The start of the month feels like an extension of August. By mid-month, however, the evenings are cooler and the skies greyer, leading into the autumn and winter rainy season. This is especially true in the Alsace/Northeast region of the country with temps averaging (10-21°C) making it a good time for sweaters. Paris sees averages of 55-70°F (13-21°C) with slightly less rain, and the coasts boast a pleasant 54-73°F (12-23°C) along the Atlantic and 63-77°F (17-25°C) along the Mediterranean.
Crowds & Costs
Much like May and June, September is one of the best months to visit France: the weather is more comfortable, and the crowds start to thin as locals return to the office, children go back to school, and tourists return home. The French Riviera and Corsica won’t be empty by any means (and neither will Paris), but most places won’t be overly cramped either. Having said that, if you’re looking for a bargain, you’ll want to search for hotel and flight deals closer to the end of the month and book yourself into a wine tour in advance.
And if you plan on making Paris your base of operations, know too that with fewer travelers on the road, arranging short excursions from the capital will be easier.
Where to Go
September is a great month for touring wine country now that the harvest season has begun and the fall colors are beginning to show. An excellent place to start is in Bordeaux, one of Frances's key wine-producing areas. Located in the west of the country you might consider journeying the hour to the medieval town of Saint-Émilion to partake in their harvest-related wine festival. Stroll amid the vineyards, pop into a wine estate, tour the town by torchlight in the evening, and of course, drink wine!
And a trip to France wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the capital. If you find yourself in Paris in the middle of the month, take advantage of European Heritage Days where government buildings, city hall, and a slew of monuments open their doors to the public. And while museums and attractions are still running their extended summer hours, take advantage of the fact and visit the ever-popular Musée d’Orsay or the National Museum of Modern Art for a collection of contemporary art housed in the Pompidou Centre.
And while the weather is fine and there are fewer visitors, make your way to the French Riviera for your choice of beach running from Saint-Tropez to Menton along the Italian border. Try one of the 27 private beaches (though you’ll need a sizeable balance on your credit card) or find your way to a public beach like Plage des Salins or Plage Graviers. Another option is to check out the more relaxed beaches of Saint-Tropez’ neighbor, Sainte-Maxime for 3 miles (5 km) of sandy stretches of beach. Bonus, Sainte-Maxime is easy to get to from Nice, Cannes, and Marseille.
What to Do
There are endless options to take advantage of in September, from outdoor activities and cultural events to wine-and-food festivals, like the Fête de la Gastronomie. Consider a visit to the walled town of Beaune in the center of the Burgundy winemaking region. If you time it right, you might be able to participate in a wine tasting class or take in a jazz concert (or both!) during the Jazz à Beaune event. Sip some of the world’s finest Pinot noir and Chardonnay produced from the Côte d’Or vineyards that surround this charming town.
The more active traveler might like to join a kayaking excursion of Calanques National Park, a natural treasure that lies between Marseille and the seaside town of La Ciotat. Together with your guide paddle across green and blue waters amid towering limestone cliffs to charming fishing villages and hidden-away-inlets and coves. Another option is to board a ferry to Corsica for a host of activities like swimming, cycling, and hiking. Here you can experience striking views of windswept coastlines as you work your way across dramatic mountain interiors to swim in crystal-clear rock pools. Read this article for The Very Best Walks on Corsica.
Events in September
The Braderie de Lille (Lille Market). With over 10,000 exhibitors, Lille hosts the world’s largest flea market the first weekend of August, attracting crowds of up to three million each year.
Festival des Jardins (International Garden Festival). From April to October the gardens of Château Chaumont-sur-Loire host this annual festival showcasing up to 30 themed gardens put on by landscape architects, designers, and artists.
Fête de la Gastronomie (French Gastronomy Festival). This annual nationwide food festival takes place the last weekend of the month celebrating French cuisine with a slew of events. Some events include chef demonstrations, workshops, wine cellar and brewery tours, discounted gourmet cuisine, and tastings.
Traveling to France in September? Check out these great itineraries.
Provence Highlights and Culture Self-Drive Tour – 11 Days. One region that perfectly encapsulates France's rich culture is Provence. On a self-drive tour, you'll stop in historic cities like Marseille and Aix-en-Provence as well as hilltop villages like Uzès and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. As an added treat you'll hike canyons, kayak along the coast, and participate in a cooking class and wine tour.
Bordeaux for Wine Enthusiasts – 5 Days. This 5-day itinerary is the perfect introduction to Bordeaux—hub of the famed wine-growing region in southwest France. Known for its stunning architecture (both old and new), this lively UNESCO-listed city will be your base for a series of tours to markets, vineyards, beaches, and beautiful chateaux around the region which you'll explore with the help of friendly English-speaking guides.