Are you thinking about a trip to the beautiful South of France? I get it. Who wouldn’t want to explore all the amazing things to do in the French Riviera? Love art? Food? History? This place has it all. Welcome to your ultimate guide to the French Riviera. This article is more than just a list of places to visit; it’s your go-to resource for planning that dream trip. It does not matter if you are a solo traveler looking for unique experiences or a family looking for their next vacation spot; this guide will offer a variety of French Riviera itineraries for everyone. Your dream vacation is just a scroll away!
1. Explore the Heart of Old Town Nice
In Old Town Nice, you will find narrow, winding, cobblestone streets filled with cafes and shops.
You have to check out the Cours Saleya market, It is a feast for your senses with vendors selling flowers, soaps, fresh produce, honey, and handmade goods. On Mondays, it transforms into an antique market. It’s the perfect spot to grab the perfect Riviera souvenir that screams, “I got this in Nice!”
The Old Town is also a foodie’s paradise. You’ll find everything from high-end French cuisine to hole-in-the-wall eateries serving up local dishes like socca. Socca is a local dish made from chickpea flour. It is amazing.
Also, try “Pissaladière,” an onion and anchovy tart that’s way better than it sounds. For dessert, grab some gelato from Fenocchio. They’ve got more flavors than you can imagine, including some pretty wild ones like lavender and cactus.
But this area isn’t just about shopping and eating. The architecture is a sight to see, too. The Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate and the Palais Lascaris are must-sees.
Insider Tip: Don’t skip the Place Massena, a bustling square that’s the heart of Old Town. It’s the perfect spot to sip on some French wine and people-watch.
2. Get in Views of Promenade Anglais from Castle Hill
Let’s talk about one of the worst-kept secrets in Nice: the view of Nice from the top of Castle Hill. Trust me, this is the kind of view that’ll make you want to drop everything and move to the French Riviera.
You’re standing on a hill that was once home to a medieval fortress. For history buffs, there are even info boards scattered around to give you the lowdown on the area’s past.
The views of the city and the coastline are unbeatable. You’re getting a panoramic look at Nice that you just can’t get anywhere else, including a look at the famous Promenade Anglais.
You can sit on a bench, and people watch the locals and tourists enjoying the beach, bicycling, rollerblading, and enjoying their day on the Promenade.
So, how do you get up there? You’ve got two options: lace up those sneakers and hike up, or take the easy route with the elevator. Either way, just make sure you’ve got water and your camera—yes, the views are that good.
When is the best time to go? Early mornings and late afternoons are golden—literally. The Mediterranean sun is softer, making for some epic photos, and it’s usually less crowded. Just remember, the paths can be a bit steep
Once you’re up there, you’ll find it’s not just a “snap a photo and leave” kind of place. There are winding footpaths, food vendors, and even a waterfall that makes the perfect backdrop for Instagram photos.
Insider Tip: If you’re up for it, bring a picnic. Grab some local cheese and a baguette and take the short walk from the Old Town markets to make an afternoon of it. It is the perfect location to relax from the hustle and bustle of the city below.
3. Check Out the Cannes Film Festival
If your timing is right and you’re in town during the spring festival, you’re in for a treat. The resort town comes alive and turns into one big party. Cafes and bars lining la Croisette are buzzing, and there is excitement everywhere you go.
You can try to score a ticket to a film screening, but even if you don’t get a ticket, you will have fun enjoying the restaurants, shopping, and famous beach clubs. You might even bump into a celebrity while out and about. Just make sure to be respectful.
Everyone is here to have a good time.
4. Visit the Second Smallest Country in the World
Let’s dive into Monaco, the tiny but mighty city-state. While technically not in France, it is generally considered to be part of the French Riviera.
It is the second smallest country in the world, right behind the Vatican City. This tiny country is known for its glitz and glamour, but it also has some amazingly cool cultural spots.
First up, the Monte Carlo casino. This is like stepping into a James Bond movie. Seriously, people actually dress to the nines to gamble here. And even if you’re not into betting, the building itself is a showstopper. The interior of the Casino Monte Carlo includes beautiful frescoes, sculptures, and an overall vibe that screams luxury.
There are always high-end, luxury sports cars parked out front, and the crowds gather around for pictures. Even if you’re not a high roller, it’s worth taking a tour just to soak in all that opulence.
Next on the list is The Oceanography Museum. The museum dedicated to aquatic life isn’t your typical aquarium. The building itself is perched off a cliff just above the Mediterranean Sea. The views from the rooftop terrace are amazing. Inside, they’ve got everything from shark lagoons to exhibits on marine conservation. This is perfect for families or those who love aquatic animals.
