There’s often debate on where exactly the French Riviera starts and ends. Some people say it stretches from Marseille to the Italian border, but for the purposes of this guide the French Riviera is bookended by the tony village of Saint-Tropez in the west and the citrus-loving town of Menton at the Italian border in the east.
However you measure it there’s no doubt that the French Riviera is one of the most famous and storied coastlines in the world. It’s a sun-soaked ribbon of colorful seaside towns and glamorous cities along the Mediterranean Sea in the southeast corner of France. Whatever type of traveler you are, it will entrance you. It has had that effect on writers, blue-bloods, and travelers for centuries, all lured to the region’s magical blend of light, water, climate, topography, and history. It’s a seductive kaleidoscope for day dreamers and wish-fulfillment seekers, and a playground for prince and princesses, business tycoons and jet-setters. Brimming with history, culture, heritage, and beauty, the French Riviera exceeds your wildest imaginations. Families, food lovers, sun-seekers, hedonists, art collector, soul-searching gypsies looking to stretch their powers of wonder and curiosity will not be disappointed.
From the perched villages, seaside towns, and Roman ruins to cosmopolitan cities, beach clubs, hiking trails and world-class museums and galleries, the French Riviera is a region that begs you to slow down and take a long languid look at one of the most stunning coastlines in the world.
Is there a lot of hype? Yep. And it lives up to it, too. The French Riviera is every bit as beautiful, glamorous, and idyllic as the rumors suggest. Where else in the world can you walk in the footsteps of movie characters like James Bond at the Casino de Monte Carlo, follow your nose to Grasse, dubbed the perfume capital of the world, linger in front of masterpieces painted by Matisse, then rosé all day at a beach club all in the span of a weekend?
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While shining stars like Saint-Tropez, Cannes, Nice, and Monaco get a lot of limelight, surprises abound in lesser known towns like Biot, known for its glass blowers and potters, and in Fréjus, where some of France’s most extensive Roman ruins sit ready to relish in the region’s past. Even well-known Cannes, known more for its famous film festival than anything else, has something up its sleeve: a dozen or so larger-than-life murals painted on sides of buildings offering an unusual way to explore the cinematic seaside city.
Though hill villages such as St. Paul de Vence and Eze are clogged with tourists during the summer, off-peak lollygags through these lofty strongholds reveal galleries, cafes, hotels, churches, and some killer views that tumble over the countryside and cobalt blue sea.
La Cote d’Azur, as the French Riviera is also called, translates to The Blue Coast and is the name supposedly invented by a poet by the name of Stephane Liegeard in 1887. A mere glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea any time of day and you’ll see why the name stuck. Fifty shades of blue, from sky to turquoise to cobalt, speckle the coast like a painter’s palette. Backed by copper and limestone cliffs dotted with olive and pine trees, sublime sunsets, and pastel-colored villages, it’s no wonder the French Riviera was a muse to some of the most famous artists in the world who found their rhythm here. Numerous French Riviera museums live on to tell the tales of their love affair.
Active travelers won’t be disappointed. Swimming, sailing, jet-skiing in the Mediterranean Sea, and biking are favorite pastimes, as is strolling through morning markets and around Roman ruins, hiking in the Massif des Maures or along the Sentier du Littoral, and mountain climbing in the nearby Alps.
Want to lounge on the beach? You’re in luck. French Riviera Beaches fill the coastline and there are dozens upon dozens of small sand stretches and pebbly crescents lapped by warm, turquoise water. Like to drive? Take a spin on the Corniches (grande, moyenne, and basse), three famous (and sometimes harrowing) routes that run between Nice and Menton and afford some of the most spectacular scenery you will come across on the French Riviera.
When it comes to luxury, the French Riviera has few rivals. Michelin-star restaurants, haute couture boutiques, and posh hotels are plentiful and attract Hollywood A-listers, titans of business, and real-life royalty. But luxury is in the eye of the beholder, and mere mortals can enjoy the riches of the French Riviera, too. Mingled along the coastal roads and villages you’ll find convivial and affordable guesthouses and hotels, casual cafés, and attractive offers, discounts and passes, like the French Riviera Card, that help navigate French Riviera attractions on a budget that’s as easy to manage as rosé on a hot summer day.
If you think you’ll have nothing to do here, then you are misguided. “I’m bored” is something you’ll never utter on the French Riviera, which plays host to a year round calendar of events, from concerts to famous festivals Nice’s Carnivale, to some of the world’s most esteemed sporting events. For those of you who prefer to let your stomachs guide your travel, then you’ve come to the right place. The Mediterranean flavors or the French Riviera will lead you to fantastic restaurants, local markets, wineries, olive oil mills, gourmet shops, food-centric events like Menton’s Fete du Citron and all the must eat dishes that hold all the rustic and traditional tastes of Provence and the Mediterranean region, with a dash of Italian dolce vita.
