Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
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Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
Located in the South of France, the French Riviera is a region that simply oozes luxury and decadence, simultaneously boasting exceptional natural beauty and cultural and historical heritage.
Extending from Toulon in the west to Menton in the east, right on the French-Italian border, Côte d’Azur – the region’s traditional French name – is home to a mixture of quaint towns and villages full of character and vibrant social and cultural cities, as well as stupendously wealthy people with their yachts and other million-dollar toys.
To enjoy an authentic and well-rounded experience of the region, you need to visit multiple cities on the French Riviera and immerse yourself in the diversity of culture and heritage from one city to the next.
Beautiful French Riviera Cities to Visit
Here are the best French Riviera cities to visit while you’re exploring the south of France. Most of them are listed on the top of the must places to visit in French Riviera.
Arguably one of the most beautiful cities in France and the most famous city in France after Paris, Nice is the capital of the French Riviera, and it’s home to the second most important airport in the country, which explains why the city is often referred to as the “gateway to the Côte d’Azur.” Thus, Nice is an excellent location from which to start a fun road trip on the French Riviera and enjoy a genuine introduction to the region as a whole.
Nice is an astoundingly diverse destination, offering visitors the opportunity to experience incredible natural scenery, a phenomenal depth of vibrant culture, and fascinating heritage. It’s known for its picturesque coastline (including the Promenade des Anglais), and soaking up the sun on the pebbly beaches is a must. The city also hosts several important cultural festivals – including the Carnaval de Nice – and is known for its unusual Italian-Franco style of cuisine. Nice has a rich historical and cultural heritage, and visiting the Old Town district and Cimiez will give visitors some insight into how Nice came to be the eclectic city that it is today.
The list of fun things to do in Nice includes:
- Explore Old Nice
- A stroll through the Promenade des Anglais
- Nice Sightseeing Bus
- The Castle Hill
- Cimiez Hill
- Musée National du Sport
- Matisse Museum
- Chagall Museum
- Nice Food Tour
- Boat Rental in Nice (with or without a skipper)
Easily one of the best places to visit in southern France to experience fame and prestige, Cannes is most well-known for hosting the Cannes Film Festival – one of the biggest media events in the world. Every May, new films across a variety of genres are previewed among the most influential names in the industry, and the city is alive with excitement as visitors revel in glitz and glamor during the week-long festival.
One of the best cities on the French Riviera, Cannes also boasts a special kind of intimate charm that’ll capture your heart when you visit the Suquet district. Suquet used to be a fishing village, and today, it’s where you can learn about the city’s multi-faceted history and rich heritage. Stroll down Meynadier Street, wander through Forville Market, visit La Croisette, and finally, make sure you pop into the Old Port – the place where yachts and fishing boats share a harbor and Cannes’ two worlds collide.
The list of fun things to do in Cannes includes:
- Cannes walking tour
- Promenade through Boulevard de la Croisette
- Cannes food tour
- La Croix des Gardes Park
- Sunset drink at the Old Port
- Notre Dame d’Espérance Church
- Medieval Castle – Musée de la Castre
- Half-day Catamaran Cruise with lunch
- Boat rental in Cannes (with or without a skipper)
Antibes, a city teeming with hidden gems and scenic vistas, is one of the best French Riviera cities from which to explore the western part of the Côte d’Azur. Unlike several other cities in the French Riviera, particularly Nice and Cannes, Antibes is the ideal location on the southern French coast to simply relax and enjoy views of the Alpes-Maritimes and the crisp, cerulean sea. Free of pomp and extravagance, Antibes is far more down to earth than its neighbors in the east.
Wander the city’s narrow streets and witness a simple, slow-paced way of life – make sure to explore the Marché Provençal, a famous market in Antibes renowned for its fresh fruit, vegetables, cheeses, and other delightful local products.
Furthermore, Antibes, once the Greek town of Antipolis, is steeped in history and was an important trading post for the Greeks as far back as the 5th century BC – today, its history is just waiting to be explored, in the form of ancient castles and buildings, as well as museums and the historic Old Town.
