Whether you call it the Cote d’Azur or the French Riviera, there is one thing the region located in Southeast France offers: luxury. The French Riviera is synonymous with grandeur. It is a playground for celebrities, politicians, royalty, and high-net-worth individuals. Visitors to the region will be rewarded with some of the most beautiful French villages, vibrant culture, and mouthwatering cuisine Europe has to offer.
Along with its quaint villages, the French Riviera is home to various annual events that attract visitors from all over the globe. The Cannes Film Festival, Monaco Grand Prix, and Carnival of Nice are just three of the events exclusive to the region.
If you want more reasons to visit the French Riviera, then consider its incredible beaches. The region stretches 885 kilometers along the coast. You will find some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, with gorgeous blue waters kissing the sands. You will see plenty of yachts, large and small, as you explore the coast.
Whether you are visiting the French Riviera for a short break or an extended vacation, there are some places you must see, hotels you must stay in, and restaurants you must sample. So, pack your bags for the sunny French Riviera. Oui, oui!
Where to go…
You may want to start your trip in the beautiful city of Nice. Located on the eastern side of the French Riviera, Nice combines influences from France and Italy into one spectacular gem. Nice also boasts influences from Ancient Greece, making it one of the most unique destinations on your trip to the Cote d’Azur.
Many travelers choose Nice as their base. It may take you three or four days to take in the entire city, and it is easy to reach other destinations. No trip to Nice is complete without a walk along the Promenade des Anglais at sunset. It offers views of the Mediterranean Sea to one side and gorgeous 18th-century architecture to the other.
Nice is a beautiful city, but it isn’t the only jewel in the region. Menton is an often-overlooked town that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. Located between Monaco and the Italian border, glitz and glamor ooze from every nook and cranny of Menton. The 13th-century Old Town is beautiful and well-preserved. Of course, there is a gorgeous waterfront and a marina filled with million-dollar yachts owned by the world’s movers and shakers. Menton’s famous Lemon Festival is held during February and March. The event celebrates the town’s citrus production.
Saint-Jean-Cap Ferrat is a highly sought-after vacation destination. Once a sleepy fishing town, Saint-Jean-Cap Ferrat is now a bustling travel hot spot. The town is popular thanks to its old-fashioned French appeal. It provides a blast back in time for travelers looking for a bit of a low-key trip. Paloma Beach is a must-visit location in Saint-Jean-Cap Ferrat. Celebrities flock to the beach due to its laid-back chic vibe. Paloma Beach looks like it came straight out of a 1960s French film, which adds to the town’s allure.
A trip to the French Riviera wouldn’t be complete without a stop-off in Monaco. Yes, Monaco, is the home of billionaires, royalty, and super-sized yachts. If you have never visited Monaco, then you must go at least once. You may not want to leave after experiencing the culture of the Principality. Monaco’s famous for the grand prix, which takes place every spring. It is part of the Motorsports Triple Crown along with the Indianapolis 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Monaco is more than just a famous car race. It is home to some of the world’s most extravagant casinos. Casino Square is iconic and features architecture you won’t find in other casino hotspots like Las Vegas or Macau. Various James Bond films have shot scenes in the casinos in Monte Carlo, Monaco’s most famous district. There is nothing quite like putting on a freshly pressed tuxedo and playing roulette until the wee hours of the morning.
Where to sleep…
You may not do a lot of sleeping on your trip to the French Riviera. You will likely need a place to keep your luggage and possibly to shower. Some of the world’s most exclusive hotels are located along the French Riviera.
Saint-Jean-Cap Ferrat is a must-visit location, so while you are there, book into the Grand Hotel du Cap-Ferrat for an extraordinary experience. The hotel is owned by Four Seasons, giving you an idea of the high-quality service on tap. The Grand Hotel du Cap-Ferrat is atop the rocky coastline, providing guests with views of the gorgeous sea. The hotel was built in 1908. There is an old-style atmosphere from the moment you walk inside. The seawater swimming pool is exquisite, and you can relax by the pool while taking in views of the Med. You will find La Table du Potager restaurant nearby. Operated by Yoric Tieche, the restaurant is one of the hottest dining spots in the region.
