Winter in France has something for everybody.
From ski slopes that are heaving during the winter season, to beautiful Mediterranean beaches where you might be able to catch some sun with barely other tourists, to cities that are charming at Christmas, there’s so much on offer in France during this season.
I’ve personally spent a lot of time in Frances mountainous regions in winter, skiing or just enjoying the snow, but that’s certainly not all that this country has to offer.
So, I’ve teamed up with some other travel bloggers to show you exactly what there is to do in France during December, January and February!
Things to do in France in winter
Before we get to the destinations, here are some ideas for things to do in France in winter.
From Mont Blanc to the Pyrenees, there are many mountain ranges in France – and in the winter, that means lots of skiing!
Whether you are into cross-country or downhill skiing, you’ll love these snow-capped mountains and the range of adventurous activities that they offer.
Alpine town atmosphere
Even if you’re not interested in snow sports, it’s worth spending some time in the mountains on your winter trip to France.
Alpine towns are adorable, with wooden chalets, plenty of bars and restaurants in the town centre, epic scenery and opportunities to either enjoy apres-ski or curl up with a hot chocolate!
Away from the mountains, winter is a great season for hiking in France! If you are walking in the lower areas, you’ll get to enjoy cooler temperatures but still some winter sun as you explore the country’s beautiful nature. If you love nature, definitely put a few hikes on your France itinerary.
While you might not be spending all of your time at the beach during France in winter, there are lots of pleasant coastal towns with beautiful sands to enjoy!
It might be a bit too chilly to sunbathe or go swimming in the sea (unless you’re at the start or end of winter along the south coast and it’s a warm year!).
However, you’ll feel some Mediterranean warmth, and you can go on a coastal walk and admire the scenery.
France doesn’t have quite the same prestige for Christmas markets as Germany (which is where they were invented, after all), but there are plenty to enjoy here!
Some of the best ones are in Lille, Metz or Strasbourg. Here, you can go shopping for Christmas presents, drink local wine and other festive drinks and there are even some rides.
Quiet tourism destinations
Lots of France’s city centres are jam-packed in the summer months, but they can be perfect places to explore during winter!
Not only are they quieter, but you’ll find it easier to get chatting to locals, and the weather is often more comfortable for running around sightseeing.
From the French Riviera in the south to destinations like Bayeux in the north, you’ll find places to be a lot quieter in the winter months.
Enjoy French food and wine
French food and wine are popular whatever the season!
If you’re going for a foodie holiday, you’ll find that most French restaurants remain open – especially those that cater for locals – throughout the year. Plus, there are always plenty of places to enjoy delicious local wine.
Places to visit in France in winter
The beautiful Metz City is a jewel of France.
It is only a couple of hours away from Paris by the fast TGV train and close to other European countries such as Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium.
Although it is a city worth visiting at any time of the year, a lot of the attractions are indoors, making it a great city to see in the cold weather.
From the Pompidou Centre museum which is shaped like a mushroom and offers great exhibitions, to the Cour d’Or Museum, Metz is exceptionally rich in history and provides some amazing attractions! Must-see historical relics and landmarks include the Saint-Etienne Cathedral and the ‘Porte des Allemands’.
In the lead-up period to Christmas, Metz becomes magical. The traditional and magical Metz Christmas market is one of the best Christmas markets in France.
There are quite a few things to do at the Christmas market, including trying some traditional French Christmas delicacies, shopping for presents, and having mulled wine.
Spread out across the city; the Christmas market is a great way to explore different areas of Metz.
At this time of the year the train station, voted as France’s most beautiful train station several years in a row, is also beautifully illuminated.
By Mary from BR By Mary
If there is one place you must visit during a trip to France in winter, it is Annecy. Located in the southeastern part of France in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, it is only about 42 kilometres from Geneva, Switzerland.
This destination is full of exciting things to do year-round, but winter is a charming time to visit. Surrounded by the French Alps, there are plenty of nearby resorts to go to for a ski holiday, including Ski Resort Semnoz, Ski Resort of La Clusaz, and even Chamonix isn’t far away.
