Villas on the Cote d'Azur

The playground of the rich and glamorous, Cote D’Azur – or, the French Riviera – is a piece of dazzling Mediterranean coastline on the southeast corner of France. Lined with picture-perfect coastal towns, golden beaches and craggy cliffs, it’s a chic sun-soaked getaway for people who want sun, sea and sand.

That’s not all this region has to offer though, move further inland and you’ll find beautiful countryside dotted with lavender fields and olive groves, prehistoric and medieval sites, and bustling cosmopolitan cities. Staying in one of our stylish villas in Cote D’Azur, we’ll have you close to the action (depending on what it is you’re looking for, of course.) 

Why visit?

  • It’s an easily accessible destination for golden beaches.
  • Charming medieval villages and historic towns are scattered across the region.
  • The locals are passionate about their food, so get ready for a belly full of tasty Mediterranean fare.

Read the Cote d'Azur Travel Guide

Why stay with us?

Style and character are everything at Oliver’s Travels, and our collection of handpicked villas in the Cote d'Azur have this in spades.

We have destination experts who know the ins and outs of all our regions, picking villas that aren’t only unique, but also in the best locations. What's more, our villas are 100% family-friendly, and have the ‘wow’ factor.

Our helpful concierge team are on-hand to make your stay extra special. Whether you want a fully-stocked fridge, a local in-house chef to cook your meals, housekeeping or any other extra service – consider them your holiday genie, who will happily grant your wishes.

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Some of Our Top Destinations

Luxury Villas in the Cote d'Azur: Our Top Picks

Why visit

The Cote d'Azur is a seductive stretch of coast, twisting and turning from St Tropez to the French-Italian border. It was originally called the French Riviera, then in 1888, author Stéphen Liégeard dubbed it La Cote d'Azur – and the name stuck.

In the 1920s the Cote d'Azur became the summer playground of A-listers, from Rudolph Valentino to Gertrude Stein and Zelda Fitzgerald. But it was the boho power couple Gerald and Susan Murphy who persuaded the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc on the Cap d’Antibes to open for the summer – and the Azure Coast’s star appeal was cemented.

The region’s calling card is its 75-mile-long coastline, laced with sand the colour of the Champagne served in the beachfront bars. A string of pastel-painted towns trace the Cote d'Azur, illuminated at night like fairy lights strung along the coast – Monte Carlo, Nice, Cannes, St Tropez. Head inland and you’ll discover medieval towns and villages hidden among the tranquil hills.

Monte Carlo

Food and drink

Menus unsurprisingly draw on the bounty of the sea. Classic specialities include petite friture (tiny fried fish) and stuffed sardines. Inland, regional terroir cuisine long popular with residents features the likes of tender beef stew or roast duck with olives from local groves.

The Cote d'Azur is peppered with gastronomic destinations. Our favourites include La Bastide de Saint-Antoine, an 18th-century country-house restaurant in Grasse; Le Mesclun, something of a Cannes institution for its grilled fish; Hostellerie Jérôme in hilltop village La Turbie; and Le Bistrot d’Antoine for its market-fresh dishes in Nice.

What Oliver loves

The dazzling spectacle of the Cote d'Azur, from the incredible light that drapes the coastline in honey hues, to the sheer performance of its day-to-night scene.

Best time to go

  • Cote d'Azur is a year-round destination, with balmy summers and mild winters – prime skiing time. The warmest weather is naturally in July and August – great for beaches and pools – though most hotels are packed and prices soar.
  • May is the most frenetic month, with Hollywood’s finest flocking to Cannes Film Festival and the Monaco Grand Prix hot on its heels. For a mellower vibe, the Jazz Festival hits Nice in July.
  • We recommend visiting in April to June or September to October when temperatures are cool enough for sightseeing, city tours and hiking.

Top tips

  • Visit outside of peak season (and Cannes Film Festival) for lower prices and fewer crowds.
  • To live like a superstar – on a budget – forget the week-long yacht and hire a smaller boat for the day instead.
  • French Riviera villas range from chateaux through to swanky seaside pads. If you want to be in the thick of the action, opt for a coastal villa. To avoid the bustle, our more traditional properties among the hillside villages and towns are quieter but still often only half an hour from the beach.

    Family friendly

    The Riviera isn’t just grown-up glamour: it’s a great destination for families too. The region offers adventures galore for children, from swimming and snorkelling to cycling on car-free islands and wildlife-watching in the Parc National du Mercantour.


