FRENCH RIVIERA ROADTRIP

The South of France is a popular summer destination, with the high season starting as soon as yachts begin creeping into the ports during the Cannes Film Festival each year. However, there is more to the region than its jet-set resort towns and celeb-filled beach clubs. If you look beyond the region's glam reputation, you'll find quaint coastal towns and medieval hilltop villages, each with their own personalities. Spend anywhere from three to seven days driving along the coast, stopping along these towns and enjoying both the scenery and local culture. We started off in Monaco and drove west, ending in Aix-en-Provence, a route that I would recommend. Some must-do’s include grabbing sunset drinks at Le Plongeoir in Nice, enjoying lunch views in Èze, and dancing the night away at Chrystie Nightclub in Cannes.

5 DAY ITINERARY

DAY 1 - MONACO

  • Larvotto Beach - this popular beach is known for its clear waters and scenic promenade
  • Monaco Cathedral - 19th century Catholic cathedral dedicated to Saint Nicholas
  • Port de Fontvieille - harbor which includes a boat marina that is overlooked by several shops and restaurants
  • Monte Carlo Casino - Monaco's most famous landmark that is featured in many books and movies

DAY 2 - ÈZE & SAINT-JEAN-CAP-FERRAT

  • Jardin Exotique (Èze) - picturesque garden with succulents known for its breathtaking views of the sea
  • Lunch @ Les Remparts (Èze) - enjoy a hilltop lunch with a stunning view of the ocean
  • Paloma Beach - upscale beach area with beautiful views and a seafood restaurant
  • La Plage Cros Dei Pin - public beach area that you can spend time at if you choose to skip Paloma Beach
  • Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild - a beautiful early 20th century villa that has nine themed gardens

DAY 3 - NICE

  • Promenade des Anglais - walk along the promenade near the center of Nice
  • Vieille Ville (Old Town) - the vibrant old town with cobblestone streets lined with pastel-colored shops and restaurants
  • Russian Orthodox Cathedral - the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedral in western Europe owned by the Russian federation
  • Fine Arts Museum - a museum located in a private mansion built by a Russian princess in 1878
  • Sunset drinks @ Le Plongeoir - make reservations in advance to visit this famous restaurant built atop a rock the sea
  • Dinner @ Le Séjour - enjoy a market-fresh dinner in this cozy café that is styled like a living room (reservations recommended)

DAY 4 - ANTIBES & CANNES

  • Breakfast @ Choopy’s (Antibes) - this café has a spectacular line up of cupcakes, coffee, breakfast and lunch items
  • Marché provençal (Antibes) - walk through the local market to pick up fresh produce, soaps, and souvenirs
  • Beach day along La Croisette - head to one of the public beaches in the afternoon for a quick swim
  • Drinks @ Le Bâoli - enjoy sunset drinks amidst tropical greenery or come back at night if you're looking for clubbing
  • Oysters @ Astoux et Brun - grab a table on their patio and enjoy some oysters and a glass (or bottle) white wine
  • Clubbing @ Chrystie Nightclub - head to this sleek, chic nightclub for some late night dancing

DAY 5 - CANNES & AIX-EN-PROVENCE

  • Rue d'Antibes (Cannes) - spend your morning strolling through Cannes' main shopping street
  • Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur d’Aix-en-Provence - cathedral built on the site of the 1st-century Roman forum of Aix
  • Le Grand Marché - head to the markets that flood the city's squares to pick up fresh fruits, flowers, clothing, and other treats
  • Le Cours Mirabeau - walk down the famous street and be sure to stop by Les Deux Garçons for a fresh cup of coffee

LOGISTICS

VISA REQUIREMENTS

France is a Schengen area country. For US citizens, a visa is not required to enter the Schengen area. However, their passports must be valid for at least three months beyond their planned date of departure from the Schengen area. The 12-page US emergency passport is not valid for visa-free entry into France. Citizens of other countries should check their country’s resources to determine their visa requirements.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

The high season for the South of France is from May through September and probably the best time to visit with regards to the weather.  Late June through early August is a nice time to visit as the lavender and sunflower fields are in full bloom and there are usually several festivals taking place. However, be prepared for large crowds and higher prices as many Europeans vacation in July and August. If you want to avoid these crowds, then you should plan to visit in the spring or fall. It may also be worth noting that many French businesses are not open in August, though travelers will likely not notice.

LANGUAGE & CURRENCY

The most common language in the South of France is French, but you can get away with English in some shops, restaurants, and bars. France uses the Euro as their currency. As of September 2020, $1 USD equals 0.84€ EUR (or 1€  equals $1.18). We found that most places accepted credit card, but it is always good to have some cash on hand.

GETTING AROUND

We opted to rent a car for the trip instead of relying on public transportation, which I would recommend so that you have flexibility instead of relying on bus timings. Driving around the region was fairly easy and there were plenty of parking spots in each town — majority of these were paid parking, but it was not as expensive as we thought it would be. The route we took is depicted in the map below — we traveled from east to west. Feel free to add stops in Toulon, Marseille, or Saint-Tropez, a town known for its glamour and nightlife.

HIGHLIGHTS

HOTEL SPOTLIGHT: FIVE SEAS HOTEL

My favorite hotel during our stay was the Five Seas Hotel in Cannes and I would recommend it to anyone traveling to the region. We especially enjoyed their rooftop infinity pool. The suites were very elegant and came equipped with luxury bath products and individual slippers. I also appreciated the level of service at the hotel - the staff went the extra length to make sure our stay was enjoyable and relaxing.

NIGHTLIFE SPOTLIGHT: CHRYSTIE NIGHTCLUB

One of the coolest nights out I have ever experienced took place at Chrystie’s. If you happen to find yourself in Cannes on a night the club is open, I would highly recommend going there for some great music and dancing. Not sure why there are mixed reviews online, but the DJ was amazing, people were not sloppy, and the bartenders literally lit the bar on fire (on purpose). Don’t get there before 12:30am as that’s when the party is just getting started.

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