Albeit in a temperate zone, in France there are different climates: oceanic in the western and northern coasts, transitional continental in Paris and the central region, continental in the eastern region, and Mediterranean in the southern coastal region. In addition, there are of course mountainous regions, with a colder climate depending on altitude.


Atlantic coasts

On the Atlantic coast, the climate is generally cool and wet, rainy and windy all year round, but especially in autumn and winter.
In the north, the coast of the English Channel ("la Manche" in French) is generally colder than the western Atlantic coast. In these areas (Upper and Lower Normandy, see Mont Saint-Michel), the weather is dull and wet, cold but not freezing in winter (except during cold air outbreaks from Eastern Europe), and cool in summer: the average temperature in Dunkirk goes from 5 °C (41 °F) in January, to 18.5 °C (65.5 °F) in August.
Further west, in Brittany, the climate is even more influenced by the Atlantic Ocean: in Brest the average temperature in January and February reaches 6.5 °C (43.5 °F), while in July and August it doesn't go above 17 °C (63 °F). The islands of Brittany (Bréhat, Belle Île, Ouessant) have a very mild climate: the temperature almost never drops below freezing (0 °C or 32 °F), so that palm trees and tropical species can grow; in summer, however, it never touches 30 °C (86 °F).


Here are the average temperatures of Brest, located on the west coast of Brittany.
Brest - Températures moyennes
Min (°C)4456911131311975
Max (°C)9911131618202119151210

The rains are frequent throughout the year, and abundant from September to March, while frosts and snowfalls are rare.
Here is the average precipitation in Brest.
Brest - Précipitations moyennes
Préc. (mm)1401151008075555060901201201401145

In Brest, the average sunshine hours are not very high.
Brest - Ensoleillement
Soleil (heures)234566565322

In summer the temperature of the ocean is still very cool, and is not the best for swimming: it reaches 17 °C (63 °F) in August in Brest, and 18 °C (64 °F) in Saint-Malo.
Brest - Température de la mer
Temp. (°C)111010111214171717151312

Moving south along the Atlantic coast, summer becomes gradually milder: in Nantes the average temperature in July reaches 18.5 °C (65.5 °F). Further south, summer is quite warm, since the south-central area of France is often protected by the Azores Anticyclone.


Hence, in Bordeaux, Aquitaine, the average temperature goes from 6.5 °C (43.5 °F) in January, to 21.5 °C (70.5 °F) in July and August. During summer this area can experience cool and rainy days caused by Atlantic fronts, but also hot and sunny days, with temperatures around 33/34 °C (91/93 °F) and above. In autumn and winter, in addition to the rains, there can be strong winds, but this region is also exposed to the cold wind from the north-east, the (Bise), so it is more prone to frost than Brittany.
Bordeaux - Températures moyennes
Min (°C)335711141616131064
Max (°C)101215172124272724191411

In Bordeaux, and in the central-southern part of the Atlantic coast, the sun shines a little more often than in Brittany and Normandy, because this area can be affected by the Azores anticyclone.
Bordeaux - Ensoleillement
Soleil (heures)345678887533

The sea temperature in Aquitaine becomes a bit milder, so that it reaches 21 °C (70 °F) in August.
Bordeaux - Température de la mer
Temp. (°C)121111121417202119171513

In the southernmost part of the coast (see Biarritz), the sea temperature reaches 21 °C (70 °F) in July and 22 °C (72 °F) in August.

Inland areas

In the interior the climate is halfway between the cool area of the Atlantic coast, and the more continental one on the border with Germany.


In the area of Paris the average temperatures are quite cool: in January the daily average is 4.5 °C (40 °F), while in July it's 20.5 °C (69 °F). However, Paris is located in a continental area, which can be heated in summer by the Azores High, which brings subtropical air masses, therefore sometimes it can be hot in summer, with temperatures about 32/33 °C (90/91 °F) or above, while in winter the city is exposed to cold spells from Eastern Europe, so that there may be some freezing or snowy days, with night temperatures about -6/-8 °C (18/21 °F), or even below.
Anyway, usually the westerlies prevail, so the weather is unstable, with many wet and rainy days, cool in summer and mild in winter. The most intense Atlantic low pressure areas, can bring strong winds from the ocean, especially in late autumn and winter.
Paris - Températures moyennes
Min (°C)22571013151512953
Max (°C)781216202325252116118

Rainfall in Paris is lower than in the Atlantic coast, since it amounts to 640 mm (25 in) per year, although they are well distributed over the seasons. Here is the average precipitation.
Paris - Précipitations moyennes
Préc. (mm)504050506550605550605060640

In Paris, the sun appears more or less as on the northern coast, and less often than in southern France.
Paris - Ensoleillement
Soleil (heures)234667776422


In Le Mans, which hosts the famous car race of the "24 Hours", the climate is similar to that of Paris.

