The climate in France varies with the region, with the north of the country having significantly cooler and wetter weather that the south.

There are five reasonably distinct climate areas.

1. Northern coastal regions

These have a temperate climate with mild winters and warm but not very hot summers, much like England. Rain is reasonably frequent all year around, and the weather can be very unpredictable.

Towards the north and north-east there is a 'continental' climate with winters frequently very cold or wet and summers that are unexpectedly hot and sunny.

South of Brittany and into Pays-de-la-Loire sunshine becomes more reliable.


2. South-west France - Aquitaine and Poitou-Charentes

This part of France has generally mild winters and warm-hot summers, with substantially less rainfall than the northern part of the country. Thunderstorms are common in the summer.

The region around La Rochelle has a micro-climate that causes it to have more sunny days per year than the coast farther south. This micro-climate only covers a small area and not the whole of Poitou-Charentes (despite the marketing by hotels in the region that would lead you to believe otherwise).

3. Central / inland France

This region has a more continental climate, with harsher winters and hotter summers, and less rain than the coastal regions. The southern part of the country is again significantly drier and warmer than the northern part.

This excludes the plateau of the Massif Central which occupies a large area in south-central France (see 'mountains' below).

4. Mediterranean coast - Provence, Languedoc Roussillon - and inland for about 30 km, and Corsica

All areas of coastal south-east France have a typical Mediterranean climate - hot days in the summer, and winters are generally mild and short. This is the region of France with the most days of sunshine each year, and a summer season that can extend from late April to October.

High summer can be quite hot, especially in the coastal areas that are backed by mountains and are sheltered from winds coming from the north.

A strong northerly wind, the Mistral, blows through this area in Provence, and can cause periods of cold windy weather even in late spring. Very strong winds also blow along the coast in parts of Languedoc-Roussillon, and the Aude department is said to be the windiest in France. Beaches here can be quite windy.

Thunderstorms are very common in the summer.

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5. Mountains - especially in the Alps, but also the Massif central and the Pyrenees

In the regions of high altitude winters are long and cold with substantial snowfall, that often will not clear from the high roads until very late spring.

The summer months are cooler than elsewhere in the south of France but both the Pyrenees and the Alps get a great deal of sunshine and very pleasant weather during the summer.