6 highlights of France winter holidays

If you're planning France winter holidays, 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 in La France during winter.
Ice-skating at the Trocadéro.
Ice-skating at the Trocadéro.

If you're planning France winter holidays, 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 in La France during winter.

1. Beaujolais Nouveau

The arrival of the Beaujolais Nouveau kickstarts the celebratory winter season in France, with heavy advertising. This 'vin de primeur' (new wine) has only been bottled 6 to 8 weeks previously and is fresh, fruity and intended for immediate consumption. 

Many bars across the country host special events on the day of the wine's arrival. Beaujolais Day is on the third Thursday of November each year, so Americans in Paris looking for Thanksgiving fun should definitely seek it out. 

The Beaujolais Region is in eastern France so if you want to stay close to the source think about historic Lyon. Fourvière Hôtel sits above the Old Town and offers fantastic views of the city. 

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, ice-skating rinks pop up at various venues. The Trocadéro rink is one of the most popular for its views of the Eiffel Tower and separate children's ice rink. 

Another child-friendly ice-skating experience can be found at the Tuileries Gardens. Here, Christmas market stalls trim the edge of the rink and a family atmosphere is enhanced by charming funfair rides. 

To see Paris in all its splendour, think about booking a Insight Guides Luxury Paris trip this winter and enjoy discovering the city with local guides, as well as taking French cookery classes, Seine cruises and private shopping tours. 

Christmas lights in Strasbourg. Photo: ShutterstockChristmas lights in Strasbourg, France winter holidays. 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 traditional markets, gingerbread and glühwein (mulled wine) reign supreme. 

The biggest market is held across Strasbourg each Christmas, in the shadow of the city's impressive medieval cathedral. You'll also find pretty and authentic markets in the nearby towns of Colmar and Kayserberg. 

If you want to explore this charming region in winter, book an Insight Guides Alsace: Cuisine and Culture trip. This fascinating six day break includes two nights in Paris and plenty of time to explore Strasbourg and the villages of Alsace. 

4. Christmas in Provence

Provence celebrates Christmas with is own tradition of the 13 desserts, representing Christ and the 12 apostles. The desserts include various dried fruit, cakes and biscuits. 

Provence is also known for its santons, which are small terracotta nativity figures representing traditional Provençal characters such as fisherman, shepherds and olive harvesters. 

Hand-painted santons are very collectible and the city of Aubagne is famous for its artisan santonniers. But you'll also santons at other local Christmas markets. They make great souvenirs and add Provençal charm to your own nativity scene back home. 

Travel through beautiful French countryside from Paris to Provence and explore this wonderful region on an Insight Guides Paris to Provence: Perfection Personified three day trip. 

In Chamonix, you ski in the shadow of mighty Mont Blanc. Photo: ShutterstockChamonix France, winter holidays skiing in the shadow of mighty Mont Blanc. Photo: Shutterstock

5. France winter holidays in Nice

Carnival is big news in Nice and, every February, the city's Carnaval celebrations see enormous, spectacularly decorated floats parading along the Promenade des Anglais. 

In nearby Villefranche-sur-Mer traditional carnival kings are replaced by a watery Bataille des Fleurs from boats in the port. And Menton's Fête du Citron has bands and floats along the seafront as well as stunning sculptures made of oranges and lemons.

Discover Nice and a little of the beautiful Côte d'Azur region on an 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 French Alps are the ultimate experience with big name ski resorts like Chamonix, Val-d'Isère, Tignes, Alpe d'Huez vying to offer the biggest terrain and best fun on and off the slopes. If you prefer quieter resorts and gentler slopes opt for ski resorts in the Jura or Vosges regions. 

Après-ski wherever you go usually involves copious amounts of cheese in the form of raclette, fondue or tartiflette, usually accompanied by a glass or two of vin chaud. Soothe and ski with a stay at Heliopic Hotel & Spa in Chamonix.

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