What are the best things to see and do in the French Riviera?

Thomas Samph

We know what you’re thinking: you have a week and you want to see and do it all in the French Riviera. Not so fast. The best thing you can do is slow down. You won’t cover it all so don’t even try and more important, zis is not ze way! You are here to do as the French do: sip your rosé slowly in a sunny café, take three hours to eat dinner, have a stroll along the waterfront and maybe listen to some music. Otherwise, you’ll spend more of your time in your car getting to places. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors have compiled an overview of the five best things to see and do in the French Riviera. It’s of the big things, the must-sees; the starting points for any trip to the Riviera. It’s meant to be a guide. If all you do is stroll from the same café down to the same beach everyday, hit a market or two, perhaps pop into a museum when you’ve had enough sun and spend your evenings eating and drinking, your time has been well spent.
 
1. Glorious beaches are everywhere along the French Riviera but the most famous ones are in St. Tropez. Visit Plage de Pampelonne. The sandy beach was forever made famous by the 1950s film And God Created Woman with Brigitte Bardot. Pick a beach club and settle in. As the day progresses, the champagne really starts flowing—literally. Expect a spray tan of Krug at some point thanks to some Middle Eastern princess’ birthday party — or just because. Cannes also has sandy beaches along La Croisette.
 
2. The city of Cannes, famous for hosting the eponymous International Film Festival since 1946, is about an hour’s drive to the north of St. Tropez. A stop there for a stroll along the famous Promenade de la Croisette is a must. Stay in one of the iconic hotels lining La Croisette or hole up as A-listers have for decades a few miles away in Antibes. Dine along the waterfront, shop the chic boutiques or tiny gourmet food stores and roll some dice at the casinos.

3. Many great artists from the 20th century lived and worked along the French Riviera. Further up the coast from Cannes is Antibes, which is home to the Musée Picasso, the world’s largest collection of Picasso paintings housed in the Chateau Grimaldi, where exploring the old town is like taking a stroll through medieval France.
 
4. Climb the steps up to the Colline du Château in Nice where you’ll find the best view of the city. Later, explore its scenic promenade and visit its museums, including the Matisse Museum, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and the Chagall Museum.
 
5. Dial it down in Menton, or rev things up in Monte Carlo, depending on your mood. Menton has a temperate climate year-round. In February the annual Fête du Citron celebrates the town’s famous lemon production with sculptures and parade floats made from the town’s golden fruits. Of course, Monte Carlo is the place to go for gambling in the posh casino. The principality also has great restaurants, a lovely manmade beach and an excellent aquarium.

  • On April 23, 2013
    Hayley Bosch answered the question: Hayley Bosch

    What’s the best time to visit the French Riviera?

    It's hard to say there's a bad time to visit a place as beautiful as the French Riviera, but there are definitely some months that are more popular than others — and I have to admit I’m a bit partial after spending a summer abroad in Cannes. Summertime is a must if you're one for the beach. With beautiful (though a bit rocky) beaches stretching along the coast from Monaco to St. Tropez, it's the perfect place to soak up the Mediterranean sun. Of course, because the French Riviera (or Côte d'Azur as it's known in French) is such a popular destination between May and August, you'll find that the hotels and restaurants are generally quite crowded. But with those crowds come plenty of parties — in mid-May, film stars flock to the Cannes Film Festival, while late May brings the crème de la crème to Monaco for the Grand Prix. The entire coast is lively and exciting during the summer months, and you can expect to pay a pretty penny for a lounge chair at one of the beach clubs (definitely worth it though).

    Like I said before, the French Riviera is great year-round. Winter is a bit calmer, but it's great for those looking for a quiet romantic getaway. In February, Nice celebrates Carnival, which is always fun. And no matter what time of year you visit, there will always be fantastic hotels, restaurants and tons of shopping.
  • On August 28, 2012
    Thomas Samph answered the question: Thomas Samph

    What’s the best time to visit the French Riviera?

    The most popular time to visit the French Riviera is July and August, when the hotels, restaurants and beaches are packed. If you’re looking for the famous parties and want to make the most of the beach, this is the time to go as long as you don’t mind paying the highest prices. If you’d prefer fewer crowds, either go earlier in the summer, or wait until fall. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors even recommend taking a trip in the winter months. There was a time when people visited the French Riviera in winter, since temperatures are fairly mild year round. (In fact, hotels used to close in the summer). The mild winter can be much less crowded if you’re looking to have a more peaceful getaway. If you’re visiting in February, you’ll be in time for the Fête du Citron in Menton or the Carnival in Nice; if you’re visiting later in spring or early summer, you’ll be in time to catch the Cannes Film Festival or the Monaco Grand Prix. There’s something for everyone at all times of the year on the French Riviera.
  • On August 28, 2012
    Thomas Samph answered the question: Thomas Samph

    What is the best thing to bring home from the French Riviera?

