The French Riviera: 15 Must-Visit Vacation Spots

Enjoy captivating vistas, ancient villages and sparkling Mediterranean waters.

U.S. News & World Report

The French Riviera: 15 Must-Visit Vacation Spots

French Riviera vacation
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Experience memorable views of the Mediterranean and scenic coastal towns in the Cote d'Azur.

The French Riviera, or Cote d'Azur, is known for its captivating scenery, Provencal culture and cuisine, charming villages and overall joie de vivre. As one of the most alluring regions in France, it's the perfect destination for travelers in search of extraordinary food and wine combined with fascinating history and culture. This area along the southeast coast of Provence is where the Alps meet the Mediterranean, where the climate is moderate nearly year-round and where warm sunny days are cooled by sea breezes in the evenings.
Next:Nice
French Riviera vacation in Nice
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Nice

The capital of the French Riviera, Nice is one of the most recognized and liveliest cities on the Côte d'Azur. Take a stroll on the Promenade des Anglais and spend time wandering the historic Old Town, then head to Castle Hill for impressive views overlooking the city, harbor and the mountains. Art enthusiasts will appreciate the Chagall and Matisse museums and, of course, there's no limit to the luxury shopping, nightlife and world-class dining. Book a room at the iconic Hotel Le Negresco for an unforgettable stay.
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Experience memorable views of the Mediterranean and scenic coastal towns in the Cote d'Azur.

The French Riviera, or Cote d'Azur, is known for its captivating scenery, Provencal culture and cuisine, charming villages and overall joie de vivre. As one of the most alluring regions in France, it's the perfect destination for travelers in search of extraordinary food and wine combined with fascinating history and culture. This area along the southeast coast of Provence is where the Alps meet the Mediterranean, where the climate is moderate nearly year-round and where warm sunny days are cooled by sea breezes in the evenings.

Nice

The capital of the French Riviera, Nice is one of the most recognized and liveliest cities on the Côte d'Azur. Take a stroll on the Promenade des Anglais and spend time wandering the historic Old Town, then head to Castle Hill for impressive views overlooking the city, harbor and the mountains. Art enthusiasts will appreciate the Chagall and Matisse museums and, of course, there's no limit to the luxury shopping, nightlife and world-class dining. Book a room at the iconic Hotel Le Negresco for an unforgettable stay.

Eze

Just a short distance from Nice, Eze is not to be missed. This quaint, cobblestone street-filled village is perched overlooking a cliff thousands of feet above the Mediterranean. While here, visit the Jardin Botanique d'Èze, which is housed in a former medieval fortress, to experience incredible panoramas of the French Riviera. For a top-notch meal with a view, dine at Château Eza. Then, stay at the historic La Chèvre d'Or, where the balconies of the seaside rooms appear to sit suspended over the Mediterranean.

Villefranche-Sur-Mer

The colorful harbor of this picturesque village, with its brilliant coral hues and gold-toned buildings, is one of the most beautiful Niçoise fishing villages on the French Riviera. Villefranche sits on a hillside and the town's buildings seem to cascade down to the harbor. Wander through the narrow alleyways and cobblestone stairways comprising the village's old town (dating back to 130 B.C.) before visiting the 16th-century Saint-Elme Citadel, which offers views overlooking the Mediterranean. Afterward, enjoy people- and yacht-watching with an aperitif in hand at an outdoor cafe along the pier and harbor.

Saint-Paul de Vence

This picturesque medieval walled village sits atop a rocky hill, offering sweeping views of the French Prealps and the Mediterranean Sea. Its reputation as an artist's haven helped the destination attract several famous painters, including Marc Chagall, who is buried in the village's historic cemetery. You'll want to meander through Saint-Paul de Vence's narrow alleyways and stop at one of the village's many art studios and galleries, or shop for Provencal specialties. For a unique dining experience with vistas overlooking the valley, try La Brouette's Scandinavian-inspired cuisine.

Gourdon

To get to Gourdon, the journey starts with a scenic drive in the hills above the Côte d'Azur, through the winding, granite cliff-lined roadways of the Gorges du Loup. Then, travelers can stop for a break at Saut du Loup waterfall. The drive alone is worth the trip, but so is a visit to the impressively perched fortified village of Gourdon. You can wander the hilly streets, which feature beautifully preserved medieval white stone buildings, and tour the feudal castle with its sculptured gardens. Afterward, relax on the terrace at La Taverne Provencale to take in extraordinary views of the French Riviera.

