Sun, sea and sand. A holiday in the French Riviera perfectly encapsulates the three golden ‘S’s of an ideal summer vacation. Or, does it? Sure it has all those things in spades, (yes, that was a beach pun. Not sorry.) but it also has a heck of a lot more to offer. From incredible mountain vistas and adrenaline-fuelled adventures to culture and fantastic food and wine, a holiday in the French Riviera has got something for everyone. We’ve taken the legwork out of planning your holiday and figured out the best way to spend a week in the Côte D’Azur.
Get to Know the Area…
Best Beaches on the French Riviera…
- As a destination très chic, it’s only natural that Cannes is home to many exclusive beaches, the most famous being the Plage Royale. They will charge you an entrance fee of €12-18, but you may be lucky enough to spot some celebrities as you sunbathe.
- If you don’t fancy paying a premium for your spot on the sand, there is the municipal Plage Macé near the port as well. Each summer a semi-circle of netting protects the beach from jellyfish – perfect for some peace of mind for worried children (and adults!).
- If you’re heading towards Nice and finding the beaches there a little too busy for your tastes, the Plage des Marinières in the delightful seaside town of Villefranche-sur-Mer could be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s not particularly wide but it is long (at about a kilometre), and parents can get added peace of mind in July and August thanks to the lifeguards.
- For exquisite white beaches, pristine waters and rich marine life, the Iles de Lerins are just a short ferry away from Cannes. If you fancy making the most of a day visiting the islands, rent a boat if not to see more, to escape the hoards of day trippers.
Things to See and Do…
- Cannes is a super-luxe destination and is definitely not one to miss! One of the most famous streets in Cannes is the Boulevard de le Croisettes which runs directly along the coast. All of the sumptuous Belle Epoque properties along this enviable address have some of the most fantastic ocean views in the world. Stroll along the street side pavement with your morning coffee to gawp at the incredible architecture and glamour of the hotels and villas as you enjoy a pastry.
- If you want to take a step back from all the glitz and glamour of Monaco and St. Tropez, take a car up to the village of Peillon. This village is perched on top of a very steep hill and offers a fascinating insight into how life might have been 500 years ago for inhabitants of this remote location. There are numerous features of historical interest and beauty to discover as you explore.
- If it is culture you are looking for Nice is the place to go. Visit the Musée Matisse up on Cimiez Hill. In a 17th-century villa, the city pays him tribute with a superb collection of his art, from the 1890s to his post-Second World War gouache cut-outs. Also on the hill, there is the Cimenez Monastery with some extremely well-pruned gardens!
- One of the central elements of daily life in France are the markets. In Nice, this is no exception. The Cours Saleya marketplace features a vast array of products from collectable, handcrafted carvings to a wide variety of well-kept quality fruit and vegetables. There is also a popular flower section displaying a vibrant array of colours.
- Take a drive down the famously glamorous and beautiful Mediterranean coastline, stopping wherever takes your fancy. You could break for some beachside tanning and people-watching in St Tropez, visit the famous festival sites in Cannes, enjoy some retail therapy in Nice, race around Monaco or hedge your bets in Monte Carlo. The drive in itself is stunning, and a great way to see the coastal vistas, pretty villages and bustling cities that inspired generations of artists. (If you fancy making this a very stylish, (or very fast!) drive, have a look at our blog on some great luxury experiences in the South France.)
- The alpine forest is an awesome spot for a treetop adventure. Les Bois de Lutins is a huge adventure park, complete with high ropes courses, inflatable zorbs rolling along suspended pathways, and twisting slides to zoom your way out. The bigger course is suitable for all ages, and little ones will be safe and sound in the child-friendly “Forest of the Leprechauns.”
- One of the most iconic Provence sights is those rolling hills of the Luberon covered in blankets of lavender from late June to early August. A couple of hours inland from the coast, the Luberon National Park is famously verdant and well-known for its vast lavender fields. You and your children, no matter what age, will love walking through these fragrant fields. If you’re lucky enough to go at the end of the season, you can also see the sunflower fields in full bloom. The best (and least tiring) way to soak up the view and the aroma is by bike, to go at you and your children’s own pace with a welcome breeze in your hair. See Provence has handy listings of bike rental companies so you can find one close to you.
- Snorkelling opportunities are plentiful along the Cote d’Azur and with the abundance of marine life, there is no shortage of underwater sights. Great for budding sea explorers and marine biologists! Plage les Fossettes at Cap Ferrat is the best place to go as it recently received a 200m undersea trail. The course runs between five buoys and below the surface at each one is a notice board detailing the five different Mediterranean biotopes.
- The Daluis and Verdon Gorges are located in the stunning mountain ranges of the Verdon natural regional park, about 2 hours drive inland. The ‘Grand Canyon of Provence’ is a series of sheer-sided dramatic gorges with turquoise rivers lazily snaking their way along the bottom. This beautiful region is yours to explore in your own way, kayaks are a great choice for exploring with children and offer a different perspective of the gorges.
- Our best tip for exploring with very small children is to head towards Lake Sainte-Croix. Made in the 1970s after a dam was created, this lake is a huge 10km long and leagds into the other gorges. We recommend renting a canoe, pedal boat or even an electric boat up the gorges or play on the rocky shores of the lake as the water here is much calmer.
Food & Drink…
- On the border of the national park is Glaces Scaramouche, a small business started by a close-knit group of family and friends with a serious passion for ice cream. It’s incredibly popular and well worth a visit.
- You couldn’t possibly go home without spending some time amongst the vines. A wine tour like those offered by Azur Wine Tours is a great way to learn about the famous wines of the area, with expert tasting tips. You’ll get loads of information, along with lots of tastings, and they even offer pick-ups around the Cannes and Antibes areas. You can either tailor your tour to your personal taste or plump for the popular all-day tour which includes two wineries and lunch at a cliff-top village.
- The l’Authentique restaurant at the Auberge de la Madone in Peillon has been serving traditional Provencal fare for generations and makes a lovely spot to sit outside and soak up the atmosphere.
- Don’t be fooled by the name ‘Restaurant de l’Angleterre’. There is not one ounce of British food served in this establishment. Only genuine, French cooking, perfect for any francophile looking to get their fix. With incredibly good value French food, this restaurant won’t break the bank.
Hopefully, that’s given you a good taste of what a week in French Riviera looks like. For further ideas, have a look at our guide to the Côte D’Azur and Provence-Alpes, the top restaurants and the best foodie experiences in the area and what to do with the kids. As for where to stay, we’ve got a rundown of wallet-friendly villas close to St Tropez or have a look at our full range to find your perfect holiday home. Don’t forget, our concierge team is always available to lend a hand too!