Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
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Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
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 and Nice and the pretty cliffside villages of Eze and Saint-Paul-de-Vence, but there are many other gorgeous places to visit in the French Riviera with lesser crowds.
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 French Riviera places to visit. From French Riviera cities to natural gems, here’s the list of the best places to visit in French Riviera for any kind of traveler.
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: Nice Airport (NCE) is one of the main international airports in France and a good place to land if you don’t need to go to Paris. Omio 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 hotel price for all budgets. If you are looking for a unique French Riviera experience, check out this list of beautiful resorts in the French Riviera.
Car Rental: Discover Cars is a great site because it takes all of the major rental companies, such as Hertz, Avis, etc., and more, and compares prices for you. This helps ensure you get a great price without all the time and work. Check out this French Riviera road trip for inspiration and our best tips for renting a car in France.
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 also use it for short trips.
Best Places to Visit, French Riviera
If you’re wondering where to go in the French Riviera and what to do, this list of the best places to visit in French Riviera may give you some holiday inspiration. This list covers the must-visit places in French Riviera and some hidden gems.
1. Hyères Islands (Var)
The Iles d’Hyères (Hyères Islands) is one of the French Riviera best places to visit for a relaxing holiday. These French islands are off the city of Hyères at the extreme west of the French Riviera.
This archipelago of three main islands (Porquerolles, Port-Cros, and Le Levant) is famous for its mild climate and varied land, marine, and submarine landscapes. The three main islands are different and unique, and they fit all the holiday ideas.
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.
Several ferry companies travel to Porquerolles or Port-Cross from Toulon or Hyères. Although day trips are possible, why rush? Book a room in Porquerolles for a few days and take your time to explore the islands.
2. Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild (Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, Alpes-Maritimes)
Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is one of the best places to visit in the French Riviera for a cultural day. The villa sits in an enviable position above the turquoise waters of Saint Jean Cap Ferrat in the Alpes-Maritimes department. The villa 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, furniture, and 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 comprised 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
3. Saint-Paul-de-Vence (Alpes-Maritimes)
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. Over the years, this walled village has become famous for being a favorite haunt of artists such as Marc Chagall (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 back to the coast. Perfume lovers will also want to stop at Maison de Parfums Godet, on Rue Grande, which is picturesque and was a favorite of Henri Matisse’s muse.
Saint-Paul-de-Vence is one of the best places in French Riviera to visit. If you don’t have a car, this Provence countryside guided tour from Nice always gets the best ratings. – Suggested by Emma | emmajaneexplores.com
4. Château de la Napoule (Mandelieu-la-Napoule, Alpes-Maritimes)
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, suffering 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.
5. Gassin (Var)
The lovely town of Gassin is one of the best places in the French Riviera to escape the crowds. Close to the (much more) popular beach destination of Saint Tropez, the town is perched high up on a rock, only a few kilometers from the sea, and it offers the most incredible coastline views of the Gulf de St. Tropez in one direction and mountain views in the other. No wonder it is known as one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in France!”
Gassin became a fortified village at the end of the 15th century. Some of the town’s 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 only 29 centimeters at its narrowest point.
Wander and get lost in the scenic winding pedestrian-only streets. The ancient houses, 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 of gazing out onto the most incredible panoramic views – Suggested by Renee | dreamplanexperience.com
6. Èze Village (Alpes-Maritimes)
Èze Village is one of the must-visit places in French Riviera. Èze 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 top French Riviera destinations for foreign travelers, 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, cafés, 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 its gorgeous sea views.
The Église 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 by the sea, it can be reached by a steep 2km hike downhill, the Friedrich-Nietzsche pathway. – Suggested by Debbie | WorldAdventurists.com
7. The Rock of Roquebrune-sur-Argens (Var)
Le Rocher de Roquebrune is one of the best places to visit on the French Riviera for nature lovers. It 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 day 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
8. Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes)
Everyone should include Antibes in their list of French Riviera best places to visit, as it’s one of the best destinations to relax in France.
One of the best cities on the French Riviera, 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, eternally looking out to the 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 a 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
9. Plage des Sablettes (Menton, Alpes-Maritimes)
Menton is one of the top French Riviera destinations. This lovely town located close to the border with Italy on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea is a must-visit because it has beautiful architecture, an ideal location, great beaches, and a perfect climate. Therefore, people call it ‘the Pearl of France’!
Plage des Sablettes is the best beach in Menton and one of the most beautiful beaches on the French Riviera. It’s a quiet beach on the east side of the Old Port, with a mix of sand, pebbles, and gravel, and it offers a fantastic view of the Old Town. From here, you can gaze at all the pretty buildings painted with ochre colors while 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
10. Port de Fontvieille in Monaco (Principauté de Monaco)
Port de Fontvieille in Monaco is one of the best places to visit in the French Riviera. You can find the port south of the city-state, next to the Rock of Monaco. From the Rock of Monaco, you also have a fantastic view of the port and the Mediterranean Sea.
The port looks beautiful, and its origin is very interesting. The neighborhood in which it is located, Fontvieille, is made on reclaimed land and was constructed about 50 years ago. Fontvieille also hosts the Monaco Heliport, next to the port, from where helicopters leave for Nice Airport.
The beauty of Port de Fontvieille is one of the many reasons to visit Monaco, in addition to the fabulous beaches and the Monte Carlo casino. The port, with its many impressive boats, is very photogenic, and it makes for a pleasant stroll on a sunny day in Monaco. – Suggested by Dymphe | dymabroad.com
11. Lérins Islands (Cannes, Alpes-Maritimes)
The Lérins Islands is one of the lesser-known destinations on this list of best places to visit, French Riviera. Located off Cannes, the Lérins Islands are just a short boat ride away. Of 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 still 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 it is possible to visit both islands in a couple of hours, a full day is recommended for a more leisurely pace. If you are staying in Cannes, there are many fun ways to enjoy the islands, from a self-guided visit with transportation by regular ferry to a catamaran cruise with lunch – Suggested by Patricia | zewanderingfrogs.com
12. Nice Castle
One of the top things to do in the French Riviera is to visit the 11th-century ruins of Nice’s 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 a staircase or a lift cut into the rock face.
In the 4th century BC, there was a Greek settlement called Nikaia on this exact 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 hill’s 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 the Colline du Château is one of the top things to do in Nice. To climb the hill, the staircase and elevator 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, the ultimate list of the best places to visit in French Riviera, to inspire your next trip to Southern France. Which places in the French Riviera interest you most?