All about the French Riviera

There’s something about the word “Riviera” that oozes appeal as it conjures images of sun-soaked strips of white sand that melts beneath your feet and emerald waters contrasting against white rock cliffs. Or at least it does for us.

The French Riviera has long been revered as a prime vacation location for celebrities and wealthy holidaymakers, with Nice, Cannes and Saint-Tropez being popular resorts. It sits roughly at the point where the Alps meet the Mediterranean and enjoys a wonderfully mild-to-warm climate year round, even in autumn and winter, when the Riviera is protected from cold north winds by the Alps. The stretch was once an area of quaint fishing villages but in the late 18th century, tourism began to flourish and British holidaymakers flocked to the area, resulting in Nice’s seafront becoming known as “La Promenade des Anglais”, as it still is to this day! In modern times, the glorious French Riviera attracts tourists from all over world and is one of the world’s most famous coastlines, with many supreme beaches and idyllic shorelines, as well as pristine harbors decorated with designer shops and luxury yachts.

If you’re thinking about a vacation in the French Riviera then here is our guide to the top resorts, including the best hotels, must-see attractions and entertaining day trips!

 

Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo is the main region of Monaco, which is a small independent state on the French Riviera that is well known for its glitz, glamour, luxury yachts and world-class sporting events. It’s the place to be and be seen and has many luxury hotels to enjoy, as well as decadent casinos and a gorgeous opera house that was designed by Charles Garnier.

The microstate, which is ruled by the Grimaldi Family, is nestled between the mountains and the sea, creating sublime coastline views, and it is also a wonderful place to enjoy a luxury shopping trip as it is home to many designer boutiques and jewelry shops. There are also several grand villas to discover, such as the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, which has very pretty manicured gardens, as well as the Prince of Monaco’s official residence, which is a grand Genoese fortress. We also highly recommend taking the mountain road inland to the village of Eze – the journey affords breath-taking views that certainly won’t disappoint!

For cultural trips, check out the Oceanographic Museum, which features marine exhibits and a royal aquarium with starfish, seahorses, turtles and jellyfish. The building is also a rather lovely tribute to Baroque architecture, with a pretty sea-facing façade, although it is perched rather precariously on a cliff-side rock!

If relaxing in the sunshine is more your thing, head to Larvotto Beach – it sits alongside Avenue Princesse Grace, which is reportedly the world’s most expensive street to live on, with an average price of $6,970 per square foot! Alternatively, immerse yourself amongst tropical and exotic plants at Jardin Exotique de Monaco, which has a collection of rare plants, an observatory cave and an anthropology museum.

Where to stay: For luxury accommodation, choose Hotel Hermitage or Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo, which are known for their first-class customer service and elegant setting. For something more economical, consider Novotel Monte Carlo as it is clean, comfortable and good value considering its decent location.

Best attractions: Monte Carlo Casino, the Oceanographic Museum, Prince’s Palace of Monaco, Jardin Exotique de Monaco

 

Nice

Nice is the biggest resort on the French Riviera and consequently has masses to offer holidaymakers, including beautiful architecture in the historic quarters, a long and vibrant seafront, a colorful flower market and many fascinating museums, making the city a good choice for a cultural vacation in the sunshine.

If you enjoy fine art then Nice will delight you with its diverse art galleries, such as the Matisse Museum, where you can discover a large collection of Matisse artworks. There’s also the Marc Chagall Museum, which has a selection of vibrant paintings by Marc Chagall, with a particular focus on his pieces that were inspired by The Bible, and there is also a gallery dedicated to French and American modern art, as well as Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nice, which has works by Rodin and Sisley.

Continuing our focus on the city’s cultural heritage, Nice is also home to some particularly fine architecture, including Byzantine styles and iconic buildings from the 17th century. Popular attractions include the Russian Orthodox Cathedral, which dates back to the 19th century and has a delightful Byzantine chapel, Nice Cathedral, which has a glorious 17th century bell tower, and Notre-Dame de Nice, which is a simply stunning example of Neo-Gothic architecture that was designed by Louis Lenormand. Interestingly, although Notre-Dame de Nice is the largest church in the city, it is not the official cathedral.