    Many of the beaches of the Cote d'Azur have balmy shallows for kids to splash around in and golden sands for sandcastle building. A couple of the best are locals’ favourite Plage du Port Gallice on the Cap d’Antibes or Plage de Notre-Dame on car-free Île de Porquerolles, just off the Riviera between Marseilles and Cannes.

    There are tons of family-friendly attractions along the French Riviera, from the Monaco Aquarium and Grasse’s perfume museum to the Aqualand waterpark north of Sainte-Maxime. Most museums and monuments are free or discounted for kids, with interactive activities and child-friendly tours. Each region has its own appeal: older kids will enjoy skating along Nice’s Promenade des Anglais, for instance, and intrepid teens will love hiking and river swimming at Pont du Loup.

    With its warm, long summers, the French Rivera is great for family pool-villa holidays, which also offer the benefit of being able to cook at home (visit local markets for the best fruit and vegetables the region has to offer). If you have younger ones you may want to opt for an all-day brasserie as few restaurants open for dinner before 7.30pm.

    Cote d'Azur

    Why it’s perfect for families

    • For babies: Babies will love playing with buckets and spades in the golden sands of Cote d'Azur.
    • For kids: There are tons of activities and attractions for children: watch sharks, fish and octopuses at the Monaco aquarium; splash around at Sainte-Maxime’s water park; or hit the rides at the Antibesland fun fair.
    • For teens: In addition to the adrenaline-boosting water slides at Aqualand water park, other popular excursions include boat cruises or dolphin excursions; cycling on Île de Porquerolles, a car-free island crisscrossed with trails; and wildlife excursions in Mercantour National Park.

    Top tips

    • Don’t forget a carry sling unless you want to grapple with pushchairs on cobbled lanes.
    • Note that changing facilities are rare in France; bring a portable mat.
    • Bring entertainment for car journeys or public transport – whether tablets or activity books.
    • Renting a Cote d'Azur villa is ideal for families; it feels like home and you can cater for fussy eaters.

      Best beaches in the Cote d'Azur

      The Cote d'Azur is synonymous with beaches. The world’s most gilded seaside towns continue to lure aristocracy, artists and the rich and famous to its shores as it has for generations.

      Running from the French-Italian border to Toulon and the cove-dotted Calanques west of Cassis, the coastline nudges near 75 miles – a third of which is given over to beaches.

      Rocky promontories protect fine shingle crescents and powdery sun-bleached swathes. Hidden coves pay off for those who take the time to find them: arcs of icing-sugar sand and jewel-toned waters.

      Public beaches are interspersed with private clubs – around 150 in total, some of which are attached to hotels. A day at a beach club is a must on the French Riviera, whether you pick a no-frills option or a luxury enclave.

      The most idyllic way to explore the shimmering shores is by boat, although most beaches are accessible by road (rent one of the seaside Cote d'Azur villas in peak season to avoid traffic). From the iconic Paloma Beach, named after the daughter of Riviera mega-fan Pablo Picasso, to the hidden coves of the red-cliff Estérel coast, the Cote d'Azur never fails to seduce visitors.

      Oliver’s Hidden Gem

      West of Cannes, the red-rock Estérel coast is often bypassed by sun-seekers who make a beeline for the fabled stretch between Cannes and St Tropez. Drive the beautiful Corniche d’Or between Théoule-sur-Mer and Saint-Raphaël to discover a string of tiny, hidden cove beaches kissed by azure waters.

      Estérel coast

      Plage de la Garoupe, Cap d’Antibes

      The beach from F Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night is all sapphire-blue waters, green foliage and views of the Alps. A spectacular 5km-long hike meanders along Antibes’ headland to Billionaires’ Bay, where you can pause for a swim.

      Plage de Tahiti, St Tropez

      A notorious celebrity hangout since the 1970s, today Tahiti draws a more mature crowd after the finer things in life. St Tropez’s oldest beach club is easily distinguishable for its tangerine-coloured parasols, at the northern end of Pampelonne.

      Pic de l’Aiguille, Théoule-sur-Mer

      Locals’ favourite, Pic de l’Aiguille is one of the prettiest beaches on the wilder stretch of the Mediterranean coast, a 20-minute drive from Cannes. Flanked by jagged red cliffs, the strand of white sand dazzles against the blue water.

      Plage Keller, Antibes

      A popular private beach in Antibes recognisable for its canary-yellow loungers. The club has a renowned restaurant, César, which serves up traditional Provençal dishes and grilled fish, caught locally that day, right on the water’s edge.

