The stretch of coast that comes from Menton to Cannes is one of the most famous in Europe. Sunny beaches overlooking a beautiful turquoise sea, clear and crystalline, an impervious mountain behind the coast where there are picturesque villages clung to the steep rock, a lively and trendy nightlife with the legendary promenades, which between movie stars and VIPs have made this stretch of coast so famous. The French Riviera is certainly an ideal destination for those who love the sea, the sun, the beach life and the nightlife of the bars and clubs, but it is also a place that can provide new experiences among exceptional art galleries of the great master impressionists, characteristic villages rich in ancient charm and historic centers that oscillate between the elegance of the luxurious 20s villas and the medieval nucleus immersed in lush nature. Today we want to introduce you the top 10 places to see in the French Riviera that provide it all: relaxation and fun by the sea, historical explorations and breathtaking views of the natural scenery in this southeast corner of France. Let’s get started!
Nice can be considered the capital of the French Riviera; a city always on the move, always in celebration, and that will always amaze with its impressive number of English-style pubs, trendy bars, and crowded clubs. Never miss people at any time of the year: it will be the retro charm of the old city, the elegant belle époque style architecture, the languid life that takes place around the port, the many art museums, or the wonderful walks along the sea that will make you fall in love with this city. Nice really is a place to be discovered in every season of the year.
The most famous city of the Riviera lights up every May for the International Film Festival, assaulted by stars—famous or not—by journalists, photographers and curious, clogging the walks, hotels, and clubs in search of fame. Between expensive hotels, elegant buildings, crowded beaches, you will be a bit dazzled by the lively town. Despite the Croisette—the most exclusive promenade of the French Riviera—being a must-see, Cannes does not excel in originality, though it does make up for it in opulence and showiness. We suggest you explore Le Suquet, the old district, picturesque and pedestrian, after following the allée des Étoile de cinéma, or the path that follows the imprints of the hands of the stars imprinted in the cement.
The Principality of Monaco is the smallest sovereign state in the world after the Vatican and only 20% of its inhabitants are really Monegasque, thanks to its facilitated tax policy. This small French Riviera town exudes opulence with it high-tech skyscrapers, crowded celebrity yachts, exclusive casinos, and venues that serve sophisticated cocktails. Despite its wealth, there are other parts of the city—hidden corners—that are still rustic and authentic and, in their own ways, are very special places to visit, especially during major occasions such as the Grand Prix Formula 1, which forces one to visit other areas of the city other than just the opulent high-tech skyscrapers, celebrity yachts and lush cocktail-serving venues.
4. Saint Tropez
If once it was a village of outworld charm, today this town is home to yachts and an uninterrupted flow of wealthy people who wear designer clothes in search of a perennial catwalk. Despite its worldly vocation, Saint-Tropez preserves a beautiful citadel with roofs with bright red tiles, a bell tower, and a fascinating historical center.
This magnificent fishing village overlooking a natural inlet is a fourteenth-century village characterized by narrow streets, stairways, and arcades that served as shelter during the war bombing. Villefranche-sur-Mer features many fishing boats swaying on the pier and beautiful views of Cap Ferrat.
6. Port Grimaud
This fishing village is a real, little gem hidden inside high walls that also hide delicious colorful houses that parade along the canals crowded with many kinds of boats. This idea of building on the water was conceived by the architect François Spoerry on the inspiration of the marsh villages with 12 km of docks, 7 km of canals to accommodate up to 3000 boats.
The town still bears the signs of its ancient splendor: in fact, it is known as the “little Pompeii” in France, thanks to the numerous Roman remains. The ancient Forum Julii, renamed as a result of the conquest by Julius Caesar, today preserves its ruins in the middle of the pedestrian center, between pastel colors already typically Provencal and the fresh tree-lined squares.
8. Islands of Hyères
Those who want a holiday of the clearest and most crystalline sea cannot miss the islands of Hyères, a real corner of paradise unhindered by the strict rules for visitors. The most famous (and the most equipped) island is definitely Porquerolles: unforgettable for its colors and its beautiful nature can be explored by bike, on foot along the many marked trails, or with underwater excursions to admire the seabed. If Le Levant is not accessible as a military site, Port-Cros, on the other hand, is a natural park that can be visited only on foot, using different paths, all highly recommended.
9. Antibes and Juan-les-Pins
The town of Antibes and its twin Juan-les-Pins are the emblem of the French Riviera: a small fortified town full of charm, a crystalline sea that enchants, wonderful villas hidden by the lush vegetation of Cap d’Antibes, a rich port of elegant boats and the Picasso Museum, full of works by the great painter. Unsurprisingly Antibes, thanks to its central position between Cannes and Nice, is a first class tourist destination. The old town, with its winding alleyways and its Picasso museum, the aged walls, the harbor where the yachts love to moor, the Fort Carré which dominates the Old Vieil Antibes, the Marina Baie des Anges, and, moreover, not discounting the free municipality of Safranier which offers a perfect postcard landscape all around, explains why Antibes attracts numerous tourists all year round. Together with the renowned Marineland park, with its marine shows, the beaches of Antibes are the most attractive tourist attractions.
10. Les Trois Corniches
To connect Nice and Menton there are 3 parallel roads, all at different levels of height, which run close to the mountain. These are paths of absolute beauty that cross picturesque villages, allowing you to admire breathtaking views, and are ideal for anyone who loves winding roads and adventures.
Road tripping to make the most of the French Riviera experience!
Load the bags in the trunk and leave. The French Riviera has so much to offer from the crystal clear seaside to the picturesque historical little villages. So, what are you waiting for? For the most entertaining and beautiful way to explore the French Riviera, road tripping is the way…it’s the best feeling in the world…even more exciting than the moment when your plane lands after a long flight because there is more physical contact with the journey; when the wheels start spinning, adhering to the asphalt, the world sets in motion around you.
A road trip reveals the subtle changes place-by-place of all that surrounds you, little by little. It enables you to freely explore more every time you enter a different territory, literally discovering it at every meter. Just a window to separate you from the outside world. Nothing is out of reach because it is always fine to stop—when you want, where you want—to get in touch with the outside. Traveling by car is like leaving the trail behind you. What then remains in you is forever; just close your eyes. The French Riviera is one of these road tripping dreams you won’t want to wake up from. Road tripping the French Riviera also helps you catch the most “off the beaten path” locations—and, trust me, there are a LOT of hidden gems around the French Riviera you’ll be thrilled to discover. You won’t regret it!
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