One thing you never want to do on the French Riviera is hurry. No one else does, so just take your time and enjoy the slowed down pace of life.
Whether you take one perfect day in Saint-Tropez, a weekend in Nice, or marvel at the timeless gardens and villas of the French Riviera, I guarantee your senses will be seduced by this diverse and dynamic region. It won’t take long before you’re asking yourself the same question I do when it’s time for me to leave: How soon can I return?
To book a suitable hotel or other accommodation in, or near Cannes, you can use the map below, which shows current prices for hotels and apartments. To book further afield, then just enlarge the map (+/-) to see more properties or, if you are headed for a particular part of the coast, enter your preferred resort/town/village in the ‘Where are you going?’ box.
The French Riviera is a place one could spend a lifetime exploring, but who gets that much time off work?!
It’s a year-round destination that offers something for every season. It really just depends on the type of traveler you are and what experience you are looking for.
Really, you could fill up your days for an entire month and still feel as if you didn’t see it all.
However, for a good taste of city, country, beach, nightlife, history, and loads of leisurely lollygagging in on the French Rivera, I suggest 2-3 weeks.
There’s nothing worse than living out of a suitcase, so consider making a home base on the eastern end of the Riviera around Nice where you can easily take day trips to surrounding sites and destinations. Then head to the western end of the Riviera, around Saint-Tropez, and do the same. This will maximize your time and enjoyment of all the spoils of the French Riviera while keeping your packing and unpacking to a minimum.
I would argue that anytime is the right time for the French Riviera, but I’m slightly biased. I love it all the time.
With its mild climate, ubiquitous sunshine and year-calendar of events, the French Riviera is truly a 360-day destination, with plenty
to offer every season.
Peak Season: mid-May to mid September
If swimming, boating, beach clubbing, concerts, flip flops, and see-and-be-seen scenes are on your French Riviera to do list,
then this season is your sweet spot. But remember with the rising temperatures also come the rising prices and rising numbers of people on the roads, in hotels and at the restaurants. Advanced reservations are essential in July and August.
May and June are great for site seeing and traveling easily along the roads and highways since the massive crowds wonât have
arrived. Keep in mind though that there are three national holidays in May, which means businesses might be closed and public transportation schedules could be altered. (See Events and Holidays).
Beach clubs will likely not be open until early or mid June.
September is deal. The weather remains warm, the crowds have thinned, prices come down a little, and locals come out again,
clinging to their last warm days of summer.
Off Season: November âmid March
This is the season of guaranteed parking, no traffic on the roads, and beaches all to yourself. Keep in mind that many
restaurants, all beach clubs, and some hotels, especially smaller ones, will be closed so check ahead.
Things might seem sleepy, and they are in certain small villages, but the French Riviera
makes spirits soar during the holidays with charming Christmas markets where you can shop for local crafts, sip gluwein and even ice skate.
Or how about skiing? Yep, about an hour from Nice, Isola 2000 is open for business.
Perfect Season: mid-March to mid-May and mid-September to October
To avoid crowds and over paying while still enjoying the spoils of the French Riviera, visiting
during these periods is ideal.
Although temperatures can still be too cold for sunbathing and swimming in March and April,
they are just right for biking, hiking and general touring around the French Rivieraâs attractions. Hotels often have lower rates during these
times too, and impromptu reservation requests at restaurants are not met with raised eyebrows and finger wags.
It’s the year-temperate weather and year-round sunshine of the French Rivera that has made it a holiday destination for centuries.
What you hope to do while visiting should determine whether you visit in spring, summer, fall or winter. Rest assured, there’s always something to do (check out the events and holidays section) in every season.
Temps hover around 50 degrees. It’s not beach weather for sure, and there can be bouts of rain and that infamous cold Mistral wind. There is often snow in the mountains and skiing is an easy day trip from Nice at Isola 2000, and snow has even been spotted along the coast, but that’s pretty rare.
Things start to warm up, though March can be a little wet. Average temperatures are in the low to mid 50s. It’s still pretty chilly for a swim, but for hiking, biking and other outdoor endeavors, it can be pleasant.
One of the best times on the Riviera. I like to call it “The Sweet Spot.” It’s getting warmer, low to mid 60s, the sun is ?shining, and the crowds are nowhere to be found. Bliss.
Beach clubs won’t be open yet, but a stroll along the shores or a hike in the hills is as pleasant as it gets this month.