      La Paloma, St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

      Hugging the tip of the pine-shaded St Jean peninsula, La Paloma is a small pebbly cove with limpid jade-coloured waters. Set against a mountainous backdrop, it’s part private, part public beach, with a lovely restaurant looking out over the water.

      La Réserve de la Mala, Cap d’Ail

      La Réserve de la Mala is one of the best beaches on the Cote d’Azur for people-watching. Located on Cap d’Ail, it is named after a dancer who had secret assignations with the last Russian Tsar.

      Things to do

      There’s more to the Cote d'Azur than Cannes Film Festival. Look beyond the glare of the bright lights to discover the local French Riviera, which can be found even in peak season.

      While naturally most visitors flock to the beaches to swim in the turquoise waters and flake out on the powder-white sands, beyond the coastline is another side to Cote d'Azur. As soon as the mercury begins to soar, residents head for the hills to walk through shady forests of truffle oaks and swim in hidden waterfalls.

      Away from the seaside resorts, medieval villages pepper the landscape and untamed national parks stretch up to the foothills of the Alps. A smattering of idyllic islands is cast adrift from the mainland, brimming with spectacular scenery and crisscrossed with scenic trails.

      Mercantour National Park

      North of Cannes, Mercantour National Park is a glorious corner of untamed wilderness. Hike or cycle among the foothills, where the terrain begins to climb the slopes of the Alps.

       

      Spot celebrity abodes

      This corner of France is dotted with belle époque villas, owned by A-listers like Elton John and U2 star Bono. One celebrity abode you can nose around in is Villa Ephrussi Rothschild, on the St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat peninsula. Built in 1912 for Baroness Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild, it’s pure opulence.

      Go village-hopping

      Follow the Grande Corniche (the filming location for To Catch a Thief) to hilltop La Turbie, often shrouded by mountain mist, before heading west to Vence, whose medieval core wraps around a dappled square where you can sip rosé al fresco. Further still, the river-threaded Sillans-la Cascade has a sublime waterfall that crashes 140ft into a turquoise pool (look out for the hand-painted ‘la cascade’ sign by the chapel).

      Take a scenic train ride

      Take a scenic train ride through the lyrical landscapes inland aboard the Train des Merveilles, climbing 3,300ft into the foothills of the Alps.

      Architecture

      Half-hour from Cannes, the blush-pink Palais Bulles is the brainchild of Hungarian architect Antti Lovag, an autodidact of bubble-house architecture. Owner Pierre Cardin now hosts film and fashion events, plays and concerts here among suspended gardens, cascades and pools.

      Walking

      Spectacular walking paths trace the coastline, particularly on the seaside stretches that hug the protected Cap Lardier. The coastal walk from Gigaro to Cap Taillat is said to be the most beautiful in France.

      Oliver's Hidden Gem

      Hop on a ferry to Ile Saint-Honorat, just 15 minutes from Cannes. A group of monks discovered the island in the year 400, and have stayed put ever since. Today, it’s a protected reserve of sweet-scented pines, vineyards and dusty red roads leading to a 15th-century monastery.

      Monastery on Ile Saint-Honorat

      Towns and villages

      When you think of the Cote d'Azur, it is the coastal big-hitters that instantly spring to mind – Cannes, Nice, St Tropez, Monte Carlo. It is certainly true that these showstoppers gained a fabled reputation for good reason: the star-studded Cannes Film Festival, Nice’s Promenade des Anglais, St-Tropez’s yacht-peppered harbour – these are all iconic spots.

      Cote d’Azur’s seaside resorts are the summer playgrounds for chic Europeans, with nothing more pressing on the agenda than sea, sand and sun. Chic bars and exclusive clubs beckon a stylish crowd, while celebrities hide out in hillside belle époque villas and aboard sleek yachts moored in the bay.  

      But the Riviera isn’t just about the glitz and glamour. Scratch beneath the surface and you’ll discover another side to the region. Inland, under-the-radar hilltop towns and mountain villages are hidden among aromatic flower farms and sprawling vineyards. From medieval Grasse, the world capital of parfumiers, to the picturesque web of narrow streets in Villefranche-sur-Mer – the Cote d'Azur’s lesser-known gems brim with quintessential French charm.

      What’s more, a plethora of French Riviera villas means you can live like a local – the best way to get under the skin of a destination.

      Oliver’s Hidden Gem

      Located between Nice and Monaco, the chocolate-box hilltop village of Eze offers ravishing panoramas from its elevated position. A knot of narrow passageways and medieval houses nods to its medieval roots, wrapping around perfectly manicured botanical gardens and a pastel-painted church.