Last but not least, visit the Prince’s Palace. This is the real-life residence of Monaco’s royal family. One of his most famous residents was Princess Grace Kelly. You can witness the daily Changing of the Guard ceremony. During the summer season, you can tour the lavish interior. It’s your chance to get a taste of Monaco’s royal lifestyle.
5. Book a Lounger at an Antibes Beach Clubs
If you are looking to live your best life on the French Riviera, you need to book a day at one of the Riviera’s infamous beach clubs. They are popular all over the Mediterranean coast in infamous towns like St Tropez, Nice, and Cannes.
Insider Tip: However, locals and savvy tourists know that booking beach clubs in smaller, less crowded places like the medieval village of Antibes will experience better rates and less crowded accommodations.
When you book a day at a beach club, you are booking a private sun bed with many food and drink options at one of the region’s picture-perfect beaches. Each club in Antibes is like a mini resort. You will find plush lounge chairs, cocktails served right to your spot, and the epitome of luxury and relaxation.
Most Antibes beach clubs offer fine dining options so that you can go from sunbathing to a gourmet meal without ever leaving the beach. It’s the ultimate way to experience the laid-back luxury that Antibes is all about.
6. Experience the Diverse Culture of Menton
Menton is like the love child of France and Italy. It’s right on French Italian border between the two countries, and you can experience that blend of cultures in everything from the architecture to the food.
Because of its location, the historic fishing village of Menton offers a unique blend of French and Italian foods. In the same sitting, you can order a plate of fresh pasta topped with Provençal herbs, with the next bite being into a croissant filled with Italian cream. It’s like getting the best of both culinary worlds, and it’s absolutely delicious.
If you are visiting the region in the winter, make sure to explore the Lemon Festival. You’ve never seen citrus like this, I promise.
Insider Tip: Every February, the town goes all out, creating massive sculptures and floats made entirely of lemons and oranges. The whole place smells like a citrus grove, and the vibe is just so joyful and vibrant.
7. Take in the Views from Eze
Perched high above the French Riviera, Eze is one of many hilltop villages in southern france. This quaint village is known for it’s stone buildings and medieval architecture.
Located 1400 ft above sea level, the views of the coastline are insane. On a clear day, you may be able to spot Corsica in the distance.
For the most prominent views, visit the Exotic Garden of Eze. Here, you will find jaw-dropping views from the most famous lookout point,
The garden is also filled with rare, exotic plants for those who enjoy nature.
Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or just someone who appreciates a good view, the medieval village of Eze has something for you. Seriously, this village is like something out of a fairy tale.
8. Enjoy Wine with Cistercian Monks on the Lerins Islands
One of the French Riviera’s hidden gems is just a short boat ride from Cannes. These four islands offer a totally different vibe from the mainland.
If you’re looking to escape the crowds and get a little one-on-one time with Mother Nature, this is your spot. There are walking trails that wind through pine forests and eucalyptus, and the views are just unreal. You’ll get these panoramic views of the beautiful French Riviera.
There are also vineyards to enjoy. These aren’t just any vineyards; they’re run by Cistercian monks. Yes, you read that right. These monks have been making wine for centuries, and they know their stuff.
Insider Tip: You can actually visit the vineyards, take a tour, and, of course, sample some of their heavenly creations. It’s a unique experience that blends history, spirituality, and some really good wine.
9. Visit the Unique Trio of Islands: Iles d’Hyeres
If you’re looking for a slice of paradise that’s off the beaten path, this is where you want to be. These islands are known as the Golden Islands for their beautiful beaches and serene atmospheres.
First up, Porquerolles Island, the largest island of the 3. There are no cars allowed on the island, so the pace and atmosphere are calm, quiet, and relaxed. You can rent a bike to explore the island or just kick back on a quiet beach. Either way, you’re in for a treat.
Now, let’s head over to Port-Cros National Park. This place is a nature lover’s dream come true. We’re talking hiking trails that take you through lush forests, past ancient forts, and right up to cliff-top viewpoints. And the snorkeling? Absolutely amazing. The waters surrounding Port-Cros are teeming with marine life, making it a must-visit for anyone who loves to explore underwater worlds.
Last but not least, let’s not forget about Levant. This island is different from the others, and not just because it’s home to a nudist village. Levant has its own unique vibe, with rocky outcrops and hidden coves. If you are looking to learn more about the naturist lifestyle, Levant offers a unique experience that’s worth checking out.
Insider Tip: These islands are accessible by ferry from multiple points along the French Riviera’s coastline. The most popular ferry point is at Le Lavandou (just east of Toulon).
10. Dive Into the French Riviera’s Water Sports
For the ultimate French Riviera experience, consider renting a yacht for the day. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Yachts are for billionaires.” You will be surprised to know yachting isn’t just about sipping champagne, and it’s not just available for the rich and famous.
