Famous for its year-round sun and warm waters, the French Riviera is a popular vacation destination for good reason. Its mild to very warm temperatures, pleasant and safe swimming conditions, and high number of bright, sunny days make it an appealing place to visit even during cooler months. Situated in southern France, the mostly coastal cities and towns that make up the Riviera benefit from a Mediterranean climate characterized by hot, dry summers, temperate winters, and relatively low rainfall compared to other French regions.
For those who are heat-shy, the sometimes-scorching summer temperatures (known to rise above 90 F / 32 C in recent years) that reign in the Riviera can be less than ideal. Spring and early fall might be preferable for many visitors when there are warm but more temperate conditions and the mercury often hovers at a pleasant 70 F (21 C). But watch out for the rainy season, which is typically October through February.
Popular Cities on the French Riviera
Nestled at the western edge of the Ligurian Sea—a section of the Mediterranean that includes part of the Italian coast—Nice is coveted for its warm air and sea conditions, especially in late spring to early fall. During the warmer months (roughly late May to late September), average temperatures reach the high 80s and early 90s Fahrenheit (30 to 34 Celsius); they sometimes climb even higher during heat waves. But the cheerful Riviera city is also wetter than many others on the south coast, with high precipitation levels during the autumn in particular. Most travelers will prefer the dry, hot months of June through August to visit. Overall, the average annual temperature is about 59 F (15 C).
Situated near the middle of the French Riviera, Cannes is a glamorous destination that's best known for its film festival, but also for its beaches and yachts. It features a hot and temperate climate with a high number of sunny, bright days, and summer temperatures that regularly climb into the high 80s Fahrenheit. Summer and early autumn tend to be dry and clear, with rainier winters and early springs. The average annual temperature in Cannes is about 58 F (14 C). Winters can be quite cold, dropping to as low as 38 F (3 C).
One of the French Riviera's most sought-after coastlines is found on the Gulf of Saint-Tropez and in the town of the same name. The glamorous beaches here are packed with vacationers in the summer when dry, sunny skies and warm sea and air temperatures reign. The hottest months are July and August, when the mercury tends to hover above 80 F (27 C), though temperatures get even higher during recent heatwaves. October through February can be quite wet, however, with heavy rainfall a strong possibility in the fall especially. The average annual temperature in Saint Tropez is around 59 F (15 C).
Located between Cannes and Nice, the historic town of Antibes (and the adjoining resort area known as Juan-les-Pins) is prized for warm sea and air temperatures that are moderated by an abundance of trees and greenery. The temperate Mediterranean climate features hot, dry summers where the temperatures peak in August at around 80 F (27 C), and cool, rainy falls and winters. Late May to early September is the best time for swimming and sunbathing. The average annual temperature hovers around 59 F (15 C).
Situated at the extreme western part of the Cote d'Azur (the French term for the Riviera, literally meaning "azure coast," Cassis is a pretty beach town close to the major port city of Marseille. Like the other cities and towns mentioned above, Cassis has a warm, temperature climate featuring hot, dry summers and wetter winters. The warmest month of the year is July, when temperatures regularly exceed 80 F (27 C). The average annual temperature is around 58 F (14 C). Most travelers will want to avoid Cassis in the late fall and winter when rainfall can be quite heavy (often exceeding 2 inches per month). The summers are warm, dry, and ideal for swimming and sunbathing.
Spring in the French Riviera
From late March to early June, you can expect pleasantly warm, temperate conditions to reign on the Riviera. Overall, depending on the cities and towns you plan to visit, expect temperatures to hover somewhere between 60 F to 75 F (16 C to 24 C), except in early March when the mercury can dip into the 60s Fahrenheit. Rainfall tends to be moderate, with more precipitation in the earlier part of the season.
What to Pack: Even though temperatures start to really warm up in late April, we recommend packing layers for cooler spring mornings and evenings. March and April can be quite cold, with temperatures sometimes dipping into the high 40s Fahrenheit. A couple of long-sleeved shirts, a light waterproof jacket, waterproof shoes, and a sweater will keep you dry and warm if the mercury dips. But also pack your swimsuit, sunscreen, and light summer-style clothing for warmer, beach-ready days.
Summer in the French Riviera
As you may have gathered from the city descriptions above, summer in the French Riviera tends to boast hot, dry, sunny conditions. You can expect the mercury to range from around 75 to 85 F (24 to 29 C); in recent years, heatwaves have seen temperatures soar into the high 80s and low 90s Fahrenheit (29 C to 34 C) in some places on the coastline. Summer storms aren't as common on the Riviera as elsewhere in France, but sometimes do occur. Sea temperatures are very pleasant for swimming, often warming up to 75 F (24 C).
What to Pack: Prepare for intense heat and sun by lining your suitcase with plenty of light, breathable summer clothing like T-shirts, shorts, skirts, and open-toed shoes. Bring two sets of swimwear, a water bottle for cooling off and staying hydrated, and plenty of sunscreen to avoid burns. In case of the odd summer storm, it's a good idea to pack a pair of waterproof shoes and a light windbreaker or jacket.
Fall in the French Riviera
Fall in the French Riviera tends to begin with warm, temperate conditions, but the season is increasingly rainy and chilly from around mid-October. The steady loss of daylight hours means there's less time to enjoy the sun, even on days when clear skies reign.
From late October and early November, temperatures sharply fall and rainy season arrives. Temperatures remain relatively temperate and rarely dip below 55 F (13 C). Overall, you can expect fall temperatures to range from as low as 45 F (7 C) in late autumn to as high as 70 or 75 F (21 24 C) in the earlier part of the season.
What to Pack: In early fall, pack layers to make sure you're prepared for both warm and cool conditions and bring a swimsuit just in case the sea temperatures remain pleasant for a dip. If your trip falls in October through early December, bring plenty of waterproof and cool-weather clothing, including a light coat, waterproof shoes, scarf, sturdy umbrella, and a couple of sweaters. Even a light hat and gloves might be necessary for those early mornings or evening coastal walks, when the wind chill can be intense.
Winter in the French Riviera
While winter on the Riviera is relatively mild compared to other regions of France, conditions can be quite chilly when compared to the hot summer months. Snowfall is quite rare owing to the maritime influence, but it sometimes falls in the nearby mountains and brings cold winds. You can generally expect temperatures to dip as low as 39 F (4 C) in January and February and to rise to about 55 F (13 C) by early March. In recent years, unusually warm winter temperatures have been recorded in many regions.
What to Pack: If you're visiting the Riviera during the winter, you won't need heavy-duty cold-weather clothing. But do make sure to bring a warm waterproof jacket and shoes, scarf, sweaters, and even a light pair of gloves in case temperatures fall into the 40s. A strong, windproof umbrella is also essential, and a good moisturizing sunscreen and lip balm will help protect against chapping.