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 vendange (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).
What you should pack for Fall in France
Your wardrobe and what you should pack for your trip to l’Hexagone in the autumn depends entirely on which region you’re planning to visit and the month you’re going to go! For example, if you’re visiting the South of France in fall, then you can expect the weather to be sunnier and warmer for much longer in September and often well into October.
However, if you’re visiting Brittany, Normandy, and indeed Paris, then expect the nights to be cooler, the days to be shorter, and undoubtedly windier than during the summer months. Wherever you choose to visit during autumn in France, be sure to pack an umbrella and some kind of waterproof shoes as rain is incredibly common.
To combat the uncertain weather and remain all the while stylish, I recommend packing a capsule wardrobe of sorts, with plenty of layers like sweaters, skirts, and tights. I personally love these boots as they’re super cute and can be styled for evening dinners and drinks en terrasse.
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 occurring, 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 tourist 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 museum, as well as plenty of Rhenish-Romanesque-Revival architecture.
Situated in Eastern France and acting as a gateway to Burgundy of sorts, Lyon makes for the perfect French fall destination thanks to the sheer number of activities available in the city, many of them suited to the indoors when the weather is cooler and it’s raining outside!
From the many hidden gems and forgotten traboules (covered passages used by the silk traders) dotted around the city to the magnificent churches and basilicas (such as Notre-Dame de Fourvière), you certainly won’t be disappointed should you opt to visit this sparkling French city.
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’Hexagone.
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
Nice, Côte d’Azur
Of course, everyone thinks of the glittering and glitzy city of Nice as a Summer destination. However, if you’re looking to enjoy the delights of the French settlement with fewer crowds, then you might consider visiting the South of France during the fall.
After all, visit during September or Early October and the weather is likely to still be warm enough to wander around without heavy winter jackets or coats. This, coupled with lower hotel rates makes Nice one of the best places to visit in France come autumntime!
Once in Nice, some of the best things to do include seeking out hidden gems (and from Roman ruins to a Russian Orthodox Church, there are many!), sampling the local socca while sipping on a glass of crisp rosé, and soaking up the late-year sun alongside one of Nice’s many beaches.
Read more: Your perfect French Riviera Itinerary
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
Just over an hour and a half from Paris on the train, the charming city of Dijon is situated in the heart of Burgundy, which is otherwise known as Bourgogne in French. And thanks to its fantastic transport links to the rest of the region, Dijon makes for a great base to explore the wider area, including the wine town of Beaune and the picture-perfect cities of Besançon and Dole.
What you might not know is that the mustard capital city of France, i.e. Dijon, also happens to be the birthplace of none other than Gustave Eiffel (whose company designed the Eiffel Tower). This means that you can see the birthplace of Eiffel in Dijon, as well as one of his earliest creations, the covered food market hall.
Read more: These are the best-kept secrets of Dijon
I first visited the highly underrated city of Nantes earlier this year, and after a long weekend discovering the best this Western French city has to offer, it’s safe to say that the city should be much more frequented than it already is.
Home to a plethora of authentic French restaurants, hidden gems, and the world-famous Machines of the Isle (i.e. Jules Verne locations come to life), the city makes for the perfect autumnal escape. And that’s not all! Thanks to Nantes’ easy transport links, it’s incredibly easy to take day trips into the Loire Valley, allowing for you to see some of the best fall foliage in Paris!
Read more: How to spend the perfect weekend in Nantes
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.
Elsewhere in the city, you’ll soon find that museums and timber-framed houses are to be found in abundance. Though you can always see Rouen as a day trip from Paris, I personally recommend visiting the city over the course of a long weekend so as to see all of the main attractions and soak up the ambience of the place!
Read more: Best things to do in Rouen