Cote d’Azur stretches along the Mediterranean Sea, at the foot of the French Alps, bordering Italy. Known for its dreamy landscapes, which combine the sea with rocky hills, but especially for its richness, elegance, opulence, and luxury, Cote d’Azur is one of the most beautiful regions in the world.
Few know, but the name Cote d’Azur comes from a writer. In 1887, Stephen Liegaerd wrote the book La Cote d’Azur, basically naming the French Riviera. It has always been a major attraction, but today, a Cote d’Azur holiday also means top restaurants, millionaires’ yachts, terraces, sensational beaches, majestic hotels, and villas.
Speaking of majestic villas, the most expensive mansion in the world is on the Cote d’Azur. It’s called Villa Leopolda, is valued at $ 750 million, and is located in Villefranche-sur-Mer, one of the most beautiful places on the French Riviera, which I will talk about in this article.
What I use every time I travel:
- To book hotels: Booking.com
- To book tours: GetYourGuide.com
Map of French Riviera
To better understand the location of these beautiful places to visit on the Cote D’azur, I made this map of French Riviera. We start from Saint Tropez and cross the coast to the closest town to Italy, Menton.
There are practically 8 beautiful towns, with a total distance of only 150 km from one end to the other. Theoretically, you could tick them all in one day; practically, you need at least a week on the Cote d’Azur to enjoy each of them leisurely.
But this is not a French Riviera itinerary but a presentation of the most beautiful places you can visit on a Cote D’azur holiday.
Map of French Riviera:
How to get there and how to get around the Cote d’Azur
The main airport on the Cote d’Azur is Nice Côte d’Azur Airport, an international airport with direct flights from the largest European cities. So, it would be a good idea to land here and move to the first place in this list, then continue to the others.
You can do your Cote d’Azur itinerary either by rented car, train, or bus. The first option is more flexible because it allows you to make stops wherever you want, especially since the whole coast abounds in spectacular landscapes.
If the budget is a bit lower and you don’t always want to make sure you’ll find parking, the train is an ideal, accessible, and fast option, especially since there are stations in most cities on the Cote d’Azur. I don’t recommend traveling by bus to Cote D’azur.
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Cote d’Azur holiday – French Riviera road trip
The first stop on the French Riviera road trip in Saint Tropez. Like most now rich places on the Cote D’azur, Saint Tropez used to be a typical fishing village in the past. Meanwhile, things have changed radically, and the town has become famous mainly due to its appearances in movies and music videos.
Even celebrities love it, and millionaires are attracted like a magnet to this cosmopolitan town on the shores of the Mediterranean. The present reminds us very little of everything Saint Tropez once meant because only a few fishing boats can be seen in the old port, among the hundreds of luxury yachts.
Today, as expected, the city’s economy is primarily based on tourism. Those who come here have a lot to see and do.
If you want to get in touch with social life in Saint Tropez, you must go to Vieux Port or the old port, where you have all the chances to meet even celebrities. Don’t miss the famous Café Sénéquier café.
The church Eglise de Notre-Dame de l’Assomption dominates the city’s skyline with the tower and clock from the 18th century. The most beautiful beach worth visiting in Saint Tropez is Plage de Pampelonne, with a length of 5 km and fine sand. It’s one of the most visited beaches on the Cote d’Azur.
When you say Saint Tropez, you automatically think of fun, nightlife, and clubs. Of all of them, I have to mention Club 55 and Nikki Beach club.
Best things to do in Saint Tropez:
- kayking in the Ramatuelle Reservation
- sunbathe on Pampelonne beach, one of the top beaches on the Cote d’Azur
- tour of the city and Grimaud port
- visit the Musée de l’Annonciade
- admire butterflies at the Butterfly Museum
Where to stay in Saint Tropez:
- mid-range: Hôtel Playa – excellent location, just 150 m from the Marina, free Wifi, delicious breakfast, bar
- luxury: Le Pre de la Mer – located near the beach, pool, spa, Wifi, bar, breakfast included
Cannes | Cote D’azur holiday
A Cote d’Azur holiday must also include the elegant city where the International Film Festival is held. Cannes is probably my favorite of all the best places to visit on the Cote d’Azur.
