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Visit France in August—smart or dumb idea

I’ve heard it’s not smart to visit France in August because that’s typically when a lot of French citizens themselves take vacation. But for private reasons, it IS likely to be the most effective time for our family to take a trip to Paris, some sights near there, and especially some highlights in southern France.

So I really would like some specific help understanding what kinds of issues might crop up. Like, for example, are main sights likely to be closed? Huge crowds everywhere, on trains (the only way we’ll be moving about)? What else makes it a really dumb time to be in France in August, if that really is the prevailing opinion? Weather is something I’ll take into account of course when the time comes, so right now that’s not what I’m asking about.

Please don’t just flame me by telling me it’s a dumb idea or telling me I asked dumb questions. I’m asking for specific help because I need specific help please.

Thx.

Posted by
776 posts

I've been here in August but I live well away from the tourist area. Although many Parisians are still in the city, Paris away from the tourist area has a quieter beat. Life seems to be more leisurely . I wouldn't call August a dumb time to be here at all. As August is a big tourist month no main sights are closed. Although my area has many closings, few restaurants, shops etc in tourist areas are affected. However, because my apartment does not have AC and has a clear view facing south, I no longer stay here in August. If I had AC, I would stay here in August because, in my neighborhood, it's a very pleasant time.

Posted by
5040 posts

Major tourist sites do not close down. You won't see a lot of restaurants or stores closed in major tourist areas either. You will see closed shops in non tourist areas, and smaller, off the beaten path towns. You seem to be going to the touristy places, so you're likely fine in that respect.

August is the height of tourist season, so if course the areas popular with tourists will be crowded. And trains between these areas may also be crowded. But since you need a seat reservation to ride the TGVs, getting advance tickets obviates that problem for longer distance trips at least. One of the nice things about the RS guide books is that he often gives tips about timing things to avoid the worst of the crowds.

Not sure why you think weather shouldn't be a consideration now. It should be unless you are accustomed to living with high temperatures and no air-conditioning. You should absolutely be looking for accommodations with AC, unless you're in the Alps.

Posted by
408 posts

I notice that some of the input you've received so far has been Paris-centric, so I thought I'd add some input from the wilds of the south, near Lyon and southern Bourgogne.

The others are correct that tourist sites (museums, ruins, chateaux, and so on) will be open as usual. There's no reason for them to close.

But, once one leaves Paris or other hotspot tourist magnets, you will find that businesses, including things such as restaurants and independent shops, may well be closed.

Before I moved here I flew to France twice in August several years ago for urgent business trips. Even in a large town like Lyon I was surprised at the number of restaurants that were closed for one, two, or four weeks in August. Not all of them, mind you, but if you have your heart set on one particular place don't be surprised if you find a note posted on the door explaining that they'll be closed during August. It's part of life. So -- my advice would be to keep an open mind.

I also would familiarize myself with the website Bison Futé (http://www.bison-fute.gouv.fr/trafic.html). Among other things, they post tracking information and predictions on traffic in France that are particularly helpful if you want to avoid heavy traffic days imposed by the French racing to or from the south or other locations.

Posted by
30 posts

My husband and I went to Paris for the first time in August of 2014, and are going again this August just because that’s the time that works best for our schedules. When we went in 2014, the only things I remember finding that were closed were a couple off the beaten path family owned restaurants we heard about online. All of the best sights were open and there was never a shortage of things to do. The only thing that was absolutely miserable due to crowds was Disneyland Paris, so I would encourage you to avoid that unless it is a super high priority. We had an absolutely wonderful 7 days in Paris and are looking forward to returning this year!

Posted by
2252 posts

No, absolutely not dumb, especially if you don't have a choice of when to go. I'm not really adding anything worthwhile to this discussion except for the reminder, often attributed to Audrey Hepburn in the movie "Sabrina", Paris is always a good idea! OK, so Paris-centric I guess but I think you'll be fine traveling anywhere in France in August. It's warm most places in August. You'll figure out how to best work around closures, etc. Have a wonderful time.

Posted by
2212 posts

We've gone to France in August twice, including last summer. Part of our trip was in Paris and the other part was RS Eastern France. We actually really enjoy Paris in August; the atmosphere is a little more relaxed and things have changed from the days when all France seemed to go one vacation. . All major tourist sites throughout the country/city were open during our visit and the only thing we really noticed being closed were neighborhood restaurants and stores. In Paris, we stay in a section of the 8th that is less touristy, and it seemed like the restaurants and shops had staggered their closing so that they weren't all closed at once. Most of the stores and restaurants in the towns we visited were open. At no time on our trips did we find cities or trains uncomfortably crowded and both trips included southern France. The Louvre was pretty crowded in the morning, but quieter in the afternoon.

Posted by
3392 posts

We often end up in Paris during July/August and will be there for about a month during that time again this summer. Yes...there will be crowds in the central areas of the city where the main sights are. Just be mentally prepared, don't be in a hurry, and keep your sense of humor. Buy as many tickets ahead of time as you can so you don't have to wait in ticket lines and THEN in the security lines. Be prepared for likely heat but appreciate the occasional rain storm. Make sure you book a place with AC...don't expect hotels to have it. Many don't. Get a place to stay that is a bit off the beaten path but near a metro stop...it's nice to escape the crowds and have some breathing room at the end of the day. We are going to be out in the 12th this summer and it will be a relief at the end of the day. Things within the tourist zones won't be closed.
Just go!

