It is February in France and love is in the air. The rather chilly air, that is. At what is perhaps the coldest month of the year, there is plenty to see and do in France, provided you are well equipped with a warm jacket and thick scarf.
February is a wonderful month to visit France, whether you are celebrating with that special someone or not. With many tourists avoiding the cold and the locals getting ready to head to the slopes for the winter school holidays, you will find that convening at the Louvre with the Mona Lisa is much easier when you have her all to yourself.
I will say that it is quite cold and rainy in February throughout much of the country, from Paris to the French Riviera. The days are quite short, and the weather rather grey up and down the country.
But with plenty of winter dishes and vin chaud, here are our top travel tips for visiting France in February. Allons-y!
On average, January and February in France are the coldest months of the year. And includes from Deauville in the north-west to Marseille in the south.
Average temperatures in February in major cities across France are:
- Paris – 4.6 °C (40.4 °F)
- Lyon – 3.8 °C (38.8 °F)
- Marseille – 7.4 °C (45.4 °F)
- Bordeaux – 6.6 °C (43.9 °F)
- Lille – 4.3 °C (39.8 °F)
- Strasbourg – 2.9 °C (37.1 °F)
- Deauville – 5.6 °C (42 °F)
Even along the Mediterranean coast in cities like Saint-Tropez and Nice, the mistral winds make the weather quite bone-chillingly cold.
If you intend to go skiing in the Alps, you should know that while the best ski resorts should have plenty of snow, the school holidays towards the end of February mean that the slopes will be quite crowded to take advantage of all that beautiful powder.
Elsewhere, there is also the odd chance that it might snow in cities like Paris, but don’t expect much accumulation. Cities like Strasbourg and Lille however are more likely to get snow.
If you are driving, be aware that snow removal facilities in France are not as well developed as in countries (I speak as a Canadian) and there are several instances every year when traffic comes to a standstill around major cities when snow starts to accumulate.
However, this is not usually an issue as major snow storms are quite rare, and the snow usually melts in a day or two.
Where to go
In large cities like Paris and Lyon, February is the off season and so many of the events cater to locals.
Hotel prices will should be lower and if you love art and culture, you are in luck because museums will be significantly less crowded than they are in the summer time.
Paris is a wonderful destination in winter, and there are plenty of romantic things to do if you want to take advantage of being in one of the most romantic cities in the world for Valentine’s Day.
While cities like Paris will have plenty of nightlife, you should know that it will be more quiet around smaller towns and villages around France. Many smaller tourist attractions and gîtes (rental cottages) will be closed or propose reduced hours for the off-peak season.
It does rain a lot in February and is generally quite cloudy in weather. But most restaurants terrasses should have their blankets out for customers to cozy up outside so don’t hesitate to do as the locals do.
February Holidays, Events, and Festivals
Valentine’s day in France is usually marked privately among couples, and there are not really any public events surrounding that special day. Other festivities and holidays in February include:
1. La Chandeleur – Candlemas Day
- Public holiday: No
- When: 2 February
Like on 3 Kings Day, Candlemas is another Catholic religious event and French celebration that isn’t a public holiday, but it is nonetheless important. And that’s because it is the day to invite family and friends over for crêpes.
From the crêpe suzette to savory crêpe salées there is a bit of everything, depending on you and your guests.
This is not to say French people don’t eat crêpes all year long, but Chandeleur is a bit of a crêpe-athon. And after all the eating at Christmas and the galette de rois, it is something new!
2. End of Winter sales
You might think it is dreary to visit Paris in January, but the official shopping winter sales period (les soldes d’hiver) that started in the 2nd week of January are still going on into February, as they last for four weeks.
This is the tail end of the sales period so expect steeper discounts which come towards the end, although all the best stuff is probably gone.
3. Carnival de Nice
The Carnival de Nice is the biggest carnival in France, held over two weeks in February and March . Located on the French Riviera, the parade features the city’s boardwalk Promenade des Anglais prominently. There are several events across Mardi Gras in the downtown of Nice, with the biggest highlights being:
- Carnival Parade – held during the daytime with large floats, dancers, acrobats, confetti and more
- Carnival Parade of lights – in the evening with large illuminated floats, visual animations of big screens, and fireworks
- Flower parade and the “battle of the flowers” – large floats covered with flowers and costumes models throwing flowers into the crowds.
The original parade dates back to 1873, with the flower parades being added on in 1876.
4. Winter School Holidays
School is off for 2 weeks all across France at the end of February, beginning of March. The weeks are staggered based on the zone that the region falls into.
Two weeks off of school that means that it is time for the requisite family ski holiday! If you do plan on coming to the French Alps to ski, I recommend checking when the school holidays are and planning the best time to hit the slopes.
☞ READ MORE: France in Winter: Where to visit
4. Other festivals
Each year in February, there are dozens of weekly markets selling truffles and truffle festivals in the Occitanie region:
- “Carnaval des Saveurs et de la Truffe” in La Digne d’Aval
- “Fête de la truffe et des produits du terroir” in Nîmes
- “Fête de la Truffe et du Terroir” in Claret
- “Fête régionale de la Truffe Noire” in Amélie-les-Bains
What to Pack
France in February is cold, so along with a winter jacket, you will want to pack warm rain boots or snow boots to keep those feet nice and toasty.
If you are heading to the Alps mountains and planning to spend much time outdoors, you may want to bring your thermal underwear. You can find more style tips here.
If you enjoyed reading this article, you may enjoy reading more about events in France in other months of the year. A bientôt!