Wondering where to spend winter in France? This article will give you the best places to visit in France in winter for a perfect winter vacation.
There’s pretty much no bad time to travel to France! The country is beautiful just as it is and has much to look forward to in every season of the year.
France in winter however has a soft spot in our hearts. Yes, it’s cold, but it’s also dreamy, beautiful, and absolutely romantic.
From jolly Christmas markets in December to perfect weather for snow sports in January and vibrant local carnivals in February, there’s plenty to eat, see, and do in France in the wintertime!
To help you decide which part of France you should travel to if you’re planning a winter vacay, we’ve rounded up 16 of the best places to visit in France in winter.
We promise you’ll find a French winter wonderland that’s up your alley. Keep reading to be inspired!
Best Places to Visit in France in Winter
From bustling cities to cute ski towns, here is a list of the best places to visit in France in winter.
There’s just not a bad season to visit Paris — after all, it is one of the most beautiful cities in France and its charm and beauty still shine through even on cold and gray days.
From dreamy Parisian Christmas markets to streets lined with fairy lights and laughter-filled ice rinks, it’s so easy to fall in love with Paris in the winter.
Get ready to bundle up in your warmest coat and head out for a hot chocolate (or a glass of Vin Chaud (French mulled wine) from the various Christmas market, or catch some Christmas magic at Disneyland Paris!
If it gets too cold, you can always seek temporary refuge in one of the many world-class Parisian museums that you’ll enjoy without huge crowds.
Also, be sure not to miss out on the dazzling end-of-year illuminations at Champ Elysées as well as the festival of lights at Jardin des Plantes.
Related Post: Big Mistakes to avoid in Paris
Hop on a 2-hour train ride from Paris and you’ll find yourself in Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace and home to Christkindelsmärik — one of the largest and oldest Christmas markets in France.
Expect festive vibes, countless rows of little wooden chalets, and lingering scents in the air from freshly-baked gingerbread to Christmas cakes, roasted chestnuts, sizzling sausages, cinnamon, mulled wine, and hearty cocoa.
Besides spending evenings at the Christmas markets, be sure to also catch a glimpse of the Great Christmas Tree at Place Kléber, stroll through the narrow cobbled streets of La Petite France, and enjoy a traditional Alsatian meal in a local restaurant. It really doesn’t get any better than that in France during winter.
Even if you’re not visiting during Christmas time, Strasbourg exudes equally cozy vibes throughout the winter season. It’s like Christmas never leaves this lovely place!
Located just half an hour away from Strasbourg, Colmar is equally, if not more beautiful than its neighbor.
Fun fact; the little town apparently served as the inspiration for the village in the Beauty and the Beast film, and you’ll know why the moment you step foot here.
While Colmar isn’t a huge town, it’s packed with scenic canals, twisting cobbled streets, picturesque half-timbered buildings, and lots of flowers.
Colmar is dreamy in every season of the year, but Christmas is when the real magic happens.
Expect lots of cute festive decor, cozy Christmas markets (the small town is home to a total of six of them), delicious Alsatian food, and Christmas vibes at every corner.
Also located in the Alsace region just 20 minutes away from Colmar (and reachable with affordable bus tickets that start at a mere $3), Riquewihr is the perfect destination in France in winter.
It has pretty much the same old town charm as Strasbourg and Colmar but feels a little less touristy compared to its neighboring towns.
Old town vibes aside, Riquewihr also gained its fame from its sprawling vineyards which produce some of the most excellent white wines in France.
Many of the vineyards remain open for tastings even in the winter months, so you can go on hikes, learn about wine production, and begin your search for the best glass.
For a unique experience, you can also spend a night at a winery! There are a handful of wineries that offer accommodation for travelers, with rooms facing beautiful vineyards and forests.
Make sure to also pop by the Riquewihr Christmas Market that’s open on the weekends from the end of November to Christmas.
Located under 2 hours by train from Paris, Lyon is known as the gastronomic capital of France.
This quaint city boasts plenty of Michelin-star restaurants and humble bistros where you can get the best French cuisine in the whole of France.
keep an eye out for “Authentique Lyonnaise Bouchon” signs on the windows of eateries you come across! These restaurants are typically home-style, family-run bistros that serve hearty, delicious, and inexpensive traditional French meals.
