When you arrive on the sun-drenched French Riviera coastline, where the glowing red rocks of the Estérel plunge into the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea, it is easy to understand why so many artists fell for the charm of this region overflowing with light and colour. On this coastline, which alternates between sandy beaches, hidden coves and steep cliffs, stunning towns are strung along like pearls on a necklace with Nice as the central jewel. Away from the sound of the lapping waves, Provence asserts its character through hilltop mediaeval villages and fragrant market stalls. Its steep mountains entice you to hike up them and enjoy outdoor activities. And let’s not forget the white-water sports in the Gorges du Loup.
Snuggled at the bottom of Baie des Anges, Nice boasts an outstanding setting with the French Alps at its back and the Mediterranean Sea at its feet. While famous for its Promenade des Anglais, Nice has many other attractions. Starting with its historic city centre featuring baroque churches and narrow lanes bathed in the fragrances of southern France. But Nice is also a city of art with museums on Chagal and Matisse, among others.
Cannes has a reputation for luxury boutiques and hotels, as well as its Croisette where the biggest film stars on the planet walk the red carpet every year at the Cannes Film Festival. However, there is also a more understated, genuine Cannes which can be found in the former fishing district of Suquet. This district is criss-crossed by winding lanes leading to the Château de Cannes.
Only 15 minutes from the Mediterranean coast lies Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Perched in the mountainous French Prealps, this mediaeval hilltop village is encircled by 16th century ramparts and bathed in a Provence atmosphere. It features narrow lanes and shady squares where locals gather for a game of petanque. This village of artists is also home to several galleries, including the Maeght foundation which houses artworks by Miro, Braque, Léger, Chagall and more.
Set back from the coastline and only 15 minutes from Cannes, Grasse perches amongst the forested Alpes-Maritimes mountains and offers visitors wonderful views of the French Riviera. Take a moment to stroll around its historic centre, with its blend of mediaeval and Renaissance buildings, before heading off to visit one of the top perfume companies in Grasse: Fragonard, Gallimard and Molinard. Grasse is the perfume capital and many of the essential oils used to make some of the most prestigious fragrances are produced in Grasse.
Set back from the Mediterranean coastline, the River Loup zig-zags between the undulating French Prealps hillsides, beautifully carving its way through the gorge’s rocks and offering a genuinely cool oasis during the hot French Riviera summer. These lush green gorges are interspersed with cascades and pools, like the Grande Marmite, which entice you to dive into the river.
The principality of Monaco, located between Nice and the Italian border, nestles atop its rock. This tiny state is famous for its royal family and Formula 1 Grand Prix race, but there are many other reasons to visit. These include its wonderful oceanographic museum, exotic gardens, and casino designed by the architect Garnier who also designed the Paris Opera.
On the road linking Nice and Monaco, you will find Eze sitting atop its rocky outcrop. This perfectly preserved mediaeval village perches like an eagle’s nest. Its narrow lanes lead you to the ruins of the mediaeval castle which is now home to an exotic garden. From that garden, you can enjoy stunning views of the Mediterranean.