It instantly captivated me with its beaches, chic cafes, streets surrounded by palm trees and flowers, elegant people, hotels with Art Nouveau facades, yachts anchored in the port, and a continuous holiday atmosphere. In conclusion, there are plenty of reasons to visit Cannes.
Promenade de la Croisette is the main boulevard of the city, which stretches along the Mediterranean Sea for a length of 3 km. Here we also find the famous Carlton Hotel, over 100 years old. It’s definitely among the favorite choices of celebrities, especially during the festival.
Most of the beaches in Cannes are private and reserved for the hotels, but there are also a few public beaches. In any case, staying at the beach in this city on the French Riviera is not cheap.
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If your budget allows it or you just want to do some window shopping, Rue d’Antibes is the best place in Cannes to do that.
I love going to the market in Cannes! It’s where you will surely see the locals and a fascinating selection of fruits and vegetables. Even if the prices are a bit higher, predictable for such a place, going to the market, be it Marché Forville or any other, is an experience not to be missed in Cannes, but also on the Cote d’Azur in general.
In Cannes, you will always meet a festive atmosphere; it seems like a continuous vacation here. The streets and terraces are never empty, and it’s so much fun anywhere and every time. It’s the ideal place to choose for a Cote d’Azur holiday.
Things to do in Cannes:
- catamaran trip
- snorkeling in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea
- explore the city on a wheeled tour
- discover the vineyards of Provence on a wine tasting tour
Where to stay in Cannes:
- budget: Hôtel La Villa Cannes Croisette – pool, Wifi, good breakfast, bar
- mid-range: Hotel Verlaine – parking, very good breakfast, room service, private parking
- luxury: Five Seas Hotel – pool, delicious breakfast, spa, restaurant
After Cannes, Antibes is the next on the list of towns on the Cote d’Azur, one of the most attractive, especially regarding beaches. Even the painter Pablo Picasso lived here for a while, more precisely for 6 months, in 1946. His house was Grimaldi Castle, now transformed into a beautiful museum dedicated to the painter.
Let’s go back to the beaches, the major attractions of this city. With almost 25 km of coastline, Antibes has just over 50 private and public beaches. Some of the most beautiful are Plage de la Salis, Plage de la Garoupe and Plage de la Gallice.
Port Vauban is one of the largest on the Mediterranean coast and is full of oligarchs’ boats. Also, from here, you can see the Carre Fortress, located on the Saint-Roch peninsula. It was built in 1680 as a defense.
A slightly more unique attraction in Antibes is the Nomadul or Le Nomade sculpture. It’s 8 m high and was made by an artist from Barcelona. Many aluminum letters make up a person who seems to be sitting and looking at the sea, contemplating ideas or thoughts.
Best things to do in Antibes:
- visit the main attractions of the city in a guided tour
- admire the scenery at the Tire-Poil Trail
- walk through the port of Vauban
- find out all about the painter at the Picasso Museum
- enjoy the view from the Garoupe lighthouse
Hotels in Antibes:
- budget: Hôtel de l’Étoile – parking, room service, Wifi, delicious breakfast
- mid-range: La Place Boutique Hotel – Wifi, parking, bar, excellent location, very good breakfast, restaurant
- luxury: Hotel Imperial Garoupe – pool, restaurant, beautiful design
Nisa | Cote D’azur holiday
We continue our French Riviera road trip and finally arrive in the capital of the Cote d’Azur, a complex and excellent destination for sea lovers, with sunny weather, good food, and dreamy views.
The Promenade des Anglais has attracted the rich in Europe since the Belle Époque period and many world-famous painters. Matisse, Chagall, Picasso, and Renoir are just a few who chose Nice Côte d’Azur to be their home for longer or shorter periods, inspired by the beauty of the places.