North-east of Paris, in the region on the border with Belgium (Nord-Pas de Calais), the climate, apart from the coastal area of which we have already spoken, is similar to that of Paris but a bit colder: in Lille, the average temperature goes from 2.5 °C (36.5 °F) in January, to 18 °C (64 °F) in July.

Moving south, in east-central France, the climate is moderately continental, in cities like Dijon, Burgundy, and Lyon, Rhone-Alpes, where the average goes from 3 °C (37.5 °F) in January to 21 °C (70 °F) July. In these region, cold spells with snowfalls are possible in winter, as well as heat waves in summer.
Lyon - Températures moyennes
Min (°C)01361013161512842
Max (°C)681215202427272217107


The eastern region, on the border with Germany, has a more continental climate. In Nancy, Lorraine, the average goes from 1 °C (34 °F) in January, to 18 °C (64 °F) in July. Alsace, lying on the Rhine corridor, has a "German" climate, characterized by cold and gray winters, accompanied by frequent snowfalls, although generally not abundant, and warm summers, sometimes hot, with some chance of thunderstorms.


In Strasbourg, the average temperature in January is 1.5 °C (34.5 °F), while that of July is 19.5 °C (67 °F).
Further south, in Mulhouse, which is sheltered from the mild westerlies by the Vosges Mountains, the average in January is around freezing and snowfalls are frequent.
Strasbourg - Températures moyennes
Min (°C)-2-12591214131072-1
Max (°C)46111519232524211585


In the mountainous regions (Alps, Pyrenees, Jura, Massif Central) the climate varies mainly according to altitude: it becomes obviously colder with increasing altitude. In summer, there are frequent thunderstorms in the afternoon.
It could be useful to do a comparison between two cities located at 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) above sea level. In Lus la Croix-Haute, in the Isère Department (western side), the average temperature in January and July are respectively -2 °C (28 °F) and 16 °C (61 °F), while in Chamonix (Haute-Savoie, north of Mont Blanc) they are respectively -1 °C (30 °F) and 16.5 °C (61.5 °F).


Here are the average temperatures of Chamonix.
Chamonix - Températures moyennes
Min (°C)-6-5-2258101084-1-4
Max (°C)2381216202222181373

In Chamonix, as usually happens in the mountains, summer is a rainy season, because of afternoon thunderstorms. Here is the average precipitation.
Chamonix - Précipitations moyennes
Préc. (mm)958585901201301151251001151001101275


The south of France has a milder and sunnier climate, given that it often receives the protection of the Azores' Anticyclone, especially in the warm half of the year, while the area at the foot of the Pyrenees is exposed to warm wind invasions from Spain. Instead, the valleys between the mountains are exposed to cold winds from the north.
The regions of France bordering the Mediterranean Sea (south coast and Corsica) have a Mediterranean climate, with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. It's better, however, to distinguish between the different zones.
The sheltered areas like the Côte d'Azur (see Saint Tropez, Cannes, Nice) have a particularly mild climate, similar to the Italian Riviera.


