French Riviera Travel Guide

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Côte d’Azur


Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief, floating amongst Nice’s clattering casinos. Sophia Loren, flirting her way through Cannes. Paris Hilton, yacht-hopping between galas and over-the-top nightclubs. The French Riviera has a reputation for attracting the most glittering and conspicuous of celebrities, having been the playground of artists and aristocrats since the railways opened up this once-sleepy coastline in the 1800s.

Boasting 300 days of sunshine every year, this rather blessed little section of France between Marseille in the west and the Italian border in the east is so much more than its reputation for effortless consumption. Beneath all the hedonistic glitz lies an undulating décolletage of coastline skimming along the top of the warm waters of the Mediterranean, in turn spectacularly dramatic and craggy, and punctuated by either sandy or pebbled beaches and intimate coves. The sea ports of Nice and Marseilles were not always so high-brow – on the contrary, as many a sailor can attest – but they also carry with them a rich culinary tradition, rigidly defined in some cases (such as the nationally defended bouillabaisse). The rustic, homely cuisine still served up in tiny restaurants is often the result of recipes carried on through generations, and it is a true privilege to taste this history – one could say, at least as much privilege as you’d experience sunning yourself in the most expensive parts of the Cote d’Azur.

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While there are as many diversions on the Cote d’Azur as there are fish in the warm Mediterranean Sea, a few stand out as perfect tastes of what the region is all about. From secluded swimming to fragrant perfumes, sky-high views or superstar glimpses, it’s hard not to fall in love with the Riviera.

Mansion-watch in Cap Ferrat

When it comes to millionaires per hectare, it’s a roll of the dice between Monaco and Cap Ferrat. We hear that everyone from Andrew Lloyd Webber to Putin own homes in these spectacular streets, but don’t go peering over fences. Head for the open-to-all Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild for one of the country’s best examples of richesse (don’t miss the musical fountains).

Get out in the gardens

Some of the region’s most awe-inspiring views come from specialised gardens along the coast. The Jardin Exotique in Monaco gives a near-aerial view of the principality, plus the world’s largest cactus collection and a bizarre grotto. The Eze version’s views soar above the entire coastline. Menton’s Val Rameh and Serre de la Madone offer everything from terraces and pergolas to exotic species.

Follow your nose to the perfume capital

Take a tour of any of Grasse’s three perfume factories (Fragonard, Molinard and Galimard) and bring home some rare fragrances from the gift shops. You can craft your own fragrance, enjoy the jasmine flower festival every August, and pop into the International Perfume Museum to pick up the scent of an interesting history.

Get medieval

The maze of cobbled streets of Eze transport you to another time and another world, and visitors consistently rave about their dreamlike quality. But those visitors do number in the thousands – venture off the beaten track, too, to the vehicle-free streets of the perched village of Peillon, clinging to a rocky peak 20 kilometres from Nice.  

Go movie-star mad

Do you really think we could skip the Cote d’Azur’s most famous festival? More Hollywood than Hollywood, Cannes’ Film Festival gives both movie stars and everyday visitors the chance to frock up, step out and party down, sometimes literally rubbing shoulders in the city’s teeming streets, cafés and hotels every May.  

Take a marvellous train ride

Enjoy a change of scenery or escape the summer heat by taking a spectacular two-hour trip each way on the Train des Merveilles. Head out of Nice and into the Alpes and pass over viaducts, switchbacks and even do 360-degree loops inside mountain tunnels. Jump on and off in historic villages, and hang out for the final stop at Tende, where you can check out the museum or go for alpine hikes.

Gamble en plein air

Combining the warm, clear Monaco climate with another of the city’s famous drawcards, Monte-Carlo’s Casino offers a pair of open-air gaming terraces – one overlooking the bay of Roquebrune and the other, the waters of the Mediterranean – on which to try your luck at their full range of games.  

Get lost on the Golden Isles

Off the coast of Hyères lie three special islands, les Iles d’Or. All three of them – Levant, Port-Cros and Porquerolles – feature small villages, historic forts and hiking. The largest, Porquerolles, is the most developed, offering vineyards, beaches, bike hire and eateries, though bringing a picnic from the mainland is a great idea.