Okay, cue the arrival of the tourists and the rising temps. Earlier in the month, you’ll still find the roads relatively empty. Beach clubs might start opening up mid month, the sun shines, and temperatures hang out around 68 to 70 degrees, on average.
This is prime time on the Riviera, especially after July 14, Bastille Day, when the crowds clamor to beat the heat on the beaches or around hotel pools. This is definite beach weather season and temperatures and humidity can rise well into the high 70s and 80s. Evenings stay comfortably warm. No need for that sweater.
This is the other Sweet Spot of weather on the French Riviera. I love September. The beaches are still sunny and warm, yachting events sail into town and the summer crowds have dwindled.
Fall is definitely in the air by October and there’s a chilly bite to the air. Temps hover around the low 60s and there’s the possibility of wind and rain.
It feels like winter since temperatures hang in the mid to low 50s and the smell of wood burning fires urges long lingering dinners at cozy bistros. you can still get bright sunny days, don’t worry. And come Christmas it’s fun and festive to bundle up and wander the various markets that pop up in villages along the French Riviera.
Boredom is not in the vocabulary of French Riviera residents whose cultural and events calendar blooms with fairs, festivals,
markets, concerts, sports and more all year long.
Once on the ground, keep your eyes and ears open or ask your hotel’s front desk clerk or concierge about what’s
happening in a village near you. There’s always something.
Here is a hit list of some of the French Riviera’s most popular annual events. Check locally or on the websites for exact dates and times.
Lemon Festival. There’s more than one way to squeeze a lemon, and this zesty 2-week celebration in Menton proves just that.
Fetes dus Mimosa Various villages along the Riviera herald the arrival of this bright yellow flower (and of Spring) with parades, parties, and more for eight days in early February.
Carnavale de Nice. The biggest winter celebration on the coast, Carnivale is filled with day and night time fun for all ages.
Celebrations across the French Riviera usually take place on both Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.
Monte Carlo Rolex Tennis Masters Tournament brings out the top men’s players from around the world to an intimate venue on the sea in Monaco.
Cannes Film Festival. The most famous red carpet in the world lures movie stars to La Croisette.
Formula One Grand Prix Monaco. Formula 1 racers zip through the curvey streets of this storied principality during one adrenaline fueled weekend.
International Rose Festival. There’s nothing more beautiful than Grasse, the perfume capital of the world, filled with tens of thousands of roses each May.
Festival de Musique Sacrée- Nice Link: http://www.nice-tourism.com/en/nice-events/sacred-music-festival.html
Suquet Musical Nights. With the back drop an ancient church and castle in the old town of Cannes, and with views across the city and bay, this festival is a local favorite for good reason.
International musical fireworks competition- Monaco Link: http://www.monaco-feuxdartifice.mc/en
Nice Jazz Festival. It’s in Nice, not in America, that the first Jazz Festival was born in 1948. Come see why nothing beats the original.
Jazz à Juan-Juan les Pins Link: www.jazzajuan.com
The Menton Music Festival
Sporting Summer Festival (concerts)-Monaco Link: http://www.montecarlolive.com/monte-carlo-sporting-summer-festival-en/
France Heritage Days third weekend of September. Link: http://journeesdupatrimoine.culturecommunication.gouv.fr/
Monaco Yacht ShowLink: http://www.monacoyachtshow.com/en/
Cannes Boat ShowLink: http://www.cannesyachtingfestival.com/GB.htm
Les Voiles de St. Tropez Sailing Regatta Link: http://lesvoilesdesaint-tropez.fr/en
Nov. 19 Monaco Day – Monaco
Christmas markets in many villages and cities
French National Holidays
There are eleven official national holidays in France, also called jours feriés. On these days expect banks and post offices to be closed along with some businesses. Public transportation schedules often run on a different schedule too, so check ahead.
1 January: New Year’s Day
Easter Monday: Monday after Easter
1 May: Labor Day
8 May: WWII Victory Day
Ascension Day: 40 days after Easter
Whit Monday: The Monday after Pentecost Sunday, which is 50 days after Easter
14 July: Bastille Day
15 August: Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
1 November: All Saints Day
11 November: Armistice Day
25 December: Christmas Day
The time zone for the French Riviera is vacation time!
Just kidding (sort of).
All of France is GMT 1 so one hour ahead of the UK, six hours ahead of the east coast of the United States,
and nine hours ahead of the west coast.
The French Riviera is a mixed bag of casual and swanky. It just depends where you are headed, what type of holiday you are looking for, and of course what time of year you plan to visit. Check out the weather section temperatures and seasons.
