The Best Time to Visit the French Riviera

View of the Mediterranean sea and the rooftops of Nice, France.

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Generally speaking, the best time to visit the French Riviera is during the late spring to early fall (late May through September). Spring brings warmer temperatures ideal for coastal walks and perhaps a dip in the sea, plus the return of green cliff sides, lush blooms, and foliage. In the summer, balmy conditions draw crowds to the Riviera's many Mediterranean beaches and boardwalks for swimming, boating, sunbathing, people-watching, and water sports. For those who don't mind large crowds, summer on the Riviera is usually considered the best time of year to plan a trip. For those who prefer quieter, less crowded conditions or are hoping to lock in lower fares, spring or early fall might be a better choice.

Popular Events and Festivals 

Most annual festivals and major events take place in the spring and summer, with the majority concentrated during the busy, laid-back summer months. In May, Hollywood and French movie stars alike descend on the red carpets and "Croisette" (beach promenade) of Cannes for the glamorous film festival of the same name.

Summer brings lively music festivals such as the Fete de la Musique on June 21, a free event featuring hundreds of performances in major cities and towns across the Riviera, and Jazz à Juan, a jazz festival in Juan-les-Pins that boasts international talent.

In late summer or early fall each year, the Voiles de Saint-Tropez attracts spectators to watch exciting sailboat racing competitions from dry land.

The Weather in the French Riviera

With a Mediterranean climate, the French Riviera is a popular beach vacation destination. It gets more sun than most French regions, and enjoys very warm air and sea temperatures in the summer. For those sensitive to heat waves, however, summer may prove a bit too hot. Mid-year rainfall and summer storms aren't as common in this region as they are elsewhere in France, which makes it even more ideal for beach-going and water sports. While the autumn tends to be relatively rainy and cool, the temperate climate means that even in winter, temperatures rarely approach freezing.

Peak Season in the French Riviera

The busiest times of year to visit are generally between late May and late September, when hundreds of thousands of vacation-goers flock to the coastal region. It's easy to guess that rates for hotels, flights, and tours are generally higher at this time of year. That's why we always recommend booking your trip well in advance (ideally at least six months ahead of time). Occasionally, though, you can find last-minute deals on flights and hotels for certain destinations on the French Riviera.

January

January is a quiet time in the Riviera. The excitement of Christmas has passed, but many cities continue to display lights or other festive displays. Tourism is at a low ebb and this is a great time to snag deals on hotels, airfares, and even lunchtime specials at notable restaurants.

Events to check out:

  • The region and the rest of France celebrates La Fete des Rois (King's Day), starting on January 6 and marking the Epiphany. Traditionally, people gather to taste marzipan-filled galettes des rois (King's Cakes) and look for fèves (trinkets) in each slice.
  • In Valbonne, a village near Nice, the Saint-Blaise festival celebrates local wines and artisanal products with market stalls, a parade, quirky floats, dramatic processions, and folk dancing.

February 

February in the French Riviera is generally quiet and laid-back. There are great opportunities now for deals on travel, but chilly, often wet conditions and closed attractions are downsides.

Events to check out:

  • The Carnaval de Nice brings some color and fun to the late winter, with costumed parades, lively performances, floats, and flowers, and other festive activities. This is an ideal event for young visitors and families.
  • Take a romantic break to Nice, Cannes, St-Tropez, or Antibes to celebrate Valentine’s Day. While it may be chilly out, you still stand the chance of enjoying sunny skies and beautiful seaside strolls. Book an inside table with views over the water for a special dinner. 
Isola 2000, ski resort in french alps
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March 

In March, temperatures climb and brighter, longer days make outdoor activities more pleasant again. But some attractions and restaurants are still closed.

Events to check out:

  • If you hope to take to the slopes, this is your last chance to hit Riviera ski resorts such as Isola 2000 and Auron.
  • Crave a good tarte au citron (lemon tart) or fresh-squeezed lemonade? Through early March, the Lemon Festival in Menton celebrates the virtues and tasty applications of the sunny fruit.

April 

April marks the tail-end of low season, so if you're on a tight budget this may be your last chance to lock in excellent deals on travel. Conditions warm up considerably, and this is a great time for long coastal walks, boating, and even swimming on warmer days. Many attractions and businesses closed during low season start to re-open now.

Events to check out:

  • Interested in art or antiques? Head to Antibes in April for the Art Fair, one of the largest antique and contemporary art events in France.
  • Easter is a big affair in France, and the Monday following Easter Sunday is a public holiday. Enjoy a special meal featuring local (Provencal) dishes, or take a spring walk along the coast to mark the occasion.

