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No line at the Louvre, an open table at the best cafés and lower prices on hotels and flights across France — autumn is something of a Francophile’s dream. Though Paris is never a completely quiet city, savvy travelers who visit during the fall and winter can avoid some of the worst crowds while enjoying a range of seasonal activities (leaf-peeping, skiing, Christmas markets in the city) both in the City of Light as well as the countryside.
Whether you’re seeking fresh powder on the slopes of the Alps, or have simply decided to avoid Thanksgiving dinner in favor of an impulsive adventure, the late fall and early winter season is one of the best and most overlooked times to visit France. Here are six of our favorite reasons to book a trip to France now.
With students back in school and the high tourist season of summer over, airfares usually dip in price. According to the flight search engine Skyscanner, US travelers can save an average of more than $120 on round-trip airfare to Paris in the fall.
But now, more than ever, travelers can find especially deep savings on a France-bound flight. On average, international flights are 14% lower than they would normally be this time of year.
And a spontaneous winter trip to France is in the cards for you, watch out for flight deals (think: $324 round-trip from Miami to Paris) in the new year.
While the height of the wine harvest season usually occurs between late August and late October in France, November remains an excellent time to visit French wine country. The tourism season is usually over, meaning better access to the top chateaux and restaurants, as well as promotions on wine experiences and tours.
Plus, each year in mid-November, the entire country celebrates the release of Beaujolais Nouveau, the eponymous region’s new vintage, with parties and wine-soaked celebrations.
Travelers visiting France in the late fall and winter can also spend cool nights warming up with a cup of mulled wine, a seasonal Mariage Frères Christmastime tea, a medicinal grog of hot tea, lemon and rum, or a mug filled with decadent hot chocolate.
France’s shoulder season is an ideal time for travelers to stay in some of the most luxurious hotels in the country at a fraction of the price. Even in the notoriously expensive city of Paris, hotel rates usually drop in November before picking back up closer to the holiday season. Four-star hotels such as the Marceau Bastille are as low as $104 per night the week before Thanksgiving, and prices are often even lower outside the capital.
New England doesn’t have a monopoly on foliage, and the French countryside offers its own spectacular display of burnt red, orange and gold through November. Spend a weekend in the Loire Valley admiring the spectacular foliage across the vineyards, or hunt for mushrooms in Provence amid the changing leaves of the forest.
Fall on the coast of France has its own distinct charms. Travelers can take a hike on an Atlantic island off the coast of Brittany (such as Île de Batz, Île de Bréhat and Belle Île en Mer, the latter of which was frequented by Monet), or walk deserted beaches near Provence. From the port in Cannes, the Lérins Islands are just a short ferry ride away.
Most of the islands in both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean see their tourists disappear in the late fall and early winter, and enjoy much more mild weather than the rest of France, making it the perfect time for visitors who are searching for a peaceful place to read, hike and reconnect with nature.
Cruise the slopes during the day and warm up around a raclette in the evening. French ski towns frequently offer promotions, and for those willing to risk lighter snow during a last-minute trip in November, deals abound. Cozy, three-star lodges like the Chalet Hôtel Le Prieuré have rooms at only $70 per night in Chamonix.
Airbnb also offers excellent après ski accommodations for adventurous travelers, from a villa in Gap ($67 per night) to a remote cottage with a working fireplace in Mont Mézenc (only $64) and even a yurt in Savoie. Just be sure to put your charming chalet on your Chase Sapphire Reserve card to earn 3 points per dollar spent.
Featured image by Chris Unger via Unsplash.
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