Towns to Visit on the French Riviera
A golden stretch of the Mediterranean coastline, the Cote d’Azur is an iconic corner of France that sees millions of tourists each year. With a hint of glamour, an array of sophisticated hotels, and glorious summer weather, the South of France is itching to be explored. Below are just a handful of the best towns and villages to visit on the French Riviera.
Cote d’Azur towns to base yourself in
When planning a holiday in the French Riviera it can get a little overwhelming knowing where to base yourself. How can you choose when there is so much to see!? I would solve that problem by staying in more than one place, I would recommend one of the below.
Nice is one of the main entry points to the Côte d’Azur and there are plenty of flights available throughout Europe and further afield, including New York, London, Dublin, Copenhagen, Dubai, Istanbul, Amsterdam and many more. It is the largest city in the region with an abundance of things to do. Thanks to its well-connected train line, you can do the majority of your day trips by train, and if you really don’t want to hire a car, you can take the bus to the harder to get to places such as St Paul de Vence.
Nice has a beautiful old town, famous promenade, an incredible restaurant scene and is great for shopping. There are hotels to suit all types of traveller and budgets and from here you can embark on some wonderful day trips to places such as Menton, Monaco, Antibes and many more. There is so much to do so I thought I would put together this Nice travel guide to give you a helping hand when planning a trip here!
Where to stay in Nice
I would recommend Hotel Le Negresco for an eccentric and completely unique experience, Hôtel Rossetti if you want to be in the heart of the old town, or Hotel Villa Les Cygnes for a wonderful but unfussy guesthouse stay.
Menton was one of my favourite places during my stay in France! The vibrant, colourful town of Menton is situated on the on the French/Italian border. Visitors won’t be surprised to discover this rainbow gem has switched between French and Italian ownership multiple times before.
The best time to see the colour of the town is in the late morning when the sun hits along the seafront. Take a stroll along the pier and watch the town glow in all its colourful glory!
Where to stay in Menton
Hotel de Londres has been newly renovated just in time for the 2023 summer season. If you want amazing sea views then check out Hotel Princess & Richmond, located on the seafront. Palais Widmer is a great alternative to hotel accommodation in Menton, this Air Bnb boasts solid oak parquet flooring, a bright and airy living room, high ceilings, and a fully equipped kitchen, all just a stone’s throw from the sea.
Saint-Tropez is the epitome of the chic, laidback French Riviera that the magazines are constantly selling to us. For decades this small town perfectly placed on the Côte d’Azur has been bringing in A-listers and those seeking ultra luxury and glamour. This is reflected by what you see in the town, the Chanel Chateau, a stunning Dior Restaurant, super yachts galore and all the ultra-luxurious designer stores you could possibly think of.
Behind this glamorous facade is a beautiful historic old town, with colourful winding alleyways, some of the best restaurants in the south of France, and a great place to spend a day sightseeing and people watching.
Where to stay in St Tropez
Unsurprisingly, St Tropez is full of luxury hotels such as the Château de la Messardière, Hotel Lou Pinet, and the iconic La Plonche Hotel. Other beautiful but slightly more affordable properties include Villa Marie, the Kube, and Le Mouillage.
Just 20 minutes from Nice is Saint-Paul-de-Vence, a beautiful hilltop town that takes you straight back into the Middle Ages. I stayed here for one night rather than in Nice itself and had no regrets. The perfect countryside retreat, the hills are always a little cooler, and if you have a car with you, you will have no issue in getting out and exploring.
There are just 300 residents living in this perched village, but despite this small number of locals, the village has been occupied since 400 BC. Outside of the villages walls are 3,500 more residents, living amongst beautiful gardens, country houses and a woodland of cypress trees.
Where to stay in St-Paul-de-Vence
The best French Riviera towns and villages to visit for the day
The French Riviera is well connected by good roads, trains and buses making day trips extremely easy! Monet, Matisse, Leger, Renoir, Chagall and Picasso were all inspired by the area and I can guarantee you will be too.
World-famous for its delicious perfumes, Grasse is a picture perfect town surrounded by some beautiful gardens. Narrow streets are shadowed by typical French buildings adorned with pretty shutters and umbrellas hang between them. The perfect pit stop for lunch, cafés are selling sandwiches and crêpes whilst steak restaurants sit at the end of the lane. Al fresco tables and chairs offer the ultimate people watching experience in this otherwise sleepy town.
Sat on a hill with incredible sea views, the small village of Eze is a great place to enjoy some cooler temperatures during a hot summer.
The winding paths are steep and uneven so make sure you wear some sturdy shoes, but don’t worry, the views are worth it and so is the rewarding lunch pit stop after your climb.
A quiet Medieval village in the foothills behind Nice Airport, Haut-de-Cagnes doesn’t feel like a seaside village, more like you are deep into the countryside. The maze of cobbled streets has been an inspiration to artists and writers for centuries.
Halfway between Cannes and Grasse, Mougins is often missed off the typical Cote d’Azur itineraries. More recently, the town has become a gastronomic centre in its own right, and its centre is awash with quaint pastel coloured streets.
Antibes is an ancient walled city situated on the waterfront, it has a large harbour the locals have dubbed Millionaires Quay. Behind the promenade Amiral-de-Grasse, boutique lined streets weave through historic buildings with restaurants sprawling out into the streets. Monet gave his heart to this town, with one of his most famous paintings being the old town beautifully set against the sea.
Probably the most famous place on the French Riviera, the gitzy town of Monaco lies just 30 minutes drive from Nice. Like a bubble, it is where the super rich come to play, but you don’t need millions in the bank to enjoy it. It’s not uncommon to spot some of the world’s most expensive cars driving along the streets, the shops often have no price tags and the resort of Monte Carlo hosts incredible world events.
Villefranche-Sur-Mer is a must visit when holidaying in the French Riviera. This colourful town is not too dissimilar to Menton but is located closer to Nice, on its eastern side. The town benefits from its own beaches, sandier than most along this stretch of coastline. Plage des Marinieres is the main beach, excellent for swimming and bathing thanks to is crystal clear waters.
A quiet and wind sheltered village, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is located on a secluded finger that juts out into the Mediterranean Sea. A rocky path takes visitors on a beautiful coastal walk. Timeless splendour oozes from gated mansions and 5* hotels, there’s no surprise the Four Seasons based themselves here.
Quite a trip if I did it all. How long would i need to be away? 😁😁😁
I feel like 10 days would be perfect in that you can explore and then relax!
I would give yourself atleast a week 🙂
IF I HAVE 48 HOURS TO VISIT THESE BEAUTIFUL TOWNS, YOU SHOULD I HIRE MY CAR OR BY TRAIN? WHICH ONE IS MORE COMFORTABLE? IF I RENT A CAR, WILL I HAVE PARKING PROBLEMS THERE? THANK YOU….
Parking in some of the smaller towns can be more difficult but most have dedicate car parks. You can visit almost all of them by train but will need a car for St Tropez