Welcome to the French Riviera. This exclusive stretch of coast is a celebration of cosmopolitan living infused with cultural influences and has grown to become the playground for millionaires. With all the grand hotels, glitzy casinos and golden beaches on offer it is no wonder this region frequents most bucket lists. Here is our guide to some of the hottest spots to visit along the French Riviera.
Antibes is home to the largest yachting harbour in Europe, making it an essential hot spot whether you are exploring the French Riviera by land or sea. In addition to mega-yachts and luxury villas, the town boasts a number of must-see attractions including the Picasso Museum and the Fort Carré, where Napoleon Bonaparte was once held, prisoner.
Across town from the Fort, you will find the glitzier Juan-les-Pins area which provides a bustling nightlife scene which includes the Jazz à Juan Festival and Eden Casino. By contrast, the Cap d’Antibes, on the end of the peninsular, moves at a slower pace of life and exudes a far more relaxed and peaceful vibe. Antibes is a perfect blend of metropolitan luxury and old-worldly charm, making it a can’t miss destination when exploring the Côte d’Azur.
Since 1946 Cannes has become synonymous with the Film Festival but it has always held an association with the rich and famous. From the picture-perfect Boulevard de la Croisette to the boutiques of Cannes’ Old Town you will discover a surfeit of beauty and charisma. As with much of the French Riviera, the glitz of this city is always evident with liner-sized yachts moored in the port and super-cars growling through the back streets. The areas rich history provides a stunning backdrop to the more modern displays of wealth helping to weave together the opulent tapestry that is Cannes.
Touted as the birthplace of tourism on the Côte d’Azur, Nice has become a cosmopolitan mecca and grown to become France’s fifth-largest city. This city has the dual appeal of both location and weather, and this is no more typified that with the gorgeous Promenade des Anglais. Stretching across over four miles of pebble filled beaches and looking out over the calm azure waters of the Mediterranean it provides an exquisite backdrop for big sunsets. Just to the east of Nice and away from the fast-moving city centre lies Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. This pretty peninsula is full of architectural marvels including the Villa Île-de-France which is decorated with more than five thousand works of art.
In addition to the stunning architectural and delightful climate Nice also leads the way with one of France’s other world-famous characteristics, food. Truly an epicure’s paradise this city plays host to some of the best restaurants and markets in the country. There really is a lot to love when it comes to Nice and the general feeling with locals and holidaymakers is ‘Issa Nissa!’.
Technically Monaco is not part of the Côte d’Azur but is still a massive hit on the French Riviera. This 200-hectare micro country has grown to be one of the biggest players in the world and is a much-loved destination for the ultra-rich. Thanks to its tax-haven status this must-visit destination exudes wealth, and this is only too evident when it hosts the Formula One Grand Prix amid a soundtrack of champagne corks and a backdrop of super-yachts.
In addition to Monaco’s motorsport heritage, it also boasts a fantastic marine museum, glitzy casinos and the Opéra de Monte-Carlo based in the Principality. Whilst it might be a financial stretch to spend your entire holiday in Monaco it is the perfect day trip, or long weekend destination when exploring the French Riviera.
Saint-Tropez found overnight stardom thanks in large to Brigitte Bardot in the 1950s. Since then this quaint fishing village has been transformed and thrived on its newfound sexy image which continues to seduce tourists from around the world. Vieux Port in the heart of Saint-Tropez keeps up with the French Riviera tradition of millionaire moorings and is always a hive of activity.
The surrounding areas show a more serene side to the town and in the low season Saint-Tropez’e charming pre-Bardot character shines through in a scene of well-worn cobblestones and sardine scales. Interspersed with the Michelin star restaurants, glittering night clubs and ‘clothing optional’ beaches it is easy to see why Saint-Tropez has joined our list.
Menton has sold less of its soul to tourism that other French Riviera towns and as such remains one of the few remaining old-world bastions on the Côte d’Azur. This attractive seaside town is synonymous with pastel-coloured buildings and characterised by its charming old port. Add to this a fantastic museum for art and film, astoundingly beautiful gardens, subtropical climate, as well as the usual sprinkling of high-end French restaurants and it is easy to see why Menton is such a big hit.