Guide to Winter in France and the Best Places to Visit

Posted on 24 January 2022

During winter in France, visitors enjoy various travel places, aside from the traditional Alps. Winter is the non-tourism season in France so if you are planning city breaks, expect cheaper flights and fewer crowds at attractions. Travel exceptions are the winter Alps which kicks into gear with their ski season. Many places portray everything French, to indulge in continental Europe through history, culture, arts, and cuisine. Winter runs from December 21st to the beginning of March, so in this article, we talk about what to know, main attractions and ideal places to stay in France.

Places to Visit in Winter in France

1: French Alps in Winter

From November every year, millions of people descend on the alps to enjoy traditional Savoyard culture, cuisine and, of course, numerous runs and off-piste skiing. In addition, the alps attract other holidaymakers to France who indulge in ice-climbing, dog sledging, and over the last ten years, became a snowboarding hotspot. As a result, some of France’s ski resorts rank as the world’s best. Ideal resorts include upmarket Courchevel, stylish Val d’Isère, exciting Tignes and popular Meribel. In addition, there are three major ski areas connected to mountain resorts, offering everything beginner to experienced skiers in France need. (More about places in the French Alps.)

French Alps

2: Glorious Paris – Capital of France

Ranking as one of the world’s major cities, most first-time and day trip visitors to France drop by Paris. Visitors enjoy style and sophistication, through iconic landmarks like the Eiffel tower. Indulge in traditional French cuisine in pavement cafés, walk around art galleries, or sail the Seine in riverboats because Paris never fails to surprise and delight at the same time. Attracting everyone to France, from romantic couples to history buffs, stop by the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, Louvre, and Arc de Triomphe. Of course, if heading to Paris in December, visit their central Christmas market.

3: Nice in France

Often classed as one of France’s best places to stay during winter, Nice is another city that delivers activity in style. At Christmas, expect traditional, outside festive spirits, otherwise the city offers various attractions to fill your days including Vieille Ville Old Town, Castle Hill Park, Musée Matisse,Monastère Notre-Dame-de-Cimiez and Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain. February sees the annual carnival and flower parade, and the giant Ferris wheel gives excellent landscape views.

3: Nantes in Winter

Nantes in France appeals to anyone who loves classical music thanks to the year-round performances by local bands. In addition, the city is France’s gastronomy heaven because of regional food like Gâteau Nantais cake, duck, lamb’s lettuce, Berlingot boiled sweets, Curé Nantais cheese and Muscadet wine. Also, see the top five attractions; Château des Ducs de Bretagne, Machines de l’Île, Passage Pommeraye, Jardin des Plantes and Île Feydeau.

4: Menton Lemon Festival

Menton celebrates the humble French lemon every February for two weeks, with various winter events. Heralding the end of winter and beginning of Spring, admire displays in the town centre. Also, see the top attractions of Val Rahmeh Botanical Garden, Jean Cocteau Museum, Salle des Mariages and Saint-Michel Basilica. For the regional cuisine of France, tuck into seafood, fresh vegetables, and fruit desserts galore.

5: Wine Loving Bordeaux

From French food to wine, Bordeaux is one of the world’s best wine-producing regions, so stop by and sample some bottles. Also, check the regional website because some vineyards hold significant events and festivals. Other activities and places of interest include Palais Gallien, Grosse Cloche, Place de la Bourse and La Cité du Vin. See all main attractions in three days, although add another night for slower sightseeing.

French wine

6: Marseille in France

France’s second-biggest city houses roughly 1.6 million people and many attractions to keep visitors entertained. Your first stop should be the Romano-Byzantine church and city symbol, Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde. Marseille has the second-largest amount of museums in France after Paris and top-notch shopping and nightlife scenes.  Also, see Abbaye Saint-Victor and explore Vieux Port.

7: Grand Lyon

Sitting near France’s Saone and Rhone rivers, southeast of Paris and offering various places to go, special Lyon holds the annual festival of lights every December. The other claim to fame is regional cuisine and Croix-Rousse slopes, a UNESCO World Heritage site of Europe. Also stroll around Presqu’île, the heart of Lyon, between Rhône and Saône rivers that is home to Hôtel de Ville and famous Rue de la République shopping street.

Weather in France During Winter

When planning your winter itinerary in the country of France, research local weather because temperatures vary from inland areas to coastal regions. Don’t expect snow in other places apart from the Alps. In western France, expect mild winter conditions; however, pack gear for considerably cold night-times. Meanwhile, in northern France, wear a hat, scarf, and gloves for cold daytime weather. Otherwise, the southeast Riviera provides beautiful daytime temperatures. On average, throughout France, expect winter temperatures between o to 7 Celsius.

Must Know – Les Soldes d’hiver

The first six weeks of January marks the beginning of the winter Les Soldes d’hiver, otherwise known as seasonal sales of France. First stemming from 1830s Paris, where France’s first department stores opened, for new items to be sold under this winter event, they must have been on sale for one month beforehand, and price tags should show original and discounted prices. There is three mark down prices during the six weeks, with 50% off. Time to grab yourself some great bargains!

Best National Parks in France: When listing France’s best national parks, be amazed. Their stunning beauty and flora and fauna thriving within their boundaries is under the protected status. Aside from winter in France, to see France’s national parks at their best, visit in Spring, summer, or Autumn, when vivid colours of Mother Nature open an outdoor playground in France.

Public holidays in France: Whether living or holidaying in France, most businesses, shops, and offices close during national holidays in France. Likewise, check the opening hours of supermarkets, bakeries, restaurants, and tourist attractions as they vary. Altogether there are 11 official holidays. However, France’s Moselle and Alsace regions have two holidays; other areas do not. Additionally, dates change every year, so put these in your diary if you plan to visit or live in France.

winter in France