Winter can be a tough time of year, especially if you’re just stuck at home in the same old routines, but there’s one surefire cure – a winter escape!
And, when you’re looking for a perfect destination to escape life as usual, it’s impossible to find somewhere better than France.
No matter if you’re looking for art, culture, winter sports, stunning landscapes or just some simple peace and quiet, this list of charming and cozy places to visit in France in winter has the perfect attractions for every traveler.
Winter is actually a great time to visit France, as you can avoid the huge crowds which can get in the way of a perfect trip during the warmer months.
Visiting in winter also offers a unique chance to experience a more authentic version of France where you can actually get to know some of the locals!
Read on to discover our list of cities, small towns and regions to travel to in France during the cold season.
Best Places to Visit in France in Winter
Admire world class art in Paris.
Art lovers, rejoice! It’s time to take full advantage of the smaller crowds in winter in Paris and make the most of the city’s world renowned museums.
Just think of all the highlights that await you: Mona Lisa’s smile, Monet’s water lilies, Rodin’s sculptures, the designs of Yves Saint Laurent, Modern Art at Fondation Louis Vuitton, and so much more.
Paris really does have it all — and Paris in winter is just a treat!
If you love books, you can’t pass up the chance to spend some time at Shakespeare & Company, a historic and unbelievably cozy English bookstore near Notre Dame.
So, take it all in, and let yourself have the full Parisian experience.
Bundle up and stroll through the city of lights in search of art, then stop in somewhere for a café au lait and a crêpe.
Or shop your way through the Rue Saint-Honoré, before taking in some winter sun at the Jardin Luxembourg.
Or treat yourself to a wonderful meal with a glass of red wine, and dance the night away in David Lynch’s Silencio — yes, the film auteur has a club in Paris, and yes, it’s as delightfully weird as his films!
Stroll around the market in Issigeac.
Located in the beautiful southern Dordogne region, the charming Issigeac is a medieval village with a wonderfully historical aesthetic.
Make sure to visit this hidden gem on a Sunday morning to catch the local market.
This authentic market features a wide range of delicious products, from local Monbazillac wine to delicious cheese, fresh greens and quality meat from the region’s best farms.
With all that in mind, it’s probably no surprise that the small village is home to many artists.
While you’re in town, make sure to check out the galleries and many boutiques to admire their work!
Even if you’re traveling on a budget, you can buy a simple croissant in the boulangerie and enjoy it with your coffee in the local rustic bar across the street.
For lunch, make sure to get a reservation at La Brucelière, one of the best restaurants in the region.
Indulge in luxury on the Parisian Riviera in Deauville.
Located just a few hours away from Paris, Deauville is often considered Paris’s version of the Hamptons, and this little town lives up to the reputation as a very chic destination to visit.
As you might expect, you’ll find luxury designer boutiques, resort hotels and fresh seafood cuisine.
The beach is beautiful and well worth a cold winter walk. The cold air is a small price to pay for the gorgeous sights of the winter waves!
As you stroll through town, keep an eye out and try to spot the town’s Art Deco houses and Belle Epoque villas.
If you’re a cinephile, you may recognize filming locations used in some classic French movies.
The final scene from Les 400 Coups, a Truffaut classic, was famously filmed just south of Deauville.
One more tip for travelers on a budget – make sure to head across the bridge to Trouville, another beautiful little town with a much lower price tag!
Both little seaside towns are delightful places to escape to in France in winter.
Travel back in time in Colmar.
This next stop is perfect for history lovers!
If you ever wondered what France may have looked like in medieval times, head to Colmar, one of Alsace’s most beautiful cities (especially in the winter, when its markets are in full swing!).
Colmar’s old city features colorful half-timbered houses, well-preserved Renaissance institutions and many historic landmarks.
It’s a great place to join a guided walking tour, as there is just so much to see and learn.
Make sure to visit the Musée d’Unterlinden, one of the best art museums in the region and a great place to learn more about Alsace’s complex history.
As if that wasn’t enough to entice you, did you know that France had its very own Venice (minus the extortionate gondola prices?)
Hop on board and discover Colmar on a canal cruise!
Discover the pearl of the French Alps in Annecy.
Located on the stunningly beautiful Annecy Lake, this medieval town has been named a Ville d’art for its many landmarks and rich history.
The magnificent Alpine landscape, the colorful old town and the distinctly international flair all add up to make Annecy one of the most breathtaking destinations to visit in France in winter.
With its close proximity to Switzerland, Annecy is also a great place for winter sports and day trips to places like Geneva.
You can reach the slopes in less than 45 minutes by car, and you’ll be surrounded by beautiful culture and art the whole way.
