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5 best beaches of the French Riviera

  • Cote d'Azur, France

  • Bucket List Experience

Last updated: 10 March, 2024

The Cote d’Azur is famous for its rugged Mediterranean beauty, though beaches are pebblier and more shingly than pristine sand. There are some exceptions, though (see Pampelonne and Juan Les Pins) and even the craggiest bays have sparkling shallows in that turquoise Mediterranean hue.

The most scenic stretches are dominated by lavish, luxury beach clubs, charging visitors anywhere from £15 and £40 to rent a sun lounger, towel and parasol – but the people-watching and sense of glamour are priceless.

The best beach clubs, around Saint-Tropez, Antibes, Cannes and Cap Ferrat, offer slick food and drink service, brought directly to your lounger – and often turn into late-night party venues. Hedonistic Saint-Tropez, with its golden beaches, is the most famous place to soak up this scene.

Who to go with: tour operators


Garoupe Beach, Cap d’Antibes

  • Cap d'Antibes, Cote d'Azur, France

Red parasols at a beach club with blue waters and white sand beach beyond


Sheltered from the wind, child-friendly Garoupe is a good choice for beach lounging. There’s a free, public section (plage municipale) with sunbeds and parasols, as well as multiple private beach clubs. Plage Keller is the trendiest. Petit Plage and Plage Joseph are also good, and family-friendly.

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Mala Beach, Monaco

  • Monaco, Cote d'Azur, France

Gorgeous and secluded white-sand beach nestled in between jagged cliffs


A stunning white sand and pebble beach under pale golden cliffs just west of Monaco. Accessed by steep steps, this shallow cove is both glamorous and exclusive. Mala has two public areas and two chic beach clubs: Eden Plage and the Reserve de Mala – both romantic at sunset, serving cocktails by candlelight and playing music after dark.

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Marinieres Beach, Villefranche-sur-Mer

  • Villefranche-sur-Mer, Cote d'Azur, France

White sand beach with blue waters at Villefranche-sur-Mer


Tucked between chi-chi St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and Nice, the charming Medieval village of Villefranche-sur-Mer is the relaxed, boho antidote to the moneybags Riviera. A kilometre of coarse, gently shelving golden sand and crystalline waters, it’s all free and open to the public.

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Paloma Beach, St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

  • Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Cote d'Azur, France

View of a pretty curve of beach with a beach club, surrounded by cliffs with trees and villas


Sheltered from the wind, this shingle beach in a beautiful, wooded cove is a laid-back favourite of both locals and celebrities. Views across to the Alps are sublime. It’s part public, but best to splurge on a lounger at the delightful Paloma Beach Club – a local institution with an excellent restaurant.

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Pampelonne Beach, Saint-Tropez

  • Saint-Tropez, Cote d'Azur, France

View of red beach parasols to the sea


The Cote d’Azur’s most famous and atmospheric beach, with public sands and private clubs for every taste. The sea here is a lovely turquoise. Among the beach clubs, 55 is for serious star-spotting, Les Jumeaux is for families, Moorea and Aqua Club are laid-back, and Nikki Beach is for blingy party types.

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Price: Free
Minimum age: 0
Age suitable: 0+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

Public beaches are always open. The private beach clubs generally close off their areas from Easter to September, daily from 8am until dusk, staying open later from May through August. Many hotels have their own clubs with five-star comfort and service, reserved for guests.

When to do it

The warm months outside of hot, jam-packed August are best for beach lazing: May to July and September in particular. It may also be warm enough to swim from March to April, right through to October and November.

August is crowded and crazy: you’ll need to arrive first thing to stake out a place on the public beach or book a private beach sunbed well in advance. Most beach clubs in the area allow you to book a spot on their website.