Take the castle on the hill

Particularly excellent in winter when you can stay until about sunset, Castle Hill in Nice is the place to start your stay in the city – begin at the old town and then just follow your nose upwards to the old citadel. Overlooking the curve of the bay, the Promenade and the city, the hill also has a lovely cascade where you can cool off after the climb.

Swim in seclusion

Head out by boat, by car or by foot from Cassis to Les Calanques. A series of inlets where jagged limestone meets crystalline water in shades of aquamarine, les Calanques have countless intimate coves to discover from land or from the water. It’s some of the most striking natural beauty on the coast.


The hotels of the Cote d’Azur aren’t just a place to sleep – in many cases, they are the main sights in themselves. The choice of where to lay your head will also grant you exclusive access to some of the most amazing pools, bars and restaurants of the region.


InterContinental Carlton Cannes

Steeped in history, ideally located on La Croisette and encased in Belle Epoque elegance, this is how a grand Cannes hotel is supposed to look. Don’t miss a drink on the chic Carlton Terrace for the views, and sign up for the complimentary loyalty program to enjoy free wi-fi.

JW Marriott Cannes

Celebrate the glamour of the Bardot era, thanks to extensive black-and-whites of mid-century starlets adorning the otherwise modern halls and rooms of this fabulously positioned hotel. Take your own star turn lounging on the rooftop pool terrace, or be seen dining alfresco out on the promenade.

Le Grand Hotel

Oh so vintage, oh so cool, Le Grand takes you away from cookie-cutter hotel décor and straight into a Helmut Newton photograph or Catherine Deneuve fantasy, with every room furnished in ’60s splendour. Dine out in the only gardens situated on the boulevard, or indulge in a panoramic Jacuzzi room.


Hotel Le Negresco

Don’t stay somewhere close to the landmarks – stay right inside one. Underneath towering chandeliers and the gazes of glass-painted cherubs, guests can soak up the retro Rococo decadence of the museum-like oval dome, stroll the marble halls and breakfast in a ‘carousel’. The marvellously over-the-top Le Negresco is not for the subtle.

Hyatt Regency Nice Palais De Mediterranee

Art Deco touches and columns galore make this Hyatt Regency sharp and chic. The palette is fresh and bold, punctuating its airy rooms with bursts of orange and aqua; the hotel is set around its stylish outdoor pool terrace which, in turn, overlooks the Lido Beach across the Promenade des Anglais.

Boscolo Exedra Nice

If your idea of Nice is architectural and tailored, all clean lines and wellness and perfectly styled, you will slip seamlessly into the film set-like refinement of the Boscolo Exedra. Its sophisticated décor puts not a hair out of place, with rooms and suites lighter than light upon their whitened floorboards. The futurist pool is a highlight, too.

Hotel La Perouse

Throughout its history, composers and artists have been inspired by the incomparable views of the Baie des Anges from the La Perouse, set upon a limestone cliff opposite the ocean. The 56 rooms, rooftop terrace and picturesque pool enjoy a Mediterranean breeziness and boutique intimacy.


Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port

It may be named for its proximity to the Vieux Port (old port) area, but this Aparthotel is thoroughly modern. Business travellers and families will love the full kitchens, offering the chance to self-cater and a number of configurations, from studios to four-person apartments, offering plenty of flexibility.  

Intercontinental Hotel Dieu

This 18th-century monument is on most visitors’ must-see list in Marseille – if not for the magnificent architecture, then certainly for the renowned L’Alcyone ‘gastronomic’ restaurant. It’s a special feeling indeed to sightsee through the city’s historic quarter, then return back to such a piece of history in itself.

Sofitel Marseille Vieux Port Hotel

Marseille is first and foremost a port city; the Sofitel gives you a portmaster’s-eye-view of proceedings in this high-set, waterside property. Inside areas make the most of modern French art and sleek furnishings, but it’s the sweeping city views outside that really matter.


Seafood is not just an ingredient here – it’s a religion. Avail yourself of fish-adoring eateries on the water, local bouillabaisse-honouring restaurants, rustic, hidden home-food havens or some of the priciest, most cutting-edge food in the world. It’s all here in a hedonistic paradise of taste.  

