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France: When to Go

France is a year-round destination, but plan ahead to get the most out of your vacation. Though France generally enjoys a temperate climate, weather can vary greatly from city to city.

There are four climatic zones in France -- oceanic, continental, mountain and Mediterranean. The western oceanic zone has cool summers and average precipitation, while the central and eastern parts of the country, or the continental zone, have colder winters and hotter summer months. The mountain climate gets roughly three to six months of snow, making it a popular destination among avid skiers. To the southeast, the Mediterranean region has mild winters, with most of the rainfall occurring October to April, and warm, dry summers.

But weather is not the only thing to consider when planning your trip. The busiest tourist time is generally July and August. November to February is considered the off-season, and many visitors find that the great travel deals and fewer crowds are worth the cooler weather.

Certain events during the year attract more travelers. Nice hosts France’s biggest Carnival celebration from mid-February through the beginning of March, with float-filled parades, vibrant costumes, music and lights. Movie stars arrive for the Cannes Film Festival in May, while tennis devotees follow at the end of the month for the French Open in Paris. July boasts the Tour de France, the world-famous bicycle race, and Bastille Day, a fireworks-and-food celebration of the country’s independence. Summertime is big for music festivals, while the winter season brings holiday markets and New Year’s parties.

Average temperatures in Paris range from the 30s during the winter to the 70s in the summer months. Nice averages around 45 degrees in January and 75 in July.