Canal on the Rhine River with Half-timbered houses lining it in Strasbourg, France

The Best One Week France Itinerary for Winter

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France is the perfect European destination for a winter vacation. December is the perfect time to explore France if you want to experience Christmas Markets and the coziness of Paris during winter. For this one week itinerary to France, a visit to Paris and Strasbourg gives you both.

Planning Your Winter Trip to France lAST mINUTE?

Planning your winter trip to France? Below are some places to stay, things to do, and more.

Best Tours and Experiences in France
  1. Strasbourg Christmas Market Tour (Christmas wonderland!)
  2. Strasbourg Traditional Food Tour (Try regional specialties!)
  3. Alsace Villages & Colmar Christmas Market (See markets in 3 villages!)
  4. Alsace Small Group Day Trip from Strasbourg (Year-round!)
Top Hotels in France
  1. Grand Hôtel de L’Univers Saint-Germain, Paris (Fantastic location)
  2. Select Hotel, Paris (Beautiful rooms and fantastic rating)
  3. Odalys City Strasbourg Green Marsh, Strasbourg (Great apartments!)
  4. Hotel Cour du Corbeau, Strasbourg (Stay in a half-timbered hotel!)
Book your train between Paris AND STRASBOURG

Train Tickets for France (Official Site!)

Want to day trip to the Alsace Christmas Markets independently? Click here to check France rental car rates!

Strasbourg is just a short train ride from Paris but gives you a completely different experience of France. From Strasbourg, you can explore the Alsace Wine Route and enjoy the half-timbered buildings of this region that borders Germany. Between some of the top sights in the world in Paris and the adorable Alsatian villages, this was the best itinerary for France as a first-time visitor to the country.

Itinerary for one week in France for the winter including visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris and other tops sights in France

France in Winter: One Week Itinerary for Paris and Strasbourg

I did this trip in early December and I did have a few reservations about visiting in the winter. Even though you do need to bundle up with a winter jacket, it’s still a great time to visit Paris and Strasbourg. While Christmas Markets in France may be busy, I found that Paris wasn’t as crowded as other seasons. If you go in late December you may encounter crowds as it is popular to spend New Year’s Eve in Paris.

While you could easily spend a week just in Paris exploring there and maybe adding in day trips, I added on another destination because I wanted to experience both the capital and see some small French towns.

This France 7-day itinerary is great for first-time visitors as you get to see both Paris and one of the most beautiful regions, Alsace. If you have 5 days in France or less, I would consider staying in Paris and doing Strasbourg as a day trip to explore its Christmas markets and old town.

For an alternative one-week itinerary, check out my second trip where I visited Normandy and the Loire Valley. You can also check out my budget for France to give you an idea of what the costs are in the country.

What to do in Advance of Visiting France in the Winter

  1. Book your accommodation, especially for Paris as it books up and cheaper options disappear. I use
  2. Book your rental car in Strasbourg for a day of exploring the Alsace region or book a tour like this one.
  3. Book your high-speed train between Strasbourg and Paris, find tickets here.
  4. For Paris, you may want to pre-book your tickets for museums to skip the line-ups. Even in the winter, there are line-ups. I would recommend it for popular spots like the Eiffel Tower, Musée de l’Orangerie, Musée d’Orsay, and the Louvre. I use to book tickets and experiences.
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Where to Stay in France in Winter

Strasbourg Odalys City Strasbourg Green Marsh apartments are in the perfect location, a short walk to the train station and to the main sights of Strasbourg.

Paris Grand Hôtel de L’Univers Saint-Germain is located in the beautiful and convenient Saint-Germain neighbourhood. 

Day 1: Arriving in Paris and transiting to Strasbourg, France

Likely you will have some time between arriving in Paris and setting off to Strasbourg. There is no reason to just sit around waiting in the train station though. Before my high-speed train to Strasbourg, I had some time to kill in Paris. Free time in Paris is never a bad thing.

I used my time to visit the St. Martin Canal area and try some Parisian food. I chose this area because it is close to Gare de l’Est, which is where the train to Strasbourg departs from. There are lots of great restaurant options in this area.

Tip: You can pay to leave your luggage at the Gare de l’Est train station

St. Martin Canal area is close to the train station where you take the Paris to Strasbourg high speed train.

