Part 4 of France travel blog series: Travel Guide for the French Riviera is all about exploring the charming costal town along the Côte d’Azur.
Part 1: First Impression of France
The Côte d’Azur – french name for the french riviera in the south of France, is characterised by long stretches of beaches surrounded by endless azure skies, clifftop roads, warm breeze from the Mediterranean sea blowing through your hair, vibrant cities with its abundant cafés and bars along a sensational coastline – personifying a perfect vacation. Heck, even the macbook’s built-in dictionary app defines “Vacation” as a trip to the south of France. Now that you are already dreaming about spending your holidays in this fascinating part of France, read along our Travel Guide for the French Riviera, as we provide our suggestions on the best time to visit, travel between coastal cities and top things to do in the French Riviera.!
Best time to visit the French Riviera:
French Riviera is an all round destination, however June to September is the best season to visit this region. July and August is the peak season as it’s summer vacation for kids. A lot of people also like to combine a trip to the lavender fields in Provence with French Riviera and hence you will find more crowd in July.
Unless you plan to hit the beach and soak in water all day long, the only thing to keep in mind about the peak season is that it gets extremely hot. We were traveling in August and couldn’t tolerate the heat. On our last day, we were so sapped of energy that we spent most of our day in AC malls in Nice..
If laying on the beach and sunbathing is not on your agenda, we would highly recommend traveling in shoulder season of Spring and Autumn. You will be able to appreciate the beautiful villages on the coastline much more. Since the French Riviera is down south, winter would be on the milder side, and hence would be nice destination for those craving for vitamin D.
Getting to the French Riviera and getting around:
French Riviera is highly accessible and the most suitable airport is Aéroport Nice Côte d’Azur. You can also consider flying to Cannes, if you find a better connectivity. There are high speed TGV trains that get you to Nice from Paris in just around 6 hours.
While the french riviera is highly accessible with plenty of affordable public transportation. You will find frequent bus services between Cannes to Nice and Monaco for 1.5 euro, irrespective of your travel destination / duration. You can also buy a multi-voyage card which costs 10 euro for 10 tickets. The frequency of bus services will reduce during weekends. Rapides Cote d’Azur is the main regional bus network and line 100 runs between Nice and Menton, line 100Xpress between Nice and Monaco, line 200 connects the coastal towns between Nice and Cannes.
However, for greater freedom and convenience, we highly recommend renting a car. A few points to keep in mind while driving in the French Riviera are the traffic and toll charges. Most people driving in this region are really rude and rash. Remember to move to the slower lane as soon as you overtake a car, and you will be fine.
Where to stay in the French Riviera:
We highly recommend choosing a central location for your stay and then traveling between different coastal towns based on your mood. This allows a bit of flexibility and convenience while you are traveling to this region.
We found Nice highly affordable in terms of accommodation and made that our base. Our plan was to explore different coastal towns around Nice and spend our day chilling and sampling local food and culture. Since we were travelling with family, we booked an apartment where we could cook, if needed.
Some of the good hotels to consider for your stay in Nice are:
Hôtel Amaryllis: Super affordable, with bright clean rooms and right in the city centre.
Hotel Du Midi: At a central location and very close to the beach. Will allow you to close Nice on foot.
Hôtel Ozz by Happyculture: Very modern rooms with dormitory type set-up. Perfect for a group of friends traveling together.
Travel Tip: If you have rented a car, make sure that the accommodation you choose allows parking. Parking spots can get a bit tricky in smaller towns along the coast and bigger cities like Nice and Cannes.
Travel Guide for things to do in the French Riviera:
A relaxing vacation must always include a beach destination as the vibes that you get from the beachfront is beyond words. Côte d’Azur – the land of diversity, is definitely a driver’s delight and the name Côte d’Azur might be familiar to PC video gamers from the early 2000’s as it’s one of the tracks in the game “Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed”.
The Côte d’Azur stretches from Menton to St. Tropez. Some of the famous coastal towns in this stretch are Nice, Antibes, Monaco, Menton, Cannes and Grasse. You can also consider visiting Ventimiglia which is on Italian Riviera, just a kilometre from Menton.
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- Or possibly an island getaway to Tenerife
Travel Guide to the top coastal towns on for the French Riviera:
This lively city is a must visit destination in the riviera. The main attractions in Nice are the old town, the “Promenade des Anglais” and the castle hill. The buildings in the old town are from the 1600’s but they are very well maintained. Take a nice walk along the Promenade and take in the ocean breeze and watch the sun disappear over the horizon. It’s a beautiful experience to witness the sky getting painted in vivid colors.! Head to the castle hill for a panoramic view of the whole city and also the promenade.
This lovely little town is very close to the Italian border (just a kilometre away) with postcard worthy architecture. In the old town, you can find food markets, the famous Limoncello and the beachfront is amazing as well. The “Promenade des la Mer” serves as the best place for a relaxing stroll around the beach. From here you can get a panoramic view of the whole town, perched on the hill. The best time to capture its beauty is during sunset as the whole town just looks mesmerising in the golden hour. Don’t forget to explore the old town, which is bustling with energy even at night. I loved picking up some souvenirs and gifts from the numerous shops in the old town.
The world’s second smallest country (only after Vatican) needs no introduction. The casinos, the Grand Pix and all the money will ring a bell when you think about Monaco. Monte Carlo is the most famous neighbourhood you must visit while exploring Monaco. Casino de Monte Carlo is one of the main attractions here. The entry fee is 10 euro, but remember to dress properly for entry.
You don’t need to worry about visa while you are in Monaco. A valid Schengen visa which guaranteed your entry in France will cover Monaco as well. However, remember to keep your passport with you at all times. We accidentally drove into Monte Carlo while driving to Menton, so you wouldn’t even know when you left France and entered Monaco.
Not far from Monaco, this little picturesque hill top village is surely a delight to visit. The whole village is built on a hill. Be prepared to climb steep steps while exploring this gem in the french riviera. The village surely does justice to all the fairy tale pictures from the famous Instagram accounts. The medieval streets, tiny alleyways, countless flowers and vines adorning the old buildings, all make Eze beautiful. The panoramic view from the exotic garden will definitely take your breath away.!
Best known for its glitz and glamour, and of course the “Cannes film festival” that happens every May, this seaside town has everything that one could ask for. Be it the fancy hotels, lavish boutiques, bars and restaurants, beach clubs or the old town markets where you could find local produce, Rue Meynadier for some local shopping – Cannes caters to all types of tourists . One of the liveliest boardwalks in the french riviera is the “Promenade de la Croisette’. It’s lined with beautiful palm trees and stretches over three kilometers, making it a must-do activity while in Cannes.!
How can we not mention the perfume capital of France. Grasse, a coastal town on the French Riviera is located just north of Cannes and is famous for it’s perfume industry. Three well known perfumeries in Grasse are Galimard, Molinard and Fragonard. However, you will find small and other lesser known perfumers all over the town. Wandering along the small alleys and backstreets of the Grasse old town and enjoying a cold drink on a hot summer afternoon in one of the many cafes would be our favourite vacation activity.