School Holidays In France: Five Sets And The Zoning Scheme

Traveling to France when schools are on holiday may not be a good idea. This is because tourist resorts are teeming with vacationers during this period that one has to fight (figuratively, of course) for space. The Mediterranean coast and the more than 200 ski resorts are particularly crowded, often translating to lodging shortages.

This being the case, it is important to know when schools in France are closed. Note the following five sets of school holidays in a year (the French school calendar year starts in early September):

1. Toussaint break – This is a 12-day school break, in observance of All Saints’ Day, that usually begins around the latter part of the third week of October.

2. Noel-Le Jour de l’An break – Schools are closed for 15 days for the Christmas/New Year holidays, from December 20 to January 4. This is the period when ski resorts in France “overflow” with people and finding a vacant hotel room is next to impossible.

3. Hiver break – Another 15-day school break that begins in February, when winter is typically at its peak.

4. Printemps break – This is also known as the spring break, which coincides with Easter (Paques). Schools are closed for 15 days, beginning usually two days prior to Easter.

5. L’ete holidays – This is the 2-month long summer vacation, when all schools are closed from the beginning of July to the beginning of September. This period is certainly not a good time for tourists to visit France for the reasons earlier mentioned.

Besides these sets of school holidays, those planning a trip to France must also know that the French Ministry of Education had the schedules of the hiver and printemps breaks staggered by dividing France into three zones:

Zone A:

This zone covers the schools located in Toulouse, Nantes, Montpellier, Grenoble, Caen, Rennes, Nancy-Metz, Lyon, and Clermont-Ferrand.

Zone B:

The schools included in this zone are those located in Strasbourg, Reims, Orleans-Tours, Limoges, Dijon, Amiens, Rouen, Poitiers, Nice, Lille, Besancon, and Aix-Marseille.

Zone C:

This third zone includes schools in Versailles, Bordeaux, Créteil, and those in the capital city of Paris.

These zones specify when a school at a particular location will have its winter and spring breaks. As you take a look at your maps, you will note that the locations that comprise each zone do not make up a contiguous area. This was deliberately done in order that there will be an even distribution of holiday goers in resorts at any given period.

The effect of the zoning is another thing to be considered. What this means is that while the hiver and printemps breaks are 15-day periods as far as schools are concerned, the schedules of the zones overlap with one another, such that the length of each break is effectively stretched into one month. This matter has to be taken into account by a would-be visitor to France and avoided if possible.

The months of May and June are probably the best times for anyone to visit France while at the same time avoiding the lengthy school holidays, as the weather during this two-month period is perfect. Others may say though that this period, in fact, contains numerous holidays. These, however, are just one-day holidays and, except for Fête du Travail (Labor Day, May 1) and Victoire 1945 (Victory in Europe Day, May 8), have moveable dates.

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