February is not the nicest time to visit France if you want to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, cycling or days on the beach. The weather tends to be cold and rainy through much of France, and our landscapes are not at their prettiest at this time of year.
However, if your plan is to make the most of the low season and visit some of the most famous museums without the tourist crowds, then the weather won’t matter. Or if you want to visit Provence and the French Riviera, where the weather will be sunnier and warmer, this could also be a good option. Indeed in the south of France, there are some fantastic festivals in February, including Nice Carnival and the Menton Lemon Festival (see below).
Skiing in the French mountains is, of course, an excellent option in February, when you’re almost guaranteed snow.
In this post, we’ll talk a bit about the weather in France in February, and some of the best things to do and places to visit.
France Weather in February
February is one of the coldest months of the year in France. Of course, it is always sunnier in the southern part of the country and even warmer if you drive towards the French Riviera. But even in the French Riviera, it’s unlikely that the temperature will rise much above 53°F or 12°C.
In Paris and northern France, the high temperature will be closer to 9°C (48°F) and could get as low as freezing.
Always be prepared for rainy days in February, and bring plenty of warm winter clothing. Some parts of France will get snow at this time of year, so be prepared for that too, particularly if you’re in northern France or the mountains.
For more information about the weather in France at different times of year, visit our FAQ page!
Festivals and Events in France in February
Here are some of the best festivals and carnivals happening in France in February. We recommend checking them out if you're in the area!
Nice Carnival takes place every year, normally in the month of February. The Carnival dates back more than 700 years, when historically Carnival took place in the final days before Lent, and people celebrated the arrival of spring.
Carnival grew much larger from 1873, following the establishment of the "Festivities Committee”, which transformed the Carnival into the huge parade you can experience today. The parade includes themed floats, performers in elaborate costumes and masks, and competitions.
Every year, the Carnival has a theme. In past years, these included the “King of Cinema”, “King of Fashion” and “King of World Treasures”. The participants in the Carnival must interpret this theme in their own way and create costumes and artistic floats and sculptures around the theme. Normally, the giant figure of the ‘King’ is the center of the Carnival.
For more information, you can check the Nice Carnival website.
Menton Lemon Festival
The Fête des Citrons in Menton is one of the big events of the year in the French Riviera. Like Nice Carnival, the lemon festival adopts a particular theme each year, and sculptures, floats, costumes and exhibitions are then created around this theme. In fact, the Menton Lemon Festival dates often coincide with Nice Carnival, so if you’re in the French Riviera in February, this is a great opportunity to enjoy both events.
Menton has been famous for its citrus fruits (particularly lemons) for centuries. The festival was inspired by a local hotel owner, who in 1928 decided to decorate the hotel’s gardens with an exhibition of flowers and citrus fruits. The following year, local people, inspired by the previous year’s exhibition, decorated carts with orange and lemon trees and took to the streets. The local council saw the potential for a festival that could attract visitors to the town during the low season, and so the lemon festival was inaugurated in 1935.
Menton is just over 30 minutes’ drive from Nice, and about 10 minutes from the Italian border. You’ll notice the Italian influence on the town’s colors, buildings and cuisine. The pastel-colored beach-front buildings are a stunning sight. In fact, if you’re looking for a less-crowded, more laid-back version of the Amalfi coast, Menton is an excellent option.
Less than half an hour’s drive from the Belgian border is the northern town of Dunkirk. In February, the town is famous for the incredible ambiance of its Carnival. The Dunkirk Carnival (Carnaval de Dunkerque in French), dates back several centuries and is a celebration of the end of winter and the beginning of Lent. This two-and-a-half month event starts on January 7th and ends in late March or April and is one of the largest and most popular events in the region.
The festivities include a variety of balls and parades every weekend of the Carnival in Dunkirk and nearby villages. The carnival finale takes place on the ‘Three Joyful Days’ (‘Trois Joyeuses’) preceding Ash Wednesday. On these days, big bands play on the streets of Dunkirk, and people dress in extravagant costumes and carry colorful umbrellas.
If you’re in Dunkirk in northern France during one of the Carnival weekends, it is wonderful to participate in one of the events. A real Carnival spirit as winter comes to an end!
Winter Jazz festival in Le Touquet
Another jazz festival, this time the Winter Jazz Festival ‘Jazz au Touquet’ is held in the town of Le Touquet in northern France. This celebration of jazz music features performances from a range of international jazz musicians.
The festival program usually includes concerts, workshops, and other musical events in theaters, clubs, and other public spaces throughout the town.
A great festival for jazz-lovers who are visiting northern France in February!