Okay, you’re a grown up , you know what to bring along but here are some reminders
-Sunscreen (or buy it there)
-Medicine (especially prescription)
-Scarf (in cooler months)
-Light raincoat (if fall, winter or spring)
-A water bottle. Tap water in France is drinkable so you can hydrate anywhere
-A good attitude. It’s not home so make sure you don’t start sentences with, “Well back in ________, they do it this way.”
You came to the French Riviera to get away from home. Enjoy it!
What to wear
Now, let’s talk style. The most important thing is that you dress the way that makes you feel most comfortable. But here are some good to knows that have come from my years of observations:
-The French men and women make an effort to look nice. They have mastered the art of looking “effortlessly elegant” which takes some effort.
-Sports clothing such as yoga pants, fanny packs, baseball caps, sweatpants are rarely worn unless of course one is actually
doing yoga, playing sports or going to the gym. Take them out of your luggage and throw in a comfy pair of jeans or palazzo pants instead.
Here are my tips:
-Leave the white socks at home. Really. Trust me.
– Casual is what you’ll wear 99% of the time on the French Riviera. Sundresses and sandals for women and lightweight pants and button down shirts for men is pretty much the standard uniform during summer. Fall and winter scarves and boots, nice cut jeans and jackets. The French generally dress very well.
-Even if a restaurant is ultra casual, men and women still dress appropriately (see tip number 1). If you are at a beach club and decide to dine at the restaurant, it’s okay to put on a cover up and flip flops.
-Casinos in Monte Carlo and Michelin-starred restaurants will have a dress code that might include a jacket and tie for a man. Call ahead to get exact requirements lest you be turned away at the door. You will not be allowed into a casino in your beach cover up and flip flops. Dress as if you’re going to nice dinner.
-Clubs, such as those in Monte Carlo and Saint-Tropez, are selective and by selective I mean some of them will literally select you out of line based on how you look and what you’re wearing. Call it shallow, but If the chic club scene is at the top of your list, you’ll have dress to impress.
-During the fall, winter and spring, layer up. It’ll be chilly outside but heated indoors. Scarves and boots
-Relax. It’s not as stuffy as it might seem. Everyone’s there to have a good time and soak up the French Riviera.
Don’t forget to save room in your bag for the summer sales in July!
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We donât want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Many places will have rates quoted on their websites, too, but here is our guide:
Price ranges are quoted in €.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
€ => Tickets less than €15 per person
€€ => Tickets €15- €30 per person
€€€ => Tickets €30 per person
Sleep — Out of town/rural
€ => Rooms less than €60 for a double
€€ => Rooms €60 – €100 for a double
€€€ => Rooms €100 for a double
Sleep — Large Cities
€ => Rooms less than €100 for a double
€€ => Rooms €100 – €150 for a double
€€€ => Rooms €150 for a double
€=> €5- €10 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
€€ => €10 – €25 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
€€€ => €25 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
N/A => Not applicable
€ => Tickets less than €25 per person
€€ => Tickets €25 – €50 per person
€€€ => Tickets €50 per person
The currency used in France is the Euro and exchange rates changes daily.
You can probably download an app on your smartphone that will pinpoint to the decimal ?an exchange rate on any given purchase,
or you can guestimate by using this handy link:
Airfare and car rental rates vary wildly depending on class of service, time of booking and availability.
Seasons matter, too, and the most expensive time to be on the French Riviera is during peak season.
For an accurate rates, the best thing to do is contact hotels and car rentals directly, look at websites for menu prices,
and check currency conversion rates before making your budget.
Car rentals book up in advance, so if you think you want to rent one, book ahead.
Airline Toll Free Numbers (which will not be toll free if calling FROM the French Riviera):
Delta 1(800) 221-1212
United 1 (800) 864-8331
American 1 (800) 433-7300
KLM 1 (866) 434-0320
Lufthansa 1 (800) 645-3880
Air Canada 1 (888) 247-2262
Air France 1 (800) 237-2747
Many of these airlines have apps you can download to your smartphone, making it easy to book flights, access to your
itinerary, get flight status updates, and make changes while on the road.
All the major American car rental companies will be found at Nice Airport,
as ?will be EuropCar, a company widely represented around the French Riviera.
Here are some helpful Rental Car Company numbers
Avis 1 (800) 352-7900
Alamo 1 (800) 445-5664
Budget 1 (800) 214-6094
Enterprise 1 (800) 264-6350
Hertz 1 (800) 654-4173
National 1 (800) 468-3334
EuropCar 1 (877) 940-6900
The currency utilized in France is the Euro and exchange rates change daily.
For ?up to the minute exchange rates, try this link:
The currency in France is the Euro and ATMs are easily found in big cities (and even in small villages), and will usually
dispense ?Euros in â¬10 and â¬20 notes.