Paris to Strasbourg Train

Use the high-speed train to go directly from Paris to Strasbourg in 2 hours. Book online as soon as you know your travel schedule to get the cheapest tickets. You can check schedules and prices here. I had a great experience using the train as it was easy to book and get to and from the train station both in Paris and Strasbourg. In Strasbourg, the train station is about a 15-20 minute walk to the main sightseeing area.

If you want you can rent a car to travel between Paris and Strasbourg. I only wanted a car for a single day to drive the Alsace region so I decided to pick up the rental in Strasbourg. This way I avoided the headache of Paris traffic and paying highway tolls.

Day 2: Strasbourg Christmas Market

If you are lucky enough to visit when the Christmas Market is on, Strasbourg is even more beautiful than it is already. Decked out in Christmas lights, trees, and market stalls, it’s one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. You can easily spend most of the day wandering the multiple markets and then revisiting at night time to see all of the lights. To make sure you see all the highlights, you can join a tour of the Christmas Markets.

One of my favourite parts of the Strasbourg Christmas Market is that every year they have a small Christmas market that is dedicated to highlighting Christmas food and products from another country in Europe.

I would prioritize seeing Place Kléber with the giant Christmas Tree and the market outside of the Strasbourg Cathedral if you are short on time. The gorgeous Gothic cathedral should be on every itinerary. Make sure to check out the inside of the cathedral to see its nativity scene. The spire of the cathedral is 142m high. Tall enough to be home to some kind of falcon that hunts pigeons. I assume this based on the carcass of a pigeon that was dropped at my feet as I stood looking at the cathedral. It was bizarre but I’m thankful it was at my feet and not on me.

Sitting on the border of Germany and France, you can see an interesting mix of both cultures in the architecture and the food here. You should wander to the historic district of Petite France where you can see half-timbered houses and the canals.

Canal on the Rhine River with Half-timbered houses lining it in Strasbourg, France is a great addition to any France itinerary and is easy to include if you have one week in France as it is very accessible from Paris.

While visiting Strasbourg, you may notice an abundance of stork souvenirs, and maybe even spot a real one. The stork has long been a symbol of Strasbourg and the Alsace region. While the white stork almost went extinct, since the 1970s the Alsatian region has been working to conserve storks and there are now many storks nesting on buildings.

Highlights of Strasbourg in Winter

  • Petite France
  • Canals of the Rhine River
  • Christmas Markets
  • Strasbourg Cathedral

What to Eat and Drink in Strasbourg Christmas Markets

  • Cider
  • Gluhwein (mulled wine)
  • Bretzel, Alsatian pretzels
  • Kougelhopf, Alsatian sweet brioche with raisins or dried fruit cooked in a special ring-shaped pan
  • Flammekueche, an Alsatian specialty of a thin crust covered in crème fraîche, onions, and ham
  • Food from the Christmas Market stalls including sausage and regional specialties

If you really want to explore Alsatian food, there is a food tour in Strasbourg you can join as well, click here for the food tour.

Where to Stay in Strasbourg

I stayed at Odalys City Strasbourg Green Marsh apartments. I found the location perfect because it is a short walk to the train station where I rented a car and arrived from Paris. It’s also only a short walk to the main sights of Strasbourg with the Cathedral just a 15-minute walk away. On top of that, there is a mall across the street that has a grocery store. The apartment itself is clean and modern and has a small kitchenette for making basic meals. Highly recommend this place.

If you want to just be steps from all the main sights, check out BOMA Hotel. It’s located in the old town and has a restaurant and bar downstairs. Rooms have a modern style to them and it has fantastic reviews.

If you’re looking to stay in one of those historic half-timbered houses, Hotel Cour du Corbeau is the place to stay. Its location is fantastic and you will be staying in a renovated 16th-century room.

Day 3: Driving tour of Alsace Wine route

How to Visit the Alsace Wine Route

Start your day as early as you can and rent a car for a day. I picked up my car from next to the Strasbourg train station so it was a very convenient location. I used Discover Cars to book my car rental as it allowed me to easily price compare between different companies and see company ratings. I recommend booking your car in advance to avoid disappointment if they are sold out.

There are also tours you can join if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of a rental car, like this one that takes in the highlights of Alsace including Haut Koenigsbourg Castle. There are also Christmas Market tours that take in Alsatian villages.

Start Your Alsace Day Trip

With shorter daylight hours in the winter, you need to make the most of your day. The first stop on the Alsace wine route is Obernai. Obernai has a cute Christmas market and charming town. The houses here all look like gingerbread houses. After having gingerbread and cider in Obernai, keep driving on the wine route. Make a quick stop at the gingerbread factory in Mittewihr to pick up some fresh bags of gingerbread cookies at the shop.

