This time around, why don’t you go off the beaten path and explore France beyond Paris and the best place to do it in is the French Riviera. The fact that it is one of the most popular resort areas in the world only begins to explain why no trip to France is complete without it.
The French name for the Riviera is Côte d’Azur – by the side of the blue. Extending along the Mediterranean Sea from near the border between France and Italy, it includes some of the most famous cities of France like Nice, Cannes, Monte Carlo and Saint-Tropez among others.
With the summers never too hot and the winters never too cold there is never a bad time to visit the French Riviera. Such is the beauty of the place that its vivid natural colors inspired some of the most important painters of all time to copy them on to their canvas. Cézanne painted at L’Estaque, Marseille, Munch at Nice and Monte Carlo, and Renoir’s house in Cagnes-sur-Mer is a museum now. Some of the most beautiful seascapes painted of the blue Mediterranean are by Claude Monet. Picasso found only the summers that he spent here for twenty years too little and settled down in the Riviera to live his final years.
This part of the world is also sometimes called ‘the playground of the rich and famous’ with good reason. Here, at any time of the year, you are sure to find celebrities from various walks of life, partying their expensive troubles away.
Cannes is situated in southeastern France. A part of the Provence-Alpes- Côte d’Azur, its most popular event is the Cannes Film Festival usually held in the month of May every year. Luxury hotels, prestigious stores, sprawling mansions and gated communities dot the landscape. Le Suquet is the Old Town of Cannes and a great vantage point for the beautiful waterfront avenue of La Croisette. Lined with beaches and beach front restaurants this is the perfect place for chilling out southern France style. Artifacts, all the way from the prehistoric period to the present are exhibited in the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Provence, a converted eighteenth century mansion. Some great Mayan and Peruvian relics are displayed at the Musée de la Castre.
The fortified tower of St. Anne provides a stunning panorama of the sea coast and the beautiful city while the Chapel of St. Anne houses an impressive museum dedicated to archaeological finds and antiques along with art. Mediterranean artifacts from old civilizations like the Greek, Roman and Egyptian civilizations compete with stunning recreations of the nineteenth century Cannes landscape. St. Marguerite’s island and Îles de Lérins are popular tourist destinations for their famous resident, the mysterious Man in the Iron Mask. The eleventh century monastery that sleeps in ruins today, the stark church, the Cistercian monks and the red and white wine in production here are only a few reasons why tourists visit the tiny St. Honorat Island. A favorite pastime is a drive through the streets looking at the magnificent old villas in the city.
Situated between Marseille in France and Genoa in Italy, Nice is one of the most popular resort towns on the French Riviera. The Promenade des Anglais or the ‘Promenade of the English’ along the Mediterranean bay is so named because it was first proposed by the rich Englishmen who vacationed here in the second half of the eighteenth century. The Port of Nice is one of the busiest in France and of historical importance. The bird’s eye view from the Colline du Château or Castle Hill is nothing short of breathtaking. The Pedestrian Zone in the downtown area of Nice has great restaurants, cafes and shops in a truly serene setting. Several museums add to the extensive list of attractions in this city.
Spelt locally as Sant-Tropetz, Saint-Tropez is a historic city on the French Riviera that derives its name from Saint Tropes, a semi-legendary martyr. Pre-1914 Saint-Tropez was France’s main commercial port. The Musée de l’Annonciade or the Annunciation Museum is housed in a chapel that dates back to the sixteenth century. Within the museum are displayed works of artists who painted in this city. The list includes big names like Paul Signac and Matisse. A regatta held annually in October attracts yachts and sailors and tourists in large numbers. Lovely St Tropez beaches offer everything from sunbathing and tanning to the more adventurous windsurfing, canoeing and sailing. Les Caves is one of the most high-visibility hangouts in Saint-Tropez and a great place to catch a glimpse of celebrities.
These cities are just examples that go to prove the point of this blog- the French Riviera completes a trip to France. But there are some attractions that are not a part of France but are considered to be a part of the French Riviera. Monaco is one such city that, though not a part of the European Union, has close links with France via a customs union. The second smallest country in Europe, its only attraction is not in being a tax haven. Home to the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix and to the most famous casinos anywhere in the world Monaco has long been the preferred holiday destination of the rich and famous.
Top 10 French Riviera Hotels :
- Hotel Le Montaigne – Cannes – 4-star hotel – double from €90
- Hotel Villa Les Cygnes – Nice – Guest House – double from €100
- Hotel Juana – Juan-Les-Pins – 4-star hotel – double from €144
- Hotel Napoléon – Menton – 3-star hotel – double from €94
- Hotel Les Capucines – Saint-Tropez – 3-star hotel – double from €120
- Hotel Le Méditerranée – Hyères – 2-star hotel – double from €55
- Hotel du Golf de Valescure – Saint-Raphaël – 4-star hotel – double from €115
- Best Western Hotel Montfleuri - Sainte-Maxime – 3-star hotel – double from €45
- Hotel Espadon – Le Lavandou – 3-star hotel – double from €66
- Hotel Cap Riviera – Fréjus – 2-star hotel – double from €54
Photo of blue chairs and sandy beach in Nice, France, by Olivier Bareau