The French Riviera, also known as the Côte d’Azur, is a popular destination year-round though probably most commonly associated with being a summer playground. However, February offers a unique experience for visitors and is a great time to visit. The crowds are thinner, the weather is mild, and there are plenty of events and festivals happening throughout the region. Plus, with off-season deals and discounts, it’s the perfect time to plan a budget-friendly holiday. Let’s take a look at the reasons why February is a great time to visit the French Riviera.

Snowy Alps with Mediterranean sea French Riviera

Weather in February on the French Riviera

One of the main reasons to visit the French Riviera in February is to enjoy the mild and sunny weather when most of Europe is cold, damp and gray. The average temperature at this time of year ranges between 12°C to 18°C (54°F to 64°F) and the sun shines for around 7 hours per day. February is also pretty much the driest month outside of summer, not something you’d necessarily expect!

sunny beach restaurant in February on French Riviera | Lou Messugo

This agreeable climate makes it comfortable for outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and exploring towns and villages. The decent amount of sunshine provides ample opportunity to enjoy the beaches, rivers and forests, and relish long lunches outside on sunny terraces.

baby on beach in February in French Riviera

So having established that the weather is a definite plus, let’s look at what’s on in February that makes it such a fun month to visit. February has a surprising number of exciting cultural events and festivals.  These draw big crowds, but outside of the main events February is quiet and uncrowded.

Events in February on the French Riviera

Big wheel and grosses têtes at Nice carnival

Nice Carnival

visit French Riviera in February for Nice Carnival

Nice Carnival is the most famous winter event on the French Riviera attracting around 1 million visitors over 2 weeks. It’s the biggest carnival celebration in France and one of the biggest in the world. It consists of spectacular parades of colorful floats, costumes and flowers.

flower battle at Nice carnival on French Riviera in February

The event takes place over two weeks in February, and as long as you like crowds, it’s a must-see when visiting the region during this time. Click for more information.

Menton Lemon Festival

Fête du Citron Menton Côte d'Azur

Menton Lemon Festival is a truly unique experience on the French Riviera. This two-week celebration, held simultaneously with Carnival, features parades of floats adorned with vibrant citrus fruits.

sculptures made of lemons and oranges at Menton's Lemon Festival French Riviera in February

In addition to the parades, there’s also an incredible exhibition of sculptures crafted from oranges and lemons on display in the heart of Menton. Don’t miss this one-of-a-kind event that’s a feast for the eyes and the nose! Find info and dates here.

Villefranche Naval Flower Battles

traditional wooden boat decorated with flowers in French Riviera

This rather strange-sounding event, le Combat Naval Fleuri is a unique part of the carnival experience on the French Riviera. Traditional wooden boats, called Pointus, decorated with locally grown flowers, sail around the picturesque port of Villefranche sur Mer.

carnval procession in Villefranche sur Mer

Participants on the boats throw their flowers into the crowd lining the harbor, sparking a playful competition to catch as many flowers as possible. Sounds bizarre but is a wonderfully colourful spectacle. There is also a small carnival parade along the seafront.

Mandelieu Mimosa Festival

Golden mimosa flowers bloom as early as late January on the French Riviera and this stunning display of nature is celebrated at various fêtes throughout the region. Mandelieu, known as “the capital of mimosa,” hosts a week-long Fête du Mimosa, complete with carnival parades and the crowning of a Miss Mimosa. If you’re looking for a more intimate celebration, this event offers a charming alternative to the larger crowds at Nice carnival.

Cannes International Games Fair

giant playmobil figurines on red carpet steps in Cannes

For a whole heap of fun visit the International Games Festival in Cannes, France. Held annually at the end of February, this three-day event brings together over 300 exhibitors from around the globe to showcase the latest and greatest in the games industry. There’s something for everyone to enjoy from classic board games to video games and everything in between.

Not only is the festival a blast for the public, but it also serves as a competitive platform for game developers. Prestigious awards are given out in various categories, recognizing the best in the industry.

Outdoor activities in February on the French Riviera

Port Vauban Antibes with Fort Carée and snowy Alps

If big events aren’t your thing, escape the hustle and bustle and experience the natural beauty of the French Riviera in February. With dry and sunny, yet mild weather, it’s the perfect time to get outdoors and explore the diverse terrain on foot or by bike.

Walk or cycle in February on the French Riviera

The French Riviera is a hikers’ paradise with a wide range of different terrains to choose from: coastal paths, forest trails, mountain hikes, and countryside rambles. The scenery is breathtaking and there’s something for all levels of fitness.

coastal path St Jean Cap Ferrat Côte d'Azur

Don’t forget that winter is the time to see magnificent sunrises and sunsets, with unbelievable displays of colour. The air is clearer without the haze of summer resulting in vivid colours and views that go on for miles.

sunrise with fish sculpture infront of sea

Photo taken by Janet from Mitchell Johnson

Cyclists will also find plenty to keep them occupied, with challenging mountain climbs over cols and more leisurely routes along the coast. The mild weather in February makes it an ideal time to take on the area’s many scenic routes.

cyclist with mimosa trees in bloom

A unique feature of the French Riviera is the presence of Europe’s largest mimosa forest. And February is the perfect time to explore this beautiful area as the gorgeous bright yellow flowers bloom from late January to mid March.

mimosa trees in flower with view of sea and distant mountains on French Riviera in February

Whether you hike through it along one of the many signed trails, or cycle, or take a leisurely scenic drive you can’t fail to be charmed by the sight of cheery yellow for as far as the eye can see.

