Visit France in January and you’ll find half the country celebrating the ski season in the glorious, snow-covered mountainous Alps and the other half it seems, enjoying the semi-annual sales. Jack Frost might be nipping at your fingers, but it’s a good time for bargains – on airfares, hotels and package deals.
The weather is variable in January. Some days will be cold but beautifully clear and crisp; on other days it might be snowing or raining.
The south of France can get cold, and it can rain, but it is extremely unlikely to snow. The Riviera along the Côte d'Azur, after all, was the place where in the past the rich went to escape winter. Go to France expecting the full range of weather (and it can get very cold at night) and you won’t be caught by surprise. The climate varies hugely depending where you are in this large country, but here are some guidelines on weather averages in the major cities of France:
- Paris: Average temperature ranges from 2 degrees C (35.6 degrees F) to 6 degrees C (42.8 degrees F)
Average wet days: 18
Average number of days with snow is 4
- Bordeaux: Average temperature ranges from 3 degrees C (37 degrees F) to 11 degrees C (52 degrees F)
Average wet days: 16
Average number of days with snow is 1
- Lyon: Average temperature ranges from 2 degrees F (36 F) to 7 degrees C (45 degrees F)
Average wet days: 14
Average number of days with snow is 2
- Nice: Average temperature ranges from 6 degrees C (43 degrees F) to 13 degrees C (55 degrees F)
Average wet days: 9
Average number of days with snow in 0
- Strasbourg: Average temperature ranges from -1 degrees C (30 degrees F) to 4 degrees C (39 degrees F)
Average wet days:15
Average number of days with snow is 7
What to take with you
If you are travelling around France you may need to pack different types of clothes for different cities. But remember that everywhere January can be very cold, so even in the south of France you will need a good jacket and coat for going out at night. It might be windy and can snow almost everywhere except in the south along the Mediterranean. So don’t forget the following:
- A good winter coat
- A warm jacket for daytime
- Sweaters or cardigans
- Scarf, hat and gloves
- Good umbrella that can resist the wind
- Good walking shoes and smart shoes for evening occasions
Why January is a good month to visit France
- The government-sponsored winter sales are on (see details below)
- The skiing is glorious (see details below)
- There are few crowds and no long waits for tourist attractions
- The restaurants are full of locals
- You see the countryside, cities, cathedrals and palaces without being obscured by trees
- Prices are lower for both travel (airfares) and for hotels and you can get a good deal on flights.
Why January is not a good month to visit France
- The weather can be very cold throughout France
- Some attractions may be closed or have shorter opening hours
- Some hotels, particularly in the south of France, will be on their annual leave
- Weather can cause travel delays by air, rail or car
Skiing in France
France has some spectacular skiing areas and some of the best slopes in the world. Many are in the Alps, but the other main mountain ranges also offer good skiing, both overland cross-country, and downhill.
Check out getting to the major ski resorts in France, taking the train and staying in Paris for one night.
Shopping in January in France
The winter sales (les soldes d'hiver) offer wonderful bargains, with savings of up to 70%. They are tightly controlled by the government, so are genuine sales of the previous season's stock. They run from Wednesday, January 10th and end Tuesday, February 20th, 2018. Dates might be slightly different in Meurthe-et-Moselle (54), Meuse (55), Moselle (57) and Vosges (88) so you need to check with the local tourist office if you're in those departments.
In Paris, make a note of Soldes By Paris!