The French Riviera - seaside & back country
The legendary French Riviera, also known as the Côte d’Azur, has always been a hotspot for travellers in France. Victor Hugo, Ernest Hemingway, Van Gogh and Picasso all found inspiration in the staggering landscapes and sun-drenched stone villages that bless this region.
Make the most of the bustling cities of Menton, Nice and Monte Carlo before making your way to the Riviera back country. Here, you will find a world of natural beauty that is bound to captivate your heart and soul.
As you journey through the little towns that sit among the rocky hills, let your troubles and cares evaporate. All that matters now is the smell of jasmine and the sight of blossoming fruit trees. Welcome to the French Riviera.
How to Get to the French Riviera
Nice Airport is perfectly located for anyone wishing to travel to the French Riviera. The airport is well-served by both international and domestic flights and Nice is in one of the most beautiful cities along the Riviera.
From Nice, you can easily get to Marseille and Provence by car in around 2 hours and a half or you can make the short half an hour journey to Cannes and check out what’s going on there. If you go in late May you might even be able to catch some of the world-famous Cannes Film Festival.
If you are coming from Italy then getting to Nice is simple thanks to the high volume of trains that serve this route.
For those who will be flying in to Paris (CDG or Orly airports), the best way to get to Nice is to take a domestic flight. The flight only takes 1h20 and is usually cheaper than the train, which takes 6h30.
Nice International Airport
Within Nice area
In terms of self driving tours from Nice (as a starting point), you can trace the southern coastline of France to Menton – just 30 minutes away by car on the Corniche road. On this short French Riviera road trip, you'll see some of France’s most beautiful scenery as well as some lovely little towns you can explore. You can even pop into Monaco and tick another country off your list - this is a popular stop on French Riviera private tours, and with many of our travelers.
The beaches along this stretch of coastline are a mixture of pebble and sand, depending on where you go. The one thing they all have in common is the near-certainty of sunshine every day. Don your flip-flops, grab your towel and get ready for a day of relaxing...maybe in La garoupe beach, one of the nicest beaches of France.
While there is plenty to do on the beaches along the Riviera, perhaps one of the most exciting activities is taking a peek at some of the luxury villas here. A whole host of celebrities use the French Riviera as their summer getaway destination – and it’s not hard to see why.
Villa Ephrussi de Rotschild on Cap Ferrat
Ever since the 19th century, luxury towns and villas have been popping up all over the place and several are today open to visitors.
If the towns and cities become too much, head to the hinterland. Equally gorgeous and much more peaceful, this part of the Riviera offers spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea.
St Paul de Vence and Eze are the most commonly visited towns in this region but we like to show our travellers something a little different. In addition to these hotspots, we visit Vence, Tourrettes, Gourdon and more hidden gems of the Riviera. Some of the finest perfumes come from the flowers that grow here.
The French Riviera offers some of the best self-drive experiences in France.
Famous Figures & artists on the Riviera
Nowadays, the Riviera is known to attract celebrities around the world. George Clooney was seen house hunting here and Tina Turner, Angelina Jolie and Elton John already have properties along the Côte d’Azur.
However, before the modern influx of celebrities, the French Riviera was home to world-renowned artists, such as Matisse, Renoir and Chagall. With eyes for beauty, it is easy to see why they loved living here so much.
To this day the Côte d’Azur remains a hotspot for art with the Maeght Foundation in St Paul de Vence and all sorts of gorgeous galleries in Mougins and Biot. We select museums based on what our travellers like in order to create the perfect bespoke itinerary.
Nice & the French Riviera are a paradise to art lovers
Events on the French Riviera
By far the most well-known event to take place on the French Riviera is the Cannes Film Festival. This festival draws crowds from across the globe along with hundreds of celebrities, many of whom are competing for the coveted Palme d’Or.
If you happen to be in Cannes while the festival is on then you’re in for a treat. Spend your days spotting celebrities or hanging out at the beach and then hit up the soirées in the evening. This is the definition of living the high life.
Another huge event that takes place along the Riviera is the Monaco Grand Prix. This Formula 1 race consumes the entire country and is one of the most prestigious races. The atmosphere while it is on is truly incredible.
