September in France is when that monumental event known as the rentrée occurs. With French kids going back to school and their parents going back to work, all of a sudden those wonderous French châteaux and museums are left to the lucky few who can go on holiday in September.
With the last vestiges of summer still apparent, France in September is a delight. The autumn colors are beginning to show, there are fewer tourists and the days are still long and warm. So let’s check out the top travel tips for visiting France in September, shall we? Allons-y!
The weather in September is usually pretty warm and sunny (compared to the rain and grey skies that are more common in France in winter.) Average temperatures in September in major cities across France are:
- Paris – 16.4 °C (61.5 °F)
- Lyon – 17.1 °C (62.8 °F)
- Marseille – 19.9 °C (67.9 °F)
- Bordeaux – 18.9 °C (66 °F)
- Lille – 15.5 °C (59.9 °F)
- Strasbourg – 16 °C (60.8 °F)
- Deauville – 16 °C (60.7 °F)
And if you are heading to the south of France, you may actually prefer going in September after the July and August heatwaves have passed. Air conditioning is relatively rare in France so if you are heading to Provence, you may prefer to avoid the summer months.
Paris should be beautiful and balmy, as this is perhaps one of the nicest times of the year in the city. The west coast towns of Bordeaux and Deauville are also excellent in terms of the weather.
Where to go
And there is never a bad time to head to Paris. As I mentioned, the top museums will have much shorter lines, and if you will not need to queue up to see the bed of Marie Antoinette at the Palais de Versailles.
September Holidays, Events, and Festivals
There are not a lot of public holidays or big events taking place in France in September, but there are a few local festivities that take place all over the country. The main festivities and holidays in September include:
1. Jour de Rentrée – Back to School Day
- Public holiday: No
- When: First Monday in September
The big day back to school! And for adults to get back to the grindstone. If there are projects at work that French people have been putting off all summer, they now have to get back to it. This is the rentrée.
The day itself is not a holiday, but most companies have negotiated with their union to provide the day off for parents of small children. French parents usually take the day off to drop their kids off school, (though you do not get 2 days off if you have 2 small children!)
2. Journées du Patrimoine – Heritage Day
- Public Holiday: No
- When: 3rd weekend in September
This is not a day off, per se, but rather a weekend to go behind closed doors. Most major government buildings and institutions will open their doors to visitors all weekend long.
Lines are usually long for favourites such as the Palais de l’Elysées (official residence of the French President), Assemblée Nationale, Palais Royal, and the television studios of France 2 (the French equivalent of the BBC).
If you plan on going to any of the hotspots, be prepared to line up as early as 6am, if not earlier. For certain places, you can reserve tickets in advance for specific time slots. The tickets are usually reservable a few days in advance and where to reserve changes from year to year.
3. Braderie de Lille (Lille flea market)
With over 10,000 exhibitors in the streets, the city of Lille in the north of France hosts the world’s largest flea market. It is usually held the first weekend of September, attracting millions of people every year.
It is believed that the first annual flea markets in Lille date back to 1127 and is a big festival in the city. With various stands, local foods, a half-marathon, and parties late into the night, this is one of the most famous markets in France with something for everyone.
4. Féria du Riz in Arles
If you enjoy a good paella, you will want to head to the Camargue and the city of Arles near the French-Spanish border. It is usually held in the 2nd week of September (as well as in April) and is a bull-fighting festival that takes place to celebrate the rice harvest.
The rice used in a paella is a short grain rice that is grown in the department of the Camargue which has a strong Spanish influence.
5. Fête de la Gastronomie
A newer festival around France is the Fête de la Gastronomie. It is an initiative of the Ministry of Crafts, Trade and Tourism launched in 2011, and is celebrated in the last week of September.
It takes place throughout France and is meant to promote the French culinary heritage. Some smaller towns and villages will promote their local fares, but it has yet to catch on with restaurants in larger cities like Paris.
More common is local and artisan food markets that will hold special events to promote their produce. Lyon, which is considered the French capital of gastronomy, holds a street food festival with tastings, picnics and other festivities.
On a smaller scale, the Fête du Chausson aux Pommes (a pastry filled with carmelized apple) has been celebrated since 1630 every September in the town of Saint-Calais in the Loire region.
6. Montgolfières in Rocamadour
In the last weekend of September, a spectacular sight takes place in Rocamadour, a small clifftop village in south-central France. Around 30 hot air balloons take flight over the valley to pay tribute to the inventors of the Montgolfières, the Montgolfier brothers who were from nearby Ardéche.
7. Other events
The village of Ribeauvillé is famous for its medieval festival called Pfifferdaj, fête des ménétriers, which takes place the 1st week of September. Minstrels, musicians, and acrobats all put on a show in a festival dating back to the Middle ages.
What to Pack
The sunshine may be out in September, but you may still need a light jacket in the evenings. And you should still pack the sunscreen as well. Better safe than sorry!
You can find more French style tips here.
If you enjoyed reading this article, you may enjoy reading more about events in France in other months of the year. A bientôt!