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Best Places to Visit in the French Riviera

06/11/2021

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The French Riviera is one of the most beautiful parts of France. The dramatic coastline is home to colorful seaside towns, hilltop villages with panoramic sea views, and delicious regional cuisine.

The French Riviera is most known for the glitzy cities of Cannes, Nice, and the pretty cliffside villages of Eze and Saint-Paul-de-Vence, but there are many quieter places to explore as well. 

Whether you plan to spend your holiday sightseeing, road tripping, or simply relaxing by the sea, the French Riviera is an ideal destination.

For this article, we asked some fellow travel bloggers and friends to share their favorite places to visit in the French Riviera. From top sights to lesser-known attractions, here’s the list of best places in the French Riviera.

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Plan your Trip to French Riviera

After traveling consistently for over 10 years, we’ve come to trust and rely on a few websites to help us find the best deals on flights, transportation, and accommodation.

Flights: CheapOair is the first place we check when searching for cheap flights. It searches hundreds of sites for the best fare and includes both standard and budget airlines. The price calendar feature shows the cheapest days to fly in your preferred month of travel.

Accommodation: Booking.com offers savings on hotels, furnished apartments, and villas in 80,000 destinations worldwide. You can browse hotel reviews and find the guaranteed best price on hotels for all budgets.

Car Rental: RentalCars.com is a great site because it takes all of the major rental companies, such as Hertz, Avis, etc., and more and makes the comparison of prices for you.  This helps to ensure that you get a great price without all the time and work.

Travel Insurance: We never travel abroad without a travel insurance policy because it’s not worth the risk! We use and trust Safety Wings, which we’ve used since its launch. Safety Wings is marketed as insurance for nomads, but you can use it also for short trips.

Best Places in the French Riviera

If you’re wondering where to go and what to do on the French Riviera France, this list of best places to visit inn the French Riviera may give you some holiday inspiration.

Hyères Islands

The Iles d’Hyères is an archipelago of three main islands: Porquerolles, Port-Cros, and Le Levant. These French islands are off the city of Hyères at the extreme west of the French Riviera.

The Hyères Islands are famous for their mild climate and varied land, marine, and submarine landscapes. The three main islands are different and unique, and they fit all the ideas of a holiday.

Porquerolles is great for hiking, beach days, biking, and snorkeling, and it has one of our favorite beaches on the French Riviera, the Plage de Notre Dame.

Port-Cros is the wildest and best-preserved of the Hyères Islands (no cars or bikes here) and the heart of Port-Cros National Park. The island is perfect for day hikes, with numerous marked hiking trails.

Le Levant is a naturist paradise, home to the famous Naturist Domain of Heliopolis.

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild (Saint Jean Cap Ferrat)

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild sits in an enviable position above the turquoise waters of Saint Jean Cap Ferrat on the French Riviera. The house was built by Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild, a member of the wealthy banking dynasty, following her bitter divorce from Maurice Ephrussi.

She lived in the pretty pink and white French Renaissance-style villa until the early 1920s when she left it, in her will, to the Institute of France to be used as a fine art museum.

However, while the design, the furniture, and the paintings inside the villa are a delight, it is her nine beloved gardens that attract visitors today. All were inspired by Beatrice’s international travels and comprise of European flowers, desert cacti, and Mediterranean palms.

Pathways weave themselves through planting areas and past marble statues while water fountains come alive every 20 minutes and “dance” to classical music, adding a magical appeal to the already glorious gardens.

Before leaving, you must head to the restaurant housed inside Beatrice’s dining room and enjoy lunch or afternoon tea with views of the distant mountains and the glistening sea; a fitting way to finish your day at the stunning Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.

Suggested by Angela | whereangiewanders.com

Saint-Paul-de-Vence

Saint Paul de Vence - France

Located an easy day trip inland from the coast of the French Riviera is the gorgeous medieval town of Saint Paul de Vence, sitting on a hilltop amidst the olive groves. This walled village has become famous over the years for being a favorite haunt of artists such as Marc Chagall (who is buried in the village cemetery) and Henri Matisse.  

Even now, Saint Paul de Vence’s walled town has a very artsy vibe, with small boutique galleries hidden throughout the narrow laneways just waiting to be discovered.  

The best way to experience Saint Paul de Vence’s true beauty is to walk the ancient (but sturdy) ramparts and take in the panoramic views of the valley surrounding the village. It is possible to walk the walls around almost all of the small town, taking in the romantic surroundings.  

A visit to the small cemetery to stop at the grave of Marc Chagall is also worthwhile and offers sweeping views all the way to back to the coast. Perfume lovers will also want to make a stop at Maison de Parfums Godet on Rue Grande which is picturesque and also a favorite of Henri Matisse’s muse.

