Paris and the Heart of France in 11 Days! Any suggestions regarding the best time or worst time to take this tour? We were in France briefly last year at the beginning of September and some stores in small villages had closed for the season already.
I've been there twice, once in Spring (late May, early June) and once in Summer (July and Aug). If I went again I would go either in June or maybe late Sept/early Oct. I would avoid July and August again even though I loved the lavender and sunflowers in Provence - it was mighty hot when I was there and also in Paris, though not hot enough to keep me from enjoying my stay. I'm surprised to hear about shops closing for the season in Sept - I don't think that's normal at all.
Oh, this is a wonderful tour!!
I'd avoid a tour that is there over May 1 as it's a public holiday and museums are closed (probably other venues as well). I, too, would avoid July and August unless that is the only time you can go. I went the end of September and didn't run into any closures in the smaller areas. The guides are excellent and knowledgeable and the office will not have booked things that are in danger of closing.
I do suggest you arrive a night or two earlier if you have the time. I also stayed a few days extra in Paris. I moved to a different hotel as I thought I might not particularly like the neighborhood for the final hotel and that was a good decision. It wasn't a bad neighborhood, just on a busy street with not much charm.
I've been to Paris several times in April and it can be chilly and a little rainy but that doesn't bother me much. You don't indicate a home location so if you are from FL this may be cooler than you would enjoy. The flowers are beautiful though! Even mid-October, though, when we stopped at Giverny on the way back to Paris the flowers were still lovely in the gardens there.
Do have a waterproof jacket with a hood no matter when you go. The Normandy landing area can always be windy, chilly and rainy so it's best to be prepared so you can walk down to the beach with the local guide.
I would do mid Sep through Oct. Over five or six trips mostly in the fall, we have never encountered closed shops even in small towns. Maybe you just hit a special event or time.
Although there are occasional exceptions, Normandy is typically cooler and cloudier than most other parts of France. I'm more concerned about weather than crowds, so I would certainly avoid April and October. I'd have to do some research before choosing May (especially early May) or late September in that area. My trips took me to Normandy in July 2017 and to Brittany in late June/early July 2019. I was satisfied with the weather except for a couple of anomalous very hot days in Brittany. The risk of unpleasant summer heat is greater in Paris, so I'd suggest considering how much time you'll be in each area and how many hours you're likely to be spending outdoors rather than in an air-conditioned environment (or on a nice, air-conditioned bus).
Actual, day-by-day, historical weather statistics going back about ten years are available on the website timeanddate.com.
Sorry to reply a second time but just wanted to add that I do not tolerate heat at all thus my suggestion to avoid July and August. I've been in Paris in late August during a heat wave (it was 95) and even though the hotel was air conditioned some restaurants weren't and the museums were hot and stuffy. I thought I would croak. I was back in my hotel room by 3PM with gelato/sorbetto from Amorino, lol. For myself it would be hard on a tour on a very hot day because I don't want to miss a thing, lol!!
In 2019 some family members went to Paris the end of July as that was the only time some of the folks had off. It was a heat wave until the day they left but they arrived after a lovely rain had broken the spell and had no issues.
For next year it looks like there is only one tour each starting in July or August.
Many stores close for the month of August before what the French call La Rentree or The Return which is usually the first week of September. You may have been there before everything reopened. I would visit in September when the new art and culture season begins. France is good all year round to visit depending on where you go. But I would skip January - April and August,
I've been twice in September/October (mid September spilling into the first week of October), once in May (early May to mid-May) and once in June (late May - mid June). Each using mostly rental car and train (I did trade the car for a bicycle in Loire Valley).
The first September trip was a Paris-Normandie-Brittany-Loire Valley-Paris loop. The weather was ideal, some rain but not enough to be bothered by. Summer crowds are gone. I found plenty was open but in towns with a lot of tourism, like Dinan and Saint Malo, you won't find extended shop or restaurant hours like you would in the height of summer. I found plenty to do, places to eat and affordable lodging without any trouble.
