The French Riviera is a blissful place where palm trees sway in the warm breeze and the sea is more blue than you’ve ever seen; where you can still spot the influence of European royalty from long ago; and where A-listers have called “home” for years. Set in the south-east of France, the French Riviera stretches from Menton to Nice, Antibes, Cannes, Saint-Tropez and Cassis. Read on to find out why these eight French Riviera towns attract so many artists, celebrities, sun seekers and jet setters.
Antibes is split into two distinct parts. Juan-les- Pins, known for its annual Jazz à Juan festival in July, is the glitzier of the two, and Eden Casino is the place for true night owls (and gamblers, of course). Have a cocktail seaside at the Bijou Plage, or bring the whole family to L’Amiral for dinner. Le Crystal, which has been around since 1938, is ideal for late-night drinks. Contrasting Juan-les- Pins is the quieter Cap d’Antibes, where you’ll head when you’re in the mood for peaceful, petite beaches and a slower pace of life.
Need more to fill your time? Shop for gourmet ingredients at the Marché Provencal covered market. Head to Port Vauban, Europe’s largest private marina and the site of superyachts (the French Riviera is a premier yachting destination, after all). Take a stroll around the Musée Picasso to see a collection of his work. Also, if you’re in the area between May and October, take advantage of Antibes’ fantastic scuba diving season.
Cannes has a postcard-perfect coastline; legendary events, like the annual film festival in May; gourmet cuisine; and brilliant nightlife, including concerts and theatre performances. Head to the Boulevard de la Croisette, a waterfront promenade with posh hotels, restaurants and shops. In the summer, gaze at the impressive boats that meet by the Lérins Islands. Le Suquet, Cannes’ Old Town, can be accessed by the steep hill from the Old Port. You’ll find bars and restaurants there, plus the Musee de la Castre, which has a 19 th -century collection of ethnographic pieces.
The noteworthy and private Calanque d’En-Vau beach in Cassis isn’t just a perfect location for sunbathing – it’s also a prime spot for snorkeling (just watch out for the wild boars that are known to make an appearance). Getting to the beach is the true adventure, though, requiring either an hour-long hike or a picturesque kayaking trek. We suggest you opt to kayak: you’ll travel on clear blue water and take in gorgeous cliff formations along the way.
Monaco is home to renowned golf courses, museums and Hollywood events; rare fish in the aquarium at the Oceanographic Museum; and the Prince of Monaco’s impressive vintage car collection. This is also where the Formula 1 Grand Prix races around the streets of Monte Carlo. Monaco is also a unique area because it’s a tiny, independent city-state. The Casino de Monte-Carlo, which was built in 1863 by the same architect who designed the Palais Garnier opera house in Paris, is the epitome of luxury and opulence. There are traditional games like blackjack and roulette, colorful Las Vegas-style machines, and a high rollers room called the Salles Privées. Once you’ve gambled enough, head outside to the flower gardens, which will lead you to Monaco’s elite shopping area, or dine at the belle époque-styled Café de Paris.
The charming, ancient city of Nice is set in the heart of the French Riviera. At the centre of Old Town is the Cours Saleya market, which fills the square with flowers and produce five days a week. Foodies particularly love Nice for the cooking lessons, tastings and food tours from Les Petits Farcis. For a dose of nature, stroll or go bike riding along the Promenade des Anglais or head to the Parc Phoenix, which has a zoo and 20 themed gardens. One of the French Riviera’s largest winter events is the Nice Carnival, a twelve-day party with floats and street events, ending with Mardi Gras on the last day.
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The medieval hilltop village of Old Roquebrune has cobblestone streets and winding alleys that lead you to a 10 th -century castle. Cap Martin, a contemporary and stylish resort, has a completely different feel. Overall, the area is lovely and chic, with a path called the Promenade Le Corbusier that will show you the best views around.
If you love architecture, you’ll need to pay a visit to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. The villa was built in 1905 to accommodate Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild’s ever-growing art collection. It became a hub for art of all kinds: literary parties, music, gatherings of art collectors, and riveting conversation. This was a space where culture-lovers could commune far from the hubbub of the French Riviera’s less modest areas. The villa is most famous for its French, Japanese and tropical gardens, as well as the rose and plant festival that takes place each May.
Despite its reputation for being energetic and busy, part of Saint-Tropez’s appeal is its natural settings: pristine swimming holes, the rocky coast, and the popular Plage de Pampelonne. Stroll along the Sentier du Littoral coastal path along the peninsula or head to the port in the morning to watch artists set up for the day. Another well-known must-see is the Musee de l’Annonciade, which has neo-impressionist and fauve works. Saint-Tropez also boasts first-rate dining, upscale shopping, and a sweet Old Town with narrow streets. Order a delicious seafood meal at the restaurant that’s right on Indie Beach, or head to the popular Le Café. The town is especially charming after the summer season, once the tourists have gone home.
The French Riviera is admired for its arresting scenery, Mediterranean climate and rich lifestyle, appealing to the world’s wealthiest and most elite. Even during the off-season, the French Riviera is still hopping while other parts of France are turning into ghost towns.