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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Sightsee and dine on the Riviera in February
Visit charming villages and iconic towns
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
Mimosa Season on the French Riviera
Battling With Flowers and the Meaning of Carnival in Nice
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What an amazing array of things to do in the area. I can see why it’s so popular in the Winter months when you have sunshine and festivals to enjoy
WOW – so much to see and do. I think I’d be exploring your best towns, coast and countryside areas before they get too busy in the summer and would love to see the Villefranche Naval Flower Battles. Oh and the games fair is right up my street! What’s your favourite thing to do in Feb?