Bacon, Antibes

In a funny little twist of fate, one of the best seafood restaurants on the French Riviera is called Bacon. The menu at this Cap d’Antibes salon, and favourite of Alain Ducasse, simply lists fish types and seasonal berries, but the delivery is masterful and, with a sea view all the way to Italy, the experience is anything but ordinary.

La Vague d’Or, Saint-Tropez

At the very thin end of the already refined Saint-Tropez wedge, with mains starting from 96 euros, this three-Michelin-starred restaurant could certainly be called the best of the best. The waterside location is postcard-perfect, the service impeccable, and the Mediterranean food is less something to eat than art to experience.

Louis XV, Monte-Carlo

Also at the tip-top of fine dining is this almost mythical, gilt-and-crystal salon that shot Alain Ducasse to stardom as one of the world’s first celebrity chefs more than 25 years ago. Yes, you’ll spend a small fortune here – but in this rarified, Versailles-like atmosphere, we promise it’ll only hurt a little.

Les Arcades, Biot

The small town of Biot, off the beaten track inland from Antibes, is known for its arts and glassblowing. At the family-run Hotel Les Arcades, also home to a wonderful private art collection, Madame Brothier serves up Provencal specialties in a 35-euro three-course menu, plus an amazing bourride fish stew on Thursdays.

Le Brulot, Antibes

Serving no-fuss French favourites under the low arches of an underground brick cellar in Antibes, this rustic favourite is beloved of locals for their woodfired cuisine, such as crispy duck, lamb or veal. No wonder, when their three-course menus start from 22 euros.

L’Aromat, Marseilles

A great mid-range choice for seasonal ingredients and a sense of occasion, without the crazy prices of many restaurants in this area, Sylvain Robert’s L’Aromat restaurant is best known for his cheeky take on a mustn’t-be-fooled-with Marseillais regional dish: the famous (notorious?) bouillabaisse burger.

L’Aromate, Nice

Not to be confused with the above, this hidden gem in Nice could possibly serve some of the most beautifully presented food in France. With tiny flowers and leaves precisely placed amongst perfectly cooked produce, the 65-euro menu price does not reflect the high quality of the place (nor its Michelin star).

L’Alcyone, Marseille

This must-try formal eatery in Marseille’s Intercontinental Hotel Dieu gets everything right – from the incredible views from lofty windows, to the impressive local produce and intimate but unstuffy ambience. Don’t miss the playful takes on local specialties, and the crusty-outside, oozy-inside cheeses on offer.

La Route du Miam, Nice

If you had a grand-mère here in Nice who insisted you eat up, sat you down and fed you plates groaning with duck, foie gras and fat-browned potatoes, this would resemble her dining room. No pretensions here – but there are only four tables, so book ahead.

Marché aux Fleurs, Cours Saleya, Nice

Special mention must go to the Nice flower markets, open every day except Monday, for the most vibrant produce and mouthwatering lunch makings on the coast. Pick up sun-ripening cheeses, homemade sausage and still-warm bread for the freshest picnic you’ll ever enjoy. There are also eateries lining the square, if you prefer.


So much business (and pleasure) is conducted on the Cote D’Azur over a refreshing beverage, and a neverending supply of tourists and thirsty locals means that you are spoiled for choice. Spread your time between wine bars, breweries, rooftop spots and be-seen scenesters, and you’ll taste the spirit of the place.

La Terrasse du Plaza, Nice

Blue skies over blue water? Check. A panoramic view over the promenade? Check. Schmancy food and cocktails? Checkmate. Sure, as you go up onto the rooftop, the prices go up with you, but having a sundowner or three up here with beautiful Nice laid out before you is an easy and very pleasant way to live the high life.

Le Cabanon, Cap l’Ail

A funny little shack with a life-preserver on the wall, Le Cabanon is at the same time a shabby chic provençal-style seafood eatery, a waterfront scene-spot, and an excellent source of fine local wines. Perched on a headland between Monaco and Cap l’Ail, there are few better places to try one of the grand crus.

La Brasserie Artisanale de Nice

Our tip? Come and enjoy this newcomer before everyone finds out about it. Passionate brewmaster Olivier Cautain is producing limited quantities of only three beers (plus special brews) at this fun little microbrewery. Try the Zytha, partly made from chickpeas, and bring all your beer-nerd chatter.

