France In Winter: From Snow To Sun Find Your Next Winter Destination

France In Winter: From Snow To Sun Find Your Next Winter Destination

France in winter is a delightful tapestry of contrasts, allowing you to experience the country in all its diverse splendor.

From the misty charm of Paris and the enchanting Christmas markets of Alsace to the sunny allure of the French Riviera and the warm-hearted festivities in Marseille, this blog post invites you to explore the many facets of France during the winter season.

Whether you seek snow-capped mountains, festive holiday spirit, or the gentle caress of winter sun, France has a winter destination that’s just right for you.

For more on another beautiful French region, check out our guide to Bordeaux at a Glance: 7 Most Popular Areas.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are ‘affiliate links’. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

France In Winter: Paris A Winter Wonderland

Arc De Triomphe

Every time of year is the perfect time to visit Paris ( except maybe August) however Paris in winter especially around Christmas time is a sparkling cheerful sight.

Wonder the streets of Paris and be greeted by fully trimmed Christmas trees, lights shimmering. The winter mornings and evenings are the most beautiful, the misty fog giving the streets a very special glimmer like a scene from the movies.

Window Christmas Lights

During the Winter and Christmas time, wandering around Paris is bumped up to another level. With the lead-up to Christmas department stores all over Paris start to decorate their windows the Galeries Lafayette, La Samaritaine, Le Bon Marché Rive Gauch, and Printemps Haussmann are some of the biggest but not the only ones.

Christmas Market | ©Mateusz Dach

Paris Christmas Markets

From mid-November into January Jardin des Tuileries Christmas Market runs right in the middle of Paris a combination of a Carnaval coming to town and a Christmas Market.

Throughout Paris and Ile de France are Christmas markets, however, be careful as most don’t run past Christmas Day.

Discover The Numerous Museums

When the days turn a bit dreary, venture into some of the many museums around Paris. A favorite museum of the locals is the Pompidou Centre Of Modern Art, a fun alternative to the Louvre.

Light Walks Through The City Of Light

Use the quiet calm of winter days to indulge in aimless wandering through the streets admiring the beautiful architecture. Once the sun goes down explore the light installations throughout the city.

Some of the biggest ones run from November to January: Jardin des Plantes Festival of Light, Dragons and Lanterns Festival at the Jardin d’Acclimatation, Lumières en Seine at the Domaine de Saint-Cloud.

If you’re interested in a more immersive travel experience, read about Discovering the Art of Slow Travel in France: Embracing Authentic Experiences Beyond Airbnb.

France In Winter: Lyon Festivals And Food


Lyon is renowned as the gastronomic center of France. An old historic city in the Rhone Alpes Region about 4 hours by train from Paris.

Winter is a beautiful time to explore the city and indulge in the city’s enchanting atmosphere, delicious food, and unique culture.

Festival of Lights (Fête des Lumières)

Lyon’s Festival of Lights is a world-renowned event that takes place in early December. During this festival, the city’s streets, squares, and landmarks are illuminated with stunning light installations, creating a magical atmosphere. It’s a unique and enchanting experience to wander through the city and witness these artistic displays, often accompanied by music and performances.

Ice Skating in Place Bellecour

Place Bellecour, one of Europe’s largest open squares, transforms into a winter wonderland during the winter months. A large ice skating rink is set up, allowing both locals and visitors to enjoy ice skating while surrounded by the city’s grand architecture. This activity is perfect for those seeking some winter fun and exercise.

Visit the Traboules

Lyon is famous for its traboules, and hidden passageways that connect buildings and courtyards throughout the city. Exploring the traboules can be especially captivating during winter when you can escape the cold and explore these unique architectural features. Some traboules are adorned with beautiful holiday decorations, adding to the charm.

Get Your Guide

Warm Up with Traditional Lyonnaise Cuisine

Lyon is known for its delicious and hearty cuisine. During the winter, take the opportunity to savor traditional Lyonnaise dishes in cozy bouchons (local restaurants). Try hearty specialties like coq au vin, quenelles, or a hot bowl of gratin dauphinois. Pair your meal with a glass of Beaujolais wine to complete the experience.

Take part in a Food And Wine Walking Tour.

Lyon’s Christmas Market at Place Carnot ©Tristan Deschamps

Explore the Christmas Market (Le Marche De Noel)

Lyon hosts several charming Christmas markets throughout the city during the winter season. These markets feature stalls selling handmade crafts, artisanal gifts, and seasonal treats. The largest Christmas market is typically held in the Croix-Rousse district, where you can shop for unique holiday gifts and indulge in warm mulled wine and festive treats.

France In Winter: Alsace A Fairytale Christmas

Alsace is a region in northeastern France less than 2 hours by train from Paris.

That is known for its charming villages, vineyards, and Christmas markets. A Favored destination for the locals of France during the winter. The region is particularly beautiful in December when the villages are decorated with Christmas lights and the markets are in full swing. The town of Colmar is especially picturesque during this time of year

Explore the Christmas Markets

Alsace is renowned for its enchanting Christmas markets, which are some of the most beautiful in Europe. The cities and towns come alive with festive decorations, twinkling lights, and the scent of mulled wine and gingerbread. Don’t miss the Strasbourg Christmas Market, which is one of the oldest and most famous in France, but also explore the smaller, more traditional markets in charming villages like Colmar and Riquewihr.

Enjoy Alsatian Cuisine

Winter is the perfect time to savor Alsatian comfort food. Warm up with dishes like choucroute garnie (sauerkraut with sausages and pork), baeckeoffe (a hearty casserole), and flammekueche (a thin, crispy tart topped with cream, onions, and bacon). Pair your meal with local wines or spiced mulled wine for a cozy culinary experience.

