There’s no doubt that France makes a great choice for rewarding holidays throughout the year, but autumn often provides some of the finest weather for engaging outdoor activities suitable for a range of itineraries. Consider fall for your holiday in France, and enjoy magical seasonal colors and mild days ideal for exploring the great outdoors.
The Mediterranean city of Narbonne offers a picturesque setting for autumn France vacations, and the famed Canal du Midi provides one of the easiest ways to enjoy being outdoors in this sunny southern region. You can row, canoe, fish, or cruise down this scenic waterway, as well as walk or bike along it to see the colors changing on over 40,000 trees planted along the banks. Narbonne also provides quick access to Reserve Africaine de Sigean, a wildlife park housing nearly 4,000 animals and featuring a rich assortment of plant species spread across landscapes that include plains, hills, pine forests, and plains.
Once a major pottery center, Moustiers Sainte-Marie now serves as the gateway to the celebrated Gorges du Verdon, often referred to as the “European Grand Canyon.” Indisputably one of the continent’s major attractions, the stunning canyon stretches for about 25 km (16 mi) and offers plenty of opportunities to hike, kayak, rock climb, and camp. The gorge features over 1,500 hiking routes, so you’re sure to find one suited to your skill and fitness level. While in Moustiers Sainte-Marie you can also visit Notre Dame de Beauvoir, a 14th-century church clinging precariously to a rocky escarpment. For sweeping views of the surrounding area, hike the steep trail leading up to this medieval structure.
Famed for its medieval town center, Strasbourg features many parks and gardens reflecting autumn colors and attracting a growing number of nature lovers and amateur photographers. La Petit France, home to some of the city’s most photogenic buildings and streets, offers visitors a chance to enjoy leisurely strolls and gaze down at the Ill River as it meanders through the city on quiet autumn evenings. For something less urban, head to Foret de la Robertsau, an idyllic forest where you can hike, picnic, ride bikes, or perfect your horse-riding skills.
The Provencal town of Aix-en-Provence proves that you don’t have to travel into remote wilderness areas to enjoy the best of France’s outdoor attractions. Add Cours Mirabeau to your France itinerary to experience a neighborhood once frequented by Nobel laureate Albert Camus. This lively boulevard spans just under 500 m (1,500 ft) and features wide sidewalks flanked by double rows of trees, providing plenty of shade for relaxing autumn walks. If you want to get out of town for a while and see some unspoiled Provencal nature, climb the peak of the nearby Montagne Sainte Victoire, which Paul Cezanne once painted from his window.
If you prefer to spend as much time as possible away from big cities while on your autumn France tour, consider exploring the outdoor attractions of the Loire Valley. Known to many as the “Garden of France,” this region offers plenty of vineyards, fruit orchards, and archaeological ruins to fill up any traveler’s itinerary. Rent a bike and cycle through the lush valley, making stops at history-soaked castles, lavish cathedrals, and award-winning wineries. You can start at Chateau de Chenoceau, one of the most visited castles in Europe. All of the castle’s illuminated grounds are open to the public, including the huge yew-tree labyrinth and rose gardens. Other outdoor activities in the Loire Valley include hot air balloon rides, treetop forest adventures, and river cruises.
The Magic of an Outdoor Autumn Holiday in France
Though you may think of France as an ideal destination for visiting museums, art galleries, fine restaurants, and trendy shops, the country offers plenty of outdoor attractions sure to please you at any time of the year. If you’re planning a shoulder-season holiday in France, consider exploring some of the country’s smaller towns and river valleys, offering blazing seasonal colors and plenty of activities guaranteed to warm your heart even on the chilliest of autumn days.