Posted by
27352 posts

I was in France last summer. Aside from the heat just about everywhere I went except Normandy and Brittany, the biggest issue I had was with jam-packed luggage racks on the trains. My bag was just large enough (about 23.5") and heavy enough that I couldn't get it into an overhead rack, so I had to use the lower racks. That wasn't a problem in May or June, but when July rolled around, there was rarely space available when I boarded the train.

Since I couldn't leave my bag blocking the aisle near the carriage doors, I had to sit on one of the flip-down seats in the luggage area, so I'd be available to move the bag to the correct side of the car at each station. That wasn't the end of the world, but it wasn't as comfortable as sitting in a regular seat, and it was annoying on those occasions when I was traveling on a reserved train and had paid for a seat reservation.

Posted by
489 posts

We were in Brittany and Paris last August, and in Annecy, Lyon and Paris in August 2016. Had a great time both years.
We drove and took trains both times. I didn't see any appreciable problems either time. Tourist sites were certainly open and I don't remember any crowds that detracted from our enjoyment of either trip. You have to expect that major tourist attractions will be crowded. From my point of view, that doesn't make it impossible to enjoy them.
The biggest drawback was difficulty sleeping a couple of nights because of the lack of A/C. If you're staying in one place for several days in a row, buy a circulating fan to alleviate that problem.
I can imagine that scattered closings, or crowds, or heat could really be a problem for someone, but for us it's great to be in France and the rest of that stuff is background noise.

Posted by
380 posts

I don't think Paris in August is a dumb idea at all, Tom. Many people are hesitant because of potential for hot weather ... but seeing that you're from South Carolina, you live with much worse heat and humidity than you'd encounter in Pariss. Just be sure to book a place with A/C. My first two visits were in July and August and I loved it, especially with the longer days. As others have mentioned, some restaurants will be closed, but you'll have a wealth of places still to choose from.

Posted by
14160 posts

I was in Paris the 3rd week of August in 2016 during a heat wave so to me the weather IS the primary factor even though I do see that you are not asking about that right now.

As others have said museums and tourist venues are open and thriving.

I did have a hotel with AC but I do not tolerate heat well at all. By mid-afternoon I was back in my room with the AC on and gelato in my hand, hahaha!! I tried to get out early (before 8A) to go the garden areas when it was slightly cooler. The museums are not always AC'd to US cool levels nor are restaurants. Going back outside to eat dinner was hard because it had not cooled down yet.

I, personally, was miserable and would not do August for this reason alone. I might change my mind if it were my only option because I DO love Paris!

Posted by
2466 posts

Some places close down to take advantage of last-minute deals, like vacations.
Other than that, things will be open as usual. If you really want to go to a restaurant, look it up.
All the attractions will be there - but you will have to get there early, or get a Museum Pass.
You had better get a hotel with air-conditioning, or you will be miserable.

Posted by
6728 posts

Many Europeans go on holiday in August, not just the French. It’s generally some small shops and restuarants that mat be closed for most of the months. As others had stated, most places will be open. If August is when you can go, then go. Definitely not a dumb idea. Any time between late May through early September is the primary tourist season so, yes, places will generally be more crowded.

Posted by
2916 posts

the reminder, often attributed to Audrey Hepburn in the movie "Sabrina", Paris is always a good idea!

I'd change that to: "France is always a good idea." We totally avoid the summer, using going in Spring, but we have that option. If August is your only option, go for it!

Posted by
14580 posts

I go, have gone and will go to Paris in August. Is it a dumb idea, only if one elects to believe it. I do not accept that prmises.

There are packed restaurants since your favourite is also shared by a ton of others, certain Metro lines are packed like sardines, that is, if you can board at all.

The regional TER trains are so packed (if you encounter this) that it is worse than on the Metro. People will be in your way just as you are in their way. In south France I have been there only twice both times in July...in Avignon, Toulon, etc and it was a broiler the first time I went in 1997. I went again in july in 1999 and it was again a broiler..

On the positive side some hotels do offer cheaper rates in Paris in August, was told that by a hotel owner, ie, come back in August to get the cheaper rate.

Still, one is in Paris, as the song says...." I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles" Would I go back in August knowing what to expect, negatives and some postives...without hesitation.

Posted by
12172 posts

Given a choice, I'd avoid August because the tourist areas will be most crowded and, thus, most expensive. In the south it can also be quite hot. I prefer to go to the Baltic in August because it's the best time of the year for reliable weather.

If the choice is between visiting France in August and not visiting France at all, I'd visit in August. It's not the end of the world to travel at that time of year. I might focus on either the beaches or the Alps to take advantage of the summer weather.

Posted by
27352 posts

Weather-wise, it's generally a good time of year for Normandy and Brittany as well as for the Alps.

Posted by
548 posts

Paris is no problem in August.

However, other areas might not be such a good idea. I recall being in Avignon in August, and 100% of the good restaurants I knew were closed for the month. Also, we got caught in some huge traffic jams between Narbonne/Beziers/Avignon/Lyon that lasted the entire day (on a Saturday). It can also get quite hot in places like Carcassone.

Posted by
2466 posts

It will probably be blazing hot in August. Get a room with air-conditioning.