France is a popular destination in the summer, and floods of tourists travel here to enjoy the beaches of Cannes, sip wine in Bordeaux, and picnic on the banks of the Seine while admiring the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately tourists tend to depart before the first sign of snow, having missed the opportunity to experience a truly magical time of the year.
France is a completely different destination during winter; imagine iconic landmarks like the Champs Elysees and Grand Palais transformed by a sea of dazzling fairy lights, and public ice-skating rinks which stay open well into the night. Outdoor Christmas markets take over main city squares and you can snack on roasted chestnuts, sip local mulled wine, or shop for traditional gifts. Winter in France is a celebration and it is something which should be on your bucket list.
Winter is the best time of the year for grabbing cheap deals on flights and accommodation. Being off season, this means you can head to famous attractions like the Lourve and skip the long hour and a half queues which form in summer months. Once the summer tourists depart, France feels like it’s your own. The following are fabulous things to do in winter while in France. winter in France.
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Ice Skate on the Eiffel Tower
A fairly epic adventure in France during winter includes swapping your shoes for skates and ice-skating inside the Eiffel Tower!
Every winter, ice-skating rinks are set up around Paris for locals and tourists alike, however you would never expect that one of these rinks would be located within one of the world’s most famous landmarks! Refreshment stands; yes. Souvenir shops and fancy restaurants; also expected. But an ice-skating rink in the sky?! Things to do in Paris in Winter
The ice-skating rink atop the Eiffel Tower is probably the most impractical addition the tower has seen in it’s 124 years of existence, but also the coolest! It is a completely new way to view the city, and, as if Paris wasn’t romantic enough, the intimacy of the rink makes for an incredibly magical experience. It’s not badly priced either.
Catch a Christmas Market
Christmas markets are magical in France, and, as you wander through the main city square, lights fill the air and scents of spicy wine waft after you. The Christmas spirit is truly captured here, and this is a great way to score traditional and unique gifts created by local artisans that you won’t find anywhere else. Best Christmas markets in France in winter.
Skating rinks are usually part of the markets, and children also enjoy entertainment like carousels as adults sip on mulled wine. Christmas markets pop up all throughout France, usually opening late November – early December and running until the end of the year.
Though for the best Christmas markets in France make sure you visit Strasbourg. This market has been going strong for 431 years and is the oldest and largest in France. The Strasbourg Cathedral in the background makes for a spectacular scene. What to do in France over Christmas.
Attend a Winter Festival
There are a number of fabulous winter festivals throughout France which you shouldn’t miss, the Beaujolais Nouveau Celebrations being one. This is a festival which begins at midnight on the 3rd Thursday of November every year, where restaurants, wine bars and cafes stay open late in celebration of the uncorking of the new wine of the year. Winter festivals in France.
Music and jazz festivals play all throughout winter, and the Fete des Lumieres in Lyons is a fantastic four day festival which sees buildings from private homes to public landmarks lit in an urban spectacle of light.
Ski in the Alps
France is one of the top destinations in Europe for skiing, and the country offers potentially the broadest range of snow sport opportunities, with some of the best ski runs in the world. Best ski in France
The French-Italian border is blessed with the Alps, and there are challenges suited to everyone from beginners to the world’s most elite athletes. There is an equally as diverse range of accommodation here, and travelers can opt for family friendly resorts like Flaine near Mont Blanc, or to stay in elaborate luxury in properties like Courchevel. Places to ski in France in winter
All of the resorts throughout France have English speaking instructors on site, and most will be trained specifically for teaching children or those who may be impaired. Best places to ski in winter in France
The ski scene is fairly lively and many resorts hold winter festivities of their own; everything from classical music concerts and jazz to snow sculpting competitions. What to do in winter in France
France in winter doesn’t have to be all about the snow; you can take advantage of off-peak season and still enjoy a mild climate.
Destinations in the South and South West remain fairly warm all year round. Locations like Nice can be a fabulous choice for those seeking warmer climates in winter. And there is the added perk of being in the South of France with hardly any other tourists. Imagine the French Riviera to yourself. You can enjoy the Old Town with traditional architecture and markets and head to the Promenade des Anglais for fantastic views.
Consider booking a car so you have the flexibility and freedom to drive between destinations in the South. When it comes to self drive holidays in France, we were impressed with the choice available at Brittany Ferries and the offers they run all year long.
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