    The best thing to bring home from the French Riviera according to our Forbes Travel Guide editors is, no surprise, a food item. A bottle of olive oil, a jar of honey or some jam (check to see what you can take on a flight, as it always changes). There are a few other things you might want to pick up as well. Here’s a list of the best things to scoop up on the French Riviera:  
     
    1. Something from one of the many markets. Be it jam, honey, soap, a sachet or even an antique, the Riviera is dotted with markets selling all kinds of enticing items. In St. Tropez, visit the tree-lined open-air market Place des Lices in the morning, when the vendors are still fully stocked with their products. While many of the vendors sell fresh fruits and vegetables, look for the local textile vendors where you can find kitchenware and clothing items from local artisans. It’s the perfect place to find small gifts like jam, honey and spreads to bring back for friends and family at home. There’s also the popular Cours Saleya in Nice.
     
    2. Olive oil. Visit Oliviers & Co. in Cannes to taste the region’s famous olive oil production and bring some home.
     
    3. Wine. Vence, a small commune at the foot of the Alpes between Nice and Antibes, is home to the Azur Wine Tours, where you can spend the day learning the history of the region’s wine, visiting different wineries, and of course tasting the specialties.
     
    4. Sandals. St. Tropez is known for its fashionable sandal makers, some of which do not export their crafts. Visit K.Jacques on rue Seillon or rue Allard for a wide variety of tropezienne sandals. Though the well-known company offers their product on retail sites in the United States, you can see where they come from and choose the perfect pair.
     
    5. Perfume. In the small town of Grasse, just outside of Cannes, visit the parfumerie Gailmard, one of the oldest perfume makers in the area to find the perfect custom scent to take home.
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  • On August 28, 2012
    Thomas Samph answered the question: Thomas Samph

    What are the five best French Riviera food experiences?

    One of the best things about visiting the French Riviera is getting to experience the vibrant regional cuisine. A few foods are specific to the French Riviera. Here’s what you’re likely to come across and what our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend you have a taste of while in the French Riviera:
     
    1. Bouillabaisse. The hearty fish stew originated in the port city of Marseille. Exact recipes vary but it contains fish and shellfish in a tomato broth with a healthy dose of saffron.
     
    2. Fish soup. Soupe de poissons, or fish soup, is also very popular along the French Riviera. The soup usually involves pureeing some kind of white fish and adding tomatoes and some cream to cook.
     
    3. Salad niçoise. Salad niçoise is synonymous with a French Riviera summer. The classic French salad consists of tuna, tomatoes, green beans, potatoes and niçois olives.
     
    4. Ratatouille. The dish of stewed vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers in olive oil originated in Nice.
     
    5. Socca. This crepe sold in stands all over Nice is made with chickpea flour and olive oil and is served with black pepper. Locals line up to get them piping hot off the delivery bikes that bring them from kitchens to stands.
  • On August 28, 2012
    Thomas Samph answered the question: Thomas Samph

    Where is the best nightlife in the French Riviera?

    From champagne soaked beach parties in St. Tropez to the glamorous casinos in Cannes and Monaco, the French Riviera is of course legendary for its nightlife. You’ll find no shortage of all-night parties and dance clubs, as well as quieter spots where you can simply sip your kir and enjoy the salt air. And if opera or classical music is more your thing, there’s plenty of that, too. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s picks for the best nightlife in the French Riviera:
     
    1. Le Quai, St. Tropez. Situated just a stone’s throw from the port of St. Tropez, Le Quai is a bar and restaurant that transforms into a club destination for all when the live entertainment – a band or DJ – arrives. While inside, the bar and dance floor consistently draw a fun crowd at night; outside, the sailboats and yachts rock calmly in their slips of the picturesque harbor.
     
    2. Le Pastis, Cannes. If you’re looking for a laid back experience in Cannes, Le Pastis is a traditional French bistro to relax and enjoy a cocktail. It’s a nice spot for an aperitif or quick nightcap.  
     
    3. Palm Beach Casino, Cannes. The lavish entryway of the Palm Beach Casino in Cannes gives way to one of the unique points of attraction for many French Riviera visitors: slot machines. Whether you’re there to test your luck or simply enjoy some people-watching, the casinos of the French Riviera are not to be missed.
     
    4. La Havane, Nice. This little hangout is perched just above the Promenade des Anglais in the old town, perfect for a late-night cocktail or people-watching.
     
