landscape, very “Vieille-France”.

Parc de la Pépinière © French Moments

Parc de la Pépinière, Nancy © French Moments

Rivers in France: the Meuse in Lorraine © French Moments

The Meuse River in Autumn, Lorraine © French Moments

Verdun by the Meuse River © French Moments

Verdun by the River Meuse © French Moments

Autumn in France © French Moments

Place Stanislas, Nancy © French Moments

Nancy in Autumn © French Moments

Parc de la Pépinière, Nancy © French Moments

Metz © French Moments

The banks of the Moselle in Metz © French Moments

Récollets Cloister, Metz © French Moments

Récollets Cloister, Metz © French Moments

Autumn in France: Metz by the Moselle River © French Moments

Autumn in France: Metz by the Moselle River © French Moments

Autumn in France - Metz © French Moments

Metz by the Moselle River © French Moments

The colours of autumn in Metz © French Moments

The colours of autumn in Metz © French Moments

The village of Boucq near Toul (Lorraine) © French Moments

The village of Boucq near Toul (Lorraine) © French Moments

In Alsace

Alsace is a wine country. And the vineyards – it is well known – adopt beautiful bright colours in the fall. But that’s not all. Alsace is a region of great charm with its half-timbered houses, its beautiful Romanesque or Gothic churches, and its ruined castles that still watch over the surroundings.

You must discover Colmar and Strasbourg, as well as the rural regions of the Sundgau (in the south) and the Outre-Forêt (in the north). Oh and without forgetting the scenic Alsace Wine Route. and its countless medieval villages.

Southern Alsace in Autumn © French Moments

The view from the Landskron Castle in Autumn © French Moments

Kaysersberg, Alsace in Autumn © French Moments

Kaysersberg, Alsace in Autumn © French Moments

Kaysersberg-Vignoble © French Moments

The vineyards of Kaysersberg-Vignoble, Alsace © French Moments

Vineyards of Alsace in Autumn © French Moments

The vineyards of Alsace, Autumn in France © French Moments

Strasbourg German Imperial District: the Rhine Palace © French Moments

Strasbourg German Imperial District: the Rhine Palace © French Moments

Strasbourg in Autumn © François Guernier - French Moments

Strasbourg in Autumn © François Guernier – French Moments

Alsace Castles - the Haut-Kœnigsbourg castle French Moments

Alsace Castles – the Haut-Kœnigsbourg castle French Moments

The winner of the 2020 edition of the favourite village of the French people © French Moments

Hunspach in northern Alsace © French Moments

Autumn in France, Alsace © French Moments

Autumn in France (Landskronn, Alsace) © French Moments

The 'Schlupf' district: the Little Venice of Wissembourg © French Moments

The ‘Schlupf’ district: the Little Venice of Wissembourg © French Moments

Autumn in France

Autumn in France: forest in Alsace © French Moments

In Franche-Comté

Between Lorraine and the Alps, Franche-Comté is a region of transition. The province is crossed by the Jura massif which culminates at more than 1700 m of altitude. It is a country of wide-open spaces where nature is king.

The dark green of the big fir trees contrasts with the bright colours of the deciduous trees.

There are all the ingredients to spend a beautiful autumn vacation away from the hustle and bustle of the city, in peace and quiet.

Autumn in France - Besançon in Autumn © French Moments

Besançon in Autumn © French Moments

Autumn in France - Besançon in Autumn © French Moments

Besançon in Autumn © French Moments

Autumn in France - - Chateau de Joux in the Jura © French Moments

Castle of Joux in the Jura in Autumn © French Moments

Autumn in France - Lac des Rousses in autumn © French Moments

Lac des Rousses in autumn © French Moments

Autumn in France - Lac des Rousses in autumn © French Moments

Lac des Rousses in autumn © French Moments

Autumn in France - Lac des Rousses in autumn © French Moments

Autumn in the Jura © French Moments

Autumn in France - Lac des Rousses in autumn © French Moments

The colours of Autumn in the Jura © French Moments


Autumn in France: English-French Vocabulary

Beaufortain in Autumn © French Moments

Beaufortain Mountains in Autumn (Savoie) © French Moments

(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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Autumn in France for Pinterest © French Moments


👉 Read more about Autumn in France in French on our blog Mon Grand-Est! 🇫🇷

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About Author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of the Discovery Course on the Secrets of the Eiffel Tower and the Christmas book "Voyage au Pays de Noël".

2 Comments

  1. Pierre, your photos are breathtaking as usual! And thank you for including Besançon!

    I love the Jardin du Luxembourg in the fall. The combination of the autumn leaves and the flowers is stunning.

    • Merci beaucoup Ellen! You’re right, the Luxembourg Gardens are one of my favourite parks in Paris to discover autumn, the other one being the Buttes-Chaumont! A bientôt! 👋

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