I’ll let you into a little secret: the best time to visit l’Hexagon is just before peak season. And when I say that, I mean, in the weeks and months of springtime when the days are longer and the weather is clearer. So visit France while the cherry blossoms are in bloom, the weather is warm, if-a-little-volatile, and all the French châteaux are open… Here are ten magical French destinations you’ll want to explore during spring in France!
#1 Paris, Ile de France
As the City of Love and the City of Light, there is no better time to visit Paris than in the spring. The crowds are fewer and the days are longer, giving you ample time to explore the French capital. Some of the best things to do in Paris during the springtime include searching for cherry blossoms and enjoying French coffee culture.
If you have a little more time to explore the French capital during your spring escape, be sure to visit one of Île de France’s many châteaux without the crowds which inevitably flock to the structures come the summer months. One of the best day trips from Paris in the spring is to Sceaux, a French Château which is home to its own cherry blossom orchard!
#2 Aix-en-Provence, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
Located in the heart of Provence, under a mighty mountain by the name of Montagne Sainte-Victoire, Aix-en-Provence is the perfect escape from the sometimes dreary weather of Northern France in the spring months. Instead, in the south, the weather is much warmer, and with it comes the opportunity to embark on plenty of lengthy coastal walks.
When in the South of France, be sure to enjoy all of the charming towns and villages which the region has to offer, including some of my favourites; Cassis and La Ciotat. Head to Aix in the spring to enjoy the city of a hundred fountains, as well as its surrounds, without the crowds of the summer months…
Read more: How to spend seven perfect days in Provence.
#3 Metz, Grand-Est
The pretty city of Metz is easily one of the most underrated cities in France if not all of Europe. This is probably because it’s nestled between the bubbling region of Champagne and the fairytale-esque cities of Alsace, two must-sees on any ‘top list’ of things to do in France.
Nevertheless, Metz is located just half an hour from the tiny country of Luxembourg and can also be easily be combined with visits to Germany or Switzerland. Highlights of Metz include visiting the vast cathedral (one of the largest in all of France), several festivals held at various points throughout the year, and the city’s many museums.
#4 Loire Valley, Centre Val de Loire
If you’re a fan of French history, stunning architecture, and all of the castles, then you simply must head to the Loire Valley, which can even be visited as a day trip from Paris if you’re running short on time! Home to countless castles and palatial family homes, the best time to visit the many châteaux of the Loire is when spring is in the air.
Whereas many French châteaux close for low season (i.e. the winter), come springtime, all the buildings are open to the public. Visit Cheverny to experience trailing wisteria and Chenonceau to see all the spring bloom! Elsewhere in the region, Château de Chambord is alleged to have been partly designed by Leonardo da Vinci.
Read more: Loire Valley Road Trip!
#5 Mont Saint Michel, Normandy
The conically shaped tidal island of Mont Saint Michel has been inhabited since time immemorial and is now the site of a breathtakingly beautiful abbey. First built during the middle ages for an order of monks (the same brothers who constructed Cornwall’s Saint Michael’s Mount), the history of the island stretches back for centuries.
today the ecclesiastical building is one of the most recognisable buildings in France. While the weather is never guaranteed to be good in Normandy, even during the summer months, visit during the spring and you’ll get much more of the place to yourself!
Read more: How to spend three days in Normandy.
#6 Saint-Malo, Brittany
You may well recognise the name of the walled city from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, ‘All the Light We Cannot See‘ (a book about France I highly recommend reading if you haven’t done so already). Inhabitants of the walled city of Saint-Malo refer to themselves as ‘Malouins’ and the city has a long history of connections with seafaring pirates and privateers.
Best visited in the late spring, so as to get the best chance of the best weather possible, a trip to Saint-Malo can easily be combined with a visit to Mont Saint Michel. Elsewhere in the walled city, highlights include several museums, as well as some of the best crêpes to be found anywhere in France.
#7 Bordeaux, Nouvelle Aquitaine
The well-trodden wine routes through France centre on Bordeaux, an area best known for its rich red offerings. In fact, there are six wine regions in the region, known collectively as the ‘Bordeaux wine routes’. Head to the port city of Bordeaux in the spring to experience the beauty of this French riverside settlement before the rest of the crowds arrive.
Highlights of Bordeaux city include a wine museum, stunning architecture, and easy access to nearby vineyards! Located along the River Garonne, Bordeaux is often cited as the place Parisians would most like to live if they didn’t live in Paris. And that’s not all! Known as Burdigala during Roman times, today the city has plenty of offbeat and unique things to do.
Read more: How to spend a weekend in Bordeaux
#8 Cote d’Azur (French Riviera)
Situated on the southeastern coast of Southern France, the French Riviera is characterised by its beautiful seaside towns and expansive azure blue sea. Stretching from Cassis (some estimates suggest Toulon as an alternative) and all the way along the Mediterranean sea to Saint Tropez, the Cote d’Azur encompasses Monaco and much of Provence. Head to the French Riviera during spring in France if you want to explore the region without overly-warm weather to accompany you!
Read more: Hiking the Calanques de Cassis.
#9 Carcassonne, Occitanie
Heavily restored by Viollet-le-Duc during the 19th-century, the magical fortified city of Carcassone can be found in the South of France. In a place where history comes to life, the medieval citadel is often referred to simply as ‘La Cité’ is best visited in the late spring. Trust me, the crowds can get pretty packed during the summer months, not to mention the fact that the temperatures are soaring!
Read more: How to spend two weeks in South West France
#10 Alsace Region
Thanks to their abundance of nighttime lighting, endless canals, and festive winter markets, the fairytale cities of Strasbourg and Colmar are often thought of as the perfect winter destinations. However, the simple truth is that the Alsace region always merits a visit, no matter the time of year.
After all, the many towns and cities in the region really come to life during springtime when the cherry blossoms are in bloom and pops of purple wisteria trail into every snapshot. And if you’re a history buff, then some of the best places to visit in the Alsace region include countless castles.