    5. Opéra de Nice: The massive façade of the Nice opera house, with ornate trimmings and delicate sculptures, houses ballet, opera and concert performances throughout the year, both night and day.
  • On August 28, 2012
    Thomas Samph answered the question: Thomas Samph

    Where is the best shopping in the French Riviera?

    One of the best things about the French Riviera is that you’re usually just a stone’s throw from some great shopping no matter where you are. You’ll want to pick up perfumes, olive oil, wine, handcrafts and more. Here’s where our Forbes Travel Guide editors say you can find the best shopping on the French Riviera:  
     
    1. Cannes. You’ll find all the high-end boutiques in Cannes, including Dior, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, as well as an outpost of the upscale French department store, Galeries Lafayette. Be sure to also shop the gourmet food shops along rue Meynadier.
     
    2. Grasse. In the small town of Grasse, just outside of Cannes, visit the parfumerie Galimard, one of the oldest perfume makers in the area and an epicenter of perfume production, to make a custom scent to take home.
     
    3. Èze. Further to the north, the commune of Èze is known for its olive production; stop by Deli’ for an olive oil and vinegar tasting.
     
    4. Nice. You’ll find markets all over the French Riviera. In Nice, the Cours Saleya is the city’s most famous market, particularly for flowers. It’s best to get there in the morning when vendors are still fully stocked.
     
    5. St. Tropez. Be sure to pick up a pair of the famous sandals sold in town. We also recommend a visit to Atelier Ivan Hov for the shop owner’s incredible collection of handcrafted paper boats, from wall-size to ones that will fit in your hand.
  • On August 28, 2012
    Thomas Samph answered the question: Thomas Samph

    What are the five best things to do with kids in the French Riviera?

    The French Riviera, known for its wealth of sunny shores, offers plenty of things to do with kids. Let the French Riviera’s sand, sun, pristine waters and historic cities be a backdrop to your perfect family vacation. Here’s what our Forbes Travel Guide editors say are the five best things to do with kids on the French Riviera:
     
    1. Visit La Croisette Beach. In Cannes, La Croisette Beach stretches out along part of the old town and is the perfect place to lounge with the kids after perusing the slips of the harbor nearby. You’ll also find a carnival that includes a carousel, small rides and games along La Croisette.
     
    2. Explore Île Sainte-Marguerite. Take a short ferry ride from Cannes over to Ile Sainte-Marguerite, a historic island with a fortress prison where parts of the story of the Man in the Iron Mask were said to have taken place—sure to inspire story- telling and imagination with the kids.
     
    3. See how glass is made. A short drive to the north of Cannes is the town of Biot, famous for its hand-blown glass, where families can tour the glass blowing facilities.
     
    4. Splash around Larvotto Beach. Further north, in Monte Carlo, pull up alongside Monaco’s only public beach, which is just a short walking distance from the spectacular Port of Monaco. Rent deck chairs and an umbrella and claim your spot before it gets too crowded throughout the day. The manmade beach includes a playground and the calm waters are perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
     
    5. Go to the Oceanographic Museum. The popular aquarium overlooking the sea in Monaco was once headed by Jacques Cousteau and is a must for people of all ages. See a giant whale skeleton and squid mold and visit the shark lagoon and coral garden.
  • On August 28, 2012
    Thomas Samph answered the question: Thomas Samph

    What are the best things to see and do in the French Riviera?

    We know what you’re thinking: you have a week and you want to see and do it all in the French Riviera. Not so fast. The best thing you can do is slow down. You won’t cover it all so don’t even try and more important, zis is not ze way! You are here to do as the French do: sip your rosé slowly in a sunny café, take three hours to eat dinner, have a stroll along the waterfront and maybe listen to some music. Otherwise, you’ll spend more of your time in your car getting to places. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors have compiled an overview of the five best things to see and do in the French Riviera. It’s of the big things, the must-sees; the starting points for any trip to the Riviera. It’s meant to be a guide. If all you do is stroll from the same café down to the same beach everyday, hit a market or two, perhaps pop into a museum when you’ve had enough sun and spend your evenings eating and drinking, your time has been well spent.
     
    1. Glorious beaches are everywhere along the French Riviera but the most famous ones are in St. Tropez. Visit Plage de Pampelonne. The sandy beach was forever made famous by the 1950s film And God Created Woman with Brigitte Bardot. Pick a beach club and settle in. As the day progresses, the champagne really starts flowing—literally. Expect a spray tan of Krug at some point thanks to some Middle Eastern princess’ birthday party — or just because. Cannes also has sandy beaches along La Croisette.
     