Where to stay: For luxury, consider the Hyatt Regency Nice Palais de la Mediterranee, which is designed in an Art Deco style and is situated on the promenade. For great value, you can’t beat Hotel Villa Les Cygnes, which is a charming villa hotel is a quiet area.

Best attractions: La Promenade des Anglais, Russian Orthodox Basilica, Musée Matisse, Notre-Dame de Nice, Musée Marc Chagall.

 

Cannes

Cannes is perhaps most famous as the host of the annual Cannes Film Festival, which celebrates the wonderful world of film and attracts many Hollywood stars to the region.

If you’re vacationing in Cannes, an enjoyable day trip is a visit to the small town of Grasse, which is a few miles inland. It is the capital of the French perfume industry and home to the very famous Fragonard Perfumery, where you can enjoy a fascinating guided tour of the factory or visit the perfume museum – this is a great day trip for families and couples!

There is also plenty to keep you entertained in the city of Cannes, such as shopping in the designer boutiques along Promenade de la Croisette or simply relaxing on one of the region’s idyllic sandy beaches. Alternatively, for an enjoyable day activity you could visit the Lérins Islands, which feature ancient monasteries, fascinating museums and stunning stretches of coastline that you can enjoy during a boat trip to the islands. On one of the larger islands (Ile St Marguerite) you can visit the Musée de la Mer, where you’ll find the cell where the Man in the Iron Mask was held, as well as archeological discoveries from the region, including a shipwreck and rare ceramics.

Cannes is also a good choice if you are looking for an active vacation as you can enjoy hiking in the Parc Départemental de la Brague, which surrounds the Brague River, or take in the natural scenery around the Valmasque, where you’ll find pretty parks to explore.

Where to stay: For luxury, Hotel Barriere Le Majestic Cannes is a pleasing option for a romantic or special vacation in Cannes. If you would prefer something convenient and affordable, consider Hotel de Provence, which is very well located on Rue Moliere.

Best attractions: Fragonard, Promenade de la Croisette, Musée de la Mer

 

Saint-Tropez

Saint-Tropez sits west of Nice on the French Riviera and is an internationally renowned seaside resort, known for its luxurious yachts, vibrant art scene and yé-yé pop music. The best of the beaches can be found on the Baie de Pampelonne and most offer windsurfing, sailing and canoeing, making Saint-Tropez a hugely attractive resort for sun-seekers looking for a luxury European beach vacation in a glitzy atmosphere.

As well as idyllic beaches and pretty shorelines, Saint-Tropez offers cultural attractions, such as the Musée de l’Annonciade, which celebrates contemporary art, and La Maison des Papillons, which includes butterfly artwork by Dany Lartigue. There’s also the 17th century Citadel to enjoy, which is rich in history and offers panoramic views of the bay. You can also explore the colorful local market, which is held every Tuesday and Saturday morning, where you can buy all manner of fresh local produce, as well as flowers, spices and hand-made preserves. It offers a wonderfully aromatic glimpse into the legendary southern French cuisine and, although busy, is a hugely enjoyable experience!

Where to stay: For decadence, considering hiring a luxury private yacht for your stay or head for Hotel Sezz Saint-Tropez for supreme luxury in a modern setting. For an affordable choice, investigate Hotel des Lices, which is a charming boutique hotel with a private swimming pool.

Best attractions: Place des Lices market, the Citadel, Plage de Pampelonne, Musée de l’Annonciade

 

If you’re thinking about a vacation on the French Riviera and would like us to create a personalized vacation itinerary for you, featuring pre-arranged tours and activities, contact a member of our team at 1-347-594-5500 or click here to send an online inquiry. You can also visit this page to discover our customizable Italy & French Riviera vacation.

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