Visa and Mastercard are widely excepted along the French Riviera.
American Express might suggest you don’t leave home without it, but in reality you probably should. Other than at major hotels (and you’ll still want to check that), the American Express card is not accepted, and certainly won’t be at small restaurants, B&Bs, and boutiques.
Be aware that France use chip cards, or smart cards, that are credit cards with an embedded microchip, called a puce, which is used with an access code or pin to authenticate a transaction. If your card does not have a chip, then merchants can usually slide the card and will request a signature, just like at home.
Many small restaurants, especially in smaller villages, will be cash only, so it’s a good idea to ask before ordering if you are unsure, or carry enough cash to be safe.
More and more American cards are transitioning to the chip card, and they work fine, with the exception of at the automated cashiers found at toll booths on the Autoroute. Even with a chip, American cards often do not work (at least they didn’t at the time of this post).
Lest you be stuck behind an angry mob of honking tourists, it’s best to go to a booth that’s attended, or have a some Euro notes and coins in the car so you can zip through without hassle.
Tip: Make sure you call your credit card company before ?you leave the USA and tell them of your plans to
travel ?in France to avoid those embarrassing denied transactions.
To tip or not to tip, that is the question.
It’s one that comes up often, and is often discussed in hushed whispers as the bill is set down at the table.
Here’s the skinny: at restaurants, cafes and bars a 15% gratuity is already added to
every single check. ?They might spell it out on the bill, and they might not, but that doesn’t matter, it’s in there because it’s French law. Eh voila! Now you know.
That being said, it’s not unusual to leave a few small coins on the table after a drink or meal, just as a courtesy and thank you if the service was especially friendly.
If you’re having horrifying flashbacks from that time you were a server and were stiffed by that nasty patron, then okay, leave â¬1 for a casual meal or â¬2 or â¬3 if the meal was more elaborate. It’s not a problem.
Whatever you do, don’t feel guilty about not leaving anything.
For the rest, it’s a lot like it is at home.
At hotels, if you are staying more than a few days, it’s customary to leave a little something for the housekeeper. For the bellman who helps lug your bag of make up and shoes to the room, sure â¬1 per bag is customary.
Taxis? Yep, they expect a tip, too. Estimate 10% of the final fare.
That creepy bathroom attendant who wants to offer you hairspray or a mint while you’re washing your hands. I just smile and say, Merci.
Sometimes, though, public bathrooms like at a tourist site or office have an attendant at the door ?who asks for a payment before entering, usually something like 30 to 50 cents. It’s annoying. I’d just find another bathroom, or, carry a few coins with you in case of emergency.
It’s a good idea to talk to your bank before you go and find out if your ATM card and credit cards will have a foreign transaction fee. You might be able to get these waived.
Toll roads add up in France. If you were to travel by car on the Autoroute between Monte Carlo and the exit for Saint Tropez, expect to stop at about 5-6 toll booths, called a PÃ©age, and pay around â¬10 total. It’s a good idea to carry small bills or coins in the car.
Getting to and from the French Riviera is as easy as un-deux-trois!
The Nice Côte d’Azur airport is the main air hub and a major gateway to all of Southern Europe. It’s France’s second largest airport and there are direct flights to around 90 destinations on nearly 50 different airlines.
Once on the ground, taxis, buses, trains and rental cars are the ways to move about between major hubs. In smaller villages, the best option is your own two feet since streets are old and narrow and parking is rare.
The French highway system is pristine and there is no exception on the French Riviera. The main highway, the A8, is a toll road so prepare to have change and bills accessible to avoid the honks from those impatient drivers behind you. Lineups at toll roads can be long during the summertime and as of this moment, American credit cards don’t work in the automated toll booths (called péages), but will work where there is a live person. But things are changing so give it a try if there’s not too long of a line behind you.
Nice airport is the best airport for travel to and from the French Riviera. It is the second busiest airport in France after Paris, and welcomes major airlines such as Delta, Air France, KLM, Air Canada, and several other regional and foreign carriers.
Here is a link to the Nice Airport.
I use an application on my smartphone called Aéroport Nice Cote d’Azur that lets me check real time flight arrival and departures, find out which terminal a certain flight arrives in or departs from, etc. It’s user friendly, free, and very handy.
Other airports that are within driving distance are Toulon, Marseille, and Cannes. These airports are smaller so commercial air travel is more limited or restricted to certain carriers and private jets.
Here are links to those airports:
There is also the private Aéroport International Saint-Tropez located 15 kilometers from the village. This airport only accommodates private planes and helicopter transfers, which can also be arranged from Nice airport.