Brulerie des Cafés Indien, Nice

A traveller cannot live by wine alone, especially when there is some very good coffee about. Roasting its own beans since the 1940s, this cosy family-run shop serves plenty of perfect brews, as well as one of the most wondrous drinks in the area, especially in winter: a pudding-thick, Italian-style hot chocolate.

Absinthe Bar, Antibes

The green fairy still rules supreme in this cosy cellar, where tipplers wear the bar’s hats, take over its piano and guitars and learn, somewhere along the way, so much about this most French and ritualistic of drinks. Take in the traditional water fountains and sugar spoons, and don’t miss the original 1850s bar.

Le Ghost, Nice

Don’t be fooled – this always swinging bar is certainly open. Just ring the doorbell. The seemingly non-stop party really hits its straps when it runs a themed party, and too-cool locals and guests go all out to comply in outrageous costumes.

Pam Pam Rhumerie, Juan-les-Pins

Nothing says good holiday times like a tiki bar, and Pam Pam is only too happy to provide it. Rum cocktails on fire, a bongo band and some très sexy dancers pick the mood up a notch, so don’t plan to recline on the animal print all night – getting wild in the dance is expected.

Club 55, Saint-Tropez

More a legend that simply a location, if Pampelonne Beach’s Club 55 was good enough for Bardot, it’s good enough for you. What’s lovely is that everyone is welcome here – other souls may have turned such a legend into an exclusive affair, but no – the doors are open and the drinks (and mood) chilled.

La Vigie, Monaco

So Monte Carlo. So Princess Grace. So far from real life on the promontory overlooking the azure waters and the superyacht parking, this far out, your view is of Monaco from the sea. The prices are as aristocratic as the setting, but if you stop here for an aperitif rather than full dinner, the experience approaches perfection.   

Cave de la Tour, Nice

Like many of the best stops in this old city, La Cave is family run and incredibly welcoming. Approaching 70 years old and thus one of the oldest wine bars in the area, it offers a dizzying array of local wines, including provençal favourites, grands crus and even wine in vats. Settle in for a chat and a tour of the tastebuds.


Seemingly every town along the coast has market squares popping with colourful produce, plus boutique-lined streets that can’t help but coax your wallet out. The French Riviera is an endless spending frenzy, but there are plenty of lesser-known corners to explore, too.

Au Pays du Citron, Menton

It’s hard not to get carried away about lemons when passing through Menton. Give in to the town’s obsession here in this surprisingly chic store dedicated to lemons done every which way, including gold-flecked vodka and limoncello, or the lemon- and mint-scented olive oil spray.  

Le Studio des Fragrances Galimard, Grasse

If you are travelling to mark a special occasion (or your travels are occasion enough), sitting down with the perfume specialists at Galimard to mix your very own signature scent cannot really be beaten as a souvenir. Take your time over the two hours, and ask for advice so you don’t end up a smelly mess!

Fromagerie l’Etable, Antibes

For the stinkiest and mouldiest specimens, as well as the delicate little dears, this fromagerie delivers a lovely experience for the cheese-loving tourist. There is a fun, vaguely medieval vibe happening (under the fluorescent lights) but the cheese and other produce, such as caviar and oils, are the stars.

L’Art en Mouvement, Nice

This indescribable cornucopia of mechanical music boxes, circus-like décor and objets de curiosité is an absolute must-see. The museum of animation and moving-doll theatre are wonderful, but it is the boutique that makes your heart skip a beat, full of vintage one-of-a-kind pieces you can’t really believe are for sale.

Le Depot, Saint-Tropez

Want to walk the red carpet and have nothing to wear? Wish to live the Champagne lifestyle on a rosé budget? You’ll find secondhand pieces here, including shoes and accessories, from the likes of Chanel, Valentino, Cavalli, Hermès… the whole tribe. And we bet some of these pieces have stories to tell.  

Maison Auer, Nice

One of France’s more beautiful shops – and it’s filled with chocolate. Indulge your sweet tooth and your taste for nostalgia with homemade sweets such as candied fruits and glazed chestnuts, all from family recipes dating back to 1820. The chandeliers and ornate stained glass rival the Opera across the road.