Get in the Christmas mood in Strasbourg.
The capital of the Alsace region, Strasbourg, is home to France’s oldest Christmas Market, part of a tradition dating all the way back to the 16th century!
Over 300 chalets sell handmade pieces, so why not pick up someunique christmas gifts for your loved ones?
Immerse yourself in the beautiful Christmas decorations and get cozy.
Trust me: if Strasbourg doesn’t get you excited for the most beautiful time of the year, nothing will.
You’d have to be the Grinch himself to dislike it!
France’s so-called “Christmas Capital” is also an important international city!
Its cobbled streets, medieval structures and renaissance architecture are home to the European Parliament.
Enjoy the young and vibrant “pink city” of Toulouse.
If Paris is too hectic for you, head down south to Toulouse in winter.
Named the Pink City (La ville rose) for its Roman architecture reflecting the morning sun in many shades of red and pink, Toulouse is a modern yet laid-back city.
You’ll be greeted with a thick southern accent and a big smile — the latter being something quite hard to find in Paris!
After this warm welcome, wander around the old town, enjoy the many cafés and bars filled with students and artists, eat your way through the southern cuisine.
If all that’s not enough, keep the adventure going with an exhibition at Les Abattoirs, treat yourself to a night at the opera, and enjoy the mild southern climate with a long walk along the canal.
Find your prince in a medieval chateau in Sarlat-la-Canéda.
The Dordogne Valley is famous for its many romantic chateaus, beautiful river valleys and picturesque villages.
Sarlat-la-Canéda is amongst the most well preserved medieval small towns in France, and it’s also the region’s culinary heart and soul.
Coming to Sarlat is like traveling back in time… or stumbling onto a movie set!
With the highest density of historical buildings in all of France, Sarlat is home to treasures and delights beyond imagining.
Walking around at night, you’ll find the cobbled streets glowing with gaslit lamps, filling the town with a romantic glow and nostalgic atmosphere.
Sarlat, along with the entire Perigord region, is renowned for the many enchanting castles, so make sure to visit a few of them on your trip!
Get inspired in France’s design capital, Lille.
France’s northern treasure, Lille, is home to gorgeous Flemish architecture and a love for fine art that makes this city well worth a visit.
Believe me, you’ll want to make it a long one. It’s the sort of place you come to for a weekend and end up staying in for a week!
Elaborate buildings, classic French cuisine, unique design shops and prestigious museums all fill the Métropole Européenne with experiences you’ll want to savor.
Make sure to spend a few hours in the Musée des Beaux Arts, one of France’s most renowned art museums, where you can admire masterpieces by Renoir, Manet, Picasso and Delacroix.
If you’ve made Lille your home away from home for a few days, hop on a train and head to Roubaix, located just north of Lille.
There, you can discover the celebrated La Piscine, a former municipal swimming pool built in magnificent Art Deco style, now renovated into a design museum.
After a long winter stroll through the city, warm up in the evening with a locally produced beer at Célestin’s, a small brewery right in the heart of old Lille.
Sipping on one of these will ensure that any lingering chill is soon just a memory!
Be dazzled by the beauty of the French Riviera in Nice — without the summer crowds.
Did you know the city of Nice only became French as recently as 1860?
The Italian influence is still tangible today: just walk around the old part of the city and you may wonder if you’re still in France!
That cultural heritage from the Italian architecture gives the city a unique flair that’s both memorable and picturesque.
The luxury of the French Riviera, hundreds of small artisan shops, excellent local restaurants, and the warm Mediterranean winter sun make Nice one of our favorite French winter destinations on this list!
Just thinking about it is enough to get you planning your next itinerary!
Wander around the Promenade des Anglais, where you can dream about the Belle Epoque when artists and movie stars spent the winter on the Riviera.
Alternately, you can take a little side trip to indulge in luxury in nearby Monaco (and visit another country while you’re at it — Monaco is technically an independent nation!).
And of course, while in Nice, make sure to visit the Musée Marc Chagall, which is home to some of the painter’s most prestigious art works.
Escape the cold in Corsica, a French island oasis.
Known primarily as a summer destination, Corsica — aptly also known as the Isle of Beauty — is surprisingly a truly magical winter escape as well!
Once it’s shed the party crowds, Corsica becomes a peaceful and serene harbor of soothing quietude — perfect to wind down and get cozy.
Traveling to Corsica in the winter gives you a chance to discover its true beauty and authentic culture of the island.
Beneath its party holiday reputation, Corsica holds a moving history, delightful adventures just off the beaten path, and generations of locals with great stories to tell.