Once you arrive at the Nice Côte d’Azur Airport, shuttle services are available to town centers along the French Riviera, and also from all bus stations in towns on the Côte d’Azur to the Airport. Check with local bus stations.
and taxis are available to take you in all directions. Private car services abound, and the train station is located in the center of the city (you’ll need to take a bus or train there). Buses are well linked, too and there are boats and ferries where you need them.
The bus network is well-developed on the French Riviera, both in cities and between them. Shuttle bus service is also available from Nice Côte d’Azur Airport to town centers and also from bus stations. Timetables and information on the towns served are available at bus stations.
The Ligne d’Azur is the company that manages the public transport system in Nice with a network of 130 bus routes in 49 towns in and around Nice, as well as a 9.2 kilometers of tram lines, which cross the city. A solo ticket for one journey allows changes within 74 min for €1,50
Lignes d’Azur is the official app for the Métropole Nice Côte d’Azur public transport network, available for iPhone and Android phones.
Noctambus is five night-time bus routes that run from 9:10 p.m. to 10:10 a.m.
Tram : the N° 1 line in Nice passes through the city center along the avenue Jean Médecin and through the Place Masséna 21 hours a day, every day from 4:25 a.m. to 1:35 a.m.
The “Ticket Azur” allows you to board two transport networks in succession to complete a journey, including one change between one of the lines on the Departmental Council’s TAM network and a line on one of the following networks:
Envibus (Antibes and surrounding area), Communauté de la Riviera Française (Menton and surrounding area), Sillages (Grasse and surrounding area), Bus Varmer (Carros and surrounding area), Ligne d’Azur (Nice and surrounding area), Bus Azur (Cannes and surrounding area).
For more info check out www.symitam.fr The site is French only but a local tourist office should be able to help you, too. See “other” for addresses of tourist offices in major cities.
The Regional Express Trains, called TER, connect the main towns along the French Riviera, from Cannes to Vintimiglia in Italy, just across the French border. Trains come and go roughly every 30 minutes but it’s always good to check the schedule, and remember that trains get off schedule, too.
TIP: From July 1st to September 30th, the SNCF’s “Carte Isabelle” let’s travelers make unlimited trips in a single day on all trains with available seats (except TGV express trains) between Théoule-sur-Mer to Vintimiglia. €14
Ask about the Carte Isabelle at the train station.
The TGV has stations in Nice, San Raphael and Les Ars Draguinan and connect to Marseille, Lyon, Avignon, Paris and other major French and European cities.
Most major rental car agencies are found at the airport, and some might even have offices in larger towns like Cannes and Nice. EuropCar is a popular and often less expensive option but check the website for rates.
French highways are well marked and maintained so you should have no problem finding your way. The A8 autoroute, also known as La Provençale, is a 139-mile/ 224-kilometer stretch that runs between Aix-en-Provence and the A7 along the Côte d’Azur to the Italian border. Even during peak months, traffic generally moves along, but can get backed up at toll booths (péage), which are spread out along the route. Have bills and change readily available.
Parking can be difficult in cities and villages, especially during peak season. Most have public car parks, indicated by a blue sign with a P on it, and there are also parking meters, and you’ll need lots of coins.
Check with your hotel (or apartment rental) to see if parking is available and if there is a cost.
Nice airport is the closest and busiest airport for travel to the French Riviera. It is the second busiest airport in France after Paris and welcomes roughly ten million passengers and serves major airlines such as Delta, Air France, KLM, Air Canada, and several other European and foreign carriers.
Here is a link to the Nice airport website
The French Railway high-speed and express trains (TGV, Trains Corail)
connect the French Riviera to all regions in France and other major European cities.
Nice is the main hub for the TGV but there are also stops in the small station of Les Arcs Draguignan and Saint-Raphael.
The ports of Nice, Cannes, Villefranche-sur-Mer and Monaco are Mediterranean ports of call for major cruise lines, and mos docking stations anchor in the town centers with immediate access to shopping and sightseeing areas. Check with your cruise line to be certain.
Two car ferry companies provide scheduled service between Nice and the four main cities on the island of Corsica:
Ajaccio, Bastia, Calvi and L’Ile Rousse
For leisure boating there are 33 marinas along the French Riviera that welcome small boats and luxury yachts.
The French Riviera Pass is a great and affordable way to maximize your time and stretch your Euros when visiting the French Riviera.
Designed to enable visitors to travel around for a fixed period of 24, 48, or 72 hours, the pass grants unlimited access to activities such as the Open Tour Nice double-decker bus or Segway tours, free entrance to museums such as the Chegall and Matisse museums in Nice, the Picasso Museum in Antibes, a tour of the gorgeous Villa Ephrussi in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, and many more coveted addresses along the French Riviera.