       

       Eze 

      Cannes

      Cannes is the poster child for Riviera resorts. Yacht-studded bays dot the coastline, where a cluster of seafront hotels looks on haughtily. The action centres around the May film festival, but outside this media frenzy, the spotlight swivels to the sandy beaches. To escape the summer crowds, venture offshore to the peaceful Îles de Lérins – Ste-Marguerite and St-Honorat.

      St Tropez

      A hedonistic haven of superyachts and champagne spray parties, St Tropez tends to steal the limelight on the Cote d’Azur. Originally a bohemian arty hangout for the likes of French painter Matisse and writer Cocteau, it was catapulted onto the global stage when Brigitte Bardot filmed Et Dieu … Créa la Femme here in 1956. The rest is history.

      Nice

      The capital of the French Riviera, Nice has a thriving cultural scene, great shopping and a handful of excellent restaurants and bars. It’s an enchanting mix of old and new: the medieval labyrinth of Vieux Nice in contrast to the fin-de-siècle facades and Italianate style of modern Nice. All this, set against the quintessential backdrop of the sparkling Mediterranean.

      Sainte-Maxime

      Gazing across the gulf to St Tropez, Sainte-Maxime is the laid-back alter-ego to its glitzy neighbour. Subdued in colour but not in character, the pastel-toned Sainte-Maxime has a lively surfing scene for the impressive swell that crashes down on its beaches. There’s a palm-fringed corniche and pretty harbour, while further inland, bakers, butchers and seafood restaurants line the streets.

      Grasse

      Follow your nose to Grasse, the world capital of parfumiers. Located 10 miles inland from Cannes, the medieval hill town has a sweet-scented history dating back almost 300 years. Combine a factory visit with a trip to Musée International de la Parfumerie, which displays perfume bottles from the time of the ancient Greeks to Marie Antoinette.

      Villefranche-sur-Mer

      Overlooking the forest-cloaked Cap Ferrat peninsula, Villefranche-sur-Mer’s candy-coloured buildings tumble down from an imposing citadel to a pretty harbour below. The 14th-century old town is a tangle of narrow streets and twisting staircases, with tantalising glimpses of the gleaming sea at every turn. A clutch of lovely restaurants lines the leafy square and water’s edge.

      Getting there and around

      Just over four miles from the capital, Nice airport is the gateway to the South of France. It’s the most convenient entry point to the French Riviera – most of our Cote d'Azur villas are within a two-hour drive. Several airlines connect Nice and various cities of the UK; the shortest flight time from London hovers around the 2hr 15min mark. EasyJet offers the most choice for fliers, with direct services from Stansted, Luton, Gatwick, Bristol, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Newcastle and Belfast. Otherwise Jet2 flies from Leeds and Manchester; BA flies from Heathrow and London City; Norwegian from Gatwick; Monarch from Gatwick and Birmingham; and Flybe from Southampton.


      Getting around by train

      Public transport in Cote d'Azur is relatively quick, easy and inexpensive, which means getting around the region’s cities and towns is a breeze. The TER (Regional Express Trains) line hugs the Côte d’Azur and connects the main coastal destinations up to the Italian border – an extraordinarily scenic way to travel.


      By bus

      A vast bus network connects some of the smaller towns and villages inland. The Ligne d'Azur bus network fans out from Nice to Vence, Grasse, St-Jean-Cap Ferrat and Villefranche-sur-Mer.


      By car

      If you’d prefer the freedom of driving, plenty of car hire outfits are located in Nice airport; book ahead in peak season. If you want to feel like a star, you can hire a vintage car – a Jaguar E Type, perhaps, or maybe a Porsche 356 Speedster – to travel the Grand Corniche in style. Rental costs from around €180 per day, with pick-up and drop-off points dotted between Cannes and Monaco.


      By boat

      The most idyllic way to travel the Cote d'Azur is by sea, particularly if you’re beach-hopping, as land access can be challenging for some beaches (check in advance). You can hire a yacht to call at some of the fabled seaside towns and beach clubs – some of which will send a tender to pick you up.

      Otherwise, how close you’re able to get to the some of the more secluded beaches depends on the size of the boat and any designated swimming zones. Captains are familiar with the charts and rules and can suggest anchorages that best suit guests; try Bespoke Yacht Charter.

      Top tips

      • In high season, consider trains and buses instead of driving to avoid traffic.
      • Buses are the cheapest way of travelling locally, with a flat one-way fare of €1.50 if you buy the “Ticket Azur” (includes one connection).
      • Children under the age of four get free train travel, with discounted tickets available for older children.

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