Thanks to the eternal sunshine, the French Riviera is one of the best places in the country to get outside and fill your lungs with fresh air. When it comes to our favorite self-drive experiences in France, heading into the hills to enjoy panoramic views of the Mediterranean from the hilltop villages is high up on our list. We also thoroughly recommend that all our travellers take the time to stroll through some of the gorgeous gardens hanging over the sea.
The views from these gardens are a mixed bag of delights with the turquoise sea on one side and mountains on the other. Get your camera ready because you’re going to want to remember this.
Gorgeous sceneries from Eze tropical gardens
Alternatively, why not hop in a boat and head out into the open water? There are plenty of boat tour options from Nice that are great fun. Nothing beats soaking up the sun on deck whilst listening to gentle lapping of waves against the side of the boat. What about a stop in the Lérins Islands ?
Gourmet travelers may also enjoy very much a wine & food tour to taste all the local delicacies... French Riviera Côte d'Azur wine tastings are a very nice experience! Imagine sitting at a terrace in a hilltop village of the French Riviera, with a glass of Bandol wine and some crispy slices of baguette. Wine tours are a wonderful way to enjoy the best of French wine with the guidance of an expert. If you're interested, we would be very happy to include one or two of our favorite French Riviera Côte d'Azur wine tours in your French Riviera self-drive itinerary.
Where to Stay on the Côte d’Azur
If you are the kind of traveller who loves the buzz of a thriving city then you’re in luck. We have a variety of accommodations that are just minutes from the beach and the bustling Promenade des Anglais. Here, you will be perfectly located to enjoy the big city.
Of course, there are also travellers who prefer a bit of peace and quiet. If you fall in to this category then you are going to love staying in one of our gorgeous, premium B&Bs.
These quaint properties are situated away from the crowds in the hilltop villages in Nice. They are still centrally located, so you will still be able to explore the region but you can do so in a much quieter setting.
B&B on the hills above Nice
The French Riviera is more than just a pretty face. With fantastic cuisine to try, charming villages to explore and plenty of open space to enjoy, there is something for everyone here.
FAQ about the French Riviera
How long does it take to drive the French Riviera ?
The French Riviera or Côte d'Azur goes from Cassis (in the creeks near Marseille) to Menton, near the Italian border. These 2 towns are 140 miles - 230 kms apart.
Now, the very heart of the Côte d'Azur region is around Nice, Villefranche, Monaco and Menton : which represents only a 20 mile - 30 km coastline. Self-driving tours from Nice area will be just perfect to discover the gorgeous landscapes and towns.
So basically, you can drive along the French Riviera in only one day.. if you want to enjoy it, then you'll need more time !
Also, during specific times of the year: Cannes Film Festival, Monaco Formula One, the summer vacations.. this area gets extremely crowded and if you cannot come at another time, we will plan your days.. and your French Riviera self-drive itineraries accordingly (recommending specific parking lots, roads, etc).
We'll be happy to make recommendations based on what you like and dislike, the season you are traveling and your overall road trip itinerary in France.
How many days do I need on the French Riviera ?
While French Riviera tours are often made in a day or two, at a minimum we recommend spending 3 days on the Riviera: one day for Nice, one for the Grande Corniche scenic road with the coastline sights (Villefranche, Monaco, Eze, Menton) and one to enjoy the hinterland with Saint-Paul de Vence, Tourrettes and many other less famous towns which really deserve a visit and enjoy dramatic views over the Mediterranean sea.
For travelers who want to take their time, 5 days are great to enjoy the Côte d'Azur region.
Before or after the Riviera, we recommend visiting Provence which is just West from Nice region.
Is it hard to drive in the South of France ?
The South-East of France has a few traps you don't want to fall into while taking a road trip to Provence or the Riviera.
Roads may be narrower than in the rest of the country, so you need to drive slowly and take your time - you will be ok.
The locals may be hot-blooded drivers but if you keep calm, you'll be ok. We recommend pulling over on the side of the road when possible to let the locals pass you (as they drive faster) and everything will work well.
Some parking spaces may be narrow in the cities or by the beach: no worries about that, we include the full insurance package to our trips with 0 deductible or excess fees if you scratch the car you won't pay one euro...just relax.