French Riviera map

Index


Introduction



The climate of the French Riviera (Côte d'Azur), the French coastline that goes from Marseille to Menton (near the border with Italy), is Mediterranean, with mild and relatively rainy winters and warm and sunny summers. Atlantic frontal systems pass quite often throughout the year, but especially from October to April, while in summer, in particular in July and August, they become rare.
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 35 °C (95 °F), but fortunately sea breezes blow along the coast.

West



The western part, from Marseilles to Toulon, is colder in winter because it is subject to a cold and violent wind, the Mistral, which blows for a hundred days per year and is channeled through the Rhone Valley. On the other hand, in summer, in this area of the lower Rhone river (see Marseille, but also the plain behind the coast where Avignon is located) it can get very hot, and sometimes the temperature can approach 40 °C (104 °F).

Marseille

Therefore, winter in Marseille is not so mild: the average temperature in January is 7 °C (45 °F), and from November to March cold and windy days can occur, followed by night frosts. Here the temperature dropped to -15.6 °C (4 °F) in February 1956, to -12.4 °C (9.5 °F) in January 1985, to -9 °C (16 °F) in February 1986, to -10 °C (14 °F) in January 1987, and to -9.5 °C (15 °F) in February 2012. As for the heat, the temperature reached 40 °C (104 °F) in July 1983, 38 °C (100.5 °F) in June 2003, and 39 °C (102.5 °F) in July 2017.
Here are the average temperatures.
Marseille - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)346813161919161274
Max (°C)111315182226302925201512
Min (°F)373943465561666661544539
Max (°F)525559647279868477685954

Precipitation in this westernmost part of the French Riviera is not abundant: in Marseille it amounts to 550 millimeters (22 inches) per year, with a maximum in autumn and a minimum in summer.
Marseille - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)554540604025153060855050555
Prec.(in)2.21.81.62.41.610.61.22.43.32221.9
Days65565413465656

In the 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 20 kilometers (12 miles) north-east of Marseilles, where the average in January drops to 5.5 °C (42 °F).
Aix-en-Provence - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)0035913161512932
Max (°C)121215182226313026211412
Min (°F)323237414855615954483736
Max (°F)545459647279888679705754

Proceeding eastwards from Marseille, and away from the mouth of the Rhone River, the climate becomes milder, while the rains are more abundant in autumn and winter. However, the summer is quite dry here as well.
In Toulon, in the part where the coast reaches the southernmost latitude, nearly 700 mm (27.5 in) of rain fall per year, with a peak in October and November of 90 mm (3.5 in) per month and a minimum in July of just 10 mm (0.4 in). Here are the average temperatures.
Toulon - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)557912161818161396
Max (°C)121315172125282825211613
Min (°F)414145485461646461554843
Max (°F)545559637077828277706155

East



The eastern part of the French Riviera, that oriented to the south-east and bordering the Ligurian Riviera in Italy, which according to some is the real Côte d'Azur (in cities like Saint-Tropez, Cannes, Nice), is the mildest one. Here, snowfalls and frosts are very rare. The summer heat is less intense than in Marseille as well.

Cannes

Here are the average temperatures in Cannes.
Cannes - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)446913161919161285
Max (°C)131415172124282825211714
Min (°F)393943485561666661544641
Max (°F)555759637075828277706357

In the eastern part of the coast, the rains increase a bit, exceeding 700 mm (27.5 in) per year, and reaching 800 mm (31.5 in) in Monte Carlo (in the Principality of Monaco). From late September to December, during some years, the rains are plentiful.
Here are the average precipitation in Cannes.
Cannes - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)75404070503015258012010595755
Prec.(in)31.61.62.821.20.613.14.74.13.729.7
Days65575423477661

The sunshine duration on the French Riviera is good in summer, when the weather is usually fine, 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 is a moderate amount of sunny days, but they alternate with cloudy and rainy days. Here is the average of the sunshine hours in Cannes.
Cannes - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours567891011108654

Nice from above

Sea temperature



On the French Riviera, the sea is never very warm because it is cooled for several months per year by the Mistral (which, as we mentioned, blows in the western part, but owing to sea currents, cold waters reach a larger area). So in Marseille the sea temperature reaches a maximum of only 22 °C (72 °F) in August.
Here are the average sea temperatures in Marseille.
Marseille - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)131313141618212221181614
Temp (°F)555555576164707270646157

In the eastern part of the coast, the sea is a bit warmer in the summer months (about one degree Celsius), as you can see from the temperature of the sea near Cannes.
Cannes - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)131313141619222321191614
Temp (°F)555555576166727370666157

Best Time


The best time for swimming and sun bathing on the French Riviera is the summer, from mid-June to August.

If you plan to visit cities, you may want to avoid the hottest months, so you can choose the months of May, June and the first half of September, bearing in mind that sometimes it can rain, when depressions arrive, or in the form of afternoon thunderstorm.

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