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Climate - French Riviera

Temperature, rainfall, prevailing weather conditions, when to go

United States version (°F - inches - feet). See also the metric version (°C - mm - meters)

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French Riviera map

The climate of French Riviera, the coastal French area that goes from Marseille to Menton (near the border with Italy), is Mediterranean, with relatively mild and rainy winters, and warm, sunny summers. Atlantic frontal systems pass quite often throughout the year, but especially from October to April. In winter, though rarely, there may be waves of cold, with snow on the coasts and frosts in inland areas. Typically the summer temperatures are acceptable, although sometimes there may be hot periods, with highs about 95 °F, but fortunately sea breezes blow along the coast. On other occasions, we can not exclude the passage of some Atlantic depressions even in summer.
The western part is colder than the east, especially in winter, because it is subject to a cold and impetuous wind, the Mistral, which blows a hundred days a year, and is channeled through the Rhone Valley. So winter in Marseille is quite cold: the average temperature in January is 43.5 °F, and from November to March cold and windy days are possible, which can be followed by frosts. Precipitation in this westernmost part is not abundant: in Marseille about 23.5 inches of rain per year fall, with a maximum in autumn and a minimum in summer.
Here are the average temperatures of Marseille.
Marseille average temperatures
Marseille J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°F) 37 39 41 46 54 59 64 63 59 52 45 39
Max (°F) 50 52 57 63 70 77 82 81 75 66 57 52

In cities located at a certain distance from the coast, the climate is slightly continental, as you can see from the temperature of Aix-en Provence, about 12 miles north-east of Marseilles, where the average in January drops to 42 °F.
Aix en Provence average temperatures
Aix-en Prov. J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°F) 31 33 37 42 49 55 60 59 54 48 37 35
Max (°F) 53 53 59 65 72 79 87 85 79 69 56 53

Proceeding eastwards from Marseille, and away from the mouth of the Rhone River, the climate becomes milder, while the rains become more abundant in autumn and winter; in summer however it continues to rain a little.
In Toulon, in the southernmost part of the coast, nearly 28 in of rain per year fall, with a peak in October and November of 3.5 inches per month, and a minimum in July of just 0.4 in. Here are the average temperatures.
Toulon average temperatures
Toulon J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°F) 41 41 45 48 54 61 64 64 61 55 48 43
Max (°F) 54 55 59 63 70 77 82 82 77 70 61 55

Continuing east, in cities like Saint-Tropez, Cannes, Nice, the temperatures are similar. Here are the average temperatures in Nice.
Nice average temperatures
Nice J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°F) 42 43 46 49 56 62 67 68 63 56 48 43
Max (°F) 55 56 59 62 68 74 80 81 76 69 61 57

The rains increase a bit, exceeding 27 inches per year, and reaching 31.5 inches in Monte Carlo. From late September to December, in some years the rains are plentiful.
Here are the average precipitation in Nice.
Average precipitation Nice
Nice J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (in) 2.7 1.8 1.5 2.7 1.8 1.4 0.5 0.7 2.8 5.2 4.1 3.6 28.8
Days 6 5 5 7 5 4 2 2 5 7 7 6 61

The sunshine duration on the French Riviera is good in the summer, when the weather is usually nice, and decent in spring, especially in April and May, and again in September. In the rest of the year, ie in autumn and winter, there's no shortage of sunny days, but they alternate with cloudy and rainy days.

Nice from above

On the French Riviera, the sea is never very warm, because it is cooled for several months every year by the Mistral (which obviously blows in the western part, but due to sea currents, cold waters expand in a larger area). So in Marseille the sea temperature reaches a maximum of 72 °F in August.
Here are the average sea temperatures in Marseille.
Sea temperature Marseille
Marseille J F M A M J J A S O N D
Sea (°F) 55 55 55 57 61 64 70 72 70 64 61 57

In the eastern part of the coast, the sea becomes a bit warmer in the summer months (about one degree Celsius), as you can see from the temperature of the sea in Cannes.
Sea temperature Cannes
Cannes J F M A M J J A S O N D
Sea (°F) 55 55 55 57 61 66 72 73 70 66 61 57

When to go

The best time for beach life on the French Riviera is the summer, from mid-June to August.

If you want to visit cities, you can choose the months of May, June and the first half of September, to avoid the warmest months, bearing in mind that sometimes it can rain during the passage of depressions or in the form of afternoon thunderstorm.

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