With shorter daylight hours in the winter, you need to make the most of your day. The first stop on the Alsace wine route is Obernai. Obernai has a cute Christmas market and charming town. The houses here all look like gingerbread houses. After having gingerbread and cider in Obernai, keep driving on the wine route. Make a quick stop at the gingerbread factory in Mittewihr to pick up some fresh bags of gingerbread cookies at the shop.

Afterward, drive through the town of Barr. Most of the towns have a small Christmas market so you can stop as much or little as you want. I wanted time to visit Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg so I couldn’t stop in as many villages as I would have liked.

Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg is a castle on top of a mountain that can see the entire valley below. It is a nice drive up to it and the tour is worth doing to see the inside of the castle. This castle routinely makes best-of lists for the most beautiful castles in France. It definitely looks like something straight out of a fairy tale and is worth the small detour.

When you are done at the castle, you will be starting to run out of daylight. Drive through Ribeauville and onwards to Riquewihr. Riquewihr has a nice little Christmas market and has many adorable shops. By the time I ended up leaving Riquewihr, it was almost dark and I still had places I want to see. The final village of the day is Eguisheim. Eguisheim is one of the cutest Alsatian villages on the route. The Christmas lights really an even more romantic quality to the town. While it was great at night, I do wish I could have explored it during the day as well.

Finally, head to Colmar to have dinner in an Alsatian-style restaurant and wander the streets before heading back to Strasbourg. It’s definitely a long day so if you have the time in your itinerary, it may be worth it to spend a night somewhere along the wine route or in Colmar to have additional time sightseeing. I didn’t visit any vineyards as my main goal was to explore Christmas markets and see the towns but most villages had places where you could sample and buy wine.

What to Eat and Drink in France’s Alsace during Winter

  • Gingerbread
  • Macarons
  • Pretzels
  • Gluhwein (mulled wine)
  • Cider

Souvenirs to Buy in Alsace

  • Gingerbread, keeps for a couple of months
  • Dijon mustard
  • Alsatian pottery
  • Items with the symbol of Alsace, the white stork

Day 4: Strasbourg to Paris

Drop off your car and then get the high-speed train to Paris. Either store your luggage at the train station or check in to your accommodation. I chose to use my first day to explore Montmartre and Sacre Couer. You can check out the Moulin Rouge as it is a close walk from Montmartre. After, find some food and explore the area around the hotel. Check out this guide for the best photography spots in Paris.

Sacre Coeur Basilica in Montmartre Paris France visited as part of 7 days in France

Highlights of Paris in Half a Day

  • Montmartre
  • Sacre Couer
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Explore hotel neighbourhood

Where to Stay in Paris

Paris is huge so it can be pretty overwhelming trying to pick the best location to stay in on your visit. Paris is divided up into districts known as arrondissements (arr.). I stayed in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the 6th arr. The great accommodation, food, and location make the 6th the best arrondissement in Paris. The Latin Quarter (5th arr.), is right next to it and is also a good location to stay. The 5th and 6th arr. are well serviced by the subway and are full of restaurants and charming architecture. If you are up for walking, it is also possible to walk to some of the main sights including the Louvre and Notre Dame from here in about 15-25 minutes.

I enjoyed the Saint-Germain neighbourhood because of getting the chance to visit St. Sulpice Chuch and the neighbourhood has a friendly vibe to it. There is also a Pierre Hermé pastry shop in this arrondissement so there are many opportunities to try all the seasonal flavours of macarons.

Grand Hôtel de L’Univers Saint-Germain is a boutique hotel located in the Saint-Germain neighbourhood.  Rooms are beautifully decorated and have exposed beam ceilings. It is located close to restaurants and is a reasonable walking distance to many sights.

Located in the Latin Quarter, the boutique-style Select Hotel has some rooms that overlook the Place de la Sorbonne. Just across the street is the Jardin du Luxembourg which makes for an excellent place to have breakfast. Rooms have modern bathrooms and classic-style bedrooms with exposed beams and modern artwork.

Days 5-7: Three Full Days to Explore Paris

Paris is a big city. Whatever time you budget for seeing this place, it probably isn’t enough.  Between all the food I wanted to try (desserts from patisseries mostly) and all of the sights, you’re going to have to be choosy. I’ve become convinced that you either fall irrevocably, hopelessly in love with Paris or you think it’s the most overrated, tourist-trap in existence. Happily, I fell in love. You can check out my full guide to Paris here.