Antibes

This famous resort destination, located between Nice and Cannes, is surrounded by fortified walls overlooking the sea. Visitors can stroll through the streets of the historic old town, then peruse the daily Marche Provencal. Shop for seasonal fresh produce, meats, seafood, olives and cheeses, and stick around for the craft market that features clothing, artwork and other handcrafted items. Antibes was also once home to Napoleon Bonaparte (he was imprisoned briefly here during the French Revolution at the star-shaped Fort Carré).

Vence

A charming town surrounded by ancient ramparts, Vence lies just north of Cagnes-sur-Mer. Travelers can explore the historic streets and visit the Cathedral of the Nativity of Saint Mary. The church dates back to the fourth century and houses a mosaic by renowned artist Marc Chagall. For a special treat, reserve a room at Château Saint-Martin & Spa. This elegant resort was formerly the 12th-century residence of the Knights Templar. You can enjoy cocktails on your balcony or breakfast on the terrace with panoramic views of the Côte d'Azur from Nice to Cannes.

Ramatuelle

This small commune built in the hills and surrounded by ramparts looks out over the Bay of Pampelonne. Located just 15 minutes from St-Tropez, it's the perfect locale for travelers wanting to be close to the famed Cote d'Azur town and escape to a small, quiet village at the end of the day. While here, take time to visit Volterra Castle and sample the AOC Côte de Provence wines at its vineyards. And if you can swing it, splurge on a stay at La Reserve Ramatuelle, a luxury resort overlooking the Mediterranean.

St-Tropez

This iconic seaside resort town, once known for its jet-set atmosphere, remains a tourism hot spot today. Walk along Vieux Port to get an eyeful of the extravagant yachts, and if you wake up early enough, you can catch the fishmongers at the daily fish market. And you won't want to miss the town's central square, Place des Lices for a step back in time. Watch as the locals play boule or pétanque, then sip a pastis at Les Café, one of the oldest restaurants in St-Tropez.

Port Grimaud

For a quick daytrip from St-Tropez, head about 7 miles west to this unique seaside town located on the Gulf of St-Tropez. Once an area filled with marshes and sand dunes, Port Grimaud was created in 1966 to resemble Venice with its manmade canals and waterways. Take a boat ride to admire the colorful Provencal-style houses with their ornate balconies in what's nicknamed the "Venice of Provence." Then, wander through the main square and stop for a café au lait in a sidewalk cafe.

Menton

This picturesque town sits against the backdrop of the Alpes Maritimes mountains. Located between Monaco and the Italian border, Menton is known for its subtropical microclimate and impressive gardens, such as the Fontana Rosa Garden and Maria Serena Villa Garden. The town is also home to La Citronneraie, a citrus grove which consists of 450 trees of the "Citron de Menton" variety. A good time to visit this beautiful town is from mid-February to early March, when the popular La Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival) takes place.

Cannes

Famed for its annual Cannes Film Festival, this swanky destination is synonymous with the rich and famous. Travelers can stroll along the main promenade, La Croisette, to soak in the local essence, sights and spectacular views of the coastline. Then, head one block north to Rue d'Antibes for an afternoon of shopping at the variety of boutiques. Cannes is also the perfect place to sip Champagne and enjoy lunch at an outdoor cafe. As for accommodations, consider a stay at the iconic Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic, where you can enjoy a dip in the pool or relax on the private beach.

Sainte-Maxime

A favorite vacation spot among families, Sainte-Maxime is protected from the winds by the Maures Mountains, creating a comfortable atmosphere on the Gulf of St-Tropez. The town is lauded for its beautiful Mediterranean beaches and plethora of water sports activities, including scuba diving (there are at least 60 dive sites to explore), Jet Skiing and parasailing. To take your adventures to the next level, head to the Pelagos Sanctuary to learn about preservation efforts of local mammals like bottlenose dolphins and pilot whales.

Fréjus

Founded by Julius Caesar in 49 B.C., this ancient city located between Sainte-Maxine and Cannes is a must-see for its impressive Roman ruins. Your first stop should be Forum Julii, a Roman ruins site that contains remains of an aqueduct, fortifications and an amphitheater dating back to the end of the first century. The city also houses the Cloître de la cathédrale de Fréjus, a medieval structure built between the fifth and 14th centuries that features unique painted ceilings and wooden beams.

Monaco

Perhaps the best known and most exciting destination on the Côte d'Azur, Monaco is a sovereign municipality bordering France. Plan to tour the many museums, the lush and exotic gardens and the historic monuments. Monaco is also an ideal home base for exploring surrounding towns in the south of France, such as Eze, La Turbie or Beaulieu-sur-Mer. Splurge on a stay at Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo, the famed Belle Epoque hotel where you can gaze at super yachts in the harbor and take in extraordinary views of the Mediterranean Sea.
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