The French Riviera, also known as the Côte d’Azur, is France’s coastline that borders the Mediterranean Sea. The Côte d’Azur spans 550 miles and starts from Menton and Monaco’s coast, and extends to the Southern Alps. The French Riviera is well-known for its luxurious charm, warm Mediterranean weather, beautiful beaches, and rich history. With more than 300 days of sunshine per year, it’s the perfect region to visit at any time of the year.
Since covid restrictions everywhere are coming to an end, it’s never too early to start planning your dreamy French Riviera vacation. Read on to learn about my recommended must-see spots on the Côte d’Azur.
Menton is a lovely small town near Italy’s border. This historic town has exceptional gardens and beautiful beaches that are mostly empty during the off-season. Take a stroll through the Old Quarter, and you’ll see quaint buildings washed in pastel colors such as pink, green, yellow, and blue. Make your way to the Basilica Saint-Michel-Archange, situated at the top of the hill. This 17th-century baroque-style cathedral still has the original Organ piano from 1866.
Spend an afternoon at the Jardin Botanique Val Rahmeh if you’re looking for peace and relaxation. This picturesque and luscious botanical garden has a beautiful pond, aquatic plants, and exotic trees.
You’ll also find the most delicious food in Menton because of its position on the Franco-Italian border. For the ultimate Provençal gastronomic experience, book dinner reservations at Mirazur. This 3-star Michelin restaurant frequently places on the World’s 50 best restaurants list each year.
If you’re visiting Menton in February, be sure to attend the La Fête du Citron or the Lemon Festival. This world-famous festival lasts for three weeks and each year is a new theme. There are daily and nightly parades that feature floats filled with 140 tons of local oranges and lemons.
Nice is the French Riviera’s unofficial capital that is located on the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angles). The city offers the quintessential Côte d’Azur experience—illustrious architecture, exceptional cuisine, and year-round sunshine. You can enjoy any outdoor activity—swimming, sailing, fishing, or boating—at any time of the year. With that said, you must visit the most beautiful private beach in the entire region, Castel Plague. The clear blue waters and white sands will make you feel like you’re in paradise.
One of the must-see attractions in Nice is the Colline du Château (Castle Hill). Since it’s the city’s highest altitude point, you’ll see everything from the Baie des Anges to the Old Town and the town’s vibrant architecture. Head over to Parc du Mont Boron for more than seven miles of hiking trails to choose from for an outdoor workout.
Any trip to Nice is not complete without walking the Cobblestone Street of Vieille Ville (Old town) or taking a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais (La Prom). La prom is a pedestrian walkway that stretches along the coast, separating the sea from the city. It’s one of the favorite places for visitors to take a stroll, cycle, or gather on big public occasions such as New Year’s celebrations.
Book reservations at the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel for the most luxurious accommodations. This historic property sits on 17-acres of manicured grounds with spectacular views of the Mediterranean. Inside the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat is the Michelin-starred restaurant La Cap. Chef Yoric Tièche reinvents Provençal and Mediterranean dishes using the freshest ingredients, some from the hotel’s gardens.
Nestled between Nice and Cannes is the resort-town Antibes. There is so much to love about Antiges–sparkling blue waters, cobblestone streets, and a 16th-century old town. This charming town is known as the yachting capital of the Mediterranean. It’s also the location that has been an inspiration to some of the world’s most famous artists–Picasso, Boudin, and Monet.
Spend an afternoon learning about Antibes’ influence on Impressionism at The Picasso Museum in Château Grimaldi. The Château Grimaldi was where Picasso himself lived for six months in 1946. Or take a stroll along the Promenade des Arts to find Catalan artist Jaume Plensa’s famous Nomade. This 25-foot sculpture of a man looking out to sea is a frequent stop for photos.
The most luxurious place to stay in Antibes is the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc. Take a bite of the delicious Mediterranean and Provençal cuisine at the Michelin star restaurant, LouRoc. Or, enjoy fresh seafood at the Eden-Roc restaurant. Don’t forget to take a deep in the heated, saltwater swimming pool.
This resort city is most known for hosting the famous Festival de Cannes (Cannes Film Festival) each year. Start your day by taking a stroll along the Promenade de la Croisette. Like the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, Boulevard de la Croisette is one of France’s most iconic streets. Stretching across two miles of the Bay of Cannes, the boulevard houses designer boutiques such as Chanel, Dior, and Cartier. You’ll also come across some of the city’s landmark hotels, such as the InterContinental Carlton Cannes. This iconic hotel was the backdrop to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1955 thriller “To Catch a Thief.” Guests can stay in suite 623, the film’s shooting location, or Grace Kelly’s namesake prestigious suite. There is also the option of booking the famous 4,000 square foot Sean Connery Suite.
Bâoli Cannes is a must-try restaurant if you’re looking for delicious cuisine. This Asian-meets-Mediterranean restaurant is set in Port Canto and transforms into one of the city’s best nightclub spots after hours.
Don’t forget to read 10 Essential French Phrases To Know to make your travel easy and more enjoyable.
What is your favorite French Riviera location from this list, and why? I’m excited to find out—let me know in the comments below.