Flea market, Marché aux Fleurs, Nice

The marché in the Cours Saleya becomes even more interesting on Mondays, when the flea market joins the usual mix of produce, flowers and art. Everything from giant pre-Revolution antiques to Modernist bric-a-brac comes to the open-air space in a ‘how did they get that in here?’ puzzle.

Rue d’Antibes, Cannes

Always well-heeled (literally) but with plenty of high-street favourites and French department stores among the high-priced designerwear, this is the road to give a little itinerary time if you love to shop. You’ll find enough café stops and gelato sugar hits to be able to make a day of it.

Star Dog + Cat Boutique, Nice

You’re ready to stroll the promenade, but is your best friend? If your pet is letting the style side down, only this boutique will do. Swarowski crystal-studded collars, made-to-measure canine couture and bling-covered leather harnesses means Fido will be oh-so-Cote d’Azur in no time.

Atelier Soleil

From the most intricate fluted dish to the tiniest, worked knife rest, this is French pottery at its very finest. In fact, Alain Ducasse hires master faïencier Franck Scherer to custom-craft plates for his provençal inns. Pick up a bargain in the seconds area to fulfil your own kitchen dreams at a good price.


There seems to be a lot of lounging going on around here, but don’t be fooled. The French are a physical bunch and love to make the most of their endless southern sunshine. Some of the region’s best sights can only be seen hanging off a cliff, pounding the pavement or getting soaked – so get out there!


Don your most impressive activewear and take to the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. Although tourists have been seen-to-be-seen on this seven-kilometre stretch since the early 1800s (particularly on the famous four kilometres around the Baie des Anges), things have changed a little, with scooters, skates, bikes and even segways available for hire.


As five-star as marathons go, the Marathon des Alpes-Maritimes in November allows 12,000 runners to sweat with style as they take off from Nice, run through some of France’s most spectacular and expensive real estate, and arrive in Cannes right on the Promenade de la Croisette, well in time for cocktail hour.

Walk the Formula 1

Looping between the Hotel de Paris, Port Hercule and the old Port area, Monaco’s Formula 1 track really does take in all the sights. Visit outside of May, or wait till the end of the day during Grand Prix time, you can walk the loop for about an hour’s round. It’s marked on most tourist maps.

Hike or bike Le Massif

Le Massif d’Esterel features the best of the French Riviera in one compact area. Take one of hundreds of signposted, sometimes paved trails, overlook the towns of Cannes, Saint-Tropez or Saint-Raphael, immerse yourself in prehistoric wilderness to spot wild boar, or climb to 450 metres above the Mediterranean. Bring water and a hat.

White water

Situated between melting snow and warm sea, the Alpes d’Azur have plenty of rushing water that’s perfect for action of every level. Go floating, canyoning or rafting through the jumps and plunge pools of the startlingly turquoise waters of the Verdon Gorge, about an hour out of Cannes.

Via ferrata

Got a head for heights? This could be the world capital for via ferrata (rockclimbing pathways marked by steel cables) with seven well-known paths in the area. Clip on for the 600-metre-long, three-hour Via Ferrata L’Escale just out of Monaco, or mix it up with a little caving on the uniquely underground Via Souterrata near Grasse.

Wild islands

Within Europe’s first marine national park, Port-Cros, lies the steep, forested Port-Cros island waiting to be hiked for its beaches and flowers, and the more developed Porquerolles, sharing its landscape between wilderness and vineyards, and an easygoing cycle path to take you from beach to tiny beach.


With so many little villages nestled so close together along the main Cote d’Azur route, leave the car at home and take an amble instead. The 40-minute walk from Villefranche to Beaulieu-sur-Mer is sheer loveliness – you’ll also catch sight of ‘Nellcote’, where the Rolling Stones stayed as tax exiles in the ’80s, along the way.

Aerial adventure

The Alpes-Maritime region is spiderwebbed with zip lines, rope bridges and swings – the French love their forest adventure parks! Start gently with the automatic zip lines of Pitchoun Forest, go all the way with the 470-metre zip line at Arbre et Aventure La Mouliere, or hang 50 metres above the river at Parcours Aventure Isoliane.


