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Bucket list destination:

Last updated: 06 July, 2023
Expert travel writer: Dana Facaros

Money, glamour and bombshell looks: the yacht-magnet, beach-club-trimmed Cote d’Azur aka French Riviera 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.

Tours, tickets & transfers

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

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

Nice

French Riviera Cannes to Monte-Carlo Discovery Small Group Day Trip from 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, join Eze, a medieval village appreciate the view overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. You will discover the secrets of perfumes and its industry from through the visit of a factory. Drive toward the Principality of Monaco to discover the old town, the Prince's Palace and the sumptuous Cathedral. From the starting line of the Grand Prix Formula 1 track, reach Monte Carlo, universe of luxe and elegance around the emblematic Casino. Then, join the West-side of the Riviera. In Cannes, put your hands into celebrities' handprints, encircling the "Film Festival Palace" and its red carpet. Relax and enjoy the panorama along the coastline passing by renowned Cap d'Antibes, residence's place of the wealthiest. Finish by Antibes, walled-city and stroll around the picturesque old town and admire the super yachts magnitudes at the billionaires' quay.

Price: €114

Min age: 0

Rating 4.61 / 5 [581 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Mediterranean Coastal Sightseeing Cruise from Nice

Nice

Mediterranean Coastal Sightseeing Cruise from Nice
Explore the Mediterranean coastline and enjoy spectacular coastal views on this 1-hour sightseeing cruise from Nice. Hop aboard your sightseeing boat at the Port of Nice and head out into the Baie des Anges. Cruise round the Cap de Nice to the Citadelle and marvel at the ancient villages sitting high on the hillsides. Learn about the French Riviera's history from the informative onboard commentary and take in beautiful views of the famous Promenade des Anglais from your vantage point on the waves.

Price: €27

Min age: 0

Rating 4.34 / 5 [549 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Monaco, Monte Carlo, Eze, la Turbie Full-Day from Nice Small-Group Tour

Nice

Monaco, Monte Carlo, Eze, la Turbie Full-Day from Nice Small-Group Tour
On the way to Monaco, enjoy the panoramic drive along the coast, over Nice, Villefranche Bay, and Monaco. Stop in Eze to visit this amazing medieval village and learn about the whole process of perfume with Fragonard.Please note that there are few steps to climb if you want to reach the top of the village. After a drive through the village of la Turbie and its 2000 years old monument, the Trophy of the Alps, you will reach the Principality of Monaco Discover the Casino square of Monte-Carlo with luxury shops and cars. Take a ride on the Formula 1 circuit and reach the old town. Admire the Prince’s Palace and the Cathedral, watch the Changing of the Guards (11:55am). This stop does not include a visit of the Prince's Palace. During your tour, the guide will provide information in the minivan in order to give you free time to explore on your own. For Cruisers, in case of last minute cancellation of port of call, an exceptional refund of 50% will be granted upon request.

Price: €92

Min age: 0

Rating 4.72 / 5 [469 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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French Riviera in One Day from Nice shared tour

Nice

French Riviera in One Day from Nice shared tour
Discover the French Riviera during this guided tour of the Côte d'Azur. Enjoy the best panoramic views of Villefranche and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, visit the village of Èze, explore Monaco, Monte Carlo and visit Antibes and much more.

Price: €70

Min age: 0

Rating 4.28 / 5 [384 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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French Riviera Cannes, Monaco & More shared guided tour from Nice

Nice

French Riviera Cannes, Monaco & More shared guided tour from 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 the Promenade des Anglais in Nice and La Croisette in Cannes, the most beautiful beaches and small villages of the back country of Nice.  Have the opportunity to visit artist’s shops and peering the view by the ramparts finding the colors of the villas, perfumes of the hills and the fragrances of the sea skyline. non-contractual indicative timings may depend on traffic and delays

Price: €134

Min age: 0

Rating 4.43 / 5 [57 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Travel advice

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.

Destination guides

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Other guides relevant to this destination

Saint-Tropez

Cote d'Azur, France

View of Saint-Tropez's small marina with restaurants and shops

Chic yacht-filled resort, where the jet set parade the beach and party till dawn. Glitz, glamour and superb people-watching.

Cannes

Cote d'Azur, France

View of the beach and seafront in Cannes

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.

Monaco

Cote d'Azur, France

Monaco

The Riviera’s Never Never Land for the rich, offering bling, glamour, sights, high-roller casinos and entertainment galore.

Nice

Cote d'Azur, France

Long strip of beach and blue sea with city behind

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.