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Recommendations for 3 months in South of France in Winter

We want to spend the winter late January through April in the south of france. Which is the best city/town that would have shops, things to do, accessibility to trains (we don't want to hire a car) etc. I does not have to be by the sea, but we thought that might be a tad warmer. I think Nice might be too large. We want to immerse ourselves and live like a local, however we do not speak French. My husband speaks some German but we are English speakers. Appreciate your ideas and thoughts.

Posted by
605 posts

Seems like you have described Toulouse. I recommend reading a guidebook on Toulouse to see if it is indeed what you are looking for.


Posted by
9204 posts

Menton, on the Italian border, has a little micro-climate that keeps it warm when the rest of the south is cold. A lot of English people go there for the winter. See the Lemon Festival in February.

Posted by
763 posts

If you have 3 months, what about immersing yourself in the French language? You could make significant progress in that amount of time. There is no better way to gain insight into a country!

Posted by
22442 posts

I hate to bring this up but you do know that you can only spend 90 days in France without a visa if you are an Am citizen. Jan through April is closer to 120 days which could cause you a lot of problems.

Posted by
6708 posts

Depends a lot on what the OP means by late January. If they arrive in France Jan 28, they can stay until April 24 and be within the 90 day period.

I think the idea of Menton being a smaller town but only 30 min from Nice for when you want the services and enjoyments of a bigger city is great. I would love to spend a winter there. But I also would say that I might be tempted to split the time, maybe half in Menton and then move to another area for the other half. As warmer spring weather moves north you could move on to Lyon or maybe over to Toulouse to experience a different place for part of your time.

I also agree with the other poster who mentioned language immersion. Something I would do as soon as I arrived would be to find some kind of French language learning opportunity, either an organized class type of thing or even finding a one-on-one teaching situation maybe a couple of hours a day to learn the basics as quickly as possible. You can certainly get by with only English in the short term but for what you want (to live like a local) you'll need some French language skills.

Posted by
16 posts

You might like Aix-en-Provence. It has a great little town center with lots of shops, a street market, etc. Nimes, Orange, Avignon, Arles, Marseille, etc are all an easy day trip from Aix. The train station location isn't perfect, but I'll let you be the judge.

Posted by
7175 posts

Antibes on the Cote d'Azur for 4 weeks.
Arles in Provence for 4 weeks.
Lyon for 4 weeks.
Good train links in all places, which are a good Goldilocks size - not too big, not too small.

Posted by
43 posts

Hi Mel B

Well for my money the only place to be in the winter months is the French Riviera, largely because of the micro climate, also the green tropical vegetation and the option to ski. Nice, Cannes or Monaco being the key places to stay, with Nice top of the list, it is a great place, vibrant with plenty going on and not too large in my view. There are plenty of smaller places in the hills nearby but they, like many other places tend to be too quiet in winter.



Posted by
29679 posts

The 90 day restriction is very real unless you are EU.

The German won't do you much good in France or Italy.

A lot of the tourist business on the Cote d'Azur can do fairly well with English IF you use the basic French pleasantries.

I find the Riviera quite decent in the winter.

Posted by
1437 posts

I spent 10 weeks in Southern France in late winter (Feb to April 2011). I split most of my time there between Menton, Nice and Aix-en-Provence. I much, MUCH preferred Menton over Nice (people, microclimate, cost). Since the early 80s, I've spent much time in several corners of France and I'm a fluent French-speaking Canadian. So what I am about to say about Nice is qualified.

Nice has better bus connections than Menton, but it has a very ugly 'underbelly' - especially when dealing with locals. I remember sharing some of the nastier incidents that happened in Nice on this forum and on TA when I returned and this was not well received at all, since Nice remains a fave for visitors. High living costs, difficult employment and criminality are stresses that the residents face in Nice and this translates to a certain degree of resentment by locals - stuff that tends to go right over the casual visitors' heads. Having been at the receiving end of this recurrent crap though, from personal experience I will not gloss over nor forget that Nice is not that 'nice' to live in. Nice is great for a stay of a week or so max, IMO.

Apartments for rent in Menton are plentiful, but you do have to look a bit wider than usual. For example, some are listed on, but are not listed on the sister sites. Due to its microclimate (and the Lemon Festival), many Belgians, Northern French, and British seniors winter in Menton. The apartment that I rented had been inherited by the daughter of a senior who had spent her winters there. Many people own secondary residences in this area and prefer going in the summertime, if they are not themselves retired. So supply and cost work in your favour, especially if you rent for a period of at least one month (30 days) and this does not need to be a 'calendar' month either.

I would start in Menton (for at least 30 days and all of February), then move westward for maybe at least one or two more stays. Aix-en Provence, Montpellier and Toulouse would be good bases for at least two-week periods. Montpellier is not as well known as the other two, but I like it better. All are good public transportation hubs - especially for bus links to smaller towns and villages. I would not pick a small town or village to stay, as the early Spring rains can be torrential and a city would offer more.

Posted by
1437 posts

Try these websites for finding a rental:

For all of these, set to Euro pricing as a basis for comparison. Be also very aware of the 'fine print' for extra costs. The listings do vary between the different national sites for Homeaway, for example: .com vs vs .fr

I found prices to vary greatly from rental to rental and the "seasonality" of the pricing also varies greatly. Frankly, I shake my head at the outrageous prices asked for some. There are some excellent values that can be found by really checking out the listings carefully. Good luck!

Posted by
394 posts

I would vote for Avignon. A smaller city, with everything you need to live like a local (I lived there for four months, had a visa). A very nice market. Plenty to do in the city itself - museums, the papal palace, the famous bridge, walks along the Rhone. Some wonderful restaurants, and good access to trains. It has a regular train station for travel in the region (you can very easily get to places like Arles, Nimes, Marseille, etc.), and a TGV station if you want to get to Paris, Lyon, etc. The bus system also works very well if you want to get around to some of the smaller villages in the area - Gordes, Orange, Vaison-la-Romaine, etc. There will be enough English speakers to help you out, but spending this long in one place presents a great opportunity to learn quite a bit of the language.

Posted by
9204 posts

Toulouse was cold and rainy this year until late May--info from friends who spent January to July in Toulouse.
Though a wonderful small city, in winter Avignon is cooler and grayer than Menton, and some of the places Peter mentioned--my own personal experience over several years in the south.
Great post Diane; sometimes we have to ditch the guide book to carry out our plans.

Posted by
39 posts

Thank you all for the recommendations. We ended up going with Nice for 2 months and then we'll do a month driving around England (we used to live in London) so we can avoid Shengen issues. Appreciate the insights.