On the first day in Paris, explore the Jardin des Tuileries and walk along the river Seine to Notre Dame, and Sainte Chapelle. It doesn’t sound like a very packed day but there is so much to see wandering around this area and exploring the churches that time quickly is used up.

Note: While Notre Dame is closed because of portions being destroyed by the fire, you can still walk by the building to check out at least the front towers of the building.

On your second day in Paris, visit the Conciergerie, the Marais district, and Musée de l’Orangerie. I returned to Notre Dame because I just had to see it again. It’s one of those places where once is not enough. Have I mentioned I love gothic architecture? L’Orangerie is skipped a lot because it’s a smaller museum, but it is one of my favourite things that I did in Paris. A museum built just to house Monet’s waterlilies, it’s perfect and amazing.

On the final full day in Paris,  visit Musee d’Orsay and the Eiffel Tower. Depending on when you book your Eiffel Tower ticket you may have to shuffle this around a bit. My Paris itinerary was laid back enough that I had time to visit the pastry shops I wanted as well as to enjoy the museums and architecture on offer. Still, three days is barely scratching the surface.

Highlights of Paris in 3-Days

  • Notre Dame
  • Sainte Chapelle
  • Conciergerie
  • Musée de l’Orangerie
  • Musée d’Orsay or the Louvre
  • Eiffel Tower

What to Eat in Paris

  • Falafels in the Marais District
  • All the macarons you can eat
  • Croissants
  • Caramels
  • Eclairs
  • Beaujolais wine

Day 8: Final Morning in Paris

On your final day in Paris, likely you will have only a few hours before your flight or train out of the city. Use it to do any last-minute souvenir and bakery shopping and exploring around your hotel. Depending on your flight schedule you will have more or less time this day.

France December Itinerary for 7 Days

A single week in France is not a lot of time and it will be a packed itinerary. I felt pretty happy with this itinerary but it would have been nice to have an additional day in the Alsace region to better explore the area. For a first-time visitor, it really was the best of France in 7 days and I felt like I got a great overview of the country.

I hope this itinerary helped inspire you to visit this fairy-tale-like part of France. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or if you’ve visited Strasbourg or Paris before.

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  1. This is an interesting post with tons of info- like the bullet point info! It’s amazing how many winter destinations there are to visit in France. Strasbourg Christmas market, and the city itself, looks so beautiful.

  2. The Christmas market sounds lovely. The section where they dedicate food and products from other countries and Europe sounds so interesting. I would love to check that out 🙂

  3. The christmas markets seem like a huge part of the appeal here! Plus the gingerbread factory. I was in Paris in February last year and it was just cold, rainy and dreary the whole time…don’t get me wrong, still an amazing city, but a few holiday markets would have helped liven up the atmosphere.

  4. I’m yet to experience a European Christmas Market for myself. This one looks like a beaut! I’m a huge fan of winter travel (anything to escape the warm Australian climate where I grew up!) so I’m always looking for new places to spend the holiday season!

  5. I love how festive France looks during winter! I studied abroad in Lyon during my university days, but my school term was unfortunately a short one during summer. Not gonna lie, I’m now definitely tempted to plan a trip back for the holiday season!

  6. I followed this whole plan and covered most of the places. Amazing. Thanks. I couldn’t find the ginger bread factory though

    1. I’m so happy you liked the itinerary! It’s too bad you couldn’t find the gingerbread factory but hopefully, you were still able to enjoy some gingerbread from some of the Christmas markets.

  7. Hello and thank you for this post. I will be visiting Paris this February and was looking into other cities to visit during our short stay. I think this is a great itinerary and I might just do exactly what you have recommended! Thank you!

    One question: I am travelling with my mom and she doesn’t drive, so I will be the only one driving. Did you find it a challenge to drive around the Alsace region?


    1. Hi Rose, I’m glad you found this post useful!

      For the Alsace region the roads in the villages can be quite narrow and between the villages some of the roads do not have shoulders so when passing cars in the opposite direction you don’t have a lot of space. My best advice is to rent a small car, it will make things a bit easier. If you want to skip out on driving you can reach Colmar by public transit but for smaller cities joining a tour would be your best bet.

      Hope you and your mom have a fantastic trip to France in February!

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