The glitz and glamor of France’s Mediterranean coastline (known as the Côte d’Azur in French) is rivaled by few other places on the globe. From the giant yachts of St.-Tropez to the uber high-end resorts of Monaco and the star-studded Cannes film festival, the French Riviera is known for its pristine blue waters, warm weather, high rollers and crowded beach towns. However, this area, while expensive and overly crowded in the summer, is famous for a reason – it’s beautiful, it’s chic, and it’s a got great weather and even better food. And, while there is definitely no place to totally avoid people and high prices, there are some great lesser-known yet equally beautiful destinations on this spectacular region of France.
Since the days when Brigitte Bardot frequented the beaches of St.-Tropez, the town has become an international tourist Mecca and star magnet. Although the town is mostly known for its famous and wealthy guests, the port city does have a lot to offer visitors in terms of activities and sites. The city has great people (and yacht) watching. You can sit at a sidewalk café in the Old Port and watch as tourists, Parisian jet-setters, and international playboys cruise by. You can also watch the huge yachts line up in the port, where the rich and famous dress in their finest and dine on deck at night. The best time to visit this glitzy port town, however, is in the off-months (not summer), when you can appreciate the true nature of Saint-Tropez without the throngs of tourists.
This ethnically diverse large city on the French Riviera is a popular tourist destination for young and old, rich and, well, not so rich. While most of the beaches consist of stones, taking a swim in the azure Mediterranean waters is still popular among residents and visitors here. Also, because Nice is a major port city in France, there is an abundance of great shopping, fresh seafood, fine restaurants and plenty of things to do.
If you want to make Nice your base in the French Riviera, check out these posts for more information:
- Cheap flights to Nice
- Budget airlines that fly to Nice
- How to get from Paris to Nice
- Day trips from Nice
- Nice Cemeteries
- Carnaval in Nice
- Cheap hotels in Nice
- Hotels near the Promenade des Anglais in Nice
As the third largest city if France, Marseille is definitely not the quaint beach town many picture when they envision the French Riviera. The city is also notoriously diverse because of its location. Once the destination for immigrants from Italy and Spain, the city is now home to many people coming from Northern Africa and Turkey. Marseille has a lot to offer visitors from the colorful and unique markets, scenic calanques, delicious seafood and busy shopping districts.
More information about Marseille:
Located close to the Italian border, this lovely port town is almost as much Italian as it is French. The town has its own micro-climate, which is milder than the rest of the French Riviera, and is perfect for the plants grown in the town’s many famous gardens. The sedate resort also is pedestrian friendly, which makes the city a great stop for tourists traveling the Riviera. It also hosts a lemon festival every February, with live music and citrus-themed decorations (and food, and drinks) all over the city.
Known throughout the world for its famous and influential international film festival, Cannes is synonymous with glitz and glamour. While you will usually have to fork over about 30 euros to use one of the private beaches in Cannes, there are a few free attractions. Travelers can admire the fancy yachts in the harbor, check out the Palais des Festivales where the film festival takes place every year, stroll the winding narrow streets of the Old Town, or visit the two islands in the bay off the coast.
Once the home of and inspiration for Picasso, Antibes is now a favorite destination for vacationing French families. It is a beautiful town known for its great beaches and hilly coastline. In the evenings, everyone is town seems to flood the many outdoor restaurants at the old port. You can relax on the beach, visit the Picasso Museum and shop in the provincial covered market for fresh vegetables, meat, fish and cheese.
Known for its cliffs dropping into the ocean and sheltered inlets, this charming port town is a great place to stop along France’s Mediterranean coast. Cassis tends to be less crowded and less expensive than Saint-Tropez and Cannes, all while being just as (if not more) picturesque. The pastel colored buildings, scenic cliffs, beautiful beach and excellent local wines make this seaside town a must-see on the Côte d’Azur.
Weather in the French Riviera
The weather in the French Riviera has a mild Mediterranean climate. It’s neither cold in the winter neither too hot in the summer. Although cold winds (the Mistral) can blow through the Riviera in the winter, the mountains by the coast usually protect the harbor towns. Summer is warm and sunny, with the average temperature usually hovering around 80 degrees.
- Check out the weather in France
- What to wear in France in the summer
- What to wear in France in the winter
Eating and Drinking in the French Riviera
The French Riviera has an abundance of traditional seafood dishes that every visitor should indulge in. You can taste the famous Marseille bouillabaisse, a delicious stew with a variety of shellfish, fish, herbs and spices. On a hot day, cool down with a Salade Niçoise, with combines tomatoes, anchovies, green beans, tuna, new potatoes, hard-boiled eggs and other vegetables over a bed of crispy lettuce. The drink of choice in this glamorous region? Champagne from up north, but of course. But pastis, kir made with creme de Cassis, and a nice chilled rose wine is always welcomed at tables and dinner parties all over the region.
Want more information about the French Riviera? Check out these posts:
Quick search for flights to Nice (NCE) and Marseille (MRS) from Paris (CDG) and London (LON):