The French Riviera, or Côte d’Azur, is a magnificent stretch of coastline that extends from the Italian border to Saint-Tropez. It’s a playground for the rich and famous, but also a haven for art lovers, sun-seekers, and anyone looking to experience a bit of French joie de vivre. With its azure-blue waters, picturesque towns, and luxury yachts, the French Riviera is one of the most sought-after travel destinations. Here are the 13 most wonderful things to do when you visit:
Stroll around Nice’s Promenade des Anglais: The capital of the French Riviera, Nice, is renowned for its beautiful beachfront and the iconic Promenade des Anglais. A leisurely stroll here offers stunning views of the Baie des Anges, and you can stop at numerous beachfront cafes to enjoy a drink.
Visit the Saint-Paul-de-Vence: One of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera, Saint-Paul-de-Vence is a picturesque hilltop village. It’s renowned for its artistic heritage, with legends like Marc Chagall having lived there. The town is also home to many art galleries and studios, making it a must-visit for art enthusiasts.
Experience the Glamour of Monaco: The tiny principality of Monaco is synonymous with luxury. The Monte Carlo Casino, the Prince’s Palace, and the annual Formula 1 Grand Prix are just a few attractions that define this opulent city-state. Don’t forget to visit the Oceanographic Museum, which offers a deep dive into the marine world.
Attend the Cannes Film Festival: If you’re lucky enough to be in Cannes during the Film Festival, the entire town buzzes with excitement. While the red carpet screenings might be invitation-only, you can still enjoy film previews, celebrity spotting, and the glitzy atmosphere.
Relax on Pampelonne Beach in Saint-Tropez: This 5km long beach is arguably the most famous beach on the Riviera. Frequented by celebrities and jet-setters, it’s lined with upscale beach clubs and restaurants. Even if you’re not there to rub shoulders with the rich and famous, the clear blue waters are welcoming to all.
Explore the Îles de Lérins: These islands off the coast of Cannes are a perfect day trip. The largest, Île Sainte-Marguerite, is known for its Fort Royal where the mysterious Man in the Iron Mask was imprisoned. Île Saint-Honorat is home to a Cistercian monastery, where monks produce their wine.
Roam the Markets of Antibes: Antibes is renowned for its bustling markets. From the fresh produce of Marché Provencal to the antique treasures at the flea market, shopping here is an experience in itself. The Picasso Museum, located in the Grimaldi Castle, is also a highlight.
Discover Eze Village: This medieval village perched high above the sea is a true gem. Wander its narrow cobblestone streets, and visit the Jardin Exotique at the top for panoramic views of the Mediterranean.
Attend the Nice Jazz Festival: One of the oldest jazz festivals in Europe, this event attracts big names and music enthusiasts from around the globe. Held every July, the festival transforms the city into a musical haven.
Explore the Gorges du Verdon: A bit inland from the coast, this river canyon is often considered Europe’s Grand Canyon. Its turquoise waters and dramatic cliffs offer opportunities for kayaking, hiking, and simply admiring the breathtaking landscape.
Visit Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild: Located on Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, this pink villa with nine themed gardens is a testament to luxury and elegance. The villa provides a glimpse into the life of the French elite in the early 20th century.
Dive into the Mediterranean: The French Riviera is not just about luxury yachts; it’s a hotspot for diving enthusiasts. With clear waters and a plethora of marine life, places like Port-Cros National Park offer fantastic diving experiences.
Treat your Taste Buds: Last but not least, no trip to the French Riviera is complete without indulging in its culinary delights. From bouillabaisse in Marseille to socca in Nice, the region’s cuisine is as diverse as it is delicious.
The French Riviera is a blend of natural beauty, rich history, art, glamour, and gastronomic wonders. Whether you’re lounging on its sun-kissed beaches, exploring its quaint towns, or diving into its cultural festivities, the Côte d’Azur promises an unforgettable experience. Embrace its charm and let the Riviera work its magic on you.
Off the Beaten Path in the French Riviera
While the aforementioned attractions are quintessential to the Côte d’Azur experience, the French Riviera is also home to many lesser-known treasures that offer an authentic and tranquil escape from the bustling hotspots.
Visit the Perfumeries of Grasse: Grasse is the perfume capital of the world. You can explore historic perfumeries like Fragonard, Molinard, and Galimard, which offer guided tours and even workshops where you can craft your signature scent.
Explore the Chapelle du Rosaire in Vence: Designed by the famed artist Henri Matisse, this chapel is an ode to art and spirituality. Matisse considered it his masterpiece, and the unique stained glass windows radiate an ethereal glow that is worth experiencing.
Trek the Coastal Paths: The Sentier du Littoral is a series of coastal paths that snake their way along the Riviera shoreline. These walks promise uninterrupted views of the azure Mediterranean, isolated beaches, and a chance to experience the coast’s rugged beauty.
Delve into the Art World of Cagnes-sur-Mer: The town was once the home of impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Visit his family estate, now the Renoir Museum, and immerse yourself in the serene landscapes that inspired his works.
Relish the Night at Les Plages Électroniques in Cannes: While Cannes is famed for its film festival, it also hosts an annual electronic music festival on the beach. Dance to the beats of international DJs with the Mediterranean as your backdrop.
Discover the Trophée d’Auguste: Overlooking the town of La Turbie, this ancient Roman monument was built by Emperor Augustus to celebrate his victory over the Alpine tribes. The monument offers a historic perspective, as well as panoramic views of the coast below.
Enjoy a Traditional Provençal Market in Menton: While the entire Riviera has lovely markets, the ones in Menton are particularly delightful. Experience the local flavor, buy fresh produce, or simply relish a coffee while watching the world go by.
Cruise the Maures and Esterel Massifs: These mountain ranges are teeming with natural beauty, offering a stark contrast to the coastal charm of the Riviera. Whether you’re cycling, driving, or hiking, these terrains promise pristine views and adventure.
Visit the Villa Kérylos in Beaulieu-sur-Mer: This impressive villa is a recreation of an ancient Greek home, showcasing the lifestyle of the elite in ancient Greece. Its architecture, decor, and seaside location make it a hidden gem.
Relax in the Thermal Baths of Berthemont-les-Bains: Nestled in the hinterlands, this spa offers therapeutic thermal baths surrounded by the Alpes-Maritimes mountain range – a perfect way to relax and rejuvenate.
Embracing the Full Riviera Experience
While the French Riviera is often associated with glitz and glamour, it’s also a mosaic of history, art, natural wonders, and local traditions. Whether you’re indulging in the lavish lifestyle of Monaco, exploring the historic lanes of Antibes, or finding solace in the serene mountains of the Esterel Massifs, the Riviera promises diverse experiences that cater to every traveler’s fancy. So, pack your bags and set forth on a journey that transcends time, culture, and nature in the heart of the Côte d’Azur.