Food aside, Lyon is extremely charming in winter as it plays host to the Festival of Lights (Fête des Lumières), one of the most popular winter festivals in France.
Get ready for 4 magical evenings worth of light installations and spectacular projections spread all over the city in December.
With so many things to do in Lyon during this time of the year, there is no doubt that it is indeed one of the best cities in France in winter.
6. The French Alps
For those who are unafraid of the cold (and especially if you really want to see snow), the French Alps offer a great taste of adventure for adrenaline-seekers.
Ski, snowboard, paraglide, ice skate, and hike to your heart’s content at the endless ski slopes and majestic peaks of the French Alps.
Besides catching some enchanting Christmas vibes in December, January is one of the best months to head to the French Alps as the slopes are generally quieter and snow conditions are perfect.
If you’re not much of a winter sports enthusiast, you can always just relax in the warmth of a ski resort or stroll through the streets of the many charming old towns in the region (Annecy, a fairytale-like mountain town set against a backdrop of majestic snow-capped mountains is our personal favorite!).
Prefer to base yourself in a more relaxing ski village? Megeve may just be your cup of tea.
Located in the heart of the Alps, Megeve is one of the best hidden gems and best-kept secrets in the region.
It’s known as more of a high-end ski destination and has much to offer from fine dining restaurants (including 3 Michelin-star ones), wide and less-crowded ski areas, and stylish accommodations.
Megeve is also extremely magical during Christmas! Book yourself a stay in one of the village’s cozy wooden chalets, most of which offer stunning views of Mont Blanc and warm fireplaces.
If you’re looking to participate in sports winter activities in France, Megeve is the perfect place for that.
Nestled at the base of Mont Blanc near the junction of France, Switzerland, and Italy, Chamonix is the perfect winter destination in the French Alps if you’re up to filling your holiday with outdoor activities.
Besides the usual winter sports like snowboarding and skiing, there are plenty of other more unique and adventurous activities in store such as dog sledding, glacier hiking, snowshoeing, and ice fishing.
For foodies, you’ll be delighted to know that Chamonix has a pretty diverse and delicious food scene!
Due to its close proximity to Switzerland and Italy, you’ll see much influence from the neighboring countries in Chamonix’s cuisine.
Some must-trys that are perfect for the winter cold include cheese fondue, raclette, rosti (Swiss’s version of a hash brown, often topped with bacon, eggs, and cheese), tartiflette (a warm dish of potatoes layered with cheese, onions, and lardon), and pierrade (table-top BBQ!).
9. Loire Valley
Stretched across central France, the Loire Valley is a region filled with natural landscapes and historical buildings, including plenty of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
A few main things the Loire Valley is known for include fairytale-like castles, gorgeous gardens, and delicious wine.
Most of the sights you shouldn’t miss out on in the region are castles — after all, the Loire Valley is home to over 100 of them, and they all look absolutely stunning in the winter, especially when it snows. In fact, the Loire Valley is home to some of the most beautiful castles in France.
A handful you shouldn’t miss out on include the Château Chenonceau, Château de Chambord, Château d’Amboise, and Château de Chaumont. Be sure to also leave time in your itinerary to visit one of the vineyards!
Lille is a cute little city located close to the Belgium border. It’s super easy to get to by high-speed train whether from Paris, Brussels, or London!
The lovely city is lots of fun to explore by foot thanks to its small size, and it also has plenty of interesting sights including the second-largest art museum in France, gothic cathedrals, as well World War I battlefields, and a vibrant nightlife.
Battle the winter cold with hearty local cuisines such as moule frites (mussels and French fries), specialty waffles, carbonnade flamande (Flemish beef stew), and traditional beers.
Also from the end of November, the Christmas market in Place Rihour will be in full swing!
Not a fan of the winter cold? The weather in France in winter can vary depending on where you’re at, and there are many parts of France that are warmer than others, with the French Riviera being one of them.
Located in the southeast corner of France, the region has a Mediterranean climate that promises milder winters.
Once crowned the “winter resort town of the Riviera”, Nice is one of the best winter destinations in France.
Winters are mild and crisp in Nice, with average temperatures being 10 °C (50°F) even on the coldest of days.