As the birthplace of petanque, and the venue for the sport’s ‘world cup’ (which France always wins), the Marseille area is never short of an opportunity for a game with the locals. There’s always petanque going in the Jardin Labadie; in Nice, the airport end of the Promenade des Anglais is a good spot to catch a game, too.


Countless artists over the centuries have come to the vibrant palette of the French Riviera to escape, to be inspired – and to let loose. If Paris was where artists worked, then the Cote d’Azur was where they played, and they have left their mark here in the form of priceless artworks, and a rich, ongoing culture of expression.

Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée, Marseille

A must-visit landmark, this boldly executed, architectural museum building houses a range of Mediterranean history. The 13th-century Fort Saint-Jean next door is included in the ticket, reached by a vertiginous footbridge and offering incredible views of the old port areas of the city.

Bar des Oiseaux, Nice

Exactly the type of establishment you’d hope to find hidden away in the old quarter, you’ll not only find excellent niçoise cuisine and wines, but a bohemian, somewhat spontaneous mix of entertainers keeping the vibe lively. From jazz, world music and cabaret to comedy acts, there’s never a dull moment.

Chapelle Matisse, Vence

A beautiful, simple and obviously fond testament to the kindness of a group of nuns who cared for a sickly Matisse, the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence was built as per his designs. The pure black-on-white drawings on the walls and modernist stained glass creates a much more moving piece than anything hanging on a wall.

Modernist art trail

From the Matisse and Chagall museums in Nice, to the Renoir museum in the artists’ former home in Cagne sur Mer, or the Picasso museum in the former Chateau Grimaldi in Antibes, the Cote d’Azur is swimming in some of the best artworks in the country from this fascinating and sometimes controversial era.

Saint-Paul de Vence

Not so much a town as a living gallery, the medieval stone walls enclose enough art and antique stores, studios and craftsmen to stop you for at least a weekend. Open-air exhibitions showcase new talent, while the innovative Fondation Maeght highlights sculpture; the tourist office runs some wonderful town art tours.  

Théâtre de Grasse

Known and respected through the country, director Jean Flores’ thoughtful line-up of performance, music, dance and diverse culture always delivers. Travelling opera buffs will also be delighted to hear that great opera performances are livestreamed from the Met in New York every month.

Opéra de Nice

Home to both the city’s Philharmonic Orchestra and the Ballet Méditerrannée, this 1826 edifice is the traditional centre of the arts and, of course, opera for the region. Traditionalists will love the red velvet curtains, three-high rows of elite private boxes, cherub-adorned ceiling and gigantic crystal chandeliers.   

Open-air cinema, Monaco

With weather this balmy, it’s shameful to stay inside. Accordingly, a number of open-air cinemas operate during the summer period. The Monaco version is particularly chic, situated right on the famous Rock and including tables for your boissons. Films are in their original language, with French subtitles.

Villa Arson, Nice

An unmissable shade of crimson, set on the hill amongst a labyrinth of gardens and terraces, this public school of fine arts, contemporary-art research centre and exhibition space is on the very experimental cutting edge of an already sharply honed Riviera arts scene.

The Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC)

When it’s full of headliner pieces by the likes of Lichtenstein, Warhol, Wesselman and César, it’s no wonder that MAMAC still weighs in as the second-most popular sight to see in Nice. Its modern architecture is easily spotted on the Place Yves Klein, and its terraces are designed for maximum panorama action.


The events calendar on the Riviera governs everything – what to wear, where to go and whom to look out for when you go there. Here everything must be bigger, more amazing and more expensive, which translates to some wonderful spectacles to catch, whether you’re famous or not.

Fireworks Festival, Cannes

Officially known as the Festival of Pyrotechnic Art, this is the Olympic Games of fireworks. During the five-night competition, each international competitor must produce a themed 25-minute show to music from three offshore barges in hopes of earning the grand prize or the audience’s Prix de Public.

Soirées Estivales

A summer festival of music, the Soirées offer more than 400 free performances throughout locations in and around Nice, with even the smallest villages catching the festival atmosphere. Everything from pop music to jazz and classical theatre is covered, from June to September.

