Aside from the chillier climate in the mountains, the weather begins to noticeably improve, the mercury starts to rise and there are fewer overcast days. If you’re arriving in Paris, expect an average temperature range of 41-54°F (5-12°C) and while snow is unlikely there are an expected 14 days of rain to be had so you’ll want to pack that umbrella with warm weather gear.
In the northeast of the country, you can expect lows of 36°F (2°C) with the possibility of snow and highs of 59-63°F (15-17°C) toward the end of the month. In Atlantic France, temps reach 55°F (12°C) during the day and southern France sees afternoon highs of 59°F (15°C). And while the end of the month sees the mercury reach 68°F (20°C), it’s still not warm enough to take a dip in the Mediterranean (55°F/13°C).
Crowds & Costs
Still considered off-season, March is a great time to explore France without the onslaught of tourists you see during peak season. Not to mention, flight deals and budget-friendly hotel prices are still to be found. Yet, this is also the last busy month of the ski season so you can count on some crowds on the slopes. Having said that, the further into the month you are, the cheaper ski packages are likely to be.
If you’re coming to the country during Le Carnaval and Pâques, it’s worth booking accommodation and reservations ahead of time. You’ll also want to be aware of business closures and public transportation running on a holiday schedule (see events below).
Where to Go
The best time to visit Paris for a little cultural exploration is early March. Though you won’t have the Mona Lisa (housed in the Louvre) all to yourself, you will have fewer crowds to contend with. Start or end your trip in Paris or use the capital as a hub, taking day trips in and around the region. A popular option to see as much as possible is to rent a car or ride the train and if Easter happens to coincide with your holiday, you’re in for a literal treat. Chocolate lovers (or movie fanatics) might like to make a day trip to the incredibly lovely Flavigny-sur-Ozerain in Burgundy, the setting for the film Chocolat, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp.
Ski slopes are still seeing plenty of action in the mountains. For better conditions pick a slope with a higher altitude like purpose-built Val Thorens for 373 miles (600 km) of seemingly endless terrain or snow-dependable Tignes for 186 miles (300km) of runs serviced by 78 lifts.
Meanwhile, le Carnaval continues throughout the month so if you’re in South France, get yourself to Nice and celebrate the beginning of spring alongside costumed revelers. You can expect cavalcades of costumed participants, musicians, jugglers, and massive theme-decorated floats as well as masked balls, food festivals, and pageants. Other Mediterranean towns nearby also host celebrations marking the end of the winter. Though alternatively, smaller affairs along the eastern border have their own affairs, like Dunkirk, Strasbourg, and Mulhouse.
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What to Do
If you eschew the French road trip or a skiing/snowboarding holiday, you can still enjoy many of the major highlights of France without the sizeable crowds. This includes shorter lines for admission up the world-famous Eiffel Tower, in Paris, the exquisite Château de Versailles, and the Château des ducs de Bretagne (the Château of the Dukes of Brittany and Museum) in Nantes.
Foodies will want to get themselves to Nice on the eastern end of the French Riviera for a gourmet food tour of the city's historic core, Vieille Ville. Feel like a local as market vendors offer sweet and savory symbolic treats. And for something really decadent, make your way to the medieval town of Sarlat at the start of the month as the town comes alive in celebrating their regional specialty of foie gras. Show up on an empty stomach because this is an all-you-can-eat event. And you won’t have to go far for dessert now that it’s Easter. Look no further than any number of patisseries and chocolatiers for mouthwatering offerings of Easter candy and chocolates.
Events in March
Fête du Citron (Menton Lemon Festival). The small town of Menton, also known as the Cité des Citrons (City of Lemons), on the French Riviera runs a two-week spring festival honoring the fruit that sometimes runs into March. Parades of impressively large and ornately decorated fruit-covered floats line the streets and drinks, jams, soaps, and perfumes made with lemons are sold.
Sarlat Fest’Oie. The first weekend of March has Sarlat celebrating foie gras and promoting regional products through cooking demonstrations and workshops.
Cerfs Volants (Berck-Sur-Mer Kite Festival). Every year in March and April the charming seaside town of Berck-Sur-Mer sees international kite-flying competitors line its beaches with an assortment of colorful kites competing against one another and the wind.
Le Carnaval. Held annually 40 days before Easter on the liturgical calendar, France’s Carnival celebrations occur sometime between January and April but often fall in February. The Carnaval de Nice attracts over one million visitors to the French Riviera and is arguably one of the most famous events in the world, lasting for two weeks.
Pâques (Easter and Holy Week). Because Easter follows the liturgical calendar, it doesn't fall on the same day each year. Sometimes it doesn't even occur in March. If it does, however, enjoy the celebrations and processions that occur throughout the country and expect closures on Vendredi Saint (Good Friday), Lundi de Pâcques (Easter Monday) and Sunday.
Traveling to France in March? Check out these great itineraries.
“Like a Local” Tour in Provence and the French Riviera: 7 Days. Love getting off the beaten track and traveling like a local? This tour was tailor-made for you. Experience the best of the French Riviera, including the hilltop villages of Luberon, multicultural Marseille, charming Aix-en-Provence, and vibrant Cannes.