Just because it's cold doesn't mean that you shouldn't travel. Visiting countries in the winter can be a different experience from seeing the sights in the summer, adding a new dimension to your trip.
Whether you choose to visit for a weekend or longer, hopping over to France is the perfect winter rendezvous. Here is why you should visit France in the winter.
The Best Things to Do in France in Winter
1. Christmas Markets
Bundle up and venture into Christmas wonderlands of the French variety. Find yourself a unique gift and try local products, such as French wine, as you meander around the wooden huts. These festive markets are all over France, but head to Paris and Strasbourg for the more popular ones or to Lille for the outdoor ice rink.
A France winter means Christmas festivities! Christmas markets generally start at the beginning of December, with some starting as early as the end of November. They run until December 23 or until New Year's Eve.
2. Go Sightseeing
Head to one of Europe's oldest cities, Marseille. Located in the southeast of France, this seaport city has medieval architecture and Roman ruins to explore.
You could also choose the lesser-known city of Arles. Once home to Vincent van Gogh, this city's appeal is its Roman amphitheatre. So don your woollen hat and explore more of France than just its popular cities.
3. Get Classical
You can listen to classical music all over France. Classical music events take place throughout the winter in the university city of Nantes, and they culminate at the end of January with performers from all over the world.
4. Visit Museums
It may be cold outside, so head inside some of Paris' top museums, such as the Musée du Louvre or the Musée d'Orsay. Browse a guide to Paris landmarks and get even more ideas for can't-miss museums like the Cite de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine and the Musée des Arts et Metier, Europe's oldest science museum. Buy a Paris Museum Pass for access to over 60 museums and savings on entrance fees.
5. Explore Chateaus
The Loire Valley is known for its gorgeous chateaux and historic villages. Stretching 175 miles along the Loire River, the Loire Valley has numerous chateaux to see, and you can visit the area from December to March.
The most popular are Chateau de Loches, Chaumont, and Chateau de Meung. Chinon is more of a fortress but should definitely be on your chateau list. Just take good walking shoes and bundle up.
6. Disneyland Paris
You don't have to go all the way to the States to see Mickey Mouse at Christmas. Visit Disneyland Paris, just 32 km from the capital city, and experience the festive season with all the Disney characters.
See in the new year in style with a spectacular fireworks display, or just choose a day pass to visit on a crisp winter day. You don't have to be a kid to visit.
7. Go Shopping
If you love a bargain, head to France in mid-January, when the country has its winter sales for a whole month! Department stores become a shopper's paradise, so you can load up before heading back on the Eurostar.
8. Drink Wine
We all know the French like their wine, and the best time to taste this country's finest is on the third Thursday of November. This is when wine sellers from all over France visit the region of Burgundy to take part in the Fête du Beaujolais Nouveau and enjoy this port city's cultural scene.
When the temperatures get colder, the ski resorts in France come alive. Whether you're an absolute beginner or you're ready for the black diamond runs, there are a number of snowy resorts to choose from. La Plagne is one of the oldest and most popular destinations, and you can also bobsleigh here. If you prefer to admire snowy views rather than skiing down them, take a cable car ride to the Observatoire Midi-Pyrenees for panoramic mountain views.
Destinations for Skiing
The Three Valleys is ideal for skiing. The interlinked ski resorts mean that you’ll have plenty of runs to try out no matter what level of skier you are. With five villages to choose from, there are plenty of places for beginners to practice.
Les Bruyeres offers great high-altitude skiing and is ideal for family ski holidays with a toboggan run called the Speed Mountain ride for the small (and big) kids to enjoy. There is also an Aquafun and Wellness Centre where you can relax and unwind after your day’s skiing.
Val d’Isere is one of the most known ski resorts. The mountain peaks here reach 3,000 metres and there are 300 km of terrain to ski. It is one of Europe’s most popular ski destinations, made famous by an Olympic gold medalist who grew up here.
Tignes is a nearby smaller resort near the Italian border with lots of restaurants and shops. It’s mainly for intermediates and advanced skiers, but there are some beginners' areas too.
Any place you choose in the French Alps will have fantastic views, but if you’re looking for incredible views of Mont Blanc, then Chamonix is the destination. As the oldest ski resort in France, it offers five main areas, such as La Flegere and Le Tour, which are ideal for both beginners and intermediates.
Meribel is one of the most charming resorts in the French Alps, with different areas for beginners to ski.
Conclusion on what to do in France in winter
Once you’ve finished with your winter activities, you can always take the train to Paris to explore the capital for a few days. Even during the winter months, Paris has a lot to offer, with numerous museums to wile away the hours.
If you don’t fancy Paris then maybe Lyon, Nantes or Nice may be more your type of city. There's plenty to do in France in the winter!
- Is it worth visiting France in winter? Yes, France in winter is magical, especially during Christmas time. Head to the Christmas markets to enjoy the festive atmosphere and see beautiful decorations.
- Where is the warmest part of France in winter? The French Riviera is the warmest place in France in winter.
- What is the weather like in France at Christmas? Most destinations across the country have temperatures below 10°C.