Although it belongs to France, there is also a strong Italian influence in Nice, the city thus becoming a perfect mix of French and Italian culture. The old town, Vieille Ville, is the best place to feel the Italian culture. The architecture is similar to the houses in Portofino, and there are some fantastic pasta shops.
You can’t visit Nice Côte d’Azur without climbing the Colline du Chateau, from where you can admire the city from above, a splendid panorama that comes as a reward for the effort made to climb the stairs. However, if you don’t have much time and you are not ready to climb so many steps, you can use the elevator.
Nice also has some of the most beautiful beaches on the Cote d’Azur. Still, unfortunately here they are covered with stones, so a sunbed is much more suitable than a towel so that you can enjoy the bronze and turquoise water of the Mediterranean.
Two other must-see places on the list when you visit Nice are Notre Dame Cathedral, very similar to the one in Paris, but also the port, which looks sensational.
Best things to do in Nice:
- visit the Verdon Gorges and the lavender fields
- participate in a workshop in a perfume factory
- scenic ride in three-wheeled cars
- boat tour at sunset
- City tour with a local
Where to stay in Nice:
- budget: Hôtel Parisien– free Wifi, parking, very good breakfast
- mid-range: Best Western Hotel Lakmi Nice – free Wifi, parking, pet-friendly, delicious breakfast
- luxury: Le Meridien Nice – pool, spa, beachfront location, restaurant
Perhaps the most colorful town on the Cote d’Azur, with pastel houses perched on hills, flowers hanging on balconies, and narrow, cobbled streets, is Villefranche-sur-Mer.
It’s a small settlement with not much to do, so a day is more than enough to explore this little piece of paradise on the Cote d’Azur. Unlike Nice, we find a beautiful sandy beach, Plage des Mariners, surrounded by hills.
The port of Villefranche-sur-Mer is known to be the deepest on the Cote d’Azur, and many boats pass through here daily. The old center is beautiful and composed of very old buildings dating back over 500 years, well maintained and charming. It’s a pleasure to walk through the old town.
To enjoy a beautiful sunset from the top, you must go to the medieval fortress of Villefranche-sur-Mer. It’s high on the hill and offers a complete panorama of the town.
Best things to do Villefranche-sur-Mer:
- go to the beach. The most beautiful are Plage de la Darse, Plage des Marinières and Plage de l’Ange Gardien
- walk through the old center
- visit the churches of Saint-Michel and St Pierre
- crosses the medieval street Rue Obscure
- go to the market in Jardin Francois Binon
Best hotels in Villefranche-sur-Mer:
- mid-range: Hôtel La Flore – pool, Wifi, parking, bar, delicious breakfast, fabulous view
- luxury: Welcome Hotel – great location, delicious breakfast, amazing views of the port
Èze | French Riviera itinerary
A castle village perched on top of a hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, with cobbled streets, flowers, art exhibitions, and a 12th-century castle that can be admired in all its splendor. This is Èze, an extraordinary place on the Cote d’Azur.
At the top of the hill is a garden with exotic flowers, from where you can have a 360 view of a large portion of the Cote d’Azur, almost complete. On a clear day, from here you can see even Italy.
One of the top attractions in Eze is the luxury hotel La Chevre d’Or, housed in a 14th-century castle. Eze is about 427 meters above sea level, so it offers a delightful panorama, as I already mentioned.
Eze also has two of the most famous perfumeries in the world: Galimard and Fragonard. You must cross their threshold if you want to enjoy your sense of smell. For ladies, it is an absolute pleasure!
Where to stay in Eze:
Èze is a super expensive place when it comes to Cote D’azur accommodation. For this reason, I instead recommend coming here on a day trip. However, if you consider it for a special occasion and you want to enjoy a night spent near a medieval castle, in a romantic setting, I suggest the following accommodations:
- mid-range: Hôtel La Villa d’Eze
- luxury: Hotel Cap Estel or the famous La Chèvre d’Or
In case of doubt or confusion, you should know that Monte Carlo is the city of the Principality of Monaco. Theoretically, different, practically the same thing. The Principality of Monaco is the second smallest and most populous country in the world, with almost 40,000 inhabitants on an area of only 2 square kilometers.
It is undoubtedly the wealthiest smallest country in the world. The shortest description of the city of Monte Carlo is luxury and wealth, everything in perfect order, moonlit cleanliness, and scenery like in movies.
The city built on mountain steps abounds in opulent villas and luxury cars. The most expensive brands are parked in a line in front of the casino, and some buildings have built tunnels so that vehicles can pass, including those participating in Formula 1.
One of the most beautiful areas in the city is the hill on which stands the Princely Palace of the Grimaldi family, the ruler of the Principality of Monaco. You can see Italy and France from here. What’s more, you have to get there and enjoy the scenery.
The list of places to visit in Monte Carlo can not miss the Oceanographic Museum; it’s an incredible, beautiful place, almost as beautiful as the one in Lisbon.
Things to do in Monaco:
- visit the Oceanographic Museum
- visit the casino in Monaco
- visit the Princely Palace
- admire the plants from the Exotic Garden
- visit the cathedral of Monaco
- see the city from a Lamborghini
- sunbathe on Larvotto beach
- go on a guided tour of the old center
Where to stay in Monte Carlo:
- budget: Hôtel Columbus Monte Carlo – pool, room service, very good breakfast
- mid-range: Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo – pool, spa, bar, fabulous breakfast
- luxury: Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo – two pools, spa, beachfront, room service
Menton | Cote D’azur holiday
Menton is the last city on this list of beautiful places to visit on the French Riviera or Cote d’Azur, which means it’s also closest to the border with Italy. Due to its proximity, the old town center has visible Italian influences.
The city is also called Ville de Citron due to a legend that says that Eva buried a lemon here. The legend has a kernel of truth, considering that the city used to have the cultivation of lemons as its primary object of activity. There is even a Lemon Festival which takes place in February.
Menton is a photogenic city, Instagrammable in current terms. The houses are built in steps, have pastel colors, and are surrounded by lush vegetation, palm trees, and turquoise water.
The main street in Menton, Rue Saint-Michel, is also the most touristy in the city. Lined with shops of all kinds, cafes, restaurants, and traditional houses, it’s a real magnet for visitors to the town.
Menton reminds me a bit of Florence, especially the narrow streets and colorful shutters on the windows. It was not in vain that I said earlier that Italian influences are apparent.
The city’s size is quite large, so some beautiful gardens are scattered throughout the area and are worth seeing: Serre de la Madone, Maria Serena, Les Colombières, and a few others.
Where to stay in Menton:
- budget: Hotel Lemon – modern design, great location, Wifi, breakfast
- mid-range: Hotel Chambord – modern design, room service, good location, Wifi, delicious breakfast
- luxury: Hotel Napoléon – pool, Wifi, room service, beachfront
Things to know before a Cote d’Azur holiday
How many days do you need for a French Riviera road trip?
To visit all the places mentioned in this article, I think you need at least 5 full days. You have to consider that, depending on the season, the road can be crowded and so can the tourist attractions. While for Eze, you would need only a few hours to explore it fully, you should spend at least two days in Nice.
What is the best time to visit the Cote d’Azur?
To avoid the busiest season, stay away from July and August. Instead, spring and summer are ideal for a French Riviera road trip because Cote d’Azur weather is still warm at that time, and tourists are dwindling.
Even in winter, it’s suitable if you don’t want to swim. I would go in March-May and September-October. In any case, Cote d’Azur weather is quite ok all year round, with temperatures not falling below 5 degrees.
What budget do you need to visit the Cote d’Azur?
Although you can find affordable accommodation alternatives on Booking, the Cote d’Azur is not a cheap destination. Hotel prices differ a lot depending on the cities you choose to stay at. You must prepare to spend at least $ 1000 / person per week, and this is not in high season.