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.
So, yes, while it can be cold—especially in the country’s northern reaches—January is a great time to spend time indoors shopping, outdoors skiing, or cozying up in a café with a mug of hot chocolate and a croissant. From flamenco fiestas to husky races, find out what’s happening in France this January
Epiphany, throughout France – 6 Jan
This religious festival celebrates the date that the Three Wise Men visited Jesus. Epiphany is synonymous with the tasty Galette des Rois, a frangipane and puff pastry dish which visit the dining tables of families across the country. A tiny figurine called a ‘fêve’ is hidden inside the cake and whoever is lucky enough to find it becomes the king or queen for the day.
Festival Flamenco de Nîmes, Gard – 11-19 Jan
It may be known as the ‘French Rome’ but it’s Spanish spirit that takes hold of Nîmes for the Festival Flamenco. Unlike most flamenco fiestas in France, which focus on Spanish talent, the festival also gives local dancers and musicians their turn in the limelight. Attendees are bound to catch flamenco fever!
La Grande Odyssée, Savoie Mont Blanc – 12-23 Jan
The snowy mountain trails of Savoie Mont Blanc will be studded with the pawprints of hundreds of huskies taking part in the 15th Grande Odyssée. Considered one of the world’s most challenging dogsled races, the competition passes through resorts including Les Gets and La Plagne. You can follow the race on TV screens in the participating villages.
Concours International Sculpture sur Glace, Valloire, Savoie – 15-18 Jan
20 fantastical ice sculptures will be created for this long-established ice sculpting contest, celebrating 36 years. From intricate human faces to striking geometric designs, wrap up warm and marvel at the amazing creations at the coldest art gallery you’ll ever visit.
Winegrowers’ Week, Samoëns, Haute Savoie – 17-21 Jan
What better combination than wine and skiing? For one week a year, the Alpine resort of Samoëns plays host to around two dozen producers from across France, including Bordeaux and Champagne, who show off their wines and share their passion for viticulture. As part of the event there will be five ‘soirées gastronomiques’ in local restaurants where special menus will be created to accompany the wines.
Fête de la Truffe, Sarlat-la-Canéda, Dordogne – 19-20 Jan
With truffle season in full swing, this weekend-long event from the Groupement des Producteurs de Truffes du Périgord Nord is the perfect place for sampling the Gallic fungus. The highlight is the market with a variety of fresh truffles to sample. You can also watch some truffle-hunting demonstrations with trained dogs that take place twice daily in the Place du Peyrou.
Festival International de la Bande Dessinée, Angoulême, Charente – 24-27 Jan
Angoulême welcomes the world’s third-biggest comic book festival, which sees more than 200,000 visitors flock to the Charente capital. Attendees range from authors, artists, publishers and, of course, fans; even the youngest of comic connoisseurs will find lots to explore, including comic book-themed games and workshops.
The France Show, London – 25-27 Jan
The UK’s biggest celebration of France returns to Olympia London this year. Whether you love French food and wine, enjoy holidays in the sunshine or snow, or want to find your dream property, the France Show is the place to be. Don’t miss the property exhibition, where there are plenty of bargains to be had on your dream place in the sun.
Saint-Vincent Tournante, Vézelay, Yonne – 26-27 Jan
This wine festival celebrates Saint Vincent, one of the patron saints of wine-growers. Over 100 confréries from wine-growing villages across Burgundy will gather in Vézelay with banners and statues of Saint Vincent to pay homage in a great parade. There will also be plenty of wine-tasting opportunities in the caves of Vézelay.
International Fantasy Film Festival, Gérardmer, Vosges – 30 Jan-4 Feb
Fans of horror and sci-fi flicks have been enchanted by this festival in the Vosges since 1994. The whole town of Gérardmer is swept up in movie mania, with prizes for the best window displays. Take advantage of the themed screening nights; last year’s included a Nuit Hellraiser, presenting the terrifying British horror series.
Soldes d’hiver – Throughout January
Grab a bargain at the state-regulated winter sales, which take place across France throughout January and into the beginning of February. If you’re feeling brave but want the best deals on designer clothes, the Champs-Élysées is your best bet – bonne chance!