You may not get the fancy dinners and events you’ll find in the summer, but the modest charm of the island in winter will move you in a way all those crowds and parties never could.
Last but absolutely not least, with temperatures around 15° C (60° F) in January, Corsica is a great way to escape the freezing cold — but you might still see some snow on the mountains in the distance!
Admire Renaissance architecture in magnificent Lyon.
One of France’s most prominent cities, Lyon, is filled with UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
From Roman ruins, old cathedrals, hidden passages to the famous Renaissance Old Quarter, Lyon has it all.
The opulent wealth of 16th century silk traders was put to good use — it was spent decorating the city with sumptuous mansions, many of which are still quite well preserved today.
Lyon is also the birthplace of the first motion picture camera, invented by the Lumière brothers!
Make sure to visit the Villa Lumière to admire the Cinematograph, a true must-see for every cinephile.
Aside from its many museums, Lyon is also one of France’s most renowned culinary capitals, with lovely traditional restaurants called bouchons.
Forget your diet (who diets on vacation in France, anyway?!) because here you’ll be served hearty filling meals, perfect to keep you warm on cold days!
Wind down (with red wine) in beautiful Bordeaux.
Long known only for its excellent wine, Bordeaux has undergone a lot of change in the last few years.
A thriving arts and culture scene, trendy restaurants, excellent shopping and its proximity to the beaches have made Bordeaux an exciting new alternative to Paris.
With the prices in Paris reaching shocking new highs every year, Bordeaux is attracting more and more young, vibrant crowds as they leave Paris in search of a breathable, more affordable, less hectic, healthier version of the famous capital.
The Bassin des Lumières is Bordeaux’s newest addition and the world’s largest digital museum!
Of course, just because there’s more to Bordeaux than just its wine doesn’t mean you can pass up the chance to take in its wine museum!
And of course, you ought to plan at least one wine tour of Bordeaux while you’re at it, to appreciate the region’s wineries and chateaux.
Show off your skiing skills in Courchevel.
No list of places to visit in France in the winter would possibly be complete without mentioning the French love for skiing!
That love is practically a cultural institution, with schools allowing a week long vacation in February.
It may officially be called winter vacation, but the truth is, everybody knows it primarily exists to allow students (and their parents) to go skiing!
Of course, if there is one ski resort you shouldn’t miss, it’s Courchevel, the renowned skiing capital of France — and Europe, frankly.
Courchevel is also a fantastic place to soak in some opulent luxury, as it is one of the most expensive ski resorts in the world.
If you manage to get yourself here, you’ll find it populated by the wealthy bourgeoisie and occasionally some celebrities — it’s basically a winter wonderland version of Saint Tropez!
Recognize van Gogh’s art in Arles.
The famous Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh spent one of the most creative years of his career in Arles, capturing many scenes you can still recognize today wandering around the beautiful Roman town.
Once a prosperous and wealthy hub in the Roman Empire, modern Arles is a charming, magical little place surrounded by the heavenly Camargue.
The Camargue region is home to wild white horses, pink flamingos, and lagoons spreading all the way to the Mediterranean Sea — it’s pretty marvelous (and very picturesque in winter, too).
Wander around the well-preserved Roman ruins, get inspired by all the art, learn the shocking history of Van Gogh’s left ear, and make sure to join a wilderness tour into the wetlands of Camargue!
Bonus: Enjoy my personal recommendation, Villeréal.
Let me be frank: There’s not actually all that much to do in Villeréal, winter or otherwise.
If you’re looking for exciting activities, museums and nightlife, you won’t find that here.
Villeréal is a small town located in the heart of the Département Lot-et-Garonne, a rural area with much of its population deeply rooted here for generations.
So why would I send you here on your precious winter vacation to France?
Well, if you want to get an idea of what authentic rural France is really like, if you want to talk to locals, learn the language or spend the winter in quietude, there’s no better place than this.
Make sure to visit the farmer’s market on Saturday and go for lunch in Le Moderne or La Table de l’Europe.
You can book a few nights in La Maison Bleue, and enjoy your morning coffee at Maggie’s, a small English salon de thé (tea salon) that’s complete with its very own library!
After all that, I think you’ll see why out of everything on this list, this might be my absolute top pick. Give it a shot and see for yourself!
Anna is 20-something writer from France, currently living on the beautiful island of Bali. After earning a degree from Sorbonne Université in Paris, she spent a few years working in fashion before embarking on what was supposed to be a 1-year trip through Europe, North Africa and Asia — which ultimately turned into moving to Bali. Aside from traveling and writing, her passions include surfing, film photography, drinking unhealthy amounts of coffee, and reading through the night.