Take a nice stroll along the Promenade des Anglais, explore the city’s charming old town (Vieux Nice), and be sure to not miss out on Carnaval de Nice, one of Europe’s oldest carnival celebrations that takes place for two whole weeks in February (or sometimes March) every year. It’s also one of the best winter festivals in Europe.
Also located along the idyllic French Riviera just half an hour from Nice by train, laid-back Menton is often overshadowed by other more popular destinations along the coast.
As with most of the coastal towns along the French Riviera, Menton offers milder winters and plenty of sunshine, swaying palm trees, a bright blue sea, and picture-perfect medieval buildings.
If you ever have the chance to travel to Menton in February, you simply cannot miss out on the Fete du Citron, Menton’s legendary annual Lemon Festival!
Imagine carnival floats, parades, lemon-inspired sculptures, exhibitions, and lots of lemony fun.
Even if you miss it, you can make up for it by buying some lemon-inspired souvenirs or feasting on lemon-infused cuisine.
The people of Menton are so proud of their local fruit that you can find it everywhere. It’s used to cook pasta, make desserts, pastries, jam, bread, cocktails, soap, and more.
Marseille is the second-largest city in France after Paris and a largely underrated one.
Located west of the French Riviera, it’s hugged by the ocean and surrounded by hills. Winters are mild, dry, and windy just like other cities and towns along the coast.
The average temperatures in the afternoon hover around a comfortable 10°C (50°F) and drop to just above 0°C (32°F) at night throughout the season, so be sure to pack warm clothes and a waterproof jacket in case it rains!
While it’ll still be too cold to spend time by the beach, Marseille is still quite a chill place to explore in the winter months.
Some tourist attractions may be closed, but you can still stroll along the city’s old port, climb to the top of the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, and catch a glimpse of local life by exploring the city’s laid-back neighborhoods.
Plus, be sure to enjoy an authentic, steaming bowl of bouillabaisse, a traditional fish stew that originates from the city! It’s perfect for the chilly winter weather.
While most people know Provence for its dreamy lavender fields in the summer, this elegant, fairytale-like region in France will surprise you with its winter charm in the colder months.
The beautiful hilltop villages and sprawling landscapes of Provence are generally less crowded in the winter, perfect for those who’d prefer to escape the winter holiday crowds that flock to more popular cities in France.
You can also indulge in some seasonal specialty cuisine made with ingredients that are freshest in the winter months such as olives and truffles!
Popular for its vibrant culture, architecture, and welcoming atmosphere, Normandy is known as one of the friendliest regions of France.
While most people travel here during the warmer months of summer, winter isn’t too bad of a time to head here if you’re looking for a laid-back vacation.
Normandy is generally quiet during the winter months, which means lesser crowds. You can often get full stretches of beaches and attractions to yourself and cheaper accommodation rates.
While some museums close up for the winter (especially in January), you can expect festive pop-up events including special lighting displays and Christmas parades!
Do note though that Normandy gets a fair bit of rain during the colder months, so make sure you pack accordingly to stay warm and dry. You can check out this packing list for winter to know exactly what to pack.
Bordeaux is a port city in Southwestern France known as a haven for wine lovers.
The city is home to over 7,000 wineries, and you can book a guided wine tasting and tour to not only taste but also fully understand the wine-making process. Make sure you don’t leave the city without going on a wine-tasting tour!
To indulge yourself in the history of winemaking, be sure to also pop by La Cité du Vin, Bordeaux’s unique museum and cultural center dedicated to wine.
While most people come to Bordeaux for its wine, there’s more to the city beyond the vineyards.
If it gets too cold, you can always sneak into a museum or concert hall for a few hours.
For some good food and good vibes, head to Halles de Bacalan, a lively, covered food hall where you can treat yourself to fresh oysters, juicy burgers, cold cuts, vegetarian tapas, and more.
Final Thoughts on the Best Places to Visit in France in Winter
Are you ready to spend winter in France? We hope you liked our list of the best cities to visit in France in winter!
Whether you’re looking forward to lively vibes in a vibrant city or to spending quality time away from the crowds in a laid-back town, there’s definitely a destination for you in France during winter.
Check out these posts to help you plan your trip to France
- Big mistakes to avoid in Paris
- The most famous landmarks in France
- Best things to do in Paris
- The most beautiful Castles in France
- Hidden gems to visit in Paris
- Most beautiful beaches in the South of France
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