Corso Fleuri Flower Parade in Bormes-les-Mimosas
The Corso Fleuri of Bormes les Mimosas is an annual flower parade that takes place in the town of Bormes-les-Mimosas in the Var department of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in the south of France. It is one of the most famous and popular flower parades in France, attracting thousands of visitors every year. It normally takes place in the month of February.
The festival was first inspired by a 17th century tradition of parading along the main street in decorated carriages. It stopped after the French Revolution and restarted in the early 20th century.
The parade features floats decorated with thousands of flowers, including mimosas, the emblematic flower of the town. The floats are accompanied by marching bands, dancers, and other performers.
The Corso Fleuri is a celebration of the town's rich floral heritage and a showcase of the local talent in horticulture, art, and music. It’s well worth attending if you’re visiting the south of France in February.
Best Places to visit in France in February
Chamonix is a charming alpine town located in southeastern France known for its world-class ski and snowboarding slopes. February is the height of the winter season in the French Alps, so there will be plenty of outdoor activities and events to enjoy.
As well as skiing and snowboarding opportunities for all levels, you can also try ice climbing, with lessons and guided tours offering the chance to experience the thrill of climbing up frozen waterfalls and steep ice walls.
Snow hiking is nice for those who prefer a more relaxed winter activity, and there are plenty of snowshoeing trails around Chamonix. There are also several ice-skating rinks.
To enjoy incredible views of the Mont Blanc mountain range, take a ride on the Aiguille du Midi cable car. Or enjoy a relaxing spa day - treat yourself to a massage after a long day on the ski slopes!
It’s also worth taking the time to stroll around the town of Chamonix to admire the traditional Alpine architecture.
Annecy is a beautiful town in the Haute-Savoie region of the French Alps. It is known for its picturesque lake, cobbled streets, and the canals that wind through the pastel-colored buildings of the charming old town. You can enjoy many of the same winter activities that Chamonix offers at the nearby La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand ski resorts, as well as ice-skating in town in the winter months.
You might catch the Carnaval Venetien in Annecy if you visit Annecy in February. The Carnival takes place two weeks after Shrove Tuesday, so often falls in late February or early March. During this colorful and lively event, people dress up in Venetian costumes and masks and parade through the town. A fun event to observe and participate in, if you like!
In terms of food, fondue and raclette are the ultimate Alpine winter cuisine - perfect if you love cheese! Fondue is bread dipped in melted cheese, and raclette is boiled potatoes with melted cheese, pepper and paprika on top, often served with gherkins. Wash it down with some delicious vin chaud (mulled wine!).
The French Riviera
The French Riviera tends to have the best weather all year round, so it’s a good region to include in your France itinerary if you’re visiting in February (or at any other time of year).
You might take a dip in the sea if you like cold-water swimming. But if this doesn’t appeal, there are many other things to do.
If you enjoy shopping, be sure to peruse the many luxury boutiques you’ll find in Nice. If the sun’s out, take a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais and the Quai des Etats Unis. Then climb the Colline du Chateau for some wonderful hilltop views of Nice and the Mediterranean. We also recommend doing a walking tour of the old town of Nice and taking in the impressive baroque Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate de Nice (Nice Cathedral).
Along the coast on the Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat peninsula is the pretty pink Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild and its beautiful gardens. Once the property of the prominent Rothschild family, it was donated to the state in the 1930s and is now open for all to enjoy. The gardens won’t be in full bloom in February, but they’re still very pretty and nice to stroll around. There are also some fantastic views from the garden.
If you like gardens and gorgeous views, we also warmly recommend the Exotic Garden of Èze (Jardin Exotique d’ Èze). Again, the gardens won’t be at their best, but they’re nonetheless attractive and beautifully sculpted with pathways winding through them. A lovely plan if you're driving through the French Riviera.
With around 150 hours of sunshine in February, a tour of Provence is another great bet if you want to spend time enjoying the outdoors in France.
If you’re a fan of the great Impressionists, we recommend a visit to the lovely Aix-en-Provence to see Paul Cezanne’s studio. You can also venture outside the city to see the landscapes that inspired his masterpieces, including Sainte-Victoire mountain, which featured in many of Cezanne’s paintings.
Aix is great for walking around (you won’t need a car) and February is actually a great time to explore it without the big tourist crowds. Browse the boutiques, stop for a coffee at one of the many cafes and explore the bustling markets. Be sure to take a stroll under the trees of Cours Mirabeau avenue in the old town of Aix, and see some of the local places where Paul Cezanne and writers Emile Zola and Albert Camus once hung out.
Fans of Vincent van Gogh should definitely visit Arles, where he lived for a time and painted many of his most famous landscape paintings. You can also visit St-Remy-de-Provence, where he admitted himself to an asylum in 1889, and painted one of his most famous paintings, The Starry Night.
