Your guide to the French Riviera
Set against the sparkly azure sea, the French Riviera is hailed for exclusive beach clubs, over-the-top superyachts, the star-studded Cannes Film Festival and an affluent population. There are also one or two sleepy fishing villages and serene hillside towns here, allowing you to take a break from the hustle and bustle when needed. Practically wherever you are, brightly colored lounge chairs dot the shoreline, inviting you to bask in the sun.
Here is a list of some of the most popular locations to visit on the French Riviera and some of the best and luxurious things to do in those areas.
Boats merrily float in the harbor of this charming seaside town, which has picturesque cobblestone streets. Attend the annual Jazz à Juan music festival, learn how the Green Fairy is made at the Absinthe Museum, or roam around the lush gardens at Parc Exflora.
Famous artists have loved it here, including Boudin, Monet and Picasso. The Musée Picasso is a study in impressionism, and it’s housed in the former Château Grimaldi, where Picasso lived for a short time. On The Promenade of Arts, take in the 24-foot sculpture Nomade by Jaume Plensa, which depicts a man looking out across the sea.
While you’re undoubtedly familiar with Cannes’ annual May film festival, you may not know that attendees frequent the Carlton Bar. If you’re in the mood for a Provencal dining experience, though, try Le Relais des Semailles.
As you make your way down the Promenade de la Croisette, the boulevard that runs along the coast, you’ll pass restaurants, hotels, and designer boutiques like Dior and Dolce & Gabbana. Art lovers should visit the Musée de la Castre, and hikers can spend the day on the Massif de l’Esterel.
The Golf Country Club de Cannes-Mougins is in a protected environment in The Valmasque Park, and the sophisticated clubhouse is located within the walled estate. The fairways are wide and fast, and the course has a much-appreciated uncomplicated design.
Stay at the InterContinental Carlton Cannes Hotel, which has a sought-after location right on the boulevard and rooms with private terraces and stunning sea views.
Midway through your trip, slow down in Èze for a couple of days. This charming hilltop town with medieval streets is situated between Monaco and Nice. At the Jardin Exotique d’Èze, stroll through the picture-perfect cactus garden, which overlooks the village as well as castle ruins. Stay at the cliffside La Chèvre d’Or, which has guest rooms with exposed stonework and large terraces, plus an on-premises Michelin-starred restaurant.
Some say Menton is the French Riviera’s warmest wintertime resort. Located near the Italian border, Menton is regarded for its scenic citrus trees. At the Féte du Citron, nearly 140 tons of oranges and lemons are transformed into giant, creative sculptures. Other notable places to visit include Jardins Biovès and the Jean Cocteau Museum, which is on the beach.
The boutique Hôtel Napoléon is a nice place to stay in Menton, with excellent service and crisp décor, but if you’re looking for the ultimate luxury experience, you may want to stay in a ritzier part of the French Riviera and just spend a day or so here.
Synonymous with Princess Grace and the Formula 1 Grand Prix, Monaco has much more to it than you’d think for such a tiny space. Visit the historical Palais Princier de Monaco, the 18th century Fort Antoine amphitheatre, or the Saint Nicholas Cathedral. Then, get dressed to the nines and head to Casino de Monte-Carlo for the night, which is housed in a lavish belle époque building from 1963.
If you stay at Hotel Metropole, take part in their daily afternoon tea, which is served in the vaulted lobby. As the dessert trolley comes around, you won’t be able to stop yourself from choosing some of France’s finest treats.
Known for its amazing architecture, Nice is an ideal place to stay if you want to explore the rest of the French Riviera. Artists have sought out inspiration here for years, and it’s easy to see why, with the lovely hills, busy harbor and interesting ruins. Both Chagall and Matisse have lived here, and the area’s museums have works from both.
Rent a bike to travel along the Promenade des Anglais, visit castle ruins at the Parc de la Colline du Chateau (which also has excellent views of the town and the sea), and shop for antiques, flowers, produce and spices at the Cours Saleya outdoor markets. For a full day of shopping, head to the Galeries Lafayette.
Stay at the historic Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat, which has 17 manicured acres full of pine trees and boxed hedges; an Olympic-sized saltwater swimming pool; and a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Finally, beach towns don’t get sexier than Saint-Tropez, and visitors can’t help but party early in the day, heading to Nikki Beach while the sun is still in the sky. If you’re still going by nightfall, check out Le Club 55. For a calmer experience and to sample a few of the region’s rosés, take a tour of the Domaine Bertaud Belieu.
Stay at Hotel Byblos, which has over 90 rooms and is set on the hillside, overlooking the Places des Lices market. While there, get pampered at the Sisley spa and dine at the Alain Ducasse eatery Rivea.
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