Updated on 6 August 2017
The French Riviera is one of those iconic areas that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. Blessed with almost permanent sunshine, wonderful cuisine and stunning coastline, it’s a seriously stylish place. Popular with royalty from the 19th century onwards, it’s also beloved of artists, writers and celebrities. We’re sharing 10 of the most glamorous destinations on the French Riviera with you.
Starting our journey in Antibes, the Fort Carré is an imposing sight overlooking the Mediterranean. Whilst the fort dates from the 16th century, Antibes itself was founded in the 5th century BC and known as Antipolis. Today it’s an elegant town with a yacht marina and an impressive Picasso Museum, in the castle where Pablo Picasso stayed for 6 months.
Famous for its film festival, Cannes is a must-see French Riviera resort. It is home to the Cannes Mandelieu Space Center, headquarters of satellite manufacturer Thales.
Cannes is equally well known for it’s famous Promenade de la Croisette, a long avenue lined with palm trees. You’ll find some of the most luxurious hotels along here, as well as upmarket boutiques and restaurants and one of the best French Riviera beaches.
This spectacular peninsula is one of the most expensive residential areas in the world and there are some beautiful villas nestled along its coastline and dotted around its hills. One that you really should visit is the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. This magnificent rose-coloured villa was constructed by Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild. Located on a hill with panoramic views over the Cote d’Azur, it is now a museum, open to the public. Inside you’ll find many old master paintings and antique furniture, whilst outside there are 9 different gardens to explore, representing the countries that the Baroness visited. Don’t miss the fountain display, held every 20 minutes.
The perched village of Gourdon is a very picturesque place, and the views from the medieval walls are far reaching. There’s a 12th century chateau that was built to keep out Saracen invaders, which has wonderful gardens later designed by André le Notre, famed for creating the gardens of Versailles. With only one entrance to the village, it would have been an effective stronghold.
When you hear the name Grasse, it instantly evokes perfume and the inimitable scents you’ll find on the French Riviera. Three of the most famous French perfume houses, Molinard, Fragonard and Galimard all offer tours and the International Museum of Perfumery is the only one of its kind in the world. The town itself is an attractive place, with a cathedral dating from the 11th century and containing works of art by Rubens.
Although Monaco is a principality in its own right, it is usually considered to be on the French Riviera. It’s surprising just how many attractions there are to see, including a world famous oceanographic museum, several casinos and the changing of the guard at the Prince’s Palace.
This charming hilltop village has long been a favourite with artists such as Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Yves Klein and Man Ray. Many celebrities have also visited, including Sir Winston Churchill, Edif Piaf and Christian Dior. The winding pedestrianized streets are home to numerous art galleries, quaint restaurants and the Mougins Museum of Classical Art.
SAINT PAUL DE VENCE
If you have a bit of time during your South of France vacation, head to Saint Paul de Vence. This medieval town is renowned for its thriving art galleries and museums, having been home to many artists such as Marc Chagall, who is buried here. Fortified in the 13th century, it has survived virtually intact. It can get rather busy in season, so it’s preferable to visit early in the day or out of season.
The contemporary Fondation Maeght is quite a contrast with the old town – this acclaimed museum has one of the most important collections of modern art in Europe. You will see works by Braque, Calder, Giacometti, Miro and many more dotted around its grounds and interior.
This coastal town hardly needs an introduction, being world famous for its old school glamour. Once a sleepy fishing village, it became a hotspot for celebrities in the 1960s. Make time to wander around the harbour, to taste a Tarte Tropézienne, and to climb up to the citadel for unparalleled views of the sea.
The sweeping bay of Villefranche is a sight for sore eyes. With an incredibly deep natural harbour, it’s popular with the larger ships who can anchor here safely. The town of Villefranche sur Mer has featured in many films including Alfred Hitchock’s To Catch a Thief, and more recently, The Bourne Identity.
GETTING TO THE FRENCH RIVIERA
By plane – Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport serves 100 destinations in 32 countries and is close to the centre of Nice, a luxurious destination it its own right.
By train – There are high speed trains linking to all French regions and most major European cities.
By car – It’s wise to hire a car to see as much of the area as possible, and you can hire one at Nice Airport or in most of the towns. We opted for a luxurious Audi A4 courtesy of Auto Europe, with ample boot space, acceleration and air conditioning. Perfect for visiting the local sights in style!
WHERE TO STAY ON THE FRENCH RIVIERA
From the glamour of the Cap d’Antibes Beach Hotel and Villa Belrose, to a French fortress in Vence, to Chateau de Berne winery in Lorgues, there are some beautiful places to stay in the South of France, many of them being part of the Relais & Chateaux group.
Have you been to the Cote d’Azur? What places on the French Riviera would you recommend visiting?