Written by Beth Nicholson,
Last Modified: 18th November 2021

One of the reasons you moved to France was the weather. You’ve enjoyed/got used to outdoor living during the spring/summer months and been spoiled by the heat and heady long days of the summer. But for some France in winter can then come as a shock to the system. Here we discuss how you can not only survive it but even enjoy it.

Depending on where you live, France in winter can be very different from life the rest of the year.  For those in more rural areas, you may find that small villages with services aimed towards tourists over the summer months all but shut down and you might have to travel further to year round villages and towns for the essentials and in order to socialise. And the depletion of daylight hours from the beautiful days that you could happily be pottering around in the garden until 10pm to a descent into darkness several hours earlier can really seem like a sad time. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy this time of year.

For those in large towns and cities, whilst the activity in your locality may not reduce, it’s still a good idea to make plans to counteract the potential sadness of winter. Here are some ideas as to how you can fight the urge to simply hibernate indoors and wait for next spring…

Don’t put your plans on hold because of concerns about your health. Download your free copy of the Healthcare Abroad Guide to find out about getting medical attention overseas.

Get outside

Whilst the summer months are indeed beautiful in France, often the temperatures are simply too hot for frenetic activity. France in winter provides a perfect opportunity to get outdoors and indulge in those activities you ever fancied having a go at. From walking and cycling to horse riding, the fabulous countryside provides the perfect place to hone some new skills and enjoy those outside pursuits. Of course winters can be cold but often even into November the temperatures are mild and as long as you prepare with the correct clothing/equipment there’s nothing to stop you remaining outside in the great outdoors as long as daylight hours permit.

And for those of you who have been busy over the summer in the hospitality industry, now is your time to visit all those places you recommend to your guests and find new ones to recommend next year!

Make the most of everything winter in France has to offer.

Make the most of everything winter in France has to offer.

Winter sports

For the more intrepid amongst you, France in winter is the perfect time to head off to partake in winter sports. During particularly January and February for winter sports fans the best place to be is in the Alps or Pyrenees, the home of some of the world’s top resorts. France boasts no fewer than 400 winter resorts, offering skiing, snowboarding as well as snow shoeing and even ice climbing. And if the family is keen but you not so much, then wait for them at the bottom enjoying your après-ski!

And for those of you who have been busy over the summer in the hospitality industry, now is your time to visit all those places you recommend to your guests and find new ones to recommend next year!

Christmas markets

France thrives on “Brocantes” and “Vide Greniers” (flea markets and garage sales). It’s very possible to find one every weekend (if not more) within a certain perimeter of your home during the summer months. Come November those schedules make way for Christmas markets. From music, carols, mulled wine and artisan arts and crafts, to jewellery and gourmet food and drink gifts, these events provide not only the opportunity to pick up goodies to treat yourself over the winter months but gift ideas for family and friends. As well as superb days out, these events also provide the perfect meeting place to catch up with friends in the area, grab a mulled wine or two and make social plans for Christmas and the New Year. As well as visiting your local ones, why not venture further afield – Strasbourg, Metz and Annecy are just three of the most renowned – and make the most of spending some time getting to know some new areas this beautiful country has to offer. As well as the markets, towns and villages of France boast incredible light displays – the most famous of which being Lyon Festival of Lights, held annually in December which is truly a sight to behold.

Clubs and activities

When the days draw in and evenings get darker earlier, there’s no better antidote than to head off to a club or social group. Check at your local “Mairie” (townhall) or within your local network for these clubs. There are clubs for anything from sewing, to book clubs, to coffee mornings or arts and crafts groups. A great way to meet new friends and increase your social circle, having something to look forward to is a great way to keep the spirits up. And if there are no clubs that you can find in your locality, I hear you cry? Well in that case, consider starting one yourself. Local bars and cafes are always happy to host weekly events so once you know what people would be interested in, a small bit of local publicity or networking and bobs your uncle, you’ve just created a new local activity and a new networking possibility!

Chase the winter sun

Particularly if you’re involved in the hospitality industry for work during the summer, now is your potential downtime and the perfect time for that getaway break.  After all why would you need to be anywhere else over summer months when here is the best place to be? But if you’re already missing those rays, escape France in winter momentarily and chase some winter sun on a break to chase away the potential blues.

Eating and shopping

Take advantage of the cold weather to enjoy the best of France's hearty winter cuisine. Irina Kzan / Shutterstock.com

Take advantage of the cold weather to enjoy the best of France’s hearty winter cuisine. Irina Kzan / Shutterstock.com

Food in France is particularly seasonal and France in winter is when food takes a noticeable turn from the light and healthy to much more hearty and comforting. Salads are off the menu, replaced by foie gras, chocolates, oysters and truffles. Now is definitely the time to use those winter jumpers to provide cover to those few extra pounds and enjoy the delicacies this country is famous for. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even book your own truffle hunt (or if looking for an easier route, find a local truffle market.)

Property prices in much of France are lower than in the UK, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get an even better deal! Find out how in your free guide, How to Negotiate Abroad.

Winter sales in France tend to be from mid-January into mid-February due to the sales season being government controlled, so if retail therapy is your thing, now is also the perfect time to book that big shopping trip.

Garden preparation and project planning

OK, so yes technically these are jobs but they have to be done at some point and now is the perfect time to do it. The French love the phrase “profitez” – make the most of it – and now really is the opportunity. Garden preparation for next year is an important job with the focus of many people’s lifestyles here being dependent on a level of self-sufficiency. Prune those trees, cut back those shrubs, make those plans and get a head start on next year when apart from the constant mowing, your main focus will be simply enjoying it.

Use the down time to do those projects you've been planning over summer.

Use the down time to do those projects you’ve been planning over summer.

As well as the garden, there are other jobs to be done. Let’s face it, you know you’ve been making an ever increasing to do list over the summer of those jobs that you still haven’t done because you were too busy enjoying the sunshine. Well now’s the time to dig out and tackle that list. Planning or starting those projects, whether for your business next year, those home improvements or kick starting those dreams in the making – now is the time to get busy. From writing the book you’ve always fancied writing, or learning a new skill like upcycling, you never know you may well find something you not only really enjoy but could eventually become a new business or income stream.

The French love the phrase “profitez” – make the most of it – and now is the perfect time to do everything you’ve been planning over the summer.

Visits – family and friends

Whilst making hay when the sun was shining, you may not have had time for those family visits or catching up with friends. Do it now. Flight prices are cheaper so visit friends or family, or even better get them to come and visit you – if you’re really smart you can get them involved helping you out with projects and preparation for your following year. Also do your best to catch up with friends within the local area that you’ve had less time to see over the summer months and get those networks going again.

Cosy up

After your action packed day of outside activity, your visit to the Christmas market or local club, a spot of gardening or DIY, settle yourself down to a cosy evening in front of the fire with a large glass of red and some fabulous cheeses. France in winter provides the perfect opportunity to settle down with a good film or book and your favourite tipple for an evening of relaxation. No evening is complete without the smell of an authentic log fire. Just make sure you’ve ordered plenty of wood for your wood burners in advance and have a good supply stacked up and just sit back and relax! Cheers…

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About The Author

Beth Nicholson

As a child of parents who met and lived in Greece, having a home in Crete and having studied in Grenoble France, Beth has always felt more at home in those countries than the UK. In November 2017 she moved permanently to Charente, France. Since then she has managed minor renovations on her home, established herself as an integral part of her commune and re-established her Operations consultancy in France. Through Kalitera she provides business improvement and project management services to small businesses here as well as administrative support to individuals. You can read Beth's blog here at mylifeinfrancefr.wordpress.com

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