For a reasonable price, you can rent a beautiful boat and experience the open water and the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. There are many rental options in St Tropez, Cannes, and Nice that include full-day charters or sunset diner cruises.
Not into yachting? Book a scuba diving excursion. There are many courses for both certified divers and newbies. The French Riviera’s colorful sea life and aqua-blue waters make the perfect environment for you to take a scuba excursion.
11. Experience the Healing Springs of Fontaine de Vaucluse
One of the world’s most powerful springs is an inland destination located in the Provence region of the French Riviera.
The Fontaine de Vaucluse is a natural spring where the water gushes out over a cliff. The water is clear emerald green and is associated with several ancient legends about its healing powers and the mythical creatures that lived there.
The Fontaine de Vaucluse is a natural wonder and is the largest spring in France, 5th largest in the world.
Insider Tip: It is best visited in the late winter or early spring when the water is at its highest, and it is flowing the most dramatically.
If you’re the kind of person who loves a good mix of natural beauty and a dash of mystery, then the Fontaine de Vaucluse should be on your French Riviera bucket list.
13. Embrace Nature by Hiking or Taking Nature Walks
If you’re the type who thinks a vacation isn’t complete without some quality time in the great outdoors, then you’re in for a treat.
Specifically, the Esterel Massif. Imagine a landscape of red volcanic rock set against the deep blue of the Mediterranean Sea. Sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, right? But it’s real, and it’s spectacular. The trails here range from easy walks to challenging hikes. The views, like many places on the French Riviera, are breathtaking. You’ll want to make sure your phone is fully charged because you’ll be snapping photos non-stop. The contrast of the red rocks against the sea is something you have to see to believe.
Switching gears, head to Mercantour National Park for a biodiverse landscape where you can take leisurely walks or more challenging multi-day treks. This National Park is like the French Riviera’s wild, untamed backyard. There are rugged mountain peaks, crystal-clear lakes, and even some glaciers if you go to a high enough elevation. You can see a variety of wildlife, from marmots to ibexes that call the park home.
Insider Tip: For those wanting to camp, the park is dotted with refuges where you can spend the night, making it the perfect setting for longer adventures.
13. Explore the Architecture of Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
This famous Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is where history, architecture, and natural beauty come together.
Let’s start with the history and architecture. This villa was built by Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild, and let me tell you, she had exquisite taste.
The place is a mix of different architectural styles—think Gothic, Renaissance, and classic French—all rolled into one.
It’s like stepping into a different era, where every room tells a story. You will find lavish furnishings and intricate frescoes throughout the villa.
The villa is now a museum, so you can wander through and soak it all in at your own pace.
But as stunning as the interior is, you’ll want to make sure you save time for the botanical garden.
Designed by landscape architect Achille Duchêne, the gardens are divided into nine themes, including a Japanese garden, a rose garden, and even a garden designed to mimic the decks of a ship.
Every April, the villa Ephrussi de Rothschild hosts the Rose and Plant Festival. The festival features exhibits from rose growers, musicians, and local vendors selling crafts and goods.
Insider Tip: Because the villa is perched on the hill of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, the views of the Cote d’Azur are absolutely incredible. This is the perfect location to get beautiful photos.
14. Live It Up With the Nonstop Nightlife
The French Riviera knows how to party. Whether you’re into sipping cocktails at a swanky bar or trying your luck at the world-famous Monte Carlo casino, there’s something for every type of night owl.
In Nice, you’ve got to check out the Old Town, where the narrow streets come alive at night with bars and pubs that offer everything from craft beers to local wines.
If you’re looking for something a bit more upscale, head over to the Promenade des Anglais, where you’ll find rooftop bars with stunning views of the Mediterranean.
In Cannes, the sandy beaches will often turn into nightclubs as the sun goes down, and you will soon be dancing the night away under the Riviera stars. The vibe is pure Riviera chic.
Hop over to Monaco and dive into the world of luxury. If you thought the Casino was glamorous during the day, just wait until you see it at night. The place is a magnet for high-rollers and jet-setters, all dressed to the nines. And it’s not just about gambling. Monaco has clubs with live music, gourmet restaurants, and even art installations. The French Riviera is like an adult playground.
15. Release Your Inner Foodie with Unique Culinary Experiences
Whether you’re a food connoisseur looking for the next best dish or someone who just loves a good meal, the French Riviera has got you covered, from breakfast to late-night snacks.
Let’s start with fine dining because the French Riviera knows how to do gourmet. In Nice, you’ve got options like Le Chantecler, where the ambiance is as sumptuous as the food. Think white-glove service, chandeliers, and a wine list that reads like a novel.
