French Riviera: the top 5 must-see cities

January 1, 1970

by Ayla André

Being someone who lived in Nice for a while, I am a suspect to say that this is one of the best places in the world, BUT, if you don’t believe me, I strongly recommend that you go see for yourself if I’m right. I can almost guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.

The French Riviera, or Côte d’Azur in French, is a region of France located by the Mediterranean Sea, in the southeast corner of the country. Its boundaries aren’t very determined but it extends all the way to the Italian border. It was first “discovered” by the British upper class in the 18th Century, who came to spend their summers, but, since then, it has been a refuge for a lot of famous artists, such as Brigitte Bardot, Elton John, Pablo Picasso and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

A lot of small cities compose this beautiful region by the beach. Here I intend to turn my focus to ones I liked the most and would indicate to someone who doesn’t have that much time, but if you do have a lot of time, I strongly recommend that you try to see as many as possible because they are all extremely lovely.

Nice: the capital city

Nice is the largest city in the region, it is also where the Nice Côte d’Azur airport is located, the main entrance to the French Riviera. This is where all the buses depart to the cities nearby and where most of the tourists choose to stay based because it has more options for hotels and restaurants.

The main thing to do in Nice is obviously going to the beaches! Beautiful pebble beaches, with clear blue waters, are just the thing you’ll find. They are located alongside all of Promenade des Anglais, and have a few options of restaurants by the sea (very pricey, of course).

Beach in Nice

Another must-see in Nice is the Old Town, a labyrinth of old buildings with a lot of souvenirs shops, restaurants, ice cream shops and markets. It can be a place to go at night (pretty much all of Nice’s nightlife is located there – be sure to check out Wayne’s Bar, if you want to party) or during the day for a nice walk.

Apart from that, Nice has a lot of museums, such as Marc Chagall National Museum, Musée Matisse, and Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nice, that have great collections of beautiful fine arts from some famous artists. Other than that, check out the Castle View and Tower Bellanda, sightseeing locations where you can see all of the city.

View of Nice from Tower Bellanda

Monaco: the country nearby

Monaco is a city-state located 20km from Nice. You can get there from Nice by bus (bus 100 leaving from Promenade des Arts every day, it costs 1,5 euros), by car, if you have rented one, or by train (leaving from Gare de Nice-Ville, costs about 5 euros).

In Monaco, the main attractions are Casino de Monte Carlo (you can get in for free, but you have to be well dressed – aka no beach clothes), Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, Place du Palais, where the Prince’s Castle is located, and the Grimaldi Forum. Monaco also has some beaches, but they are private. It is a very fancy city, where very wealthy people live, very beautiful to visit.

Casino Monte Carlo

Cannes: glamour by the sea

Cannes is the home of the Cannes Festival, that takes place every May and it fills the entire French Riviera with actors, film directors and producers, if you have the chance to be in the area around this period you can’t miss the opportunity to go to Cannes. From Nice, you can take the bus 200, that costs 1,5 euros, leaving from Jardin Albert 1er, or the train from Gare de Nice-Ville, that costs 5,30 euros. Note that during the festival, the roads are jammed, so if you want to take the bus, it’s better to leave early.

Other than that, Cannes has its beautiful beaches, a beautiful port, you can see the Palais des Festivals, where the actual festival happens, and also, some boat trips to islands nearby depart from Cannes, I didn’t take any of them but they seemed like they were worth it.

View of the Palais des Festivals during 2017 Cannes Festival

Antibes: a quiet paradise

Antibes is located between Nice and Cannes, you can go there taking the same bus as you take to get to Cannes, but descending from the bus at the stop named Dir. Chaudon, it costs 1,5 euros too, and you can also take the train, but I don’t know how much it costs.

In Antibes, look up Plage de la Gravette, the most famous and the best beach, also the Marché Provençal, a traditional market in the outdoors that sells fruit, vegetables, some macarons and other French food that I love!

Another must-see in Antibes is Musée Picasso, it is located in a castle and it has a lot of his artwork from when he lived in Antibes. It has a beautiful view and some very interesting artwork.

The view from the balcony at Musée Picasso

Saint Paul de Vence: a medieval reminiscence

This very tiny city is located in the countryside, to get there from Nice you have to take the bus 40o, leaving from Jardin Albert 1er, costing 1,5 euros. For Saint Paul, there are no train options available, the city doesn’t have a train station (that’s how tiny it is!).

Basically, Saint Paul is a medieval village that is very well preserved, it is a labyrinth of alleys with shops of all kinds, clothes, souvenirs and art galleries (a lot of them!). It also has a cemetery, where Marc Chagall is buried, that has a beautiful view (the city is located in a kind of mountain).

An alley in Saint Paul de Vence

This city worth the trip only for its dazzling views and streets, you feel like you are actually in the medieval times!

In my opinion, a trip to the French Riviera is one that you have to take at least once in your life, and I can’t wait to go back there again!

Some other cities that are with checking out if you have time:

  • Menton: the last city in France
  • Grasse: a perfume wonderland
  • Saint Jean de Cap Ferrat: beaches worth spending time in (it’s where the feature image of this article was taken – Place Paloma)
  • Èze: another medieval city by the sea
  • Saint-Tropez: the famous one (I haven’t been there because it’s hard to go if you don’t have a car, but if you do have the chance, I’m pretty sure the trip is worth it)
Ayla André

By Ayla André

Big heart, big plans.


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