Winter in France: The ultimate bucket list

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France is a great place to visit all year long and a wonderful country to live in. Winter in France is an exciting time of year because there are so many amazing places to see and fun things to do. For those who enjoy winter sports there are snow-capped mountains and excellent ski runs, while those who enjoy sunny winter days, will find time spent on the Mediterranean coast is perfect.

France in the winter months is lovely as there are no crowds and queues and only local people, so the country becomes really French again.

France is a large country, with several top choices of places to live in. Likewise, the weather during the winter months in France varies from one region to the next. It is good to pack cozy layers and a large scarf to keep you warm. If you find that you haven’t packed enough warm clothing, it is the perfect excuse to go shopping for new stuff – especially as the Winter sales begin on January 11.

Here are our top 12 favorite things to do and places to be in the winter in France:

1. Enjoy the winter magic of Paris

If you’re spending the cold season in France, Paris is the perfect city to visit during the winter months as it seems to sparkle with all the twinkling lights from the shops and offices and when the Eiffel Tower is lit at night, it is a truly magical sight. The bonus of exploring the capital in January and February is that there are no crowds and although the weather is cool, it rarely snows there.

It is the perfect time to wander around the city and along the banks of the Seine, soaking up the atmosphere in a traditional Parisian coffee shop. All the sights of the capital can be enjoyed without queues including the Louvre and  Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris which is still being renovated but has an interesting series of bill boards marking the progress. Excursions to the Château de Versailles or Chantilly are perfect at this time of year too. If you fancy doing something that is seasonably different, an ice rink is constructed in the Champs-Elysées each year.

2. Recapture childhood magic at Disneyland Paris

Nothing can make your winter in France more magical than Mickey Mouse and company. Disneyland Paris has proved to be every bit as popular as its American cousin, so why not plan a winter trip? The winter opening hours from 10 am to 7 pm still give you plenty of opportunity to recapture the childhood magic of Disney including a variety of fun rides and the opportunity to meet all your favorite Disney characters, with fewer crowds than in the warmer seasons.

3. Explore the beaches on the French Riviera

January in France can be brutal in most of the country, but the South of France is bathed in sunshine, which is why it first became a popular winter destination for Northern Europeans more than a century ago. Cannes in the French Riviera is a wonderful place to visit in France in January as temperature still average 15-17º C.

There is still a friendly bustle, but Cannes is not as packed as it is during the summer and film festival. Wandering the old cobble stoned alleys of the Old Town, strolling in the marina or enjoying some good ‘retail therapy’ before a leisurely lunch featuring regional dishes really is hard to beat!

4. Party at the Nice Carnival 

If you happen to spend February in France, Nice is a wonderful place to relax in the winter sunshine. The best activity in February hands down is the Nice Carnival which is one of the biggest carnivals in Europe with colorful floats and amazing firework displays. The festival spans two weeks and includes the huge flower parade when flowers are thrown at all the spectators. At this time of year, there is a huge Ferris wheel for a memorable view of the city.

Classic fun things to do during the winter months include taking a stroll along the famous Promenade des Anglais, a climb of Castle Hill for amazing views over the city, or a visiting one of the many museums. Getting to the Cote d’Azur is easy. There are regular flights into Nice Côte d’Azur Airport (NCE) and if you are living in another part of France, there are plenty of SNCF trains to Nice too.

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5. Go for the warmest winter temperatures in France

If you are looking for the warmest winter temperature in France, Menton which nestles close to the Italian border on the Cote d’Azur, certainly holds the trophy.

This beautiful town has steep narrow streets, a gorgeous beach and plenty of lemons! Since 1934, Menton’s famous Lemon Festival has been held for two weeks in late February. Le Fête du Citron is an amazing event with parades, music, dancing and amazing sculptures made from lemons and oranges. If you are staying in Nice, it is easy to hop on the train to Ventimiglia to enjoy a day in Menton.

6. Relax in beautiful Monaco

Monaco is bathed in warm winter Mediterranean sunshine and has plenty of places to visit including the Casino Monte Carlo, Musée Océanographique de Monaco and the Prince’s Palace. The harbor is the perfect place to stroll and admire all the super yachts and just a short distance away stands the Stade Nautique Rainier III.

During the summer, this is a huge outdoor swimming pool, but in the winter it is transformed into an amazing ice rink! Ice-karting is the big attraction and the speeds you can reach in a kart are truly impressive.

7. Ski in the French Alps or Pyrenees

If you prefer an action-packed winter in France, head for the French Alps or Pyrenees. These regions are a wonderful blend of all types of winter sport activities and charming old towns. France has more than a dozen excellent ski resorts, with Chamonix being the most upmarket. In all the resorts, there are downhill ski routes for all abilities, plus good cross country skiing trails. If you are not a skier, there is snowboarding, ice climbing  and ice skating.

There are cable car rides to enjoy to the summits of some of Europe’s highest mountains. One of the most popular is High Mountain (3,800 meters or 12,600 feet) with its views of  Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in western Europe plus panoramic views of the French, Swiss and Italian Alps. A great winter spectator sport is the snow polo event that takes place in Megève each January.

8. Sample the famous black truffle

If you’re spending the month of January or February in France, truffle hunting is the perfect activity. Perigord is a delightful area in France that is fun to visit at any time of the year, but for truffle lovers, January and February are the essential months to visit! Perigord is famous for its black truffles and during these months, the truffles are at their very best.

Perigord is part of the Dordogne in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region of south-west France  Perigord is known for its fine foods which also include duck and foie gras and this region is one of the most beautiful with some of the prettiest villages in France to enjoy too.

9. Listen to great classical music in Nantes

Warm up your winter in France with the Classical Music Festival in Nantes. The venue is La Folle Journée and is where performers from all over the world come together to play wonderful music.  As well as the music, Nantes has many interesting places for visitors including  the restored medieval Château des Ducs de Bretagne and the amazing interactive Les Machines de I’île.

10. Bird watch in Carmargue

If you are seeking a nature activity during winter in France, you will find that there are so many wonderful places to visit. If you are a keen bird watcher, the Carmargue Nature Park is the perfect choice. Lying on a main migratory route, the Carmargue is the winter resting place for thousands of beautiful flamingos.

11. Go hiking in Corsica

The island of Corsica enjoys mild winter weather which makes it the perfect choice if you enjoy good hiking. Corsica is a famous destination for long distance trekking, whether you are interested in a challenging trail or a leisurely stroll, you will find it in Corsica.

12. Spend a long weekend wine tasting in Bordeaux

If you have just a long weekend to spare, Bordeaux is the perfect place to discover with its impressive architecture, great shops and excellent wines. Bordeaux is certainly a must have on your bucket list and winter is a great time to warm up with some red wine and discover everything that this elegant wine country capital has to offer.

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This article originally appeared on MyDolceCasas and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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