Annecy is also well known for its lovely Christmas market. Elaborately decorated and full of stands, the market sells anything from vin chaud to cheesy pretzels and more! If you want to celebrate the holiday season in France, Annecy is the town for you.
Of course, being in the Alps, you can expect some of the most delicious and cheesiest hearty alpine creations that are ideal for winter feasting. Tuck into fondue, tasty raclette, and the gooiest tartiflette around while you’re staying in Annecy!
Lastly, Annecy is one of the most beautiful cities in France, especially with its dreamy canals and iconic Lake Annecy with mountains towering on the other side of it. It is wonderful with a light dusting of snow on the ground as you stroll along the old city toward the lake.
Annecy is a prime winter destination in France, especially for fully embracing the cooler months.
By Kat from World Wide Honeymoon
Those seeking a winter escape to France that doesn’t involve packing a parka will love Menton.
With its close border to Northern Italy, sunny Menton boasts the most Mediterranean climate of the French Riviera.
February, in particular, is a beautiful time to visit the “Pearl of France,” as it’s the time of the town’s annual lemon festival, Fête du Citron. This highly-anticipated event runs for over two weeks from mid to late February.
It attracts visitors from all over the world with its parading citrus floats, magnificent light displays, and fragrant aromas. In addition, for a delicious lemon-inspired dish, travellers should dine at La Rotonde Menton.
Here, foodies will relish the homemade ravioli in fresh local lemon sauce.
Beyond the yearly citrus celebration, travellers will find plenty to keep them busy in Menton during winter, from photographing the storybook streets, to strolling the beautiful Jardin Serre de la Madone, to visiting the fascinating Jean Cocteau Museum.
In addition, sunsets here are a special treat. Light chasers should head to Quai Impératrice Eugénie, one of the favourite Menton photo spots, to watch the brilliant spectacle unfold. Sea lovers will also enjoy taking a sunset cruise to marvel at the stunning skyline.
By Elena from The Carry-On Chronicles
Set right on the southwest Atlantic coast, the pretty town of Biarritz is famous for its beaches and surfing, but is it really the place to go during winter?
It’s true, sometimes the storms are wild, the sea is too rough to surf, and it’s probably not warm enough to sunbathe, but there’s still plenty to do in Biarritz during winter.
If you enjoy being outdoors, whatever the weather, the coastal paths are all still open, and you can walk around the bay to the famous lighthouse and back again.
You can also enjoy the views from the Rocher de la Vierge, and the old port is always worth a visit. If you’re touring France on a motorcycle or by car, you’ll find plenty of parking and some great roads to explore, made even better by the lack of tourist traffic.
If you want time indoors, the Biarritz Aquarium is right opposite the Virgin rock and is one of the best in the area.
Don’t miss the market at Les Halles- a local institution where you can buy wine, cheese, fish, flowers and many other delicacies.
For a treat, take yourself to Miremont, a patisserie that has been serving delicious pastries since 1872! As well as tantalising your tastebuds, the views over the ocean are spectacular in any weather.
Lastly, if you’re lucky enough to be in Biarritz during the Christmas holidays, you can enjoy the spectacular illuminations which happen each evening between 6-10.30pm. Head to the coast between the Grande Plage and the Virgin Rock, and you won’t miss them!
By Kat from Biker Girl Life
Bordeaux is a complete juxtaposition. It manages to combine being home to more than 350 historical monuments (the second most in France after Paris) with modern design – some of the newer buildings and museums are awe-inspiring.
Luckily, Bordeaux is easy to get to at any time of year, including winter. The international airport has regular flights to most major hubs, it’s well connected on significant motorways to the UK, Spain and the rest of France, plus there’s a vast TGV (train) terminal.
In fact, it’s quicker to take the TGV from Paris to Bordeaux than it is to drive- only 2.5 hours by train instead of 6 hours to drive.
If you’re driving your own vehicle, there’s plenty of parking, although if you’re campervanning in France, you might prefer to park up outside and get public transport in.