If you’re interested in visiting Roman ruins, the Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct is a must-visit. You’ll also find a Roman arena and amphitheater in Arles, and another Roman Theater in the town of Orange, all dating back around 2,000 years or more.
Other villages that are very nice to visit are the medieval town of Vaison-la-Romaine, the beautiful hilltop village of Gordes, and the pretty coastal town of Cassis.
You may like to visit the Mediterranean city of Marseille too, the second largest city in France and a fascinating melting pot of cultures and influences. Here are some of our favorite things to do in Marseille.
You may not believe it when you see it, but the walled city of Carcassonne was nearly demolished in the 19th century, after falling into a state of neglect and disrepair. Luckily, thanks to the efforts of the local mayor at the time, it was saved and restored and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Carcassonne is located about an hour’s drive from the southern city of Toulouse. It’s a great stop to make if you’re coming from or heading to Spain. Historically, the city was located at the epicenter of many historical trade routes, and has been inhabited since the Neolithic period (over 3,000 years ago)!
Walk along the city walls to admire the stunning medieval architecture, and then venture over to Carcassonne castle and ramparts. There are some beautiful views from the top of the castle towers.
If you go on a self guided tour of Carcassonne with us, we will suggest a nice walking route through the old city.
Best Things to do in France in February
Dine in a Michelin-Star rated restaurant on Valentine’s Day
If you’re in France for Valentine’s Day with a loved one, why not book a table at one of France’s Michelin-star restaurants? Just be sure to book well in advance, as these will be fully booked on February 14th!
Here are some 3 Michelin-star restaurants across France. And here are some other ideas for romantic things to do in France!
Go Skiing, Snowboarding or Snow Hiking in the French Alps
We’ve already mentioned the towns of Chamonix and Annecy, and we know a couple of other resorts that we like, away from the main tourist areas.
February is a perfect time to go skiing, as you’re pretty much guaranteed snow. We really like Les Arcs ski resort in the Alps, which has many different ski slopes across a large area, so you’ll be able to try various different slopes.
Eating out here isn’t too expensive as there’s a lot of competition among the many different restaurants. We recommend the Bulle Café at Les Arcs (they have great seafood and pizza). L’Altiport is also a great self-service option.
If you hire snowshoes, you can hike up to La Crèche at Col de la Chal. They serve a delicious hot lemon drink or mulled wine, although the food is just average.
La Joue du Loup is another smaller ski resort we like, and it’s great for families. Again, snow is almost guaranteed through early March, and it feels less touristy and more authentic than some of the bigger resorts, with wooden chalet accommodation and lots of pine trees.
Enjoy Wine Tastings (& have the wine cellars to yourself!)
Whether you’re visiting Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Loire Valley, Provence, the French Riviera, the Basque Country or Alsace in February, a wine tasting in France is a great option.
For one thing, the wine cellars, which at around 12°C/54°F feel chilly at other times of the year, will feel warm in the winter!
Secondly, since this is the low season, you’re likely to have the wine cellars and your hosts almost to yourself. The experts will have much more time to dedicate to you, to recommend the best wines and explain the background, aromas and flavors of the wines.
Here we have listed our favorite French wine regions and wineries. And if you're a wine-lover, we think you'll love our France for Wine Lovers tour!
FAQs about France in February
Is February a good time to visit France?
If you plan to go skiing or do winter sports in the mountains, February is the ideal time to visit France. It’s also a quieter time to visit the most popular museums and tourist attractions.
But if you want to enjoy France’s beautiful landscapes and other outdoor activities in warmer and drier weather, we recommend planning to visit in the spring, early summer or early to mid fall.
How cold is France in February?
The daily average temperature across France in February is around 8°C (46.4°F), dropping lower than this in northern and eastern France, and to below freezing in the mountains. In the French Riviera and Provence, the temperature will be a few degrees higher than in the rest of France, but is unlikely to rise much above 12°C (57°F) in February.
In Paris, the temperature is February tends to fluctuate between 3-9°C/38-49°F.
Your best bet for milder temperatures, drier days and winter sunshine will be in southern France.
Is February a good time to visit Paris?
February isn’t a good time to visit Paris if you want to spend time outside exploring different parts of the city. It will be cold and likely wet. However, if there are some specific museums you want to visit, or you’re planning to do a food tour and visit different restaurants - in other words, if you’re planning to stay inside most of the time - then the weather may not matter. In this case, it may even be a good time to visit, as the museums and restaurants won’t be as busy with tourists.
If you would like to visit France in February on a self-drive itinerary that allows you to explore France at your own pace, send us your wishlist - we'd love to plan an unforgettable trip for you!
Considering visiting France in a different month? Check out our other guides below: