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Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 10 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Dana Facaros

Money, glamour and bombshell looks: the yacht-magnet, beach-club-trimmed Cote d’Azur still lives up to the hype as a playground for the world’s elite.

Home to fabled luxury hotels, triple-starred Michelin restaurants, world-class art museums, hedonistic beaches and celebrity-haunted clubs – as well as the glitzy Cannes Film Festival and Monaco Grand Prix – everything here feels A-list.

But alongside the razzle-dazzle, this stretch of coast in the South of France also offers breathtaking natural beauty and the same bohemian, Mediterranean joie de vivre that attracted Matisse, Picasso and company in decades past.

With year-round sunshine, it’s perfect for a romantic getaway or a family holiday, with plenty to entertain kids of all ages.

Orientation

Although the Cote d’Azur stretches from Italy to Toulon in France, most of its glamour is concentrated in the old French Riviera, between Monaco and Saint-Tropez.

The Alpes Maritimes region adds drama to the east, skirted by the fabled Grande Corniche road, while Nice lies between the two millionaire peninsulas, Cap Ferrat and Cap d’Antibes.

Cannes is 40 minutes’ drive west of rustic-glam Nice, while eternally-hip Saint-Tropez is another 80 minutes to the west.

The Cote d’Azur also has six peaks over 3,000m, where you can go skiing until as late as April. Isola 2000, Auron and Valberg/Beuil are the best-known resorts; bus companies run special ski services from Nice.

Nice

The ever-buzzing capital of the French Riviera has a charming, Italian-influenced historic centre. Nice is the coast’s foodie central, home to world-class art, and host the extraordinary Nice Carnival, second only to Rio’s. It has excellent transport links to the rest of the Cote D’Azur, and Nice airport is the main gateway. It’s the ideal base for a first-time visit to the Cote D’Azur.

Saint-Tropez

With its stunning hotels, fabulous restaurants, hip boutiques, iconic beaches and nightclubs, St-Trop (its nickname, ‘Saint Too Much’) is one of the world’s top places to see and be seen (with prices to match), attracting film stars, models, VIPs and Russian oligarchs, while still maintaining an informal, bohemian sense of fun.

Cannes

A little piece of Hollywood in the South of France, Cannes is most famous for its spring Film Festival, but it’s pretty and sun-drenched year-round, with historic architecture, a glimmering bay and a handful of cultural stops. Le Suquet, the picturesque old town has lovely views over the bay and Lerins islands.

Monaco

This tiny principality, complete with its own royal family, is the second smallest (and most densely populated) country in the world. Crammed into this two-square-kilometre tax haven are skyscrapers, casinos, mega-yachts, Porsches, celebrities, a royal palace, countless clothing boutiques and a marina. Fun to visit and see it, but unless you’re mega-rich, it can be a little too exclusive.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

Massena Museum of Art & History

Nice, Cote d'Azur, France

One of France’s most splendid Belle Epoque villas, donated to the city of Nice by the aristocratic Massena family, is now home to a compelling collection of art, furniture and artifacts that track Nice’s rich history.

Best for ages: 18+ | £12

Monaco Grand Prix

Monaco, Cote d'Azur, France

The world’s most prestigious automobile races, with a track winding through the winding streets of this billionaires’ playground. Monaco is the height of Formula One glamour.

Best for ages: 13+ | £50 | 4 days

Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

Exterior of the green roofed, Belle Epoque cafe de paris with terrace in front
Experience

Cafe de Paris Monte-Carlo

Monaco, Cote d'Azur, France

The famous Belle Epoque café, with its lovely outdoor terrace, is the place for a rendez-vous (and people watching) in Monaco. In a prime central location, go for lunch, dinner or a well-deserved cocktail. After some ‘Dutch courage’, try your luck at one of Monaco’s famous casinos nearby.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Path through a garden with giant plants and cacti on each side
Experience

Exotic Garden of Monaco

Monaco, Cote d'Azur, France

If it all gets too much, head to the stunning 75-year-old Jardin Exotique, with its surreal collection of cacti, a stalactite Observatory Cave inhabited 250,000 years ago, and an anthropology museum. Open Tuesday to Saturday. Guided tours on Saturdya by appointment.

Best for ages: 8+ | £6

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Small forested island with a tiny town in a blue sea
Experience

Ile Saint-Honorat

Cannes, Cote d'Azur, France

If you want to escape the crowds, cross the water to this peaceful island, the second largest of the Lerins. There’s a 3rd-century abbey, where St Patrick once studied; there are lovely walks, swims and the monks’ wine to purchase. See the ferry website for departures and tickets.

Best for ages: 8+ | £15

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

Best of the French Riviera with Cannes , Monaco & more Private guided Tour

Best of the French Riviera with Cannes , Monaco & more Private guided Tour

Nice

Discover the best places in the French Riviera with a qualified guide/driver during a shared full day tour. Your guide will introduce you to...

€720 | Rating 4.71 / 5 [14 ratings]

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Tour supplied by:

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Best of the French Riviera with Cannes, Monaco & More shared guided tour

Best of the French Riviera with Cannes, Monaco & More shared guided tour

Nice

Discover the best places in the French Riviera with a qualified guide/driver during a shared full day tour. Your guide will introduce you to...