Even in winter, there’s a lot to see and do, and the best part about visiting out of season is you’ll be fighting far fewer tourists.
Some of the best things to put on your itinerary include the Place de la Bourse- an incredible square designed by Jacques Gabriel (Louis XV’s favourite architect.) This is where the famous water mirror is- if you arrive very early, you’ll get beautiful photos of the reflections.
Another must-see is La Cité du Vin. One of the most easily recognisable buildings in the city, this museum is a monument to all things wine. You could easily spend all day here and not see everything.
Don’t miss a drink at the Belvedere bar- with incredible views out over the Garonne River, even in winter.
Lastly, you must see La Grosse Cloche, one of the oldest clock towers in France (it dates back to medieval times), and the bell weighs 8 tonnes!
By Kat from Wandering Bird
Nice is an excellent destination for a French getaway in winter. The capital of the French Riviera is a warm and sunny destination in the south of the country that sees visitors all year round.
Surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, Nice has mild winters, and it’s never too cold for a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais, with ice cream on hand.
Nice is also an exciting destination for cultural getaways. The list of interesting things to do in Nice includes good museums, some historical sites, and beautiful architecture from other periods, primarily Baroque.
Don’t miss la Colline du Chateau, with the remains of an ancient fortress and stunning views of Baie des Anges from above or the Matisse Museum.
Finally, Nice is an excellent place to enjoy Provencal cuisine and other Mediterranean dishes, washed down with excellent wines of Provence.
If you visit Nice in December, you can see a traditional Christmas Market, located in a very central location in Jardin Albert, next to the Old Town.
In February, it’s carnival time in Nice, with beautiful parades in town. There’s also the famous lemon festival in the nearby town of Menton (easy to reach from Nice on a day trip).
By Elisa from France Bucket List
Provence in southern France is hugely popular whatever the season.
Within Provence sits the little jewel of the Luberon, a hilly enclave blessed with breezes, lavender, and beautiful hilltop villages like Gordes, Ménerbes or Roussillon.
In summer, the region is crowded with admirers, visitors who come to smell the fragrant lavender, eat the delicious southern cuisine, or stroll through the steep cobblestoned streets that so many of the villages are known for.
The area has always been attractive but gained special traction after the publication of Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence and its sequels. These books became wildly popular and put the village of Ménerbes (and the entire Luberon) on the radar of those who had never even heard of it before.
The crowds came, and soon the car parks were overflowing with tour buses filled with tourists hoping to experience an hour or two of the book’s magic.
Crowds walked elbow to elbow in the narrow streets, and eateries quickly popped up left and right to serve them.
But come the end of autumn, metamorphosis sets in. The trees lose their leaves, the lavender dies and is cut back, and tourists find warmer corners of the world to explore.
And that’s when the Luberon is wonderfully alight. For some, like myself, it is at its best.
Yes, some restaurants close for the season, as do some shops. But others stay open, and finding a seat is no longer a battle. Nor is finding a room or a parking space nearby.
The villages revert to their natural selves, almost forgetting the overwhelm of a few months ago.
There is no traffic on the roads, and you can stop to snap a photograph almost anywhere. And the sun is shining.
It might be cold some days, but the air is crisp and clear, and you can easily see other villages in the distance.
Winter in the Luberon is gentle, quiet and welcoming.
By Leyla from Offbeat France
What’s better than some beach time and unlimited sunshine to get you through the cold winter months? St Tropez is a beautiful town on the French Riviera in the southeastern corner of France and the cure to your winter blues!
Known for its luxury yachts, inspired artists, beautiful beaches and bustling nightlife, the town is a great place to visit all year round and has been a favourite destination for celebrities since the 1850s.
The best way to enjoy your winter stay in this fabulous town is to book a luxurious stay at one of the many incredible hotels in St Tropez and treat yourself to the finer things in life.
The Vieux Port is the star of the show here, and its cobblestone streets and quaint, colourful houses will steal your heart. Wake up early and visit the Place aux Herbes to enjoy the bustling local market, and have your morning coffee in one of the many street-side cafes nearby before heading to the beach.