Cannes Film Festival

Who cares if you don’t actually know anyone famous? Put on the Manolos and pretend you do, just like everybody else does in Cannes during these 12 days every May. Even without a red-carpet pass, the celebs are so thick on the ground that a nightclub glimpse or breakfast brush with fame is likely.

Formula 1 Grand Prix, Monaco

The most prestigious and glamorous motorsports event in the world, few other events cram the superyachts into Monte Carlo like this one. The race is relatively slow, thanks to the tricky road-based track, but life moves superfast off the track as thousands of Champagne-fuelled spectators crowd the tiny Principality.

Nice Jazz Festival

Kicked off in 1948 by Louis Armstrong, and enjoying such major names as Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald over the years, Nice’s international jazz festival has moved from February to the summer months, combining its five-day program with the region’s Soirées Estivales (above) to make the city an unbeatable music destination.

Monte Carlo Sporting Summer Festival

Sporting? Nah, it’s got nothing to do with it. Only Monte Carlo could turn its summer festival into a sometimes-tuxedo-compulsory musical fantasia over July and August featuring the likes of Tom Jones, Burt Bacharach, Seal, Lana del Ray, the list goes on… a jacket is required for dinner shows, mais bien sûr.

Carnaval de Nice

Dating back to the 1200s and rivalling Venice or Rio, the day-and-night parades of Nice’s February carnival include ‘flower battles’ (where models in fantastical costumes throw an estimated 100,000 blooms to the crowd), giant floats parading the Promenade, and a seemingly non-stop party in the Place Massena.

Menton Lemon Festival

This pretty town hosts a festival every February that is in turns surreal and wonderful – but it is certainly no lemon. 120 tonnes of Menton’s favourite fruit are sacrificed to become specially built sculptures and beloved parade floats, in an event that stops the whole region.

September of yachting

The charter season in the Mediterranean ends with the Cannes Yachting Festival at the beginning of September, its displays a taster for the superyacht-heavy Monaco Yacht Show a couple of weeks later. This also coincides with Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, a highly regarded yachting regatta in the Bay.  

Les Concerts d’Eté du Palais Princier

Ever since 1959, the Grimaldi family have manifested their love of music and the arts by hosting beautifully staged, open-air concerts in the Court of Honour of their Royal Palace in Monaco through July and August. Tickets are tightly held, yet surprisingly affordable (from 20 euros).


The stretch of land bordered on the south by Marseille through to Fréjus is one of France’s oldest wine regions, under the appellation of Provence. Grapes have been grown here since the sixth century BC, and its subregions produce a fascinating range of both reds and whites.

La Londe

In a subregion of Cotes de Provence, centred around the town of Hyères, the oceanic breezes and quartzy soil means plenty of that rosé that defines so many travels on the Riviera. Drop in to Château Léoube for their various, sought-after rosés.


Travelling tipplers here will sooner or later try a rosé with a distinctive pinky copper hue – this is the signature colour of Tibouron-based wines from the Fréjus subregion. The Massif de l’Esterel provides the right slopes and vineyards such as Chateau d’Esclans are perfecting the variety – their creamy, barely-rose rosé Les Clans is world famous.


Seven generations of winemakers in the famille Négrel have been tweaking their herb-scented rosé over the years at Mas de Cadenet, 40 kilometres from Marseilles. Their slight altitude is typical of this subregion; the area’s specific microclimate makes wine nerds certain they can taste a Sainte-Victoire anywhere.


The name may invoke images of sweet blackcurrant liqueur, but it couldn’t be further from what the salty-aired subregion is all about: full-bodied white wines based generally around Marsanne or Clairette grapes. Catch the town’s wine fair in mid-May each year for a fair few tastes of the area’s best.


This is a wonderland for fans of mourvèdre, that intense, spicy and difficult late-ripening red grape that thrives in only the most infertile of environments. Bandol’s signature drops are aged in oak and need ample cellaring; the addition of mourvèdre also gives the region’s rosés an extra kick of flavour.


Most visitors to Nice look seaward; turn around toward the hills, and you’ll see the steep slopes where some rare wine varietals are being produced. Home to two red grapes found nowhere else in the world – Braquet and Folle Noire – the Bellet area produces robust rosé that actually does have a rose-like perfume.