Fancy something a little more exclusive? The Hotel du Cap Eden-Roc in Cap d’Antibes is a prime piece of property for wealthy travelers looking for solitude. The hotel is a perfect example of the Bella Epoch architectural period. The hotel has nine acres of glorious gardens surrounding it. The tennis courts allow you to have your very own French Open with friends. There are 32 sea-facing suites and every morning you will be greeted by the blue waters of the Mediterranean. A Dior Spa is onsite for complete relaxation. You can spend your days lounging in the beach gazebos or sampling food from Hotel du Cap Eden-Roc’s laid-back dining establishment Giovanni’s.
Cap Estel is located on a peninsula that extends into the sea. It is a private setting, with water on three sides, giving you the sound of sea waves throughout the day. The views are breathtaking, and snapping pictures to share with your social media followers will be a regular occurrence. Cap Estel is situated a mere 10 minutes from Monaco and 30 minutes from Nice. It is ideal for travelers wanting to maximize their sightseeing. Cap Estel is a boutique hotel that offers plenty of seclusion. The gated estate has lush foliage and quaint gardens. Its privacy lures celebrities, allowing them to unwind. The hotel has only 28 rooms, making it an exclusive location, so book your stay early.
What to eat…
You are going to get hungry traveling around the French Riviera, enjoying the sand, sea, and surf. It is a good thing the region has some of the best fine dining options in Europe. Some of France’s most creative chefs own and operate restaurants on the French Riviera.
The region is flush with Michelin-starred dining options. You will find menus from traditional French cuisine to Japanese fare. One of the most notable aspects of the top restaurants on the French Riviera is their ingredients. Nearly all of them use fresh produce sourced locally. Some even grow their own produce in private gardens. The ingredients provide a true taste of the region, something you won’t get in many other locations.
Monaco’s Le Louis XV-Alain Ducasse is a three-star Michelin restaurant serving modern Mediterranean cuisine. Executive chef Alain Ducasse has crafted an incredible menu featuring ingredients from the region. Ducasse’s work has touched multiple continents, working in some of the world’s biggest cities. Le Louis XV is the ideal restaurant to begin your French Riviera culinary journey.
In Nice, you will find Flaveur, a two-star Michelin restaurant. Flaveur is owned by the Tourteaux brothers, who combine local ingredients from flavours abroad to create unique tastes. Flaveur is best described as “creative”. The menu is unique and bold, and it is whatever the Tourteaux brothers want it to be. The duo can create without any constraints. Flaveur received its first Michelin star in 2011. Seven years later, it was rewarded with a second star.
St-Tropez is one of the most popular destinations on the French Riviera. Its popularity with travelers may influence you to skip it. However, St-Tropez’s La Vague d’Or may be enough for you to spend some time in town. La Vague d’Or is a three-star Michelin restaurant created by Arnaud Donckele. Originally from Normandy, Donckele built La Vague d’Or with an eclectic taste, combining flavours from different regions. The restaurant’s ingredients come from local markets, as it serves the best produce from the region. You can taste the heart and soul of the French Rivera in every bite. The dishes are a marriage of flavours, bursting with every bite. Donckele’s menu is modern, with old ideas reinvented.
In 2019, Le Mirazur earned the name “World’s Best Restaurant”. It also received three Michelin stars, backing up its reputation for being a must-visit restaurant. Situated in Menton, Le Mirazur is operated by chef Mauro Colagreco. He combines Argentine and Italian fare into one incredible experience. The two cuisines are married using local products, and the fresh produce is grown in its own garden. There is a zero-waste policy at Le Mirazur. Travelers wanting to lessen their carbon footprint will appreciate Colagreco’s forward thinking. Le Mirazur offers a seasonal menu, which is refreshed regularly. The flavours are intense, fresh, and leave a lasting mark on diners.
Main image by Dan Fador
Journalist and author. Contributor