While the temperatures may not be as inviting in winter, the sun still shines (most of the time), and the prices are relatively affordable compared to the high season. In the winter months, you can also enjoy the sleepier side of St Tropez and take time to savour the town without the crowds!
By Yulia from Miss Tourist
Aix En Provence
The south of France is graced with fine warm weather and bright sunny days during the winter months, making it a perfect destination for a winter getaway.
Especially vibrant during this time is the town of Aix-en-Provence, located just north of Marseille.
Known as ‘the city of a thousand fountains’, the town boasts intricate marble renditions on every street corner.
Once the home of the aristocracy, elegant mansion facades line the quaint alleyways of this charming medieval capital of Provence.
Mild sunny days in Aix-en-Provence lend to perfect conditions for meandering the famous farmer’s markets. Situated in every major square, these markets are flourishes of colourful produce, flowers, linens, antiques and many more.
Try a local delicacy called calisson, a diamond-shaped sweet made from almonds and candied melons, covered in icing.
Aix-en-Provence also is home to the noteworthy post-impressionist Cezanne. You can visit his atelier to see how the painter lived and take a stroll through the Musee Granet, a baroque 17th-century art haven.
Painters such as Picasso, Rembrandt and Rubens can be found here, and of course, a room entirely dedicated to the hometown pride, Cezanne himself.
Grab a coffee at one of the many cafes and stroll down the main promenade of Cours Mirabeau for spectacular views of the grand Fontaine de la Rotonde, the city’s iconic showpiece.
By Haley from Haley Blackall Travels
The South of France is a popular destination in the summer months, but it still shines in winter.
Marseille, also known as France’s second city, is a vibrant and exciting city to visit at any time of the year, and its recent regeneration has added to its appeal.
While different from the refined elegance on offer in Paris and Bordeaux, it offers a more multicultural experience than other French cities, and its neighbourhoods are as varied as its population.
The central Vieux Port is one of the best places to stay in Marseille to explore the city on foot, under the glorious winter sunshine. The days are typically mild, with temperatures reaching into the mid-teens at times, but the sun and clear blue skies make it seem warmer than it may be.
Visit the bustling markets, which are still very much alive with local trade, take in the museums, and wander along the picturesque waterfront promenade to dip your toes in the sea if you dare!
Winter is also a great time to walk the nearby hiking trails, such as those in the Calanques National Park, which is reachable via bus from the central city.
If the weather doesn’t cooperate, you can always console yourself with shopping in the eclectic boutiques and warming up over steaming bowls of the local favourite, Bouillabaisse (fish stew).
By Nadine from Le Long Weekend
One of the best places to visit in France in winter is the capital city of Paris. Paris is always great to visit, but during the winter season, it is even more magical!
There are all kinds of decorations and winter activities everywhere, increasing the romantic air of the city – this is Paris, after all!
Winter activities are also on offer, such as ice skating at the Hotel de Ville or underneath the Eiffel Tower – which is one of the best date ideas in Paris in winter.
Besides that, there is a lovely Christmas market at the Eiffel Tower and along the Seine River.
Also, the Tuileries Garden is incredible during this season. You can find a Christmas market with lots of stalls, and there is a fun Ferris wheel.
It snows for about 15 days each winter, and Paris is wonderful when there is snow outside.
Winter is also charming because of the festivals and events that take place during winter, such as the festival of light, with fantastic light sculptures.
Also, don’t miss the covered passages of Paris. These are fantastic places for shopping when it is cold outside, and during winter, there are delightful festive decorations.
By Dymphe from Dymabroad
Les Trois Vallees
Being the largest ski area globally, with more than 600 km of piste, Les Trois Vallées is the perfect snow destination if you’re looking for a winter holiday in France.
As the name says (in English, the three valleys), the ski area consists of 3 valleys interconnected with ski lifts – so you can ski or snowboard all day long without seeing the same piste twice.
Hence, this is the perfect area for both advanced and beginner skiers or snowboarders. Of course, you can come here for many more alpine winter activities across all little villages scattered around the ski area.