Ile de Porquerolles

On the largest of the Golden Isles, you can find three vineyards lazily sunning themselves while the sea does all the work, automatically keeping humidity high. Domaine de l’Ile is the oldest (dating to the 1950s), Domaine de la Courtade keeps to the Bandol usuals vermentino and mourvèdre, while Domaine Perzinsky keeps it casual, running tastings from the garage.

Domaine de l’Abbaye de Lérins

Cannes is about as far away from poverty and chastity as it’s possible to be, but the monks on nearby Ile Saint-Honorat make it work. As well as welcoming visitors to join in afternoon prayers, the monks run eight hectares under vine to produce and sell some of the most lauded wines and liqueurs in the region.


They may not be the first to want to bottle the Cote d’Azur sunshine, but the winemakers of Saint-Jeannet may be the first to achieve it. At Vignoble des Hautes Collines de la Cote d’Azur, the ‘tuilé’ wine is bottled in large glass vessels and left for months to take in the direct sunshine before it’s finally poured into oak to age.

Caves Bianchi

The dusty cellars of an old monks’ cloister in Nice now house the Caves (French for cellars), a shop that offers a comprehensive introduction to the wines of Provence. They can also organise a number of bespoke wine-tasting experiences, such as a ‘walk’ around other regions like Bordeaux, Champagne or Burgundy.


There is so much to see on the French Riviera, but happily it is squeezed into a surprisingly compact area on the coast. Think you’re up to the ultimate 24-hour adventure through some of the best this region has to offer? Try this on for size.

8.00am Wake up! (Le Negresco, Nice)

It’ll only take a moment to remember where you are, waking beneath the impossible fairytale drapes above your bed at the history-soaked Le Negresco. A sumptuous breakfast awaits at the hotel’s La Rotonde, surrounded by merry-go-round horses, bright circus hues and a rarified crowd.

9.30am Nice – Beaulieu-sur-Mer

Stroll though the Cours Saleya, picking up some fresh fruit for snacks from the market vendors. Take a short bus ride to Beaulieu-sur-Mer and head for the pure white Villa Grecque Kerylos, close to the bus stop. Kitsch or chic? It’s a bit of both, but this palatial imitation-ancient Greek villa is unforgettable, for the views alone.

11.15am Beaulieu-sur-Mer – Villefranche-sur-Mer

Head out of the town on the 40-minute walk to Villefranche. Hugging the Mediterranean coast before heading down towards Villefranche beach, you’ll barely notice the exercise for the gorgeous outlook – don’t forget to spot Nellcote along the way for a bit of Rolling Stones history. By the harbour in Villefranche, the tiny Romanesque chapel of Saint-Pierre des Pêcheurs is a lovely place to catch your breath, surrounded by the frescoes of Jean Cocteau.  

1pm Villefranche-sur-Mer – Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

For lunch, choose from the little eateries on the waterfront, or head up into the old town for lunch – La Cave Nature is a great stop with a fabulous wine list. Thus refreshed, you’re ready for either another 40-minute walk around the spectacular coast to Cap Ferrat (or take the bus if the wine has made you dozy). The sheer excess and grandeur of Cap Ferrat’s Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild will wake you up though. The nine themed gardens of this giant rose-coloured beauty are somewhat evocative of a mini-Versailles.

5pm Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat – Monte-Carlo

The summer sun is still high in the sky, but it’s time to hop the 10-minute train to Monte Carlo. Check in at the Monte-Carlo Beach Club to live it up, with everything from sun lounges to canvas beach cabins available to hire until 7pm in summer. Who needs a hotel to freshen up, when you can take a dip in the pool or the ocean? Move on for aperitifs at La Vigie, before settling in for dinner at the best of the best – Alain Ducasse’s Louis XV.

10pm Monte-Carlo – Nice

Phew! Just made it to the open-air cinema in time, although it’s hard to concentrate on the film with the Mediterranean laid out around you, and famous faces you can’t quite place in the audience. It’s been a day that you couldn’t experience anywhere but on the Cote d’Azur – of natural beauty, gastronomical bliss and incomparable wealth. And with that in mind, you might just splurge on a 20-minute taxi ride back ‘home’ to your luxurious soft bed at Le Negresco.

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