An aerial view of the rooftops in Le Havre overlooking the sea

10 reasons to take an autumn break in north-west France

Just because the summer crowds have gone, there certainly isn't any lack of things to see and do in the autumn in France. In fact, there's a wealth of fascinating festivals, foodie delights and uncrowded sights to enjoy.

So what are you waiting for? These 10 reasons should be enough to convince you!


The cast of Sing Street prepare to hit the red carpet at the Dinard British Film Festival 2016

The cast of Sing Street prepare to hit the red carpet at the Dinard British Film Festival 2016

September in France is movie season! Go celeb-spotting at the American Film Festival in Deauville from 6-15 September where you're bound to see some big names on the red carpet. Some of the films in competition this year include Skin, starring Jamie Bell, and The Lighthouse, starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. 

And there's British talent at the Dinard British Film Festival from 25-29 September. Last year's hit was Jellyfish, scooping the awards for Direction and Best Screenplay as well as walking off with the Golden Hitchcock. 


2019 is the 30th year of the Festival les Celtomania, with events happening in 16 towns and cities in the Loire-Atlantique department. Celebrating Celtic culture, there's music, art, storytelling, theatre and more from across the Celtic countries. The festival lasts from 4 October - 17 November.

Head to Orlèans from 2-24 September for the Festival de Loire, a huge party on and by the river. Get up close to the hundreds of boats visiting for the event by walking out on a modular pier in the river. Browse the many stalls offering gourmet treats, artwork and crafts and learn about conservation efforts. 

And in Normandy, the Fête des Normandes takes place in Evreux throughout October. Play dress up (it's not just for the kids!), enjoy the local terroir of apples, cidre, cheese and delicious cakes, and marvel at the demonstrations of traditional dancing to Norman folk music.


Mont St Michel and hay bales at harvest time © Shutterstock

Mont St Michel and hay bales at harvest time

In Brittany the festival of nature and culture, Le bel automne, runs a series of events from 29 September to 17 November. A collection of nature outings including discovery walks, heritage hikes, exhibitions, music and more, it's a wonderful way to explore Brittany as the season turns. 

Do you have green fingers and love pottering in your shed? Then the Splendeurs d'Automne at Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire is the festival for you. Running from 19 October to 3 November, the gardens of the chateau are home not only to rare plants and vegetables but also art inspired by the season.

Running events until 11 November, there's also the Cavales d'Automne for those who love horse-riding, showjumping and all things horsey. Held in the Pays de Saint Brieuc, the festival is the largest series of equestrian events hosted in Western France.


Beautifully cooked scallops in sauce © Jacqueline Piriou, BRTC

Beautifully cooked scallops in sauce © Jacqueline Piriou, BRTC

As well as the beautiful colours to enjoy, autumn means harvesttime - and that means bountiful plates and overflowing glasses!

Head to Normandy for apple and cider festivals - pomme et cidre - aplenty. Tuck into a beautiful apple tarte or dishes cooked in apple sauce and wash them down with a glass (or two) of cidre. If you fancy something a little stronger, treat yourself to a tipple of Calvados - a delicious French apple brandy. 

Seafood lovers will also be in heaven with a variety of festivals. Head to Honfleur for shrimp at the Fête de la Crevette (5-6 October) and to our port town of Ouistreham for scallops at the Fête de la Coquille St Jacques (19-20 October). If you love a stinky cheese, Neufchatel, home of the eponymous, pungent soft cheese, is also the home of the Fête du Fromage during September.


What better time to follow La Route du Cidre than at harvesttime? This 40 km circular route is in the gorgeous Pays d'Auge area of Normandy, east of Caen. Just follow the signs to discover around 20 cider farms and Calvados makers that are open to visitors. Tastings available at many of them - perfect to help you decide which ones to buy a few bottles of to take home!

With quaint half-timber buildings, manor houses and stud farms peeking out of the trees and fields full of horses and Norman cows, the Pays d'Auge is a countryside idyll well worth spending some time in soaking up the atmosphere.


Jazz fan? Head to Jazz en Touraine from 12-22 September with a line-up including Rhoda Scott, Lisa Simone and Thomas Dutronc. More into electro? Try the Scopitone festival, with performances from DJs as well as being a celebration of the digital arts, in the same week.

Pless'tival, from 7-8 September, is a festival of rock, pop and electro music at Argentrè-du-Plessis in Brittany. And if you want a festival full of the truly unique, head for Ouest Park in Le Havre from 16-20 October. Turning 16 this year, Ouest Park is a multi-genre festival with hip hop, reggae, indie, electro and more. This year's headliner is French pop icon Catherine Ringer of Les Rita Mitsouko. 


Musee Schlumberger - Chateau de Crevecouer

Musee Schlumberger - Chateau de Crevecouer

21 and 22 September are European Heritage Days where historic sites across Europe open their doors - for free! There's also a variety of events going on and France has plenty of sites getting involved.

Just some of the wonderful places you can visit are the perfectly-preserved medieval Château de Crevecour, Monet's garden in Giverny and the glorious abbey on the tidal island of Mont St Michel.


Château d'Azay-le-Rideau © Shutterstock

Château d'Azay-le-Rideau

2019 marks the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci's death at Château Close Luce, the birth of the future queen of France, Catherine de Medici, and the beginning of the construction of the Château de Chambord. To celebrate, the Loire Valley, known as the 'cradle of the Renaissance in France', is alive throughout 2019 with a huge variety of events, exhibitions and more.

Just some of the amazing events in the programme are an outdoor exhibition of Leonardo's machines in Amboise, an exhibition of the many entertainments that the French royals provided at court at the Château de Beauregard and, at Chaumont-sur-Loire, you can also see Queen Catherine de Medici's bed chamber, which has been refurbished and hung with her tapestries. 


The dramatic cliffs at Etretat © Shutterstock

Wander the coastal paths in Brittany for dramatic rock formations and craggy headlands or head to the Alabaster Coast in Normandy for truly spectacular views of the arches at Etretat in the autumn sun.

Head inland for walking, cycling and horseriding trails through the countryside that explore mystical forests and windswept moorlands imbued with a mythological past from Arthurian times. The forests at Huelgoat and Paimpol (which is considered to be the Brocèliande of myth) will look fantastic in their autumn hues.


The carousel and elephant of the Machines de l'île © Les Machines d'île, Franck Tomps LVAN

There's so much to see and do in Nantes at any time of the year. A trip to the marvellous Machines de l'Ile is a must, and it's open during the European Heritage Days. And after the Voyage à Nantes in the summer, there are plenty of attractions left to see from this magnificent art festival.

Visit the beautiful Château de Ducs de Bretagne, made of white tufa stone, and discover the Amazon inside! This immersive exhibition looks at shamanism amongst the native tribes that live around the Amazon with jewellery, weapons, musical instruments and everyday objects. Enjoy a meal at La Cantine du Voyage, visit the amazing artworks that have been created in the estuary (including a house in the river) and discover the history of Nantes' music scene at the Rock! exhibition.