Pass holders also benefit from discounts at certain addresses.
For just €4 more, take advantage of free transport on the Nice public transportation network for the duration of your pass.
Duration 24h 48h 72h
French Riviera Pass 26€ 38€ 56€
w/ transport option 30€ 46€ 68€
The French Riviera Pass is sold in the Nice Tourist Offices, at some hotels and on the website here
Tourist offices are a great resources for information, in English, where you can ask for advice, maps, book excursions, ask for info on bus and train routes, as well as get hotel and restaurant recommendations—-everything you need to make your holiday run as smoothly and seamlessly as possible.
Here are some helpful phone numbers and addresses.
Keep in mind most tourism offices will close for lunch between Noon and 2 pm.
Nice has three tourism offices:
One at the airport, Terminal 1
Tel: 33 08 9270 7407
One at the Central Train Station on Avenue Thiers
Tel: 33 08 9270 7407
One located ?at 2, Promenade des Anglais.
Tel: ? 33 08 9270 7407
The tourism office is located just behind the Le Senequier cafe on Quai Jean Jaures
Tel: 33 04 94 97 45 21
The tourism office is located near the main beach of Sainte-Maxime, between the casino and the port.
Address: 1, Promenade Aymeric Simon-Lorière
Tel: 33 08 26 20 83 83
42, avenue Robert Soleau
Tel: 33 04 22 10 60 10
The tourism office is located on the ground floor of the Palais de l’Europe
8, Avenue Boyer
Tel: 33 04 92 41 76 76
Address: 2a Boulevard des Moulins
Tel: 377 92 16 61 16
Unfortunately the French have a reputation for being rude and unwelcoming to travelers. But don’t believe everything you read and don’t assume the worst.
It’s amazing what a positive attitude and friendly smile can accomplish, in France and anywhere for that matter.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
-If you speak French, great! Use it with every person you can. Chances are your French is better than their English and if not, they’ll hear your accent and switch to English anyway. Win-Win!
-If you don’t speak French, at least learn to say a few words. Hello = Bonjour Please = S’il vous plait Thank you = Merci.
Politeness is a universal language
-When you enter a boutique or shop, a restaurant, or even when you hop aboard a bus, make sure to say bonjour or hello. It’s expected and they will find you the impolite one if you don’t.
-At a restaurant make sure you not only greet the host or hostess, but also wait to be seated, unless it’s otherwise obvious you don’t need to.
-French people/servers/shop keepers are generally not really chit-chatty so don’t be miffed or insulted if they don’t ask you how you’re doing or whether you’re having a good day. It’s nothing personal.
-Meals are slow, drawn out affairs. If you’re in hurry, let the server know, but it will likely still be a slow, drawn out affiar. Best bet? Relax and enjoy the meal!
-Keep your voice down. Seriously, you’re talking louder than you think you are. Inside voices, please!
-Snapping your fingers and yelling “garcon” across the restaurant really isn’t how it’s done, despite what might have learned in your high school French class. Eye contact and “excusez-moi, madame/monsieur” is quite sufficient to grab a server’s attention.
-Tipping isn’t expected but it’s normal to leave a few coins on the table if you’d like.
-Dressing up is more the norm than the exception. I don’t mean tuxes and gowns, but don’t go to a restaurant in a swimsuit and flip flops, unless it’s a beach restaurant. Casually elegant is the dress code du jour, meaning nice sun dresses for women and lightweight pants and shirts for men. Baseball caps (off the beach)? Sweatpants (outside the gym)? No. Just no.
The French Riviera has jagged cliffs, miles of azure blue coastline, glittering cities, and picturesque, flower box filled villages, and one thing bonds them all together…amazing food. Dining is social glue in France and on the French Riviera, there is no exception. The Ovens and tables of the French Riviera are prolific, and good meals are often shared with good friends and family. Food lovers are spoilt for choice in this part of the world that combines all the rustic flavors of Provence, with a dash of history, smattering of Italian dolce vita, and seasoned with the Mediterranean Sea.
Grab a knife and fork and pull up a chair. Here are a few must-sample delights.
Given the number of olive trees in the region, it’s no wonder a paste made with green or black olives (sometimes sun-dried tomatoes) is a favorite companion of apéritif hour along the French Riviera. It’s usually served with toasted pieces of bread.
Socca is a quick, cheap, and a common street food in Nice, but found all the way into Liguria in Italy, where it
is called Farinata. It’s a thin crepe made with chickpea flour and water, mixed with a bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt.
It should be served crisp and sprinkled with salt and pepper, and best hot out of the wood fired oven.
