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Heatwave: 6 of the coolest places in France

From caves to catacombes, lakes to France's coldest village - if you're not a fan of the heat, here are 6 places you can go to stay cool this summer.

Heatwave: 6 of the coolest places in France

With another heatwave approaching, you might be wondering how you can still have fun while avoiding the heat. Here are some places to visit that promise not to be too sweltering:

Go to the beach in Brittany or Normandy

France’s west coast is notorious for getting lots of rain throughout the year, but it is also known for moderate summers that don’t get too hot.

If you are looking for windy shorelines and temperate climates, Brittany and Normandy have the best beaches for you. In Brittany, temperatures in the summer typically stay around 25C.

Go surfing off of Brittany’s largest island Belle-Île-en-Mer or sunbathe in Saint-Malo. For Normandy, consider Le Touquet in the Pas-de-Calais département – escape the heat by walking along the cliffs at the nearby Parc naturel régional des caps et marais d’Opale.

Go hiking in the Alps

The Alps are not just for winter sports.

Well-connected by train, you can easily take a trip to the mountains to enjoy the cooler temperatures, mountain breezes and lovely views filled with colourful wildflowers.

As well as hiking, you can also enjoy rafting or biking. If you’re not as sporty, you can still enjoy the mountaintop by taking the year-round ski lift up the mountain.

The pretty town of Chamonix is also well worth a visit.

Visit the prehistoric caves in Dordogne

Down in southern France temperatures do get hotter in the summer, but there are still plenty of cool options for the scorching days.

Dordogne is home to several prehistoric caves, which in summer are a great place to escape the heat. You can also see the reconstruction of the original Lascaux cave, known for its cave art and referred to as the ‘sistine chapel of prehistory’ with some of the earliest known artworks created by humanity. 

In the Vézére Valley several of the caves have made the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites. 

Caves in general are a good bet on a hot day – if you go to the Roquefort caves in Ariège it’s nice and cool and you can witness the famous Roquefort cheese maturing in the natural cave system. 

Visit France’s ‘coolest’ village

Famous for having the coldest recorded temperature in France, Mouthe is located in the Doubs département, which is in Eastern France along the Jura mountains.

The reason Mouthe stays so cold is because of its altitude – it is at 930m above sea level. That makes for some bracing winters, but it’s also a great place to visit during a heatwave.

Enjoy the village, go hiking in the surrounding countryside, or take a day trip into Switzerland which is just over the border.

READ MORE: Why is Mouthe the ‘coldest village in France’?

Float on the lake in Annecy

Known as the “Venice of the Alps,” Annecy is located in the mountains, so it also has a higher elevation, which helps keep it comparatively cooler in the summer months.

Annecy is mostly known for its sparkling blue lake that is clean enough to swim in – the water typically stays at around 22 to 24C – but it also has a highly picturesque town centre and the local vin jaune is worth sampling.

Visit the kingdom of the dead

If you’re in Paris and don’t have the time or the funds for a trip out of the city, there are still cooler places to go.

The city’s museums are often air conditioned while the churches offer cool indoor spaces, but for something a little different why not visit the Catacombes?

The temperature in the network of limestone passages underneath Paris stays at around 14C all year round – considerably cooler than the city in summer. There’s also the ‘chills’ imparted by the inhabitants of the Catacombes – thousands of skeletons dug up from the city’s cemeteries and arranged into interesting patterns.

The Catacombes also provide a fascinating snapshot of the history of Paris.

READ MORE: Are these the 10 best swimming pools in Paris?

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Big freeze on the horizon for much of France this weekend

Winter has made its way to France, with below-freezing temperatures expected across much of the country this weekend.

Big freeze on the horizon for much of France this weekend

Cold air from northern Europe will fall over a large part of mainland France, according to French weather forecaster Météo France.

The north of the country, primarily above the horizontal line running from Nantes to Lyon, is expected to see consistent temperatures, “with lows falling to -2C or -3C and highs around 3C until Monday.”

Parts of northern France may also experience snowfall and icy conditions this weekend, starting from Thursday night into Friday.

The départements most likely to be affected are in the country’s centre and east. Some have been placed in the “yellow” warning category, as shown below:

A screenshot from Meteo France, showing départements in the “yellow” warning category for Friday, December 9th

As for the south of France, the maximum average temperature is expected to be around 10C for Friday and to drop to around 7C and 6C for Saturday and Sunday,” Météo France forecaster Florian Hortala told Franceinfo. Though warmer weather will likely be present in Basque country and along the Mediterranean, according to TF1.

Nevertheless – Hortala told Franceinfo that the cold weather is still not chilly enough to constitute a “cold wave,” as temperatures are not low enough below seasonal norms. To be considered a “cold wave” the average national temperature must fall below -2C at least once, and remain under 0.9C for at least three days without going above 2.2C.