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France’s winter season spans from December to March. Luckily that coincides with the country’s low tourist season, meaning fewer crowds, cheaper prices and more freedom to enjoy your vacation. A visit during this time of year means you’ll be one of few tourists exploring French culture, winter cuisine, Christmas festivals, and much more. These 6 places in France are the perfect spots to explore in the wintertime.
The magic of Paris only heightens in winter – the scent of pine is in the air, lights and garlands adorn streetlamps, and seasonal favorites are available in every restaurant. Treats like spiced wine, gingerbread, and sausages can be found at Christmas markets in the city. If you stay by the rue Saint-Honoré, a shopping hotspot, you’ll be able to take advantage of government-controlled sales from mid-January to mid-February. And if you’re here on Valentine’s Day, book a night with your special someone at Le Village, one of Europe’s most romantic hostels.
2. Strasbourg Christmas Market & Colmar
Anyone traveling to France in the wintertime should definitely visit Strasbourg for the Strasbourg Christmas Market. It’s the largest and oldest Christmas market in France, complete with holiday decor, mulled wine, Provençal soaps and craft vendors. You can also head south to the charming city of Colmar, a 30-minute train ride away, for another one of the best Christmas markets in Europe.
3. The Alps
For active travelers, the French Alps are not to be missed. Stay right on the ski slopes at Le Val Thorens, the highest resort in Europe. Another spot for excellent ski conditions is France’s oldest ski resort in nearby Chamonix. The breathtaking scenery of this famous ski spot makes Chamonix one of Europe’s top destinations for nature-lovers.
When traveling France in the winter, the Carnival of Energy in Nice is a must-visit. Over one million people fill the streets of Nice in February each year for this event. Giant floats parade through the crowds, costumed dancers entertain onlookers and boats adorned with flowers float along the water. The show ends with thousands of flower petals raining on the crowd. It is a worthwhile experience in France.
Known for its incredible gastronomy, Perigord is the place for food-lovers, especially in the winter. Black truffle season is from December to March in the Perigord region, meaning you’ll have a chance to dine on these “diamonds of Perigord” when they taste best. Indulge in decadent Foie gras, smoked salmon, cheese plates, and divine chocolates as well, to really get a flavor of France in the wintertime. Big truffle fanatics can check out the Grand Truffle Festival in Rognes, just an hour drive southeast of the city.
One of the best cities to visit in France, this romantic wine capital of the world is the best place to enjoy a glass of French wine. Vineyards won’t be flowering, but you can still learn the process of wine-making, as well as how to pair reds, whites, and rosés with your favorite dishes. Check out some of the smaller wine tasting festivals to experience Bordeaux alongside the locals.