Each village or town brings its own atmosphere. If you’re looking for a cosy winter experience in a catered chalet, you might want to book something in La Tania.
If you’re looking for parties and bars, you might want to stay in Val Thorens instead and pass by one of La Folie Douce bars in the mountains.
Even if you’re late in the year, you might still find snow in Les Trois Vallées.
Perhaps not in the lower located villages, but you can ski until spring around Val Thorens since it is one of the highest ski resorts in Europe.
By Emma from Emma’s Road Map
Colmar is an excellent destination for a winter getaway in Europe. A small city in Alsace, Eastern France, Colmar is well known for its picturesque architecture of half-timbered houses, and it is a must-stop on the Alsace Wine Route.
A trip to Colmar is always a good idea, but it is wonderful in wintertime when it is illuminated by the Christmas lights and decorations of the Christmas market. The Colmar Christmas Market is often voted one of the most beautiful in Europe.
The Colmar Christmas Market is actually made up of six different markets. They are all located in the Old Town, so you can easily walk from one market to another.
It usually opens from mid-November to the end of December, and it attracts locals and tourists alike.
Colmar is home to excellent museums, such as Unterlinden, Bartholdi, Toy Museum and Choco Story.
It is also an ideal base to explore some of the most beautiful villages in Alsace on half-day or full-day trips.
Finally, Colmar is an excellent place to taste regional cuisine. In wintertime, the winstubs (popular and inexpensive eateries typical of Alsace) are cozy places to taste Alsace dishes like choucroute, cordon bleu, or tarte flambée.
By Elisa from World in Paris
Mont Saint-Michel is one of the most popular tourist destinations in France, along with the Eiffel tower.
The small island is located in Normandy, about an hour’s drive from the city of Rennes.
Mont Saint-Michel is about one kilometre away from the mainland and has only about 50 inhabitants. The only way to get to the island is to walk on a footbridge, which takes about 40 minutes.
A particularly popular destination is the abbey Mont Saint-Michel, which is located at the highest point on the island and stands out on every photo from the outside.
Especially in winter, a visit to the Mont Saint-Michel is a great experience. It’s a lot quieter than during the summer months. Additionally, the restaurants have plenty of indoor seating so that you can enjoy a warm cider with a great view of the bay off the island.
If you arrive by car, you only have to pay for parking, the actual entrance to Mont Saint-Michel is free. The parking ticket also includes a free shuttle bus that will take you directly to the entry.
Remember to wear sturdy shoes, as it can be slippery when the old cobblestones are icy.
By Victoria from Guide Your Travel
Winter in France FAQ
How cold is France in winter?
It really depends!
The south of France can stay around the mid-teens. On a sunny day, there’s no reason why you can’t lunch outside!
Normandy’s a different story, however. The average high is around 7 degrees, and it can be much lower.
Colder still are the snowy mountains. Chamonix, for example, has highs of around 4 degrees and lows of under freezing. This is to be expected, as it’s a ski destination!
What are the winter months in France?
The winter months in France are December, January and February.
It will start getting colder in November wherever you are – just how cold depends on where exactly you are.
Winter can hang on throughout March too, and even sometimes into April.
What is the warmest area in France in winter?
The French Riviera area, which is the south coast, particularly towards the western side (near the Italian border) is generally the warmest area.
Is France colder than the UK?
The ski slopes certainly are! However, most sea-level destinations are at least as warm or a little warmer than the UK.
Normandy is one of the most northern regions of France, and it typically has similar weather (it’s closest to the UK!). But elsewhere, it’s usually a few degrees milder – and considerably warmer in the south of the country.
Is France nice to visit in the winter?
Hopefully this blog post has shown you that France is a wonderful winter destination – one of the best places to visit in Europe in winter!
There are places for winter sun, snow and cities.
From the charming Christmas markets of Paris to the sun-soaked beaches of the Riviera to the ski slopes of Mont Blanc, there are plenty of ways you can pass the cooler months in this European nation!