France is a stunning country, beloved around the world for its fine foods, wines, gorgeous landscapes and rich culture. Many people flock to its cities, mountains and beaches during the warmer months, but this can lead to chronic overcrowding in tourist hotspots, and a sense that the ‘real’ France is out of reach behind touristy hotels and ice cream stands. This is why more and more people are exploring France in the winter. If you’re tempted, check out these three top cold weather locations.
St Malo, Brittany
This quaint fishing town on the northern coast of France does take a bit of battering from winter storms and rain, but the thick walled houses will protect you from the elements. When it’s not blowing a gale, wander around the pretty cobbled streets, explore the harbor, and taste some of the freshest fish you’ve ever tried from any one of the town’s numerous cafes and restaurants.
This beautiful ancient city is protected from the worst of northern Europe’s winter, by the fact that it’s so far south in France. However, within nearby proximity you have the stunning Pyrenees mountains, so if it’s snow you’re seeking Toulouse can provide that for you. Otherwise, enjoy rambling around the beautiful streets, taking in some of the arts and culture, or sampling some of the regional delicacies including the sumptuous (and hearty) cassoulet, a dish made from duck meat, sausage, and beans in a rich tomato sauce.
This charming village offers an insight into the old ways of life, and is incredibly relaxing to spend a week in. Situated within the Calvados making region, if you fancy some wine tasting tours you’ll be spoilt for choice in this part of France. There are also plenty of sleepy market towns within easy driving distance, so you can pick up some delicious produce. If you’re a history fan, there are plenty of churches and chateaux to explore, don’t miss the ancient town of Vezelay with its impressive ancient abbey.
The cold months are no reason to stay away from France, in fact at this time of year you’ll find it pleasingly empty of tourist crowds. Explore large cities or stick to smaller towns, and you’ll have a chance to experience the real France for yourself.