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9 Best Places to Visit in France in Winter

Updated: August 2, 2022

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Paris in winter with the Eiffel Tower

Paris, France

Our choice of the nine best places to visit in France in winter highlights those places that allow you to indulge in the country’s beauty with far fewer people, giving you a more authentic experience.

From Paris to the Alps, the Loire Valley to quiet villages, festive Christmas markets to exciting snow activities, France in winter can take you to serene landscapes, lively holiday celebrations, and renowned museums.

You have the opportunity to discover more of the country the way you prefer as you discover the countryside or cityscapes within the majestic ambiance of the season.

1. Paris

Ice skating at the Christmas Market near Jardin des Tuileries in Paris, France

Paris, France

Paris is a majestic city no matter the time of year, but in winter, thin sheets of snow and crisp air create an ethereal glow. The holiday season sings, an ice-skating rink decorates the Champs Elysees, and fairy lights shimmer along streets filled with the smell of fresh pine.

You’ll find the charming ambiance of the City of Lights everywhere, from the historic streets of Montmartre to cozy cafes. Christmas concerts, Midnight Mass, boutique stores, and elaborate confections are the order of the day in Paris in winter.

Highlights: Christmas markets • Cozy bistros • Old-fashioned hot chocolate • Ice-skating • Christmas concerts • Eiffel Tower • Louvre Museum

2. Lyon

Festival of Lights in Lyon, France

Lyon, France

Combine the rich and hearty traditions of French culinary mastery with historic architecture dating back to ancient Rome in Lyon. The Festival of Lights illuminates the cold nights to bring a vibrant glow to the buildings, streets, and squares.

From the Musee des Beaux-Arts to the cobblestone streets of Old Town, gourmet restaurants that demonstrate culinary arts to grand lifestyle wrapped in simple pleasures, Lyon is a feast in winter.

Highlights: Festival of Lights • Haute-cuisine • Michelin-starred restaurants • Cooking classes • Roman ruins • Musee des Beaux-Arts

3. Alsace

The old town of Colmar, in the Alsace region, decorated for Christmas

Colmar, France

This historical region of Alsace immerses you in a winter wonderland, where storybook villages turn childhood dreams into reality.

Wandering small towns and villages in the cold weather, with possible snowfall, turns discovery into fantasy, especially when holiday charm exudes from decorations accentuating pastel-colored homes.

Christmas trees, sweet shops brimming with the aromas of cinnamon and chocolate, Christmas markets in hidden squares surrounded by medieval architecture, and famous wine trails embody the quintessential reasons to visit France in winter.

Highlights: Colmar • Obernai • Eguisheim • Kaysersberg • Ribeauvillé • Strasbourg

4. Marseille

Port of Marseille, France

Marseille, France

Marseille is one of the most overlooked cities in France, but provides a great introduction to the seaside wonders of French tradition and cuisine. Unlike the northern regions, the Mediterranean setting offers a warmer escape during the holiday season and Christmas customs include celebrating with 13 desserts, often on display by vendors across the city.

Food is at the heart of culture in the port city, resulting in plenty of cafes and restaurants that punctuate the historical streets of the Old Port with aromas of bouillabaisse and panisse.

Highlights: French Provencal dishes • Old Port • Local wine • Food vendors

5. Annecy

Dusting of snow in Annecy, France

Annecy, France

Annecy in winter is picturesque, its glassy lake reflective, and its marketplace overflowing with joy. The holiday season and beyond erupt with charm across Old Town and along the quiet canals that divide the royal residence and historic churches.

The Christmas markets fill with aromas of seasonal fruits, local cheeses, and the robust spices of mulled wine. Carnival takes center stage in February and hearty alpine food provides comfort after a day of skiing or snowboarding. With fairytale charm and outdoor adventures, Annecy has the best opportunities for every type of winter traveler.

Highlights: Ski • Seasonal food •Christmas markets • Old Town • Canals

6. Loire Valley

The chapel of Saint-Hubert at the chateau d'amboise, burial place of Leonardo da Vinci

Chapel of Saint-Hubert in Amboise, France

Chateaux, forests dusted with snow, and fairytale castles that emerge from the banks of gentle rivers create the enchanting ambiance of the Loire Valley in winter.

The holiday season offers a festive celebration across the towns and villas, with musical entertainment, costumed performers, and decorations turning elaborate gardens into Christmas masterpieces.

You could visit the final resting place of Leonardo da Vinci or the most visited chateau in France after Versailles.

Highlights: Christmas markets • Christmas concerts • Chateau Royal d’Amboise • Château de Chambord • Holiday decorations

7. The French Alps

Skiing in Chamonix Mont-Blanc, in the heart of the French Alps

Chamonix, France

The French Alps can be an adventurer's dream or a cozy snow-filled escape. December to February is peak season for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, downhill skiing, and more.

The heavy blankets of snow create a haven for winter activities, resulting in plenty of luxurious accommodations and Michelin-starred restaurants. Peek into the glamorous lives of western Europeans or relax with a hot drink overlooking the snow-white expanse for a classic winter experience.

Highlights: Skiing • Snowshoeing • Snowboarding • ice rappelling • Ice climbing • Megeve • Chamonix • Grenoble

8. Lille

Ferris wheel at the Christmas market in Lille, France

Lille, France

Lille’s allure during winter stems from its indoor attractions and lively Christmas market. With traditional Flemish touches and a thrilling ambiance, the city becomes a playground for art lovers, winter enthusiasts, and gourmands.

Find chocolate sauce dripping over waffles and storybook castles bordering a historic square. Traditional cheeses, satisfying desserts, and the offsite Louvre Museum highlight the city’s diversity in winter.

Highlights: Christmas market • Regional cuisine • Rue de Gand Vieux-Lille • Palais des Beaux-Arts • Musée du Louvre-Lens

9. Bordeaux

Dusting in snow in Bordeaux, France

Bordeaux, France

With over 350 buildings designated UNESCO World Heritage sites, a magnificent cathedral that’s part of the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage trail, and the opulence of the Grand Theatre, winter accentuates Bordeaux’s luxuries.

Numerous Christmas markets celebrate the holiday season with festive style and rich, eponymous wines provide comfort in the cold air. Between December and February there are fewer crowds, but myriad festivals at which to enjoy the vineyards’ bounty.

Highlights: Christmas markets • Wine festivals • Regional cuisine • Grand Theatre • Cathedrale Saint-Andre

Interested in Planning Your Winter France Trip?

The Château de Sully-sur-Loire in the Loire Valley of France

The Château de Sully-sur-Loire in the Loire Valley of France

France is an iconic destination with legendary cuisine, sensational scenery, and cities that boast medieval lanes and glamorous museums.

From the Eiffel Tower in Paris to the storybook villages of Alsace, the snowcapped alpine peaks to delicious wines, France is a destination guaranteed to surprise and delight.

Zicasso’s France Tours & Vacations has plenty of sample itineraries to inspire your personalized tour, while our France Travel Guide can immerse you in the diverse flavors of your trip.

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