    2. The city of Cannes, famous for hosting the eponymous International Film Festival since 1946, is about an hour’s drive to the north of St. Tropez. A stop there for a stroll along the famous Promenade de la Croisette is a must. Stay in one of the iconic hotels lining La Croisette or hole up as A-listers have for decades a few miles away in Antibes. Dine along the waterfront, shop the chic boutiques or tiny gourmet food stores and roll some dice at the casinos.

    3. Many great artists from the 20th century lived and worked along the French Riviera. Further up the coast from Cannes is Antibes, which is home to the Musée Picasso, the world’s largest collection of Picasso paintings housed in the Chateau Grimaldi, where exploring the old town is like taking a stroll through medieval France.
     
    4. Climb the steps up to the Colline du Château in Nice where you’ll find the best view of the city. Later, explore its scenic promenade and visit its museums, including the Matisse Museum, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and the Chagall Museum.
     
    5. Dial it down in Menton, or rev things up in Monte Carlo, depending on your mood. Menton has a temperate climate year-round. In February the annual Fête du Citron celebrates the town’s famous lemon production with sculptures and parade floats made from the town’s golden fruits. Of course, Monte Carlo is the place to go for gambling in the posh casino. The principality also has great restaurants, a lovely manmade beach and an excellent aquarium.
  • On July 13, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to eat on the French Riviera?

    The French Riviera is dotted with elegant restaurants helmed by star chefs who use the region’s superb produce to create inventive, ambitious menus. One could make quite the gastronomical crawl between Monaco and St. Tropez. Here, Forbes Travel Guide has a list of the five best places to eat on the French Riviera:
     
    1. Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse. Le Louis XV inside the world-famous Hôtel de Paris may be chef Alain Ducasse’s best restaurant. The opulent dining room drips with luxury. Expect to see men in jackets and well-dressed ladies dining on the sublime Mediterranean cuisine.
     
    2. Joël Robuchon Monte-Carlo. Celebrity chef Joël Robuchon’s Monte Carlo outpost is located in the luxe Hôtel Metropole. Expect favorites like the chef’s famous mashed potatoes, as well as all kinds of seasonal surprises. The intimate dining room features views of the water.
     
    3. La Palme d’Or. Located at the classic Hotel Martinez and named after the film festival’s top prize, La Palme d’Or is one of the most famous restaurants in Cannes. Chef Christian Sinicropi’s seasonal cuisine is a pure delight, as is the indoor/outdoor Art Deco setting.
     
    4. Chantecler. Located in the famous Hôtel Le Negresco in Nice, chef Jean-Denis Rieubland offers imaginative and beautifully presented dishes in the elegant Regency-style setting. The restaurant is open for lunch on Sunday.
     
    5. Restaurant Colette. Chef Pierre Gagnaire opened this cool, contemporary restaurant back in 2010 in the Hotel Sezz. Chef Patrick Cuissard uses the finest ingredients to create dishes such as farm chicken stuffed with foie gras and truffles, and beef fillet with anchovy butter and sweet and sour pickles.
  • On July 13, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to stay on the French Riviera?

    The French Riviera has long been a vacation destination for the rich and the very rich, so there’s no shortage of grand places to stay. Many of its resorts have a long history. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s picks for the five best places to stay on the French Riviera:
     
    1. Majestic Barrière, Cannes. A complete renovation in 2011 makes the legendary Majestic Barrière in Cannes even more luxurious. Ideally located along La Croisette, the Majestic is a favorite among the many celebrities who flock to Cannes for the film festival
     
    2. Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. The legendary hotel located on a peninsula between Nice and Monaco was recently renovated. The hotel has a new wing, new suites with private pools, new spa and revamped modern rooms. What hasn’t changed is the famous pool. The Olympic-size seawater pool, which you get to via an ornate glass cable car, is as lovely as ever.
     
    3. La Réserve Ramatuelle, St. Tropez. The secluded hideaway features cool white rooms with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Mediterranean, beautiful bungalows nestled among its gardens and a light-filled spa.  
     
    4. Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc, Antibes. This is where the A-list stays during the Cannes Film Festival and after a four-year renovation the hotel is as splendid as ever. The property includes a seawater pool with private cabanas built into the cliff, a La Prairie spa and clay tennis courts.
     
    5. Hôtel de Paris, Monaco. This gilded palace adjacent to the Casino de Monte Carlo was built in 1864. The Belle Époque hotel offers one of the Riviera’s best restaurants, Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse, as well as an unrivaled wine cellar holding almost 600,000 bottles. Most rooms have an opulent Empire style and many have views of the Mediterranean.