Suggested by Emma | emmajaneexplores.com

Château de la Napoule (Mandelieu-la-Napoule)

Château de la Napoule is one of the most beautiful castles in Southern France. It is an old medieval fortress located right by the sea in Mandelieu-la-Napoule.

The first construction dates from 1387, built by the Counts of Villeneuve. Over the centuries, the château witnessed invasions, looting, wars, and revolutions, and it suffered numerous transformations.

Half bourgeois villa – half ruins, the château was bought in 1917 by the Clews, a couple of rich American artists. The Clews restored it and added sections in their own personal style, and they took special care of the surrounding gardens. 

Today, this French château and gardens are listed as Historical Monuments. Also, the gardens are classified as ‘remarkable’ and house works of visual artists.

Mandelieu-la-Napoule is a commune in the Alpes-Maritimes department, located between Cannes and Théoule-sur-mer. Apart from the castle, don’t miss Le San Peyre, a volcanic hill dominating the Napoule Gulf, the port, and the landscapes around the Siagne River.

Gassin

Gassin - French Riviera

Escape to the beautiful village of Gassin, close to the popular beach destination of Saint Tropez. This tiny village is perched high up on a rock, only a few kilometers from the sea. It offers the most incredible coastline views of the Gulf de St. Tropez in one direction and mountain views in the other. It’s no wonder it is known as ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de France,’ or one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France.

Gassin became a fortified village at the end of the 15th century. Some of the significant landmarks include chapels from the 11th and 16th centuries, a 16th-century Town Hall, and a botanical garden. It also holds the record for having the smallest street in the world, measuring at only 29 centimeters at its narrowest point.

Wander and get lost in the scenic winding pedestrian-only streets. The ancient houses, all brimming with delightful flowers, are a kaleidoscope of pretty pastel colors.

Follow along the terraced wall, the Promenade Dei Barri, where you will find the village’s restaurants. Each of them features large outdoor terraces, all for the reason to gaze out onto the most incredible panoramic views.

Suggested by Renee | dreamplanexperience.com

Èze Village

Èze Village is a gorgeous medieval village perched 425 meters above sea level, on the hilltop between Monaco and Nice. The village is around the ruins of a 12th-century castle and is full of ancient façades, stone houses, and narrow alleys.

Èze Village is one of the best places in the French Riviera, easy to visit on a day trip from Nice. It feels like stepping back in time while wandering the streets of the village. Even with the streets full of shops, cafes, and restaurants, it has maintained its medieval charm.

The Jardin Exotique is a botanical garden located within the castle ruins. While the garden is impressive, the views still steal the show. Èze Village is famous worldwide for the view of the sea.

The Eglise Notre Dame de L’Assomption and bell tower can be seen from all over Èze Village. The church is small, but there is real beauty in its simplicity. The interior is filled with baroque-style trompe-l’oeil art.

Èze Village should not be confused with its sister town Èze-sur-Mer. Located on the water, it can be reached by a steep 2km hike, the Friedrich-Nietzsche pathway.

The best time to visit Èze Village is during spring. During the summer the small village can become really busy with tourists.

Suggested by Debbie | WorldAdventurists.com

The Rock of Roquebrune-sur-Argens

An excellent location for explorers, le Rocher de Roquebrune is located in the small French town of Roquebrune-Sur-Argens. This large rock, made of red sandstone, sits sumptuously between two of the French Riviera’s large massifs; Massif de l’Esterel and the Massif des Maures. 

The beautiful rock sits 372 meters tall. Therefore, it is too short to be classed as a mountain. Because of its height, it is a popular destination with hikers.

There are many different hiking paths to the top. Some routes are aimed at more experienced hikers and can involve ascending rocks with just a rope, whilst other tracks are unchallenging and perfect for inexperienced hikers. Non-professionals may enjoy the route starting in Le muy, while those more experienced may prefer starting in Roquebrune Sur Argens.

The stunning naturally formed structure has 360-degree panoramic views across the beautiful French Riviera. Best viewed at sunrise/sunset, the views from the top are indescribable. However, the fantastic views do not just include those from the top. From the ground looking up, the red rocks contrast perfectly with the southern French blue skies and luscious green land. It’s the perfect view of the perfect location. 

Suggested by Breanne | familycampingeurope.co.uk

Antibes

Everyone should include Antibes in their French Riviera holidays, as it’s one of the best places to relax in France

Found between Nice and Cannes, it’s a favorite amongst tourists with its beautiful beaches, charming Old Town, provincial marketplace, and multiple museums.

