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What to do in France in the Autumn


The summer crowds have departed, the flow of skiers trickling their way towards the mountains has yet to start, and the decelerated pace of life in rural France paired with the golden autumnal colours is beautifully atmospheric. Autumn is a fantastic time for driving in France, and while there is still plenty to do, some attractions will have reduced opening hours or not even be open at all.

If you plan ahead, you’ll be able to experience the areas of the country at their finest, while still visiting some exciting tourist attractions.

Rural France sees the vineyards full of workers as the grape harvest takes place to make some of the world’s most famous wines. Hiking and walking trails are spectacular and almost deserted as the cooler weather sets in, while still enjoying beautiful light and scenery. Take a walk through woodland in October and you will find a wide variety of mushrooms and fungi to forage.

Autumn also makes for the perfect time to visit outdoor markets for the freshest local produce, such as pumpkins, apples and pears, as well as legendary cider festivals and food festivals.

After the summer months Paris is once again full of Parisians, and is very much like any other world city that is open to tourists all year round. Accommodation prices will generally be lower than in high season, with hotel owners trying to lure you in with cheaper rates. The energy for all things ‘new’ in autumn is much higher in the capital, with more new films, exhibitions and theatre productions opening than in the summer.

September to December sees the annual Festival d'Automne of contemporary arts across Paris, and the Paris Chocolate Show takes place in October and November as a yearly trade fair for the international chocolate industry. Most of the main museums and tourist attractions will remain open all year, but if you’re looking to do something specific it’s advisable to check in advance.

Heading to the coast is also an option if you want to experience France without the summer crowds. Pretty fishing villages are often still open to tourism, and you can stopover at the sparkling waters of the Riviera and walk along half-deserted beaches in relatively mild weather.

Weather in autumn varies by region, but October temperatures in Nice can settle at around 19 degrees, with Paris a cool 14 degrees. If you’re planning to take your chances with accommodation when turning up at your destination, you will most likely find ample vacancies, and prices will be generally lower than in the summer. In smaller towns however, the dramatic drop in tourism means that several shops and restaurant owners close their premises for the season.

Whether you have a few days or several weeks to travel, Europe in shoulder season is a wonderful time to visit, allowing you to explore countries like France without the hustle and bustle of summer tourists. If you’re planning to take your own car to France, make sure you’re prepared to meet all the legal driving requirements with our checklist.

Author: Paul Quigley
7 November 2014