Top 6 winter highlights in France

Holidays in France can be enjoyed at any time of year. The winter season brings about new wine, regional Christmas traditions, spectacular carnival celebrations and some of the best skiing in the world. Here's our guide to the best winter fun in France...
Ice-skating at the Trocadéro.
Ice-skating at the Trocadéro.

If you're planning to travel to France this winter you're in for a treat. Whether it's skiing down snow-coated mountains, zipping up the Eiffel Tower or celebrating Carnival in Nice there's a lot of fun to be had.

1. Beaujolais Nouveau

The arrival of the Beaujolais Nouveau kickstarts the celebratory winter season in France, with heavy advertising across the country. This vin de primeur (new wine) has only been bottled 6 to 8 weeks previously and is fresh, fruity and intended for immediate consumption (in moderation!). Many bars will host special events on the day of the wine's arrival, on the third Thursday of November. Americans in Paris looking for some Thanksgiving fun should definitely seek it out.


2. Ice-skating in Paris

Paris is beautiful year-round and winter is a fine time to explore. Snow is rare pre-Christmas, but there's no shortage of winter fun to be had in the French capital. In December, several ice-skating rinks pop up at various venues – the most popular being in front of the Hôtel de Ville and at the Trocadéro. The former even has a smaller rink for under 6s – and it's free if you have your own skates.

An ice-skating experience like no other can be found on the 1st floor of the most iconic of all Parisian landmarks: the Eiffel Tower. Granted, space is at a premium, but it's a true winter highlight. To see Paris in all its splendour, book onto Insight Guides' Luxury Paris holiday this Christmas season.


Christmas lights in Strasbourg. Photo: ShutterstockChristmas lights in Strasbourg. Photo: Shutterstock


3. Christmas markets in Alsace

The eastern region of Alsace once belonged to Germany, and the influence of German traditions still lingers today, especially at Christmas time, when gingerbread and glühwein (mulled wine) reign supreme. The biggest markets are held across Strasbourg, with the most impressive located in the shadow of the city's imposing cathedral. Explore the region's charming Christmas markets on Insight Guides' Alsace: Cuisine and Culture trip. You'll find the prettiest and most authentic markets in nearby towns Colmar and Kaysersberg. 


4. Christmas in Provence

Provence celebrates Christmas with is own tradition of the 13 desserts, representing Jesus Christ and the 12 apostles. The desserts include various dried fruit, cakes and biscuits. Provence is also known for its santons – small terracotta nativity figurines of characters typical of a traditional Provençal village: fisherman, shepherd, olive-picker, etc. Hand-painted santons are collectibles and the city of Aubagne is famous for its artisan santonniers but you'll also find them in all markets in the region. They make a great souvenir and will add a Provençal flavour to your own nativity scene back home. Explore Provence on Insight Guides' From Paris to Provence trip. 


In Chamonix, you ski in the shadow of mighty Mont Blanc. Photo: ShutterstockIn Chamonix, you can ski in the shadow of mighty Mont Blanc. Photo: Shutterstock


5. Carnival and lemons

Carnival is big news in Nice. Every February, the carnaval sees spectacular giant floats parading along the promenade des Anglais, while in nearby Villefranche-sur-Mer traditional carnival kings are replaced by a watery bataille des fleurs from boats in the port. Menton's Fête du Citron has bands and floats along the seafront as well as spectacular sculptures made of lemons and oranges. 

Take a trip to see the best of Nice on Insight Guides' Iconic France: From Paris to the French Riviera trip. 


6. Skiing in the Alps

France is a paradise for skiers, who can choose from a multitude of ski resorts. The Alps are the ultimate slopes with big names like Chamonix, Val-d'Isère, Tignes, Alpe d'Huez but if you prefer quieter resorts and gentler slopes opt for the Jura and Vosges resorts. The après-ski fun usually involves copious amounts of cheese in various form: raclette, fondue, tartiflette as well as a glass or two of vin chaud (mulled wine).


This article was originally published on 20th October, 2016


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