€110 | Rating 4.43 / 5 [30 ratings]

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Tour supplied by:

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Cannes, Antibes & St-Paul de Vence Small group Half-Day Tour

Cannes, Antibes & St-Paul de Vence Small group Half-Day Tour

Nice

See the best of the French Riviera on a trip to Cannes, Antibes, and Saint-Paul de Vence. Drive along the glittering coastline, past yachts ...

€65 | Rating 4.35 / 5 [17 ratings]

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French Riviera Cannes to Monte-Carlo Discovery Small Group Day Trip from Nice

French Riviera Cannes to Monte-Carlo Discovery Small Group Day Trip from Nice

Nice

From Monte Carlo to Cannes discover the fabulous towns of the French Riviera on this small-group day trip from Nice. By the seacoast road, ...

€114 | Rating 4.60 / 5 [536 ratings]

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Tour supplied by:

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

Le Mouillage

Saint-Tropez, Cote d'Azur, France

A small, immaculate and affordable hotel with a pool, a few minutes’ walk from St Tropez. Opposite the golden sands of Bouillabaisse Beach, and with much sought-after free parking. 

Official star rating:

Hotel des Lices

Saint-Tropez, Cote d'Azur, France

In the heart of Saint-Tropez, this friendly, family-run boutique hotel has a tranquil feel and a pretty pool deck.

Official star rating:

Le Pre de la Mer

Saint-Tropez, Cote d'Azur, France

A light-filled former Provencal farmhouse that’s now a luxurious contemporary hotel, with peaceful private terraces and a striking pool. Close to the buzz and glamour of St Tropez, and a short walk to its beaches.

Official star rating:

Hotel Suisse

Nice, Cote d'Azur, France

A charismatic and reasonably-priced boutique on the eastern end of Nice’s iconic Promenade des Anglais. It comes with panoramic sea views, handy parking, and access to a private beach club.

Official star rating:

When to go

The most beautiful times to visit are April to June and mid-September to October, when the weather is warm and breezy but not uncomfortably hot. May sees two of the Riviera’s main events – the Cannes Film Festival and Monaco Grand Prix – with an accompanying surge in hotel and flight prices. July and August are crowded, hot and expensive, but the most popular time to go for the beaches and nightclubs. November is the dullest month, when many things close down; December and January have many bright, shirtsleeve days – while late February to early March is a great time to visit Nice, as it hosts a famously vivid Carnival.

Note, unlike Nice, Monaco and surroundings, St-Tropez closes down out of season: as the only town on the Côte d’Azur to face north, it’s unsheltered from blustery winter winds and weather.

Getting there and away

Nice airport, the second busiest in France, is the gateway to the Cote d’Azur. A taxi to central Nice should take no more than 20 minutes and is the fastest option, however, there are also regular, cheap shuttle buses, both to Nice itself and to Monaco, Cannes and Antibes.

By road, it can take up to three hours from Nice Airport to Saint-Tropez. There are direct Beltrame buses from the airport to St-Raphael, where you’ll need to transfer to another bus to Saint-Tropez. You can also take a train to St-Raphael, and a seasonal ferry from there to Saint-Tropez.

If you can afford it, by far the fastest way to get to your hotel is by helicopter. Helicopter taxi services run to Monaco, Cannes and Saint-Tropez from Nice Airport.

Getting around

As the coastal road (especially in summer) is often an enormous traffic jam, it’s best to use public transport and taxis and only hire a car to make day trips. Trains frequently serve all the coastal towns, while two bus systems, Lignes d’Azur and Envibus go as far west as Antibes. RCA buses link Cannes and Grasse to points east.

Getting into Saint-Tropez, with its single access road, is a nightmare in summer: instead, take the hourly Bateaux Verts shuttle from Sainte-Maxime, Port-Grimaud, Cogolin or Les Issambres. The beaches are out of town, and while there are plentiful taxis and boat taxis, car parking is a nightmare.

Where to stay

First-time visitors should stay in or near Nice, where most of the sights are concentrated (or easily reached by public transport). Nearby Antibes, Cap d’Antibes and St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat are also fairly convenient – the ‘Caps’ are the ‘in’ places to stay, if you can afford it, along with Saint-Tropez. The hilltop setting of Eze, while touristy, offers a chance to get above it all.

Frequent visitors tend to stay put in gorgeous seaside hotels, spending afternoons on private beaches and popping out now and then for a walk, gallery, restaurant or nightclub.

Other guides relevant to this destination

Cannes destination guide

Cote d'Azur, France

Sister city of Hollywood and host of the famous film festival, Cannes, with its palm-lined La Croisette, golden beach and five star hotels oozes cinematic and pure Riviera glamour.

Website >
Overview >

Nice destination guide

Cote d'Azur, France

The buzzing, art-filled, foodie capital of the French Riviera, with a charming, Italian-influenced historic centre. The ideal base for a first-time visit to the Cote d’Azur, and home to the world-renowned Nice Carnival.

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