Golden leaves, crisp mornings, and all the beautiful scenery: fall may well be my favourite time to explore France. After all, it’s cool enough for exploring and yet the daylight is still such that exploration can go on all day. Here’s where to see fall in France; jaw-dropping destinations you need to visit this autumn!
Why you should visit France in the fall
There are countless reasons why you might consider a visit to France during the autumn. Hotels, B&Bs, and other accommodations can all be found at lower rates than in high season (the summer), while flights are also often cheaper.
Though the weather is not as warm as in August, days in September and October are generally hotter and longer than later on in the year. Fewer crowds while everything remains open just adds to the ever-growing list for why you might consider fall in France.
Along with plenty of pretty fall foliage and long golden hours, there are lots of festivals and activities which only take place during the autumn. For example, the vendage (grape harvest) takes place in late September/ October and there are always events celebrating the harvest.
One of my favourite activities around this time occurs in Clos Montmartre in Paris where there is an auction of wine bottles to raise money for the community. Other wine harvests worth noting are Heralding the Harvest (September in Saint-Emilion), Feria des Vendanges (September in Nimes), and Fete des Vendanges (October in Banyuls-sur-Mer).
Paris, Île de France
If you make it your mission to just visit one French location when it comes to fall in France, make it Paris. After all, the French capital is easily one of the best fall destinations in Europe. And not just because of the fall foliage, either! Instead, there are plenty of events occuring, not to mention that all the museums remain open and are empty of tourists, making them perfect for exploring.
Read more: Where to find the best fall foliage in Paris
Often dubbed the ‘pink city of France’ thanks to its many brick buildings, Toulouse is worthy of a visit all-year ’round. With this being said, the city’s position to the South of the country means that it can get pretty hot in the summer, not to mention incredibly busy! As such, the best time to visit Toulouse is just after peak season when the weather remains warm and the crowds are fewer.
Read more: The best hidden gems of Toulouse
Nestled in the shadow of Mont Sainte Victoire, for those looking to soak up the last of the summer sun and enjoy the last of the wine, Provence is the place to go. Surrounded by vineyards and filled with the haunts of many a famous artist, there is perhaps no better place to base yourself for exploring the Provençal region than in Aix-en-Provence. While in the city, be sure to check out the local markets as well as follow the town’s self-guided Cezanne walking trail.
Read more: How to spend a week in Provence
Underrated, off the beaten tourists track, and often overlooked in favour of more popular French destinations, the city of Metz is a historical gem just waiting to be explored. Perfect for a weekend break from Paris or Lyon, highlights of the Grand Est Region’s capital include an incredible modern art mueum, as well as plenty of Rhenish-Romanesque-Revival architecture.
Upon visiting Montpellier for the first time earlier this year, the first question I had to ask myself was this: just why had I not visited this stunning Southern French city before? Wonderful architecture (and even an arc de triomphe), combines with a great foodie scene, and a historical city centre that’s easily navigable on foot makes Montpellier the perfect fall escape.
If you have a little more time in the city, then you may well consider a trip to the city’s outskirts, where you’ll find Château de Flaguergues, a fairytale mansion which is often cited as among the most beautiful of French Châteaux to be found anywhere in l’Hexagon.
Bordeaux, Nouvelle Aquitaine
One of the largest cities to be found in France (and the settlement which Parisians would most want to live in should they opt to leave Paris) can be found in the form of Bordeaux. The French capital of wine is located in South Western France and is home to several wine museums, as well as plenty of history.
Known in Roman times as ‘Burdigala,’ this incredible city is now one of the top foodie destinations in France and is where you should head to if you want to discover all things grape-related. From here, it’s easy to take day trips to the medieval town of Saint-Emilion, as well as the largest sand dune in Europe, Dune du Pilat.
Loire Valley, Pays de la Loire
The châteaux remain open and yet the tourists are fewer than in the summer months: there is perhaps no better time to see the Loire Valley than when the leaves begin to change colour and the days begin to shorten. Personal favourite French Châteaux of mine include Château de Chambord and Château Chenonceau.
While the Loire Valley is easy to visit as a day trip from Paris (you can even take this tour day trip), it’s well worth making a weekend of your visit and dedicating your time to truly getting a feel for the area. The best places in which to base yourself for a longer trip include Blois and Chartres.
Read more: Why You MUST visit the Loire Valley
Brittany Coastline, Brittany
There is perhaps no better time to visit the windswept shores of Brittany than in the autumn months. Though the weather can be a little rainy at times, fewer crowds and beaches to yourself (to be honest, it’s never really warm enough to swim- even in the summer!) make the rugged coastline and charming villages of Brittany a great fall destination.
While in Brittany, be sure to visit the walled city of Saint-Malo. Medieval history can be found in abundance, while tales of seafaring pirates are never too far away. Close by, the fairytale town of Dinan is so picturesque you can barely believe it’s real. Though technically in Normandy, be sure to visit the Gothic island of Mont Saint Michel while in the area!
Read more: How to spend three days in Brittany
The fairytale city of Rouen is the capital of Normandy and its countless cobbled lanes are just oozing with history. From the grand Gothic cathedral where Richard the Lionheart is buried to the square where Joan of Arc was reputedly burnt at the stake, there’s no shortage of historical locations to be found there. Elsewhee in the city, you’ll soon find that museums and timber-framed houses are to be found in abundance.
Read more: Best things to do in Rouen