Visit the Alsatian Vineyards

While the vineyards may not be covered in grapes during the winter, they offer a unique and serene beauty. Consider taking a guided tour of the vineyards, where you can learn about the winemaking process and enjoy tastings of Alsace’s famous white wines, such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Winter time is a quieter time for the winemakers giving them more time to spend on showing you around.

Explore Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg

Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg, a beautifully preserved medieval castle, offers a stunning backdrop in any season, but it takes on an extra layer of enchantment in the winter. The castle often hosts special events and activities during the holiday season, making it a great destination for history enthusiasts and families.

Go Winter Hiking and Skiing

While Alsace is not typically associated with skiing like the French Alps, it offers opportunities for winter outdoor activities. Explore the Vosges Mountains, which are perfect for winter hiking and cross-country skiing. The region’s pristine forests and trails provide a peaceful escape into nature during the winter months.

France In Winter: French Riviera Enjoy The Winter Sun

nice, promenade des anglais, french riviera

The French Riviera also known as the Côte d’Azur, is the warmest place in France with mild but sunny winters making it a great destination for those who enjoy sunny winter days

Exploring the French Riviera in winter is a unique and enjoyable experience, offering a more peaceful and temperate atmosphere. Although the South Of France in winter isn’t as cold as the rest of the country, come prepared with warm clothes.

For insights on visiting France during the shoulder season, check out our post on France In October And November.

Fete Du Citron

Visit the Lemon Festival in Menton

Each year in February, the charming town of Menton hosts the Fête du Citron, a vibrant Lemon Festival. The event features impressive citrus-themed sculptures and parades, infusing the town with a burst of color and zest. It’s a delightful and whimsical experience that brings a sunny feel to the wintery season.

Taste Local Wines

The French Riviera boasts several winemaking regions, and winter is a great time to savor local wines without the summer crowds. Consider visiting wineries in the Bellet, Côtes de Provence, or Bandol appellations to taste exquisite wines. Many vineyards offer tastings, tours, and the opportunity to learn about winemaking traditions.

Discover the Carnaval de Nice

The Nice Carnival, held in February, is one of the most famous carnivals in the world. It features dazzling parades, vibrant costumes, and artistic performances. The theme changes each year, and the festivities culminate in a spectacular fireworks display along the Promenade des Anglais, creating a lively and magical winter atmosphere.

Take A Drive Or Hike in the Esterel Massif

The Esterel Massif, a coastal mountain range near Cannes, offers a beautiful setting for outdoor enthusiasts. Winter is an ideal time for hiking in this area, as the temperatures are milder, and the trails are less crowded. You can explore the vibrant red rocks, and pine forests, and enjoy breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea. Go for a drive along the range and stop and explore the villages and sights along the route.

Relax on the Beach

While swimming might not be on the agenda, the French Riviera’s beautiful beaches are perfect for serene winter strolls and relaxation. Enjoy a peaceful day by the sea, take in the beautiful coastal views, and maybe even have a beachside picnic. Some beachfront restaurants remain open, allowing you to savor fresh seafood with a view

France In Winter: Marseille A City Full Of Sun

white concrete building near body of water during daytime

Located between the Mediterranean and the Alps, Marseille is known for its long, hot summers, mild winters, and lots of sunshine. The city has, on average, 2801 hours of sunshine per year, making it one of the sunniest places in France. As a vibrant port city, 4 hours by train from Paris Marseille offers many unique activities to enjoy during the winter in France.

Calanque de Sormiou and mediterranean sea, Marseille, France.

Explore the Calanques

The Calanques are a series of stunning, rugged limestone cliffs and inlets that offer some of the most picturesque coastal landscapes in France. While swimming and sunbathing might not be ideal during the winter, the cooler season is perfect for hiking in the Calanques. The trails are less crowded, and the crisp, clean air and coastal views create a unique and serene atmosphere.

Calanque de Sormiou is the closest Calanque to Marseille about 45 minutes by car from Marseille.

Visit the MuCEM

The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (MuCEM) is a striking modern architectural landmark in Marseille. Explore its exhibitions and learn about the rich history and culture of the Mediterranean region. Winter is an excellent time to visit as the museum provides a warm and educational respite from the cooler outdoor temperatures.

Taste Bouillabaisse

Marseille is famous for its traditional fish stew, bouillabaisse. Winter is an ideal time to savor this hearty dish in the city’s many seafood restaurants. Local chefs take great pride in preparing bouillabaisse, and it’s a comforting and flavorful meal that warms you up on a cool winter day.

Discover the Old Port

The Vieux-Port, or Old Port, is the heart of Marseille and is lively year-round. While summer sees more outdoor activities, the winter months offer a different charm. Enjoy strolls along the quays, savoring hot mulled wine or seafood at one of the local cafes. You can also watch the fishermen and take in the views of the harbor. Alex DROP

Marseille Tourism

Wonder Marseilles Street To Le Panier And Notre Dame

The vibrant streets of Marseille, seamlessly blend a rich tapestry of cultures, creating a unique and dynamic atmosphere. Explore the enchanting area of Le Panier ( the Old Town ), where colorful buildings and narrow alleys invite you to get lost in its charming labyrinth. Notre Dame de la Garde, is a magnificent basilica perched on a hill, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the Mediterranean and the bustling city below.

Overall, France in winter is an enchanting spectacle of snow, sun, and festive delights. Whether you’re spending a few days in Paris, escaping to the fairytale streets of Alsace, or seeking a sophisticated winter sun break along the Côte d’Azur, winter in France is set to impress.

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