Before hitting up the beach, head to Bastion Saint-Jaume to check out the famous statue, Le Nomade by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa. It’s a giant figure made of different numbers and letters, who is eternally looking out to sea. 

After checking out the statue, go for a swim and catch some rays at Plage de la Gravette. This little horseshoe-shaped sand beach is a short walk from the harbor and includes a marvelous view. 

The city has an interesting cultural history, including a medieval fortified castle in Old Town that used to be the holiday house of the Grimaldi family. One of its most famous residents, Picasso, even has an entire museum dedicated to him inside the old castle.

Picasso isn’t the only artist to draw inspiration from Antibes, Monet, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charlie Chaplin, and Marlene Dietrich have all lived in the area. 

Antibes is a magical little town that’s a must-see for anyone exploring the French Riviera. 

Suggested by Ally | allytravels.com

Plage des Sablettes (Menton)

The beach in Menton, named Plage des Sablettes, is one of the top places to visit in the French Riviera! Menton is a lovely town located close to the border with Italy on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a must-visit during a trip in the French Riviera because it has beautiful architecture, an ideal location, great beaches, and a perfect climate. Therefore, people call it ‘the Pearl of France’!

Plages des Sablettes is the best beach in Menton and one of the most beautiful beaches on the French Riviera. You will find it on the east side of the Old Port. It’s a quiet beach with a mix of sand, pebbles, and gravel. It offers an amazing view of the Old Town! From here, indeed, you can gaze at all the pretty buildings painted with ochre colors while enjoying bathing in the Mediterranean Sea or lying on the beach.

It’s interesting to stay around here until sunset. Head to the jetty Quai Impératrice Eugénie on the side of Plage des Sablettes to admire the sun setting behind the hills and see Menton progressively lighting up for the evening.

Suggested by Ophelie | limitless-secrets.com

Port de Fontvieille in Monaco

One of the best places to visit in the French Riviera is Port de Fontvieille in Monaco. You can find the port in the south of the city-state in Fontvieille next to the Rock of Monaco. From the Rock of Monaco, you also have an amazing view of the port and the sea next to it.

The port looks beautiful, and its origin is very interesting. The district in which it is located, Fontvieille, is made on reclaimed land and was constructed about 50 years ago. In Fontvieille, you can also find many other things. For example, the Monaco Heliport is located next to the port. From here, there are helicopters to Nice Airport.

The beauty of Port de Fontvieille is part of why it is great to visit. What’s also great is that you can see many impressive boats here. Furthermore, it’s located in Monaco, and there are so many reasons to visit Monaco! There are great beaches, it’s very photogenic, and you can visit the Monte Carlo casino.

Suggested by Dymphe | dymabroad.com

Lérins Islands (Cannes)

Located off the city of Cannes, the Lérins Islands are just a short boat ride away. From the four islands that composed the Lerins, only two are inhabited: Île Sainte-Marguerite and Île Saint-Honorat.  

Île de Saint-Honorat is better known for the monastery of Lérins, which was founded in 410. The monastery is still active, with the monks taking care of the complex and gardens.  

Île Sainte-Marguerite is renowned for one of its past ‘residents’  – the Man in the Iron Mask who was imprisoned on the island fortress. The man’s identity remains a secret to this day, and the story was made famous by Alexander Dumas in his D’Artagnan books. 

Visitors can bring their lunch to enjoy the islands’ secluded beaches and landscape or buy food from restaurants and shops. While the sightseeing of both islands can be done within a couple of hours, a full day is recommended for a more leisurely pace.

Suggested by Patricia | zewanderingfrogs.com

Nice Castle

View of Nice and the Castle in 1691. Public Domain

One of the top things to do in the French Riviera is to visit the 11th-century ruins of Nice Castle (Colline du Château), which stands high on a hilltop, 92 meters above the town. The panoramic view of Nice from the observation platform is amazing, and the great news is that you can reach the top by staircase or a lift cut in the rock face.

In the 4th century BC, there was a Greek settlement called Nikaia on the same spot. The castle was built there as the hilltop commands excellent defensive views over the Bay of Nice. A community grew up around the castle walls, but it was demolished in 1706 by King Louis XIV. The artificial waterfall was constructed at the end of the 19th century, with the observation just above. There are two cemeteries on the hillside – Jewish and Roman Catholic, and both contain many graves of famous people.

The climb up to Castle Hill is one of the top things to do in Nice. To climb Castle Hill, the staircase and elevator (ascenseur) can be found in the same place on Promenade de Anglais – there is no charge to use either.

Suggested by Chrysoula | twodaysinacity.com

So there you have it, our list of the best places to visit in the French Riviera, France, perfect for your next trip to Southern France. Which places in the French Riviera interest you most?

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