May

May in the Riviera is the beginning of peak season, with beaches, restaurants, and hotels becoming increasingly full and temperatures warming up enough to make swimming and water sports attractive again. On the downside, flight and hotel prices rise in tandem with the mercury.

Events to check out:

  • While we mere mortals won't likely get to access movie premieres and VIP lounges at the Cannes Film Festival, the town hosts open-air film screenings on the beach and other fun events for non-professionals.
  • Not far from Cannes, the town of Grasse is famous for its roses and for its perfume-making. In May, the Grasse rose festival offers a fragrant and memorable way to fete the late spring.

June

In June, longer days make the prospect of a day at the beach or out on a sailboat navigating the waves a welcome one. Beaches start to get genuinely crowded now, and it's harder to get good deals on the best hotel rooms. If you're looking for some new summer apparel, take advantage of the two-week summer sales.

Events to check out:

  • Boating enthusiasts may find the Voiles d'Antibes sailing competition fun to watch from the shores. There are also yachting exhibitions, special cocktail hours, and other events.
  • The Mois de Jardins (Garden Month) in Menton is a colorful way to admire some of the region's most beautiful and elaborate green spaces.
View of Nice city France
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July

July is one of the more exciting times to be on the Riviera, with the region's glamorous, summery style at full peak. Beaches are more crowded than ever and getting restaurant reservations or choice hotel rooms with views can be challenging.

Events to check out:

  • Celebrate Bastille Day on July 14, marking France's national holiday and the beginning of the French Revolution. Many cities on the Riviera, including Nice, celebrate the day with fireworks, parades, and other events.
  • If you missed fireworks on Bastille Day, head to Monaco for Art en Ciel (Sky Art), an international fireworks festival that's as grandiose as the royal principality itself.

August

August is traditionally the month when many French people outside the Riviera descend on the beaches there for summer vacation, making conditions very crowded. While the Riviera is probably at its liveliest now, you'll have to compete for the best spots on the sand, not to mention spots on tours or prime tables at beachfront restaurants.

Events to check out:

  • Whether you're a Picasso fan or are simply interested in learning more about the Franco-Spanish artist and his legacy in the region, the Picasso Festival in Vallauris Golfe-Juan (near Antibes) offers a great opportunity to bask in his singular work. 
  • Head to Cap d'Ail, a stone's throw from Monaco, for the annual Jazz Festival that's considered one of the region's most exciting and glamorous.

September

After the swelling crowds of August, September on the Riviera can feel like a reprieve. Air and sea temperatures tend to remain quite warm through most of the month, and while this is still high season, you'll likely have more space to enjoy beaches, trails, museums, and restaurants. 

Events to check out:

  • The International Festival of Gastronomy (Les Etoiles de Mougins) in the village of Mougins, near Cannes, offers opportunities for tasting and culinary discovery and a chance to meet and greet top chefs.
  • The Romérage Festival in the fishing village of Lavandou is a quaint local event that commemorates Saint-Clair, reputed to heal the blind. Colorful processions, dancing, and communal meals on the beach make for an authentic local experience.

October

By the time October rolls around, the days are shorter, the sun is fainter, and rainy days are far more common on the Riviera. Many businesses and tour operators close, and rates for hotels and flights fall steeply.

Event to check out: To celebrate the advent of fall, the Fete de la Chataigne (Chestnut Festival) in Collobrières is an authentic way to taste local delicacies. It takes place every Sunday in October with food stands, demonstrations, and other events.

November

November marks the height of low season on the Riviera. Chilly, darker days and frequent rainy spells are punctuated by crisp, clear, sunny days when (provided you bundle up) coastal walks and lunches overlooking the sea can be memorable. You can often find excellent deals on travel this month.

Events to check out:

  • The Fete du Prince in Monaco (Monaco National Day) is the equivalent of France's Bastille Day with the obvious addition of a royal family. It marks the principality's independence from the mainland and is celebrated with parades, festivals, and more.
  • In mid-to late November, holiday lights and regional Christmas markets start to spring up in the Riviera's main cities and towns. Sample the famous "13 desserts of Provence" that are traditionally enjoyed around the season.

December 

While it's still low season in December, the arrival of "snowbirds" and tourists who come to see the region lit up for the winter holidays bring a lively, festive feel to the Riviera. It may be slightly more challenging to book your ideal hotel room or table for Christmas lunch, so reserve well ahead.

Events to check out:

  • The Riviera and the whole region of Provence is now festively studded with Christmas markets, proffering everything from hot mulled wine to gifts, traditional decorations, and Provencal delicacies such as marzipan and dried fruit.
  • If you enjoy winter sports, the slopes start to open around the Riviera resorts (assuming snow levels are sufficient). After a day of skiing or snowboarding, a soak in a mountain spa can be an appealing and cozy way to enjoy the season.
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