Here are the average temperatures of Nice.
Nice - Températures moyennes
Min (°C)5681014172020171396
Max (°C)131315172024272724211614

Rainfall along the southern coast follows the Mediterranean pattern, with a maximum in autumn and a minimum in summer. Here is the average precipitation in Nice.
Nice - Précipitations moyennes
Préc. (mm)70454070453510207213510595740

On the Mediterranean coast and in Corsica the amount of sunshine is good: even in winter there are several sunny days, while in summer the sky is often clear.
Nice - Ensoleillement
Soleil (heures)567791011108654

The temperature of the Mediterranean Sea is higher than that of the Atlantic Ocean, especially in the French Riviera (Côte d'Azur), where it reaches 23 °C (73 °F) in August, however, it's a bit lower compared with other Mediterranean areas.
Nice - Température de la mer
Temp. (°C)131313141619222321191614

On the other hand, west of this region there's an annoying wind, called Mistral, which often blows in the Rhone Valley, south of Valence, while the Tramontane blows over Languedoc-Roussillon. These dry and cold winds blow for about one hundred days per year, and can easily reach 80/100 kph (50/60 mph). So, cities like Nimes, Arles, Avignon, Marseille in winter have an average temperature a bit lower than the French Riviera, around 6/7 °C (43/45 °F), instead of 8/9 °C (46/48 °F), moreover, they are exposed to sudden drops in temperature, and even frosts during the cold season. However, summer is hot and sunny here as well, because cold winds usually give a break in the warm season.
The sea temperature in this part of the coast is also slightly cooler than in the French Riviera (about 1/2 degrees Celsius).
The westernmost area of the Mediterranean coast, overlooking the Gulf of Lion, has mild winters, but is also exposed to the north-west wind, which is channeled between the Pyrenees and the Massif Central, through the so-called gates of Carcassonne. In Perpignan, the average temperature is 8.5 °C (47.5 °F) in January and 24 °C (75 °F) in July. Further to the north-west and away from the sea, in Toulouse, the temperature is a bit lower, ranging from 6 °C (43 °F) in January to 22 °C (72 °F) in July.
Lourdes, at the foot of the Pyrenees, in the Hautes-Pyrenees Department, at 400 metres (1,300 feet) above sea level, is a bit cold in winter (it's usually above freezing, but on colder periods it can snow), while summer is warm or even hot during the day, but nights are usually cool.
Lourdes - Températures moyennes
Min (°C)0135912141411831
Max (°C)9101415192323242218129


The island of Corsica has a Mediterranean climate on the coasts, with mild and wet winters, and warm or hot and sunny summers, even though it's exposed to both the Mistal and the west wind, which can be very strong, especially on the western and southern part of the island. In the interior, there are steep and high mountains, so that the landscape becomes quickly greener, and the weather gets colder with increasing altitude, until at the highest altitudes we find a typical mountain climate, where winters are characterized by abundant snowfalls.
Here are the average temperatures of Ajaccio, the main city, located on the west coast.
Ajaccio - Températures moyennes
Min (°C)445711141717151285
Max (°C)141415172125282826221715

Corsica is the French region where the sea reaches the highest temperature, ie, 24 °C (75 °F) in August.
Ajaccio - Température de la mer
Temp. (°C)141414141720232423201815

When to go

The best times to visit Paris are late spring (mid-May to late June) and early autumn (September). The mid-summer period (July-August) is a good time as well, but sometimes it can get hot. The same can be said in general for all the inland areas of France.

To visit Brittany, Normandy and the Atlantic coastal areas, the best time is the summer (June to August).

To visit the Mediterranean regions, the best times are spring and autumn, especially the months of May and June and the first half of September (in the second half the temperature is still pleasant, but the rains may become abundant, even with the risk of floods). In mid-summer (July-August), however, the heat is usually bearable, because it's humid but also tempered by sea breezes, at least along the coast.

For swimming and sunbathing, the Mediterranean Sea (where the best months are July and August) is preferable to the Atlantic Ocean (especially the northern part of the latter, which is cooler), because both the temperatures of the air and the sea are higher, and sunshine is more frequent as well.

For skiing, late winter and early spring (February-March) are preferable to mid-winter, because the days are longer than in December and January. At high altitudes, there are also summer ski resorts.

To visit the mountain regions, summer is a good period, although there may be some thunderstorms in the afternoon.

What to pack

In winter: warm clothing, sweater, coat, rain jacket or umbrella; scarf, hat and gloves for the colder north-central area and the mountains.

In summer: for Brittany and Normandy, clothes for spring and autumn, t-shirt for warm days, but also jacket, raincoat or umbrella. For the rest of the country, light clothing, but also long pants, jacket and sweater for the evening and cooler days; raincoat or umbrella. For the mountains, hiking shoes, sunscreen and sunglasses.

Back to top