On the southeast corner of France, where the Mediterranean Sea gently laps its shores, lies the French Riviera. A dreamy region well-known worldwide for charming towns like Cannes and Nice is also home to vibrant lavender fields, charming villages with colorful buildings, and incredible food.
As well as being one of the most popular getaways for sun-seekers, the French Riviera has earned itself a reputation as a winter destination for the British aristocracy at the end of the 18th century. With its balmy climate and more than 300 days of sunshine, it is easy to understand why it has become one of the best holiday spots in Europe.
Perhaps you`ll visit the Côte d’Azur for its beautiful blue waters and striking vistas. Or maybe for its vibrant history and culture. Whether you are looking for relax, or you just want to experience a different culture, with so much to see and do, the French Riviera will definitely steal your heart with its several marinas along its “Blue coast.” Sailing in the waters of the Mediterranean is also an enjoyable experience for those wanting to try something different.
WHERE DOES THE FRENCH RIVIERA START AND END?
The French Riviera stretches from Toulon on the west to Menton near the border with Italy. With no official boundary, the coast is entirely within the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) region of France.
THE BEST TOWNS TO VISIT ON THE FRENCH RIVIERA
The best place to start is probably what the French Riviera is the most famous for Nice. The capital of the region and one of the most popular destinations for city breaks in France is an essential stop for any trip to the Riviera. The ancient city of Nice, the region`s beating heart, attracts millions of visitors per year, but don`t let that put you off. The city with an authentic charm feels more Italian than French because Nice was ruled by an Italian king in the past. Lose yourself in the bustling, colorful old town, walk along the Promenade des Anglais or explore many attractions the city has to offer.
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A holiday to the French Riviera should not go without a trip to Villefranche-sur-Mer. The sleepy town of Villefranche-sur-Mer, nestled between the mountains and a wide bay, is one of the most exclusive spots on the French Riviera. A postcard-perfect fishing village with colorful pastel facades lining the steep cobbled streets of the medieval town filled with cafes and restaurants attracts locals and tourists alike. While exploring Villefranche-sur-Mer, make sure you check out the old town with buildings cascading down the hillside to the waterfront.
An authentic town of Villefranche-sur-Mer with colorful facades and red tile roofs is blessed with sparkling waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Enjoy a pleasant stroll along the promenade around the charming fishing harbor where you can experience bustling life in an authentic French town. Thanks to its deep waters, one of the most beautiful bays on the Cote d’Azur, located just a short distance east of Nice, is also home to Mediterranean cruise ships.
Villefranche`s sandy beaches are more favored than Nice`s beaches with pebble stones. Though still crowded during the summer, the sandy beaches with crystal clear water are perfect for families with children.
THINGS TO SEE IN VILLEFRANCHE-SUR-MER
- the 14th-century picture-perfect old town with narrow streets,
- a 130 meters long-hidden medieval fully covered Obscure Street dating back to the 13th century,
- the tiny Chapel Saint-Pierre with decorated by Jean Cocteau with frescoes,
- Saint-Michel church built in Baroque style dating back to the 1750s,
- ancient Citadel de Villefranche established to defend a medieval town (now a home to the Town Hall, museums, and an open-air theatre).
GOOD TO KNOW:
Villefranche-sur-Mer is renowned for its magnificent views. For the best views of the Villefranche, walk up to the corniche road to get views of the picturesque harbor.
French Riviera may be famous for stunning seaside towns and endless beaches, but the southeast coast of France offers much more. If beaches aren`t your thing and you prefer to spend a day exploring a historic place, consider visiting the medieval village of Eze.
Located only about 12 km (7.5 miles) away from Nice, the village of Eze has retained its beauty over the years. Wander around the old town and explore the narrow cobblestones streets lined with small restaurants, shops, and ancient stone buildings.
Get lost into the maze of the car-free streets with a typical medieval atmosphere.
While you are in the village, don`t forget to visit the Exotic Gardens of Eze, situated at the top of the medieval ruins of the castle. An impressive collection of cactus, plants, and other vegetation cascading towards the Mediterranean may be found here.
The Highest perched seaside village in France with breathtakingly beautiful panoramic views of the red roof tile houses and the sparkling Mediterranean Sea in the background is popular with locals and tourists alike. Stop in Eze village is a must-see when planning a trip to the French Riviera.
GOOD TO KNOW:
When visiting Eze, be aware of the narrow, steep streets with many steps. Choose the right walking shoes and remember that some alleys may be challenging for people with mobility problems.
