Thinking of heading to the South of France for a few days in the sun? We recently spent a long weekend in France, using Nice as our base for exploring the surrounding area. We fell in love with Nice and its gorgeous turquoise waters and cultural history. With gorgeous beaches, jaw-dropping super-yachts, quaint cobblestone streets, and heaps of history and culture, there’s plenty to see. We have highlighted below a few of the things you can do in the Cote D’Azur area if you’re looking for inspiration!
Nice is known for its central square with that gorgeous checkerboard floor and its sherbet-toned architecture. From here you are within walking distance of the main city centre, the old town, the beach, and castle hill, so its a good area to find accommodation. Come back to visit when the water fountains are on for a relaxing water display. Pop by in the evening for a romantic stroll to see the area lit up by lamps and glowing sculptures.
Whilst staying in Nice, take a short walk from the city centre to the St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral. Opened in 1912 as a tribute to the memory of Nicholas Alexandrovich, Tsarevich of Russia who died in Nice, the cathedral was given over to the Russian State only just in 2010. The cathedral is easily accessible from the road (follow the signs for ‘Cathedral Russe’), and absolutely worth a visit to marvel at its beauty and eccentricity. Its free to enter, and inside you’ll discover a very calming and serene experience, lit by candles and scented with incense.
By far though, our favourite part of Nice was the Old Town. The winding streets filled with little shops and shuttered windows are so picturesque and quaint. We spent hours exploring the little passageways and discovering new treats around every corner. If you’re looking for somewhere quick and tasty to eat, don’t miss Pizza Pili. With a large menu of pizza options, all at 7 euros each and cooked from scratch in front of you, you really can’t go wrong! We ate here twice, and took our fresh pizza down to the beach.
From Nice, we hopped on the number 200 bus, and for 1.50 euros each, we set off for Cannes. 1.50 euro will get you anywhere from Cannes to Monte Carlo along the coast, so make the most of the public transport if you don’t have a car with you.
Famous for its Film Festival, Cannes is a glamorous and wealthy area, with a good mixture of historical culture and modern luxury.
We spent far too much time ogling the luxury yachts at the marina and dreaming of a life of luxury. Check out the Hollywood-style hands in cement down by the marina whilst you’re here.
If you are more into culture and the rustic style of living, head back into the old town of Cannes and explore the Musee de la Castre. We didn’t actually go inside, but we did scale the hill and enjoyed the amazing views of Cannes from the top. You can then wander back down towards the markets by the coast, exploring the old cobbled streets as you go.
Juan les Pins is home to one of the most beautiful, secluded beaches we have had the pleasure of visiting. Billionaire’s Beach takes a good hour or so to walk to from the nearest bus stop (if you’ve got a car you can park relatively close by, just be prepared to walk a bit of a hill!). Nestled in a little cove, this beach feels like a private retreat, with just a few yachts for company.
Once you’ve had enough of sunbathing and whiling the day away, you can take a wander back up the hill and round the corner for some spectacular views of the beach and surrounding ocean. We decided to save on the cost of the bus and took a leisurely walk along the coast from Juan les Pins to the beautiful town of Antibes.
Antibes is a gorgeous town, popular with artists and creative types, especially so given that Picasso lived here for a number of years. There is a museum dedicated to Picasso based here, or if you are more into architectural culture, there is an archeological museum here too.
Antibes is lined with stunning beaches and coastal views. However, if when you visit it isn’t quite warm enough for the beach, there is plenty to see in the old town amongst the gorgeous cobbled streets. Bursting with beauty and old-age charm, this little place really stole our hearts.
Make sure that you leave plenty of time to explore all of the little narrow streets, as well as the market stalls and lovely little cafes and restaurants. We even came across a comic book cafe, which looked amazing, but unfortunately