Everything is at it’s best in the French Riviera, or the Cote d’Azur as they call it in France. In the space between the urban sprawl and the glitz and glamour of Cannes, Nice, St Tropez and Monaco, lies the remarkable beauty of the hinterland and surrounding hills, the breathtaking views from atop the cliff-top roads, the miles of beaches with the impossibly blue water of the Mediterranean, and the perfectly picturesque villages that feel like they’ve leaped right off the pages of a storybook of fairy tales.
I’ve written about my time in the medieval village of Saint Jeannet, tucked away in the Nice hinterland, here and here, but I thought I’d put together my recommendations all in one place for anyone planning a trip to this gorgeous part of the world.
Where to stay
There are many accommodation options in the French Riviera, from exclusive 5-star hotels to budget-friendly hostels, there is something for every type of traveller or holiday-goer. Outside of the main cities, there are some truly spectacular seaside or hinterland towns well worth considering. Eze-Sur-Mer is a spectacular seaside town perched upon a dramatic mountain landscape between Nice and Monaco, with incredible sweeping views of the Mediterranean. Alternatively, there are numerous medieval villages in the hinterland that combine the comforts of countryside living with the convenient proximity to the modern world and city life. My top tip is to try out AirBnB for some truly amazing accommodation options unique to the region.
Things to see and do
The Cote d’Azur offers so much to see and do so this is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather some ideas to get you started!
- A walking tour of Nice: either self-guided or as part of a group, it’s a great way to get your bearings and don’t miss taking a leisurely walk along the Mediterranean
- Relax on the beach in St Tropez
- Combine a walking tour with a food tour in Nice
- Spend an afternoon wandering the medieval village of Saint Jeannet
- Cruise along the cliff-tops in the hinterland and marvel at the views
- Visit Monaco and Monte Carlo – if you are driving, go early to ensure you get a car park!
Places to eat
There is no shortage of great places to eat in the French Riviera, and there are a plethora of restaurants and cafes to suit most tastes. My sister and I didn’t eat out all that often during our time in the Cote d’Azur, preferring instead to cook our own meals using the amazing produce of the region we’d find at the local markets. This was a great way for us to stay within our travel budget, all while enjoying the tastes of the French Riviera.
The boulangeries (bakeries) were, however, a completely different story and we spared no expense sampling as many croissants and pain au chocolates as humanly possible! Make sure to try fresh baguette and croissants from the bakery (any bakery – we tried many and they were all equally as delicious) and leave room for a slice of tarte du pomme (apple tart) with ice cream. Delicious! You also can’t go wrong with a freshly made crepe (very thin pancake) from the street-side vendors in Nice, either, but make sure the crepe is freshly made to enjoy it to the fullest!
Public transport is very efficient and convenient if you want to explore the coastal towns and many inland towns and villages. The standard bus fare for anywhere within the Alpes Maritimes region is very reasonable too at the flat rate of one euro or two euros if you venture into the Var region. There are the trains too, with one of the biggest stations being in Nice and connecting the Riviera to many other French and European cities. If you to explore a little further than the bus/train routes, then hiring a car is the way to go. Cruising along the coastal highways and winding through the hinterland and Mediterranean hills in a rental car allowed us to see far more of the region than we would have otherwise so I can’t recommend this option enough. Just be sure to check whether you need an international driver’s licence first.
And there you have it! My mini travel guide to the Cote d’Azur. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below in the comments, and if you know of any spots you think I’ve missed, I’d love to hear!