Second was a Paris-Burgundy-Alsace-Champagne-Paris loop starting the first week of May. I felt Burgundy was still too cold and rainy that early, vines had barely sprouted in the fields and many restaurants outside of the bigger towns weren't open. The best thing was feeling like I had the area to myself. By the time I got to Alsace, just a week later, it was comfortable and seemed to have opened a lot more than Burgundy. Champagne was also comfortable, though I really only visited Reims.
Third was a trip in September that included Paris-Lyon-Chamonix-Ardeche-Provence-Riviera-Paris. I worked my way to Antibes then took an Air France back to Paris before flying home. I had great weather in Chamonix (though it snowed the day before I arrived) which was a big reason I scheduled that time of year. Provence still seemed a little too warm. I wouldn't go to Provence in the Spring. October might be ideal. I had a friend who went in Spring and only remembers the wind (Mistral). The Riviera was ideal. Still nice weather but not crowded. Plenty of open restaurants.
Fourth trip was a SW loop starting in Paris-Air France to Toulouse-Languedoc-Lot Valley-Dordogne Valley-the Atlantic coast-Bordeaux-Paris (by train). The last stop before Paris was the wine festival mid-June in Bordeaux. They were having an unusually wet Spring so I got lots of apologies for the weather. I think I'd recommend Bordeaux in September working South toward Languedoc in early October. Plenty of places were closed in small towns in Languedoc in June.
I have visited France in the Spring, early Summer, mid-Summer and Fall.
I am from the Southeast USA and used to heat, so I never had an issue with being in France in the Summer. The Med coast in Provence is hot in August, but not as bad as in Spain or Southern Italy.
I would suggest Spring or early Summer.
Late August to early October is wonderful almost anywhere in Europe. As children return to school, the crowds thin, the weather cools, rates drop, and it is delightful with little rain. My last trip started with shorts and Birks in Provence and ended with jackets in Dordogne and Paris from mid to late September. I cannot recall stores being shut down anywhere, except perhaps their usual mid-week closure (the French adhere to quality of life requirements).
If you like sales, Paris has some great ones. Look at this site for approximate dates and a discussion of sales in Paris. The rules on sales are not only in Paris, they are for the entire country. So, when in France during the appropriate dates, go downtown and at least look.
i hate heat and humidity so my rule is to avoid Europe and the East Coast in the summer so i tend to plan my trips for late April to early June or late august/early September to late October
I avoid the the heat and the summer crowds this way
The best time to visit Paris is absolutely when the majority of Parisiennes are on holiday down South - i.e., in August. It's like being at the best restaurant in town but on a Wednesday night. And you'll not have to queue so long for the Tour Eiffel!
Two things I'd recommend:
- Paris Latin - what a show!
- a meal on board the Seine. There are plenty of options, but we used Bateaux Mouches and were spoiled silly.
You are planning on doing an organized tour, but if you planned to just visit Paris on your own.....Winter is a great time!
Three out of my five visits there have been in winter.
No queues for museum and gallery entry, less people, festive lights and shops if it's December.
Bundle up warmly and you're good to go.
Pam brought up an important point: holidays and closures, which could change planned visits. May 1 and May 8 are fixed holidays, Labor Day and Victory in Europe Day. The third May holiday, Ascension Day, is moveable, the 13th in 2021 and the 26th in 2022. Holidays could effect openings, train/Metro service, traffic jams into and out of Paris if the holiday creates a long weekend.
I don't know where your tour goes, but fall is generally a good time. We call it silver season because it's when the retirees get away on vacation without their children and grandchildren. There are plenty of visitors still. Even this year French and other Europeans were touring in the fall. Tourist structure in the south shuts or alters hours from November to April. It's unusual to hear of shops closing in September, unless the owners had gone away on their own vacation.
Right now if they would let me visit I’d go anytime:)
Never a bad time to go. We have been there in May, June and October. All have been wonderful. Weather was nice, maybe a light jacket.