Ski on the French Riviera

lone skier on sunny ski slope

Did you know that just 1.5 hours from the coast, there are ski resorts that offer the perfect day trip? These small, family-friendly ski areas are not only affordable, but they also boast the most sunshine of all ski resorts in France.

sledging in mountains with blue sky French Riviera in February

Unlike the big, crowded and expensive resorts in the northern Alps, these hidden gems provide an unforgettable change of pace high in the snowy mountains. Whether you’re a skier, snowshoer, tobogganer, or just love to take in the beautiful and tranquil Alpine scenery on foot, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

2 people snowshoeing in empty snow field with blue sky

Imagine, you can ski in the morning and make sandcastles on the beach in the afternoon. There aren’t many places in the world where that’s possible! Get more detail about skiing on the French Riviera here.

Visit beaches on the French Riviera in February

empty beach in Antibes in February

Talking of the beach, the French Riviera is home to hundreds of kilometers of sandy and pebbly beaches, hidden rocky coves, and city beaches. And what better time to visit than in February? With fewer tourists around, you’ll often find yourself alone to immerse yourself in the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea.

lone parasol on beach in French Riviera in February

Pack a picnic and enjoy a leisurely lunch on the beach. Bring a ball and play with the kids or build sandcastles or pebble structures. Take a walk along the shoreline and breathe in the fresh sea air.

children playing on pebble beach on Côte d'Azur in winter

And if you’re feeling brave, why not take a dip in the sea? The temperature may be on the chilly side (around 12.5-13.5° C or 54.5-56° F) but it’s positively warm compared to the icy waters of northern seas in winter.

kids running on sandy beach Villefranche sur Mer France in February

Sightsee and dine on the Riviera in February

St Paul de Vence in winter sun

Visit charming villages and iconic towns

couple with dog in colourful village on Côte d'Azurempty street in hill village in French Rivieraman climbing steps in hill top village in February sun

February is an excellent time to discover the charming villages and iconic towns of the French Riviera. Without the crowds of visitors, you’ll have the chance to explore these picturesque places at your own pace. Imagine wandering through the secret alleyways of tiny perched medieval villages all by yourself, taking in the breathtaking views and snapping the perfect photo without anyone else in it. See my recommendations for the best villages to visit.

market stall in Valbonne in winter

The bigger towns (Nice, Antibes, Cannes, Grasse and Monaco) are lively without being overwhelming, with pretty much all restaurants, museums, attractions and shops open for business. Outdoor markets continue throughout the year so you’ll be able to experience the charm of these quintessentially French gatherings without the hustle of summer crowds.

Museums and restaurants in February on the French Riviera

The French Riviera is famous for being the home of many renowned artists over the years so consequently it is packed with world-class galleries and museums. February is the ideal time to visit some of them without crowds getting in the way. Check out some recommended museums here.

people eating outside on restaurant terraces in February sun

Another bonus of the low season is that you can enjoy a meal at a special restaurant without having to book months in advance. Imagine, it’s often possible to dine outside on a sunny terrace at lunchtime soaking up the Riviera ambiance just like in the warmer months.

Valentine’s Day on the French Riviera

It would be amiss to write about visiting the French Riviera in February and not mention Valentine’s Day. France is the country of amour and what better place to celebrate your love than in the sublimely romantic Riviera.

couple walking on beach at sunset with palm trees

Imagine watching the sunset over the Mediterranean after strolling hand in hand along the beach or visiting a dreamy hill village lost in time. Restaurants have special Valentine’s menus on the 14th with extra romantic details so treat yourself to a gastronomic feast for two.

Valentine's day restaurant menutable on beach restaurant in winter with fleecy throws

Thanks to my friend Dawn for taking these photos

Indulge in a couples spa day at one of the luxurious spas in the area or create your own bespoke scent at a traditional perfume maker in Grasse, the world capital of perfume.

French Riviera in budget-friendly February

view of trees and sea on French Riviera in February

Off-season deals and discounts

Low season is perfect for grabbing a bargain price on flights and car hire. Accommodation is nearly always more affordable than in spring and summer too, leaving you more money to spend on activities, shopping and dining out. February is the ideal time for a budget-friendly holiday on the French Riviera.

view of mimosa forest with snowy mountains in distance

Book your stay at Lou Messugo Gîte

Have I convinced you to visit the French Riviera in February?  Treat yourself to a winter break at Lou Messugo Gîte. Drink rosé on the terrace in the sun, recharge your soul, banish the winter blues and make lifelong memories!

Further Reading

Mimosa Season on the French Riviera

Valentine’s Day in France

Battling With Flowers and the Meaning of Carnival in Nice

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