But remember, fine dining is just one part of the culinary story here. For a more laid-back vibe, you’ve got to hit up the local markets and street food stalls. In Nice, the Cours Saleya market is a must-visit.
Cannes has its own version of street food heaven at the Marché Forville, where you can sample everything from freshly baked pastries to freshly caught seafood.
And let’s not forget about wine and cheese tasting, because what’s a trip to France without some fromage? Whether you’re in a rustic wine cellar in a Provencal village or a trendy wine bar in downtown Nice, the options for wine and cheese are endless.
Insider Tip: Consider a guided food or wine tour through the Riviera to experience the Riviera’s most famous offerings. Trust me, your taste buds will thank you.
16. Embrace the Culture by Enjoying Cultural Experiences
If you’re the kind of traveler who likes to dive deep into the local culture, then you’re in for a treat.
First up, perfume-making workshops in Grasse. Now, Grasse isn’t just another charming French town; it’s the perfume capital of the world. Seriously, this place is to perfume what Hollywood is to movies.
Make sure to book a perfume-making workshop where you’ll learn the art of fragrance creation from master perfumers. During the experience, you will blend your own unique scent using ingredients like lavender, jasmine, and rose—all of which are grown locally.
It’s a hands-on experience that lets you become a part of France’s most iconic industries.
You may be more into visual art than olfactory art. No worries, the Riviera’s has plenty for art lovers, too. From the Picasso Museum in Antibes to the Marc Chagall National Museum in Nice, the art scene here is top-notch.
And it’s not just about the big names; You will find local galleries showcasing everything from contemporary art to art collectors’ private collections.
17. Check Out the Shopping
Let’s face it: a trip to the French Riviera wouldn’t be complete without a little retail therapy. Whether you’re into high-end luxury or unique local finds, the French Riviera has got something for every kind of shopper.
First up luxury shopping in Cannes and Monaco. In Cannes, the streets are lined with palm trees and designer boutiques. If you are looking to splurge, this is your spot.
In Monaco, they take high-end shopping a step further. We’re talking iconic brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci, all within a stone’s throw of the sparkling Mediterranean. Even if you’re just window shopping, the experience is something to behold
Switching gears, head over to Nice for some local crafts and homemade goods. If Cannes and Monaco are all about the glitz and glamour, Nice is where you’ll find the heart and soul of the Riviera.
The Cours Saleya market is a must-visit, offering everything from fresh flowers to handmade soaps. And don’t forget the artisanal food products such as olive oils, tapenades, and all sorts of deliciousness that you’ll want to stuff into your suitcase.
Insider Tip: For something a bit more artsy, check out the local craft markets, where you can find unique souvenirs like hand-painted ceramics and Provencal fabrics.
Practical Tips for Visiting the French Riviera
The best time to visit: If you’re all about that beach life, then June and July are your sweet spots. We’re talking warm weather, sunny skies, and the Mediterranean at its most inviting.
But if you’re looking to avoid the crowds and don’t mind a bit of a chill, consider visiting the French Riviera in the shoulder seasons of April-May or September-October. You’ll still get plenty of sunshine but with fewer people around.
How to get around: The French Riviera may be a playground for the rich and famous, but trust me, you don’t need a yacht to get from point A to point B.
Public transportation is solid and reliable, with buses and trains connecting most major towns.
You can get amazing views of the coastline by taking a train from Cannes all the way to Menton, passing through the cities of Nice, Villefranche Sur Mer, and Monaco. The journey is part of the fun.
If you’re staying in one of the major cities like Nice or Cannes, you’ll find that a lot of the main attractions are walkable.
If you’re looking to explore some of the more remote areas of the French Riviera, consider renting a car for a day or two.
Budget Considerations: The French Riviera can be pricey, but there are ways to make it more affordable.
Consider booking accommodations a bit further from the beach to save some euros, or opt for a vacation rental if you’re traveling with a group.
When it comes to dining, don’t underestimate the power of a good picnic—local markets in the French Riviera offer a range of delicious options that won’t break the bank.
And remember, many of the best experiences here are free. Think hiking in the Esterel Massif or lounging on a public beach in Nice.
So Many Things to Do in the French Riviera!
There you have it: The best things to do in the French Riviera The French Riviera is perfect for those seeking glamour, adventure, and mouthwatering cruising. This place is a smorgasbord of experiences just waiting to be had.
So what are you waiting for? The French Riviera isn’t going to explore itself Start planning, start packing, and most importantly, start dreaming. Because trust me, once you set foot on that golden Riviera coastline, you’re going to wonder why you didn’t come sooner.
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Haley Gleason is the founder of gleasonfamilytravels.com. She specializes in helping other ordinary families plan extraordinary vacations. The loves of her life are her two children, husband, good coffee, and red wine.