The winter season is one of the best times to visit France for lots of reasons. True, the beach may not be on the menu aside from an appetite enducing stroll, but plenty of areas still have superb golden sunshine at this time of the year, there are all sorts of festivals going on, Christmas fairs of course and it is much cheaper to travel there. So, wrap up warm and come on a journey through winter in France, starting here.
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Exploring France in winter
With air and train fares low, apart from over the Christmas period, plus the airports less busy, this is a great time to travel. There’s less stress, lower prices and shorter queues. Hotels often have some great bargains at this time too. You can find special weekend rates, three nights for the price of two and free room upgrades. We just booked a three-night weekend in a top hotel in the lovely seaside town of Collioure, loved by artists of all generations, for under €170, for example.
Where are the best Christmas markets?
The Christmas markets usually start around now, so the perfect time to do your Christmas shopping. Local producers across the country pride themselves on displaying their wares: handmade soaps, candles, honey, mulled wine. You don’t have to go too far to find an excellent Christmas market either. Lille has a superb one and then there is always Paris, of course, which lights up like a magical winter wonderland from now right through to the New Year. The most famous is perhaps Strasbourg, as the oldest in France. Throughout winter in France, many towns set up temporary ice rinks, too. Some of the fine châteaux have their gardens open right through the winter season.
Warming winter food
One of the joys of winter in France must of course be gastronomy! There is nothing like a hearty dish of homemade stew such as “cassoulet” or a rich French onion soup to warm up on a cold winter’s day. You will notice all sorts of specialist goodies in the supermarkets such as foie gras, smoked fish, truffles, incredible varieties of mushrooms, cheeses etc.
Enjoying winter sports
If you like your winter sports and getting out in the winter sunshine, there are plenty of ski resorts to choose from in both the Alps and the Pyrenees. Many offer other fun activities too such as snow shoeing, skating and sledging. And if that is all a bit too active for you, consider a trip to one of France’s lovely spa towns. Vichy of course is well known but there plenty of others near the Swiss border and in the Auvergne area.
How’s the weather?
The Mediterranean area, though quite cold in winter, benefits from plenty of sunshine. Try a bracing seaside walk when there are far fewer people about, followed by a nice glass of French wine in front of a blazing fire in a pretty French hotel. January and February can be rather miserable months in the UK. However, in the south of France, you can feel revitalised, be away from those grey dismal skies and enjoy a feast of French culinary delights.
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If retail therapy is high on your list, most French regions have their winter sales from mid-January till mid-February. Most sales stock genuine reduced items with some incredible bargains, even in the higher-end designer stores.
In short, winter in France can be every bit as enjoyable as summer. Getting away from a British winter to a pretty French town for a week or two may be just the thing you need to recharge your batteries after Christmas!