In Nice, try it at Chez Pipo or from Chez Thérésa at the Cours Saleya market.
Another specialty of Nice, this onion tart is spread with anchovy sauce and onions, topped with some black olives (from Nice, of course) and a few juicy anchovies. ?It is common to find this in local markets.
This Provencal specialty is really a mayonnaise made with olive oil and garlic and is often served as an accompaniment to other dishes.
Look up a recipe for bouillabaisse and you’ll find a different one every time. No surprise given this traditional fish stew has been fine tuned in home kitchens for generations.Though it originates it’s the signature dish of Marseille, the fish stew is found all along French Riviera in various forms, but one thing is constant: It is made with multiple types of fresh fish, as well as different seafood, and is cooked in a broth of tomato, pepper, onion, saffron garlic and herbs, and served with croutons and ?dollop of rouille, a spicy mayonnaise of olive oil, garlic, pepper and saffron.
A favorite of mine in winter, this tender Provençal stew is made by slowly braising beef in red wine, vegetables, garlic and herbs. ?It’s not uncommon to find it on menus stuffed inside raviolis. Yum!
For me a visit to Saint-Tropez is incomplete with out a slice of its signature dessert, a cream cake made with two round, sugar-coated brioche sandwiched around a thick layer pastry cream. The dessert was created by Alexandre Micka, a Polish baker who landed in Saint Tropez in 1955 with his grandmother’s cream cake recipe . Rumor has it that ?it became a favorite among the cast and crew of And God Created Woman who were filming in nearby Ramatuelle. The film starred a young ingenue named Brigitte Bardot who suggested Micka call his cream cake ?the tarte of Saint Tropez. Eh Voila, a star is born. Stop by original store on Place des Lices.
Even tiny Monaco has its food specialty and these deep fried pastries, whose name in local dialect means “Uncle John,” are stuffed with Swiss chard. They are a a great on-the-go stack. You’ll find them around the old town and at celebrations such as 19th of November, the principality’s national day.
You’ll find this pretty bread in markets and bakeries around Provence and the Cote d’Azur. It’s flat, often scored into a pretty leaf shape, and traditionally topped with olive oil and herbs, like anise, though variations abound and I’ve seen it topped with an assortment of other items, too. Fougasse pizza anyone?
From lavender to thyme to rosemary and sage, the herbs of Provence season many of the dishes along the French Riviera, and scent the warm air, too.
Not our parents’ White Zinfandel. The pink-colored wine is THE DRINK of the French Riviera and the staggering variety and quality will make you a believer. Go ahead and try it.
Les Petit Farcis
Much like the rest of France, Catholicism is the most practiced religion on the French Riviera. But other religions and places of worship are also represented here thanks to the international communities that have settled on the French Riviera from Russia, North Africa, the Middle East and Northern Europe.
Newsflash: They speak French in France. I know this might come as a shock to some Americans.
All kidding aside, because the French Riviera is an international destination, English is widely spoken at major hotels and tourist sites, at beach clubs and restaurants. More and more young people are learning English, too, and you’ll find them open to practicing it.
In smaller towns and villages you might find it a little harder to communicate, but charades are effective!
And you’ll be amazed at how universal a smile followed by a “bonjour” can be.
Talking louder in English won’t help, but a healthy dose of “Merci” (thank you) and “S’il vous plait” (please) certainly will.
Whether you’re a James Bond fanatic or a fan ?of classics, you’re very likely to have ?watched a film featuring the delights of
the French Riviera. Or perhaps it just appears in your dreams each night like a movie montage.
Make the popcorn, dim the lights, and hit play on these films that will whet your appetite for ?a trip to the French Riviera
-Check out scenes of Monaco, Nice, Cannes and Eze in To Catch A Thief starring Cary Grand and Grace Kelly, who became Princess Grace of Monaco when she married Prince Rainier in 1956.
-Our favorite intrepid spy 007 races his Aston Martin along the mountain and arrives at the Casino de Monte Carlo ?in GoldenEye.
-Ocean’s Twelve, the sequel to Ocean’s Eleven, stars George Clooney, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt who try and pull off another heist. ?In the film you’ll see some footage of Monaco and Cap Martin.
-Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is the hilarious 1988 remake of 1964’s Bedtime Story, ?starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin, two rapscallions trying to con a wealthy American heiress, set on the glitzy French Riviera. The gorgeous Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat and the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild also have cameos.
– Meg Ryan, Timothy Hutton, and Kevin Kline star in French Kiss, the 1995 film about a woman who flies to France to confront her fiancé after he falls for a French girl. The movie was filmed in Paris and Cannes.