The list of fun things to do in Antibes includes:
- The Old Town
- Antibes Sightseeing Bus
- Picasso Museum in medieval Château Grimaldi
- Antibes beaches
- Marché Provençal
- Chemin des Douaniers, a 3.7km-seafront walk
- Archaeology Museum in the Bastion Saint-André
- Boat rental in Antibes (with or without a skipper)
Enjoy the seaside city of Menton at just about any time of year, and you’ll be treated to oodles of sunshine and fabulous weather. Menton boasts the most consistently warm weather of all of the French Riviera cities due to its unique microclimate – so unique that early British botanists planted varieties upon varieties of different plant species that have thrived, resulting in some of the most exquisite gardens in the country today.
One of the most popular day trips from Nice, Menton is a destination in itself, and you will have plenty of things to see and do if you decide to spend one night or two in Menton.
If you’re visiting in February, make sure you’re there to experience the annual Lemon Festival – a traditional celebration of the region’s premium lemons and citrus. Menton’s Lemon Festival is a wonderful reflection of the city and all that it is. Don’t forget to soak up the rays at Plage De Fossan and Plage De Forrigo, two of the best beaches in the whole of the French Riviera.
The list of fun things to do in Menton includes:
- Old Town
- Gardens of Menton
- Basilica of Saint-Michel Archange
- Musée Jean Cocteau-Le Bastion
- Cemetery du Vieux Château
- Les Halles Market
- Boat rental in Menton (with or without a skipper)
5. Monte Carlo
One of the four regions of Monaco – an independent, sovereign, micro-city state on the French Riviera – Monte Carlo is a wealthy city that has long since attracted hordes of tourists to its world-renowned casino and other attractions. Steeped in centuries worth of Grimaldi aristocratic history and heritage, Monte Carlo’s economy was revived by the establishment of its casino in the 19th century, allowing it to become a playground for the rich and famous, as it’s known today.
One of the best cities in the French Riviera for a good combination of exciting things to do and beautiful and fascinating places to see, Monte Carlo is home to the world-famous Monaco Formula Grand Prix. In addition, it features stunning medieval villages and natural attractions, including beaches like Larvotto Beach and awe-inspiring views of the Alps.
In general, hotels and restaurants are more expensive than in other cities on the French Riviera. To save money, you can visit Monaco on a day trip from Nice.
The list of fun things to do in Monte Carlo includes:
- Hidden Gems of Monaco and Monte Carlo walking tour
- Monte Carlo Sightseeing Bus
- Palace of Monte Carlo
- Casino of Monte Carlo
- Monaco Cathedral
- Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium
- Exotic Garden
- Monaco F1 Track walking tour
- Boat rental in Monte Carlo (with or without a skipper)
A popular holiday destination in the southeastern part of the French Riviera, Saint-Raphael is a seaside city with a plethora of pristine beaches and a pretty little harbor. Saint-Raphael is, arguably, one of the best French Riviera cities to visit if you’re planning on spending your time enjoying oceanside leisure activities and simply soaking up the glorious Mediterranean lifestyle.
Boasting over 35 km of coastline, the city is home to at least 30 different beaches, and it boasts a lively atmosphere, especially in the summer. Saint-Raphael is also conveniently located, only about 13 km away from both Cannes and Saint-Tropez.
The list of fun things to do in Saint-Raphael includes:
- Basilique Notre-Dame
- Admire the view from the top of Tour San Rafeu
- Hike the Sentier du Littoral
- Swimming and snorkeling
- Rent a boat with or without a skipper
- Jardin Bonaparte and Jardin de l’Ile Verte
- Boat rental in Saint-Raphael (with or without a skipper)
And there you have it, the list of the best cities on the French Riviera to visit this year. Now all you need to do is decide which French Riviera cities you will visit on your next trip to France (but we suggest doing them all!)