THINGS TO SEE IN EZE:
- the Exotic Garden of Eze culminating at 1400 feet,
- Sainte-Croix’s chapel – the oldest building in the village,
- the Neoclassical Church Notre-Dame de l`Assomption built in the 18th century,
- Nietzsche path – a mountainous path with a spectacular scenery linking Eze Sur Mer and Eze village
HOW TO GET TO EZE
To get to Eze from Nice, take bus No 112 or No 82. A cheap and convenient ride (€1.50 per person) will get you to the village in about 40 minutes (only the No 82 runs in a limited schedule on Sundays and holidays).
When traveling by train, bear in mind that the nearest train station Èze-sur-Mer is located over 400 meters lower, and you will need to hike up to the village of Eze.
After exploring the streets of the medieval village of Eze, head to world-famous Monaco. Smaller than New York`s Central Park, a tiny kingdom, is surrounded on three sides by France and on the fourth by the sparkling Mediterranean, draws the rich and famous.
Famed for its stylish casinos, luxury superyachts, boutiques and prestigious Grand Prix motor race, a microstate with a rich history has a lot of attractions to offer to visitors.
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To truly experience Cote d`Azur how it used to be, head to a charming town of Menton. Sandwiched between the mountains and the Mediterranean, the last city on the French Riviera before the Italian border is one of the most enchanting towns on the entire coast. A cascade of pastel-colored buildings and its maze of narrow streets give Menton its unique appeal. Less glamour and fame Menton with a historic center and a seafront promenade may not be best known as a summer destination, but it is part of its charm.
Lovely Menton is more affordable than many of its glamorous Côte d’Azur neighbors
A sleepy little town of Menton, established in the 13th century, belonged to the princess of Monaco for many centuries. The seaside city with an exceptional climate became the only region in France, allowing cultivating lemons. Nowadays, the warmest town on the French Riviera is well known for the Lemon Festival celebrating every February.
In the past, Monaco maintained a tax imposed on lemons of Menton, and it was the reason why Menton seceded from Monaco. (Menton was proclaimed Ville Libre – free city for a few years and later become part of France).
With its tempting combination of varied restaurants, history, and coastal scenery, Menton on the southern shores of France is more than worth visiting. Quiet cobblestone streets of the old town bordered with the ochre facades with marked Italian influence are just waiting to be explored. The pearl of France may be explored in a couple of hours, but it is best to take all day to discover Menton`s treasures.
NOT TO BE MISSED IN MENTON:
- Menton Old Town,
- Menton Beaches,
- Basilique Saint-Michel-Archange: Baroque Roman Catholic basilica features artifacts & a 17th-century organ,
- The Lemon Festival,
- The Jean Cocteau Museum with a collection of artworks, mosaics, and ceramics
TIP: If you have a sweet tooth, indulge yourself on the best ice cream that Menton has to offer. If you want more than a scoop, though, seek out Glacier Sofia, which has an incredible selection of gelatos.
HOW TO GET FROM NICE TO MENTON:
Like for many cities located on the French Riviera, Nice is the main airport serving the region. From here, the regional train takes you to Menton in about 30 minutes for around €4. Get off at the Menton station, the stop after Monaco. It is the quickest way to get from Nice to Menton.
The cheapest way to reach Menton is by bus. The bus No 100 from Nice to Menton costs €1.50 per person and takes anywhere from 1 hour – 1.5 hours, depending on the time of day. The bus ticket may be purchased from the driver.
Good to know: If you suffer from motion sickness, consider taking the train instead.
If you are keen on driving in France, consider driving to Menton. A 40-minute scenic drive with a panoramic view over the Med is a bucket list experience.
No trip to French Riviera is complete without visiting the coastal town of Saint Tropez. With its reputation for being a playground for the rich and famous, it is easy to understand why this idyllic French town has become one of the most glamorous tourist destinations in the world. Much loved for quaint old town French style and superyachts moored beside fishing boats at the Old Port, this seaside town is a Riviera`s Must.
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7. CANNES, THE FRENCH RIVIERA
With it’s a postcard-perfect coastline, luxury shops, and fancy cafes, Cannes is a dream destination. Located to the west of Antibes, Cannes is the go-to place for everyone looking for some of the world`s most famous celebrities. Once a year, a resort town on the French Riviera becomes packed with film producers and paparazzi.
The small coastal town of Cannes, one of the main cities of the French Riviera, is a place where the annual film festival takes place.
But the Côte d’Azur`s glitz and glamour town has more to offer than you might think. If walking is more your thing, stroll along La Croisette, one of the most iconic streets in France. The palm-shaded promenade lining exclusive hotels, posh restaurants, designer shops, and the beach may be packed with rich and famous but is definitely worth a visit.
The medieval quarter of Le Suquet is easily walkable from the center of Cannes. The Charming old town filled with winding streets gives you stunning views over the bay. With so much to see and do, there is no reason why not to visit this charming town.
Have you been to the French Riviera? We would love to hear about your popular places.
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