The French Riviera: Essential Travel Guide

French Riviera or Côte d’Azur?

Yes, French Riviera and Côte d’Azur are one and the same place! It is in the most exciting place in Europe. The rich and famous have it as their playground.

People from all over the world flock here for its one-of-a-kind lifestyle. One word describes it: pleasure.

The nickname Côte d’Azur (or the Blue Coast) comes from the turquoise Mediterranean Sea.

The word Riviera means coast in Italian. French Riviera is a gem for visitors.

This essential travel guide gives a preview of what to see and do in this surprising place.

French Riviera is set between the Southern Alps and the Mediterranean. It must be the beating heart of Mediterranean Europe.

The Alpes-Maritimes département encloses it. There is no official boundary but it usually begins on Cassis or Toulon west of France.

The France-Italy border is on the east. Nice, a piece of jewel on the south-east coast of France, serves as the capital as the largest city of the region.

This video gives a great overview of the area:

The Climate

A beach in St. Tropez, French Riviera
A fine day at the beach in St. Tropez, French Riviera

The French Riviera has a perfect Mediterranean climate.

Mild winters balance sunny, hot, dry summers. There are almost no days of frost.

There are rainy days but on the right amount. Thunderstorms come between late summer up to autumn, but never in excess.

Expect varied weather in different locations. The surest thing is the presence of sunshine all year round, with 300 days of summer every year.

An overview of the population

Tourists enjoy strolling in Old Town, Menton
Tourists enjoy strolling in Old Town, Menton

With the départements 109,856,000 (2014 figure), expect a spiraling trade of culture. Italians are primarily numerous. Then there are the French.

The foreign population includes Britons, Spaniards, Portuguese, Germans, Russians, and eastern Europeans.

Modern middle-eastern monarchs and nouveau-riche also want the taste of luster and wealth it gives. Recently, there is also a growing number of Chinese tourists.

The official language is French, but most people speak English. Street signs are mostly in two languages in the Old Towns.

History, Architecture, and Heritage

The Russian Orthodox Church in Nice
The Russian Orthodox Church in Nice

Power struggles between France’s Provence and Italy’s Comte de Nice shaped its architectural heritage.

But its history reaches back to the Romans, Phocean Greeks, and even cave dwellers.

Some of the historical remains are still present. Castles and forts stand the tests of times.

Cathedrals and baroque churches are proofs of not only of religiosity of the place but also the artistic spirit as well.

Latter visitors began Rennaisance structural changes. Palace-like hotels and lavish villas arose.

Neo-Gothics Anglican Churches and exotic domed churches of the Russian Orthodoxy shows the evolution of both faith and art.

Then, there are the striking gardens and parks with tropical plants from the five continents.

Aside from the growing high-rises, there are still many modern architectural wonders to see. Examples are the Musee Chagall in the Promenade du Paillon in Nice and the Cocteau Museum in Menton.

A Play of Colors

An Old Town in French Riviera
Menton, the Easternmost town on the French Riviera

The stucco-style houses prove the age-old tradition. It gives a wonderful contrast with greeneries in many places.

The blue Mediterranean water with the white backdrop of the Alpes-Maritimes is charming.

Red sandstones, grey rock-splits, and verdant forests and gardens have a natural blend of hues.

The southern sun gives a wondrous ray of brilliance everywhere. It stirs deep emotions to artists that made them create their masterpieces.

Local Traditions

A petanque player
A petanque player

Locals, immigrants, and foreigners enjoy the traditional games of petanque and boulet. There are also numerous centuries-old festivities in each town.

People of St. Tropez have been celebrating the Bravades on May for over 500 years. Local Monaguesqes still celebrate St.

Devota’s day by burning a boat. There are also carnivals in different cities for everyone to enjoy.

Events, holidays, and festivities are perfect opportunities to experience the rich and vibrant culture and traditions of the French Riviera. See our events calendar so as not to miss these lively occasions.

An Authentic Mediterranean Gastronomy

A dish of petit farcis
Many regard petit farcis as the most characteristic of all Nicoise dishes

For every mood, occasion, or budget, there are plenty of places to dine. The linen-covered tables, silver cloches, and the hordes of servers make dining one of its greatest pleasures.

Beach restaurants have tables in the sand. DJs and the sea view match the delightful cuisine.

Olive oil and olives are in many dishes. Most are Mediterranean dishes. Cornucopias of tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, onion, and garlic give palette of colors.

Local markets sell fresh local products like fruits, vegetables, and flowers every day. Anchovies, herbs, and spices are ever-present in the local open-markets.

The coastline gives a bounty of seafood. You can have dishes of red mullets, sea breams, tunas, squids, and mussels at beach restaurants.

Beef, lamb, and even rabbits are present on different dishes.

Local cheese and bread are in every pastry store for connoisseurs. Local wines add cheer to meals.

Cities

Monaco

The Principality is known for its luxurious and extravagant lifestyle. The plush hotels, grand casino, lovely parks, and heritage sites make this independent city-state one of the favorite destinations in the French Riviera.

See our travel guide for more.

Nice, France

A true Mediterranean jewel, Nice is rich in history, heritage, and culture. With its famous promenade along the coast, beaches, and luxurious hotels, this city is a must in everyone’s vacation list.

See what it has to offer here.

Cannes, France

We all know this “timeless” city in southern France for the prestigious annual Film Festival. But, all year round there is so much to see and do in this classic yet cosmopolitan city. You will definitely love the beaches and events.

Learn more from this travel guide.

Antibes-Juan-les-Pins

With landmarks full of historicity and modern combined with the upbeat nightclubs, beaches, and casinos, this resort town is a true treasure in Côte d’Azur. It can be a good start in exploring the region.

See our travel guide.

Resort Towns

Beaulieu-sur-Mer

A not-so-hidden-hideaway with lovely seafront gardens and belle-epoque touch, this seaside town will give for a perfect vacation. Do not miss the greek villa!

Find more in this travel guide.

Èze

Locals call this wonderful town as village-musée and village d’art et de gastronomie for its olio of medieval spirit and modern charms.

Find the town’s amazing spots here in this travel guide.

Îles de Lérins

Away from the hustle and bustle of the partyish French Riviera towns, this pair of islands is a perfect tourist escape.

Discover this emerald Eden on this travel guide.

Menton

Called “the Pearl of France,” this town is also the most Italian among all towns in the French Riviera. You can enjoy its tropical weather all-year-round.

Learn more about this town in our travel guide.

Saint-Tropez

Travel to this jet-setters’ and artists’ favorite to experience a fashionable French Riviera escapade.

See how you can have the encounter here.

Villefranche-sur-Mer

With numerous beautiful landscapes and a delightful local atmosphere, everyone planning a trip in the region should never miss this town.

See this post for more information.

Perched Villages

Cagnes-sur-Mer

“The Town of Arts and Crafts,” the lemon city, and one of the favorite scenes of artists and painters, this pleasant seaside resort town invites you to a leisurely visit.

Have a preview of the exciting places here.

Mougins

For a culinary and culture getaway, we recommend this town. Rich in art and culinary history, this perched-town is one-of-a-kind.

Discover more of this chic destination here.

Roquebrune-Cap Martin

This town makes for an ideal luxury getaway. In between Monaco and Menton but away from the urban glitz.

Know more about this town in our travel guide.

St-Paul de Vence

Its reputation as an esteemed tourist destination is as lofty as its walls. The cobbled stones, ancient ramparts, and brick houses are merely facades for the surprises the town harbors within.

Uncover the excitement through this post.

What to do while visiting the French Riviera?

Tourists in a public beach in Cannes
Tourists enjoying the sun and the sea in a public beach in Cannes

Shopping is a favorite pastime in the region. There are boutiques, souvenir-shops, arts-and-crafts galleries in many centers.

You should never miss the beaches.

There are numerous museums for history fans. Art enthusiasts will surely find delight in art galleries and exhibits in every city and town.

Take a taste of local food and wine. Food is always part of the experience in the Frech riviera.

Try playing at the casinos. Or you can dance at night clubs.

See an opera at the theaters (especially Monte Carlo). And watch films in open-air cinemas (especially Monaco).

Savor the Best Experience in French Riviera

Super yachts in Cannes
Superyachts in Cannes

You should savor a glass of rosé on Cours Saleya in Nice.

Sight-seeing and touring the Old Towns and gardens must be always on your list of activities

You will admire the super-yachts in Antibes, St. Tropez, Cannes, and Monaco.

Strolling down La Croisette in Cannes and Promenade des Anglais in Nice offers a simple pleasure. Also, follow the nature trails and walks.

Take a cup of coffee in one of the classy cafés in Monte-Carlo. Spend an afternoon and see the sunset at a private beach.

The Corniche Drives

One of the most exciting experiences when visiting the French Riviera is the scenic view in the Corniche (kor-neesh) Drives. From fashionable residential capes. belle époque resorts, medieval villages, and picturesque hills, the Corniches do not lack anything when it comes to breathtaking views.

The term came from the word ‘cornice,’ or the decorative frieze that runs along the top of a building. They are rightly called so for they line the mountainous part of French Riviera along the Alps.

There are three Corniches: The Low (Corniche Inférieure or the Basse Corniche), the Middle (Moyenne Corniche), and the High Corniche (Grande Corniche). These three roads traverse the lower hills of the Alps.

They go down to the sea and link Nice, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Monaco.

The Grande Corniche goes up to Menton and accessible through Roquebrune. It has distant vistas of the sea and the land inwards.

The shortest of the three, Moyenne Corniche, has intense contrast to the cliffs and the sea. It traverses Èze, Monaco, and Roquebrune, and Villefranche-sur-Mer, with an exhilarating view of Nice.

Corniche Inferior, or the Basse Corniche, snakes through harbors and villas. It starts at Villefranche-sur-Mer, then going to Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Èze, and Monaco.

How to Travel to and around the french riviera

Monaco Train Station

You can travel through the links of railways and roads. It is good to enjoy the sights around while moving on land.

Nice has the second busiest airport in France next to Paris.

For more information about the French Riviera towns’ Tourism Offices, please go here.

By plane

The Aéroport Nice Côte d’Azur is the main hub of French Riviera. Delta Airlines is the only one with direct flights from the US.

By road

The A8, known as “La Provencal,” connects the regions from east to west that runs for about 950 km (590 m). It takes about eight hours to travel from Paris to Nice.

By train

Railways links to major European cities. It will take around a five-and-a-half-hour ride to Nice coming from Paris on the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse, “high-speed train”).

Touring around

You can use the Regional Express Train (TER) that connects major coastal cities. Most stations are walking distance from the town center.

Bus rides in towns with Ticket Azure cost (1.50€). Machines sell tickets in stations and validation machines stamp them.

There are also exclusive movers like luxury jets, cruises, liners, limos, helicopters, and other luxurious modes of transport.

Final Takeaway

This essential travel guide about French Riviera offers only a sneak-peak.

Find more here in Iconic Riviera. Have a grand vacation in this wonderful spot in the Mediterranean!

Click this link to see the Tourism Offices information.

Visit French Riviera’s Official Tourism Portal