France in December Monthly Trip Planner

Christmas Markets, Skiing and Wonderful Events Draw the Crowds

© Philippe Couillet

December is a wonderful month to visit France, when the whole country comes alive with seasonal pleasures. Ice skating rinks are set up in major towns, often attached to the Christmas markets that fill the streets and squares, attracting crowds who come to see, buy, eat and drink and celebrate the holiday season.

You’ll find every major city has an annual Christmas market, usually running from around November 20th onwards.

Some stop just after Christmas; some run on all December; some keep going over New Year. So wherever you are travelling, check out the local tourist office website before you go to see where and when these glorious gift-buying extravaganzas and holiday events take place.

The ski season is already under way in the resorts in the Alps and the Pyrenees with many resorts offering a wide range of winter sports with a difference, from skiing on the glacier to snowboarding, from horse sledging to ice skating.

Why December is a good month to visit France

  • There are few crowds and no long waits for tourist attractions
  • The shopping is good
  • The restaurants are full of locals
  • The Christmas markets are wonderful places to enjoy shopping and just the whole experience
  • Many cities light up their buildings at Christmas, creating a very real fairy tale look
  • There are lots of special events at the theme parks that are open
  • Prices are lower for both travel (particularly airfares) and for hotels
  • The trees can sparkle with frost and you see the contours of the countryside without being obscured by trees

Christmas Festivities in France

The French celebrate Christmas on December 24th, so you might well find restaurants shut and many shops with very restricted hours.

But in small towns and villages, you’ll always find the baker and the grocer open on Christmas Day morning, as well as the local bars. They will all close on Christmas Day afternoon however.

Events in France in December

There are so many events going on in the holiday season you will find something wherever you are. The major events, like the Lyon Festival of Lights around December 10th every year are famous; others are small, local, low-key affairs like the celebrations in Falaise.

Christmas Markets in France

Christmas markets are found all over France, from small villages to the main towns. The major ones are in the north, with Strasbourg leading the way with a market that was started centuries ago in 1570.

Christmas Lights in France

France sparkles like a huge Christmas tree throughout December with the light displays that transform many of the major cities. The French are extremely good both at lighting and at light installations, and you will see some spectacular sights.

New Year in France
New Year's Eve, December 31st, is big news in France and you need to book a restaurant way in advance, particularly in the big cities.

All restaurants will serve a special menu, often very expensive ones, even in small restaurants. But dining on New Year’s Eve is a big public event, with everybody joining in the celebrations.

Skiing and Winter Sports in France

Skiing in France at Christmas is wonderful sport. And the apres-ski parties and activities are legendary. You're surrounded by like-minded people so you are guaranteed a wonderful seasonal holiday in whichever resort you choose.


The weather can be very variable, depending on where you are. In Nice on the Cote d’Azur you can bathe in the sea (if you’re hardy or have a wetsuit) in the early morning, then drive up to Isola 2000 for a day’s skiing. Elsewhere the days can be crisp and clear or thoroughly wintery with rainstorms and blizzards.

These are the average temperatures for the major cities.


Average temperature ranges from 2 degrees C (36 F) to 7 degrees C (45 F)
Average number of wet days is 16
Average number of days with snow is 2


Average temperature ranges from 3 degrees C (38 F) to 10 degrees C (50 F)
Average number of wet days is 16
Average number of days with snow is 0


Average temperature ranges from 2 degrees F (36 F) to 7 degrees C (45 F)
Average number of wet days is 14
Average number of days with snow is 2


Average temperature ranges from 9 degrees C (49 F) to 12 degrees C (53 F)
Average number of wet days is 9
Average number of days with snow in 0


Average temperature ranges from -1 degrees C (30 F) to 4 degrees C (39 F)
Average number of wet days is 15
Average number of days with snow is 3

What to Pack

If you are travelling around France you may need different types of clothes for different cities. But December is mainly cold, and even in the south of France you will find it chilly at night and will need a good jacket. It might be windy and could well snow. So don’t forget the following:

  • A winter coat
  • A light jacket for daytime
  • Sweaters or cardigans (great for layering to keep warm)
  • Scarf, hat and gloves
  • Good umbrella
  • Good walking shoes plus shoes for evening occasions
  • Second bag for all the gifts you will buy