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Winter getaways in France

PUBLISHED: 16:18 29 November 2016 | UPDATED: 16:54 29 November 2016

Lyon's cityscape at night ©frederic prochasson-ThinkstockPhotos

Lyon's cityscape at night ©frederic prochasson-ThinkstockPhotos

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Need inspiration for a short break in France this winter? From a ski trip to a spa weekend, from a city break to tasty truffle festivals, here are 12 ideas for a winter getaway in France.

Lyon

The French gastronomic capital is a wonderful city break destination any time of the year but the heart-warming and rich cuisine is always more satisfying when you’ve been exploring in the chilly wintery air. Lyon’s world-famous Fête des Lumières is a must-see early December while the massive Confluences centre will keep you occupied (and inside in the warmth) for hours.

A spa weekend

If the thought of slipping into a hot tub while it’s snowing outside makes you close your eyes with delight, then you need a spa retreat in France. From the seaside spa hotels in Normandy to the thermal spa towns in any of the French mountain ranges, you’re spoilt for choice. Plus a body scrub and massage are excellent ways to detox and rejuvenate after the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations…or so we’re told.

Strasbourg's picturesque city centre in Alsace ©Vanessak-dreamstime Strasbourg's picturesque city centre in Alsace ©Vanessak-dreamstime

Alsace

If only for the Christmas markets, Alsace is a wonderful destination for a quick winter break. Drawing from their double Germanic and French influences, the beautiful Alsatian Christmas markets are a must-see experience. Even after the Christmas craziness, Alsace is lovely to visit in the winter as the pretty timbered houses, cobbled streets, wine-making towns and inviting brasseries with delicious local dishes are the epitome of winter comfort.

Paris

Any day in Paris is special but winter in Paris is somehow more magical than any time of year. The Christmas decorations are up in the streets and the shop windows turning the City of Light into a twinkling wonderland come nightfall. Paris is also the best city to escape the cold with so many museums, galleries and exhibitions to visit, while a hot chocolate en terrasse with a blanket will definitely shake off the chill.

Fête du Mimosa in Mandelieu-la-Napoule on the Côte d'Azur ©OT MANDELIEU Fête du Mimosa in Mandelieu-la-Napoule on the Côte d'Azur ©OT MANDELIEU

The French Riviera

Winter on the Riviera is a colourful affair thanks to the many carnivals and festivals that take place between New Year and February where locals fight the chill by parading and dancing in the streets. Between Menton’s lemon festival, the various fêtes du Mimosa, and all the carnivals, including the spectacular Nice Carnival, there’s no time to get bored on the Côte d’Azur.

Ski resorts

This may be a bit of an obvious one but a skiing holiday in one of the French mountain ranges is always an appealing idea. The French ski resorts have excellent travel links: with seasonal flights and the Eurostar going directly to stations in the French Alps, you can easily enjoy the slopes on a long weekend and make the most of the essential après-ski, including tasting some satisfying mountain fare.

Trekking in the Alps ©Louis16-ThinkstockPhotos Trekking in the Alps ©Louis16-ThinkstockPhotos

The mountains for non-skiers

Not a skier? Not a problem in France. The French mountain resorts, especially the smaller resorts, are always expanding their range of activities to suit the whole family on holiday. From the classic snowshoeing, Nordic skiing or sledging to the less conventional ski joering (being pulled by a horse) or husky-pulled sledges, there is something for everyone who doesn’t ski.

A romantic break

Once the New Year festivities are over, the next exciting date to look out for is Valentine’s Day and what better way to treat your loved one than by taking them on a romantic break in France? Of course Paris, the city of love, is an option but you can find romance in places like Annecy, with its Pont des Amours, the pastel landscapes and cliffs of Brittany and Normandy or the cute market towns of the South-West. Or try something different like going stargazing or finding the prettiest French mountain village.

Honfleur in Normandy ©dvoevnore-ThinkstockPhotos Honfleur in Normandy ©dvoevnore-ThinkstockPhotos

Quiet seaside towns

Escape the crowds and breathe in some refreshing and resourcing sea air by heading to some of France’s prettiest seaside towns which will be quieter in the winter but no less lovely. You can stroll along Deauville’s impressive promenade, Honfleur’s lovely Old Port or head to the milder Atlantic coastal towns like Biarritz to watch the intrepid surfers or La Rochelle.

Nantes

For classical music amateurs, Nantes’ annual five-day long classical music festival held early February, La Folle Journée, is a great opportunity to discover this city on a short break. In between the 25 concerts held over the festival, you can walk around the incredible Machines de l’île inspired by Jules Verne, Leonard de Vinci and Nantes’ industrial past.

Truffles during the truffle festival in Sarlat-la-Canéda ©Mathieu Anglada - Office de Tourisme Sarlat Truffles during the truffle festival in Sarlat-la-Canéda ©Mathieu Anglada - Office de Tourisme Sarlat

Truffle festivals

You could also theme your French winter break with a gourmet food experience. Truffle season is in full swing between December and February and you should head to the south-west to get the freshest ones. The towns of Lalbenque in Lot and Sarlat-la-Canéda in Dordogne both have truffle festivals in January where you can taste them and learn all about the traditional ways of hunting for the sort-out mushroom.

Burgundy wine festival

With such an easy access from Paris and therefore the UK, Burgundy is a good option to get a taste of French country life on a short winter break, if you time it right, you could also visit the region’s annual festival celebrating the patron saint of wine and vineyards, Saint Vincent, held at the end of January. You’ll be able to taste plenty of Burgundy wine as the whole village in which it is held is covered in paper flowers.

Find out what’s going on in France this winter:

When do the French ski resorts open?

Must-visit French winter food festivals

12 reasons to spend Christmas in France

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