Image of casino building in Nice, France with palm tree outside decorated with lights for Christmas.

Christmas decorations on palm trees are a sight to see in the French Riviera! (Photo credit: phg_voyager and

The South of France is adored around the world as a destination for summer vacations due to its wealth of outdoor activities, beautiful sandy beaches and refreshing cuisine, but visiting the region during the holiday season might make it your new favorite Christmas tradition! During the winter, you can enjoy reduced crowds, cheaper flights and greater availability on South of France furnished villas and apartments. In addition, the South of France has numerous unique traditions and events to help you fall even more in love with the quaint and relaxing way of life in this breathtakingly beautiful area. Whether you’re looking to experience the holidays like a local or just try something new this holiday season, the South of France is sure to satisfy!

The slopes or the sea: the choice is yours!

Image of private balcony in PR-1217 with table, chairs, palm trees and beachfront views in Nice.

A Christmas Day brunch will be extra special with waterfront views of the French Riviera. (Apartment ID: PR-1217)

The South of France’s unique geography gives vacationers plenty of options, especially in the winter! If cold weather makes you cringe, you’ll love a getaway to the French Riviera. Cities like Nice, Cannes and Saint Tropez make popular resort destinations year-round because of their mild climates and proximity to the crystal-clear blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s pretty easy to chase away winter blues when you spend Christmas under a palm tree with your toes buried in the white sand! If that’s the holiday you dream of, you’re in luck.

Image of the village of Tende in the French Alps during the winter.

The picturesque villages of the French Alps make a perfect backdrop for your holiday postcards when they’re covered in snow. (Photo credit: Mark Fischer)

However, if you’re dreaming of a “white Christmas,” you’re also in luck in the South of France! The French Alps start on the French Riviera, and the first ski resorts are just about 1.30-hour drive from Nice. The French Alps are known for breathtaking views of mountain peaks and picturesque valleys, and at this time of year, they’re often dusted or covered with snow! This makes the Alps a great destination for skiing, snowboarding or other winter sports. Additionally, to get in the Christmas spirit, you can visit the Christmas market in Grenoble for artisan gifts, foods, crafts and more (as well as super scenic shopping).

Image of exterior of PR-954 vacation rental chalet at night and covered in snow.

Enjoy “silent nights” when you rent a chalet for Christmas in the French Alps. (Apartment ID: PR-954)

The southern French Alps also offer the unique chance to stay in a beautiful furnished chalet or cabin like something out of a storybook. Avoid the gouging prices of a traditional resort and rent one like this 2-bedroom chalet in La Batie Neuve! The all-wood interior has a flair for the rustic and traditional, and makes it a super cozy place to sleep in any of the twin beds that can be pushed together to form an extra-spacious queen. Besides the possibility for a long winter’s nap, there’s also a full kitchen in this chalet, perfect for preparing filling and tasty casseroles and soups. The interior of the cabin is decorated with twinkle lights to make it extra magical for the holidays, and if you need to warm up after skiing, there’s even a sauna at the end of the cozy entrance room. Enjoy all the amenities and snow-covered mountain views, but with the added privacy and exclusivity of your own personal chalet. Imagine waking up here on Christmas morning!

Local shopping and one-of-a-kind gifts: a Provencal holiday treat

Image of people shopping at a Christmas market in Marseilles, France.

Christmas markets in the South of France are scenic and stocked with goodies that will make unique Christmas gifts! (Photo credit: Francois Schnell)

Every year when the holiday season rolls around, Provence celebrates with the opening of several fabulous holiday markets throughout the region! The holiday markets are a wonderful chance to mingle with locals as you shop in the open air, and often the markets are decorated with holiday lights and garlands and have amusement rides for families. The markets are filled with local artisans selling everything from decorations and holiday treats, to artwork, to clothing, making the markets an ideal place to hunt for your perfect souvenir from Provence! Markets can be found all over the Provence region, but some of the best are in Avignon, Marseille and Aix-en-Provence. For more ideas of where to shop, browse our guide to the best markets in Provence—they’re all sure to receive a facelift for the holiday season.

Give your traditional holiday feast a French twist

Image of a Yule log cake topped with a snowman figurine for the holidays.

A yummy bûche de Noël cake is the pièce de résistance of a French Reveillon celebration!

Another reason to visit the South of France during the winter and holiday season is the food! The cuisine from the South of France is venerated for its delicious mix of lighter Mediterranean cuisine and the richer food from the French Alps. And of course, there are a multitude of vineyards in the area producing world-famous French wine. During the holidays, you can count on the availability of sweet wines and of course, the namesake bubbly celebration drink from the Champagne region of northeast France!

A spread of tapenade, savory soups and ragout is sure to be found on a Provencal holiday table, especially for the feast of Reveillon—the Christmas Eve feast that lasts past midnight. Participate in Reveillon and you can expect to be served some of France’s finest, ranging from lobster, escargots, turkey and more. Plus, Provence has a special twist to the Reveillon feast: a spread of 13 desserts that everyone is expected to try! One traditional dessert is the delicious bûche de Noël, the French Yule log. We don’t blame you if you go back for second helpings!

Image of dining area in PR-1161 with table, chairs and double-paned windows.

The breezy, open dining room of this vacation rental will let you enjoy the simple pleasures over Christmas dinner. (Apartment ID: PR-1161)

If you crave the more traditional country look for your holiday, try this 4-bedroom vacation rental in Riez, Provence. This rental has it all for a quaint, classic Christmas: classic furnishings, a working fireplace, and wide, sunny windows! The kitchen has a rustic look thanks to wooden cabinets and comes outfitted with all the tools you’ll need to prepare a holiday feast. You’ll also find sleeping space for 7 in this vacation rental, and the cushy armchairs and 2 dining tables will accommodate everyone during family time. If you happen on warm weather this Christmas during your vacation in the Provence, you can even enjoy the unique chance to dine al fresco at the dining table on the patio!

Last but not least on our list is perhaps one of the most universally-appreciated things about Christmas in the South of France: the holiday lights and decorations! Villages across Provence traditionally decorate with a crèche scene of the nativity at their town halls, but you can also find more modern lights decorating destination towns all across the South of France, from Nice to Aix-en-Provence.

The unique climate, breathtaking beauty and charming traditions of the South of France will make it a sure contender for the holiday getaway of a lifetime! If you’re interested in putting a Provencal spin on your holiday season, be sure to check out our full inventory of vacation rentals, villas and furnished apartments to find a place to stay that will give you a truly local experience. Happy holidays!