Updated: May 18
The French Riviera is one of the most glitzy and beautiful places in the world. There is something to appeal to everyone. We went in August to take in fabulous views, world-class food, sparkling ocean waters, beaches, and some shopping, of course. There were endless places that I wanted to visit on this trip, and even though we packed so much in, I feel like we only wet our toes in the Côte d'Azur. This guide highlights Nice, Éze, Monaco, Cannes, and St. Tropez.
Nice is where most people fly into when visiting the French Riviera. Its airport connects to many major hubs around the world and offers easy access to the region. Because many of the cities and towns are so closeby, its' easy to head directly to your town of choice instead of adding a stay in Nice, unless you wanted to visit the area like we did for our first visit.
We stayed near the Promenade des Anglais close to the Place Massena, which we found to be a very central location. We could walk to everything like the Old Town and the port. The area was also bustling in the evening with patios galore. Closeby to luxury shopping near Rue Paradis as well as the Avenue Jean Médecin for high street shops.
We ate at Le Frog in the Old Town, which is a Michelin Guide restaurant with a delicious Lobster Risotto. On the night we went, they were out of the lobster, and the waiter offered "crayfish" which turned out to be rock lobster. Equally as delicious! We were also treated to fireworks after dinner only a block away by the water because it was Assumption Day (August 15th).
Afterward, we went to Le Houssard's rooftop patio in Old Nice. It was featured on an episode of Below Deck Mediterranean a few weeks before we left, so naturally, we had to check it out. It was a very cool spot to people watch the crowds below with a DJ on site.
I knew I wanted to visit Eze from the moment I was introduced to it. After researching online, I was worried about how we would get there and back. Initially, we walked over to the bus stop in the Old Town, but it was running over 30 mins late, and we were fed up in the August heat. We were able to easily order an Uber to Eze Village. And, just as easily order an Uber back to Nice from Eze Sur Mer.
After meandering through the shops in the village and picking up some Lavender gifts to bring back home, we made it to the Le Jardin Exotique d'Eze for breathtaking views in a garden full of various cacti. I would highly recommend visiting the garden for the views alone.
We wanted to go to the beach club at Eze Sur Mer, while also getting a workout in, so we took the hike from left of the gates of the Chevre d'Or Hotel to the bottom called the Chemin de Nietzsche. Definitely bring lots of water and expect some loose gravel and steep slopes along the way. The signs suggest it takes approx an hour but were able to complete it in a bit shorter time, mostly because we wanted rush to dip into the ocean.
Initially, I had reserved late lunch at Ajuna Beach but we were drenched in sweat and jumped into Papaya Beach because it was closer (albeit just a few meters more and we would have made it). The beach here is pebbly and hurt my feet to walk the few steps from the lounger to the water because of the scorching rocks. I indulged in a delicious lobster roll and some rosé to celebrate the hike.
Since Monaco was only a 20 min train ride away, we wanted to check out the infamous Monte Carlo Casino. We decided to go in the evening to avoid the crowds. Although this came with the consequence of not having many transportation options available back to Nice. In the evening, the local car companies did not answer any of their phone lines because they were so busy. Eventually, we were able to have a police officer book a private car for us for approx 100 euro. There is no Uber to pick you up in Monaco, yet you are able to take it there. Figures.
Onto the visit, we walk through the port and walked by our initial reservation which was definitely not what we were hoping for so we walking towards the casino. Luckily we stumbled upon the Hotel Hermitage in Monte Carlo, which had a pop-up in the garden with the Lebanese Restaurant Maison Noura from Paris. This turned out to be a wonderful surprise with live singing, a seat by the fountain, shisha, and delicious middle eastern fare.
After dinner, we headed to the Monte Carlo casino, which had a private event going on that evening, which we weren't aware of, as we were treated like invited guests. The guests were all dressed opulently, and I had wished I had swapped my summer dress for a gown.
Overall, unless you are staying at a hotel in Monaco, I would skip it as an excursion. Nothing to see here except to be seen.
Cannes and Ile Sainte-Marguerite
After so much moving around, we were excited for a day by the beach that only was a few steps away. We went to Palais Stephanie Beach which offered a great Mediterranean menu with a favorable position on La Croissette.
Alas, no trip the Cote D'Azur is complete without a day out on the water. We chartered a sailboat with captain Frederique, a quintessentially French character who made our day all smiles. We were taken around the Lerins Islands and Ile Sainte-Marguerite. We had lunch at La Tonnelle on Île Saint-Honorat which was arranged with a dingy pickup and drop off service. This was a really unique chain of islands with things like pizza boats and mojito boats offering refreshments throughout the day. We also watched the sunset with the Lerins Abbey in the background. I would highly recommend a charter in this area.
Also, I must note, we picked up butter chicken after this boat day to take home because we were exhausted, and had the best butter chicken we have ever had at Delicious Indian Snacks. I know no one comes to the South of France for butter chicken, but if you are feeling adventurous, this hole in the wall will surpass your expectations.
Also, Barbarac had delicious gelato.
The crown jewel of the Cote D'Azur. I had heard that the road from Cannes to St. Tropez were unimaginably traffic-ridden and tricky to drive. We woke up extra early 7am and took the mountainside route through the Massif de l'Esterel (no thanks to Waze) which sent us harrowing up and down the roads that were designed for the Tour De France (no kidding– we passed tens of cyclists along the way). Never again. I was very thankful for Andrew's driving at this time because I wouldn't have been able to do it. I had read that the helicopter from Nice was the best option into St. Topez and after the journey, I had finally understood why. Luckily we were only met with traffic on the final leg from Saint-Raphael through Sainte Maxime to St. Tropez.
Upon arriving we took a dip in our Airbnb's pool to celebrate arrival. We walked into the town for some quick shopping at the Saint Tropez outpost of Chanel, where I had to grab my holy grail bag. And then went to the port for a quick drink.
We then headed to dinner at L'Opera. I made sure to seat us indoor where the party gets started and most of the live acts are. The food was passable, but you are really there for the entertainment.
The next day we went to Plage L'Orangerie because we were looking for a chill beach day vibe, but we were not feeling this place, so immediately packed up our things and went to our initial reservation which was at Verde Beach. Verde Beach was exactly what we were looking for cool house music, beautiful manicured beach, and a great menu. I would highly recommend a day here.
On our way back home, we booked an extra night in Nice to be safe for traffic so that we don't miss our flight. We stayed at the Hôtel Aston La Scala. It had a cute rooftop patio with a small pool which was perfect for our short time there. It was also centrally located near the Place Massena and Old Town.
I would highly recommend visiting the South of France. The shopping is unparalleled, the service with a pay for what you get attitude, and the food phenomenal. There is a town for everyone's tastes. On my next visit, I would love to stay at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc and check out Antibes.