12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions on the Côte d'Azur
The stylish and scenic strip of coastline called the Côte d'Azur stretches from Saint-Tropez to Menton near the border with Italy. Also known as the French Riviera, the Côte d'Azur translates to "Coast of Blue," taking its name from the deep azure-blue color of the Mediterranean Sea. This glamorous vacation destination buzzes with energy during the tourist season and is known as a playground for the rich and famous who have lavish vacation villas on the coast and impressive yachts docked in the harbors. Private beaches, high-end restaurants, and five-star hotels reinforce the image of seaside elegance and prestige. Whether basking under a cabana in Cannes, setting sail from the port of Monaco, or people-watching on the boulevards of Nice, visitors will delight in the pleasures and the beauty of the French Riviera.
1 Promenade des Anglais, Nice
With its scenic seaside location, balmy weather, and charming Mediterranean character, Nice is the quintessential French Riviera resort town. The most famous street in Nice is the Promenade des Anglais, a gorgeous pedestrian area that follows the curve of the Baie des Anges beaches. Since the Belle Epoque, the promenade has been graced by opulent buildings such as the Palais de la Méditerranée theater and the exquisite Villa Masséna (65 Rue de France), once the home of a Princess. The Villa Masséna is open to visitors and houses a museum of art and history. The villa is surrounded by beautiful landscaping including formal French gardens. Besides sunbathing on the beaches and strolling, rollerblading, or cycling along the promenade, there are many cultural and historic attractions nearby. The Cours Saleya has a colorful market in the traditional Provençal style. Held daily, except Mondays, the market offers local artisan food products and flowers. Another top attraction in Nice, the Jardin Albert I, is within easy walking distance of the Promenade des Anglais. This expansive garden was one of Nice's first public parks. In typical Mediterranean style, the park features towering palm trees and monumental fountains.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Nice
A stylish seaside resort that draws tourists from all over the world, Saint-Tropez was once just a humble fishing village. The town was made fashionable by the famous actress Brigitte Bardot in the 1950s when she was filming on location here. Saint-Tropez's small-town feel and lush Mediterranean scenery easily charms its visitors. The historic village offers an appealing old-world ambience of cobblestone streets, outdoor cafés, and pleasant shady squares, whIle the picturesque harbor is filled with luxury yachts that belong to the jet-setting crowd drawn to the glitz and glamour. However, despite the fancy restaurants and fashion boutiques, there's still an authentic Provençal atmosphere in Saint Tropez. Visitors will see elderly French men playing pétanque, families taking their evening stroll, and locals artists selling their paintings at the markets and along the port. Saint-Tropez is an enjoyable place to explore with a relaxing beach-town vibe and many fun tourist activities. Visitors relish basking in the sunshine by the seaside and taking unhurried walks by the coast or in the village without any particular itinerary. In Saint-Tropez, the lovely setting and the chic ambience are the main attractions.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Saint-Tropez
3 Cannes Beaches
During the summer months, colorful parasols line the sandy beaches of Cannes, and beach lovers soak up the sun in classic French Riviera style. Most of the popular beaches in Cannes are found right off La Croisette Boulevard, the city's elegant main street. While Cannes is prized for its exclusivity and upscale private beaches, there are also municipal beaches that charge only a small fee (Macé Beach and Zamenhof Beach, both sandy beaches with shallow waters), as well as public beaches that offer free entry: Gazagnaire Beach, which is good for swimming; La Casino Beach with a long, wide stretch of fine golden sand; the uncrowded La Bocca Beach; and Mouré Rouge Beach, which is a favorite among locals. Most of the beaches have parasols and lounge chairs available to rent. Many beaches also have snack bars and lifeguards on duty during the high season. To truly savor the luxurious Côte d'Azur lifestyle, visitors should indulge in seaside dining at one of the enticing gourmet restaurants or stylish cafés along the Cannes beachfront.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cannes
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- 14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Cannes
Renowned for its prestigious yacht race and sublime natural scenery, Monaco has a special status on the Côte d'Azur. This small coastal city is its own principality with a royal family, epitomizing the glamour of the French Riviera. The palace of the royal family is located on what is fondly called the "Rock of Monaco," the site of a fortress built by the Genoese in 1215. Tourists may visit the Palais Princier (royal palace) to discover its treasures: a monumental Carrara marble staircase; precious 15th-century frescoes depicting mythological scenes; the Mazarin room, covered with ornate wood paneling; and the Throne Room, with its majestic Renaissance fireplace. Other cultural highlights in Monaco include the cathedral; the Chapelle de la Visitation, which houses a museum of religious art; and the Oceanographic Museum with an outstanding aquarium. In an amazing spot overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, the Jardin Exotique (Exotic Garden) wows visitors with its awe-inspiring landscape design and stunning views. More jaw-dropping panoramas are found along the Corniche. This dramatic cliffside road follows a winding route, with glorious vistas of the Mediterranean at every turn. Another must-see sight is Monaco's emblematic harbor, filled with luxury yachts. The harbor is also the launching point of the Bateau Bus (water taxi), offering locals and tourists transportation around the Monaco port.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Monaco
5 Hilltop Village of Eze
A picturesque "village perché," Eze is a gem of the Côte d'Azur. This charming medieval village lies on a steep hilltop high above the Mediterranean Sea, with sweeping panoramas of the Cap-Ferrat coastline. Wandering the narrow cobblestone streets of the village leads to wonderful discoveries such as small art galleries, interesting artisan boutiques, and beautiful sea views. One of the attractions of Eze is a property called La Chevre d'Or, which is a luxury hotel housed in a 14th-century chateau. The hotel occupies several buildings within the heart of the medieval village and has a Michelin-starred restaurant. The property also has an exquisite garden filled with roses, shady trees, fountains, and art installations. A few steps away is the Fragonard Perfume Museum, open to the public for tours. For those who enjoy nature walks and hiking, a scenic trail begins near the Fragonard Museum, continues down the hillside, and leads to the beach. The village also has a lovely 12th-century church with an elegant neo-classical facade from the 18th century. At the very top of the Eze hillside is the spectacular Exotic Gardens with a breathtaking outlook. On a clear day, visitors can take in 180-degree views of the coastline all the way from Italy to Saint-Tropez.
6 Ephrussi de Rothschild Villa and Gardens, Cap-Ferrat
Between Nice and Monaco, the Cap-Ferrat is a narrow peninsula with serene seaside scenery. The coastline is dotted with fancy villas and vacation homes, although visitors rarely have a chance to see past the gated entryways. One remarkable villa that's open to the public is the Rothschild Villa built for Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild, the daughter of the wealthy banker Baron Alphonse de Rothschild. Upon inheriting her father's enormous fortune in 1095, Béatrice created an incomparable residence in a sublime setting on the tip of the Cap-Ferrat. The villa was designed in the style of an Italian palazzo, with a facade of delicate pastel pink. Béatrice's exceptional taste is revealed throughout the interior and especially in the Grand Salon with its Louis XVI furnishings and sumptuous floral-motif decor. After touring the villa's interior, visitors should leave plenty of time to explore the grounds. Wandering around the villa's magnificent gardens is one of the most fabulous things to do while visiting this area of the Côte d'Azur. The nine distinct gardens include a formal French Garden, with musical fountains; a Spanish Garden, with trellised patios; a Rose Garden, with dozens of floral varieties; and a Japanese Garden featuring a traditional pavilion, wooden bridge, and fish pond.
The sunny village of Menton boasts a sensational location (the closest town on the French Riviera to Italy) with a mild climate year-round. The warm weather allows vibrant flowers and citrus fruits to flourish. In this lush Mediterranean environment, Menton's Old Town has a distinctive Italian influence. Visitors can begin a tour along the Rue des Logettes and the narrow Rue Longue, passing the town's ancient fortifications. A flight of steps (Rampes de Saint Michel) leads up to the Place de la Conception terrace with marvelous views of the sea. On the left stands the 17th-century Parish Church of Saint Michel with a winged altar created by Manchello in 1569. Farther up is the Chapel of the Conception, built in 1685 in the Italian Jesuit style. For those in search of seaside relaxation, the Plage des Sablettes (beach) is ideal for sunbathing or taking a dip in the calm, temperate waters. The village also has two must-see museums: the Musée des Beaux Arts featuring works by Chagall, Dali, Dufy, and Picasso among others, and the Musée Jean Cocteau (at Menton's harbor), which displays hundreds of pieces painted by Jean Cocteau, who created many noteworthy art works here during the 1950s.
Another highlight of Menton is its splendid gardens, including the Jardin Biovès, filled with sculptures, fountains, exotic trees, and flowering plants and the Jardin Serre de la Madone, renowned for its reflecting pools and terraces landscaped with exotic plants. The Jardin Exotique Val Rahmeh also boasts a wide variety of palm trees and tropical plants including avocado, banana, and papaya trees.
8 Cannes Film Festival
The ultimate event of the French Riviera calendar, this glamorous festival draws movie stars, movie producers, and other film professionals. WhIle the actors and actresses strut the red carpet, locals and visitors watch as the scene unfolds at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. This state-of-the-art building has high-tech sound and lighting systems designed just for this event. The prestigious film festival is widely attended by cinema industry professionals and is well known for recognizing new
cinema talent. It is always exciting to find out who wins the Palme d'Or and Grand Prix awards. During the festival, the city of Cannes posts giant billboards throughout the city, paying tribute to international stars and famous film legends.
9 Antibes Beaches
The beach scene on Antibes is legendary, and sun-worshipping tourists have many choices, from large public beaches to private beaches with seaside restaurants. The village of Antibes has two main areas along the coast: the Cap d'Antibes peninsula and Juan-les-Pins. Perfect for sunbathing, the beaches of Antibes are renowned for their pristine nature and sandy shores. The coastline also offers scenic pathways, such as the Chemin des Douaniers, that are ideal for hiking or a leisurely walk. Juan-les-Pins was named after the groves of pine trees that flourish in this region. For those who enjoy excellent French cuisine, the Antibes and Juan-les-Pins area has many fine-dining establishments and chic bistros with outdoor terraces.
10 Beaulieu-sur-Mer and Villefranche-sur-Mer
Closer than 10 kilometers (under a 30-minute drive) from Nice are two quaint seaside villages: Villefranche-sur-Mer, with a cheerful harbor, and Beaulieu-sur-Mer, an idyllic vacation resort. In a lush Mediterranean environment of palm trees and vibrant flowers, Villefranche-sur-Mer delights visitors with its colorful waterfront buildings and Italianate Baroque church. The town is also prized for a small chapel, the Chapelle de Saint Pierre des Pecheurs, with an interior decorated by Jean Cocteau. Just four kilometers away from Villefranche-sur-Mer, Beaulieu-sur-Mer is worth visiting to see the Villa Grecque Kérylos. This stately waterfront villa is a close replica of an ancient Greek nobleman's house (circa 2nd-century BC), complete with decor and furnishings based on items found at archaeological sites.
11 Ile de Porquerolles
With gentle turquoise waters lapping against its soft sandy shores, the Ile de Porquerolles has a dreamy, tropical feel. Although it's only a 10-minute boat ride from the French Riviera coastline, Porquerolles Island gives the impression of being much farther away. The northern side of the island has fantastic beaches, while the southern side features steep cliffs and secluded hiking trails alongside creeks. Other popular activities during summertime are sailing, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Nestled in the center of the island is the little village of Porquerolles, with a wide selection of hotels and restaurants. To arrive at the Ile de Porquerolles, take a shuttle boat from Hyères (about a one-hour drive from Saint-Tropez or less than a 30-minute drive from Toulon.)
12 Jazz à Juan Festival
Another highlight of visiting Antibes is the Jazz à Juan Festival that takes place every July. Set in a spectacular outdoor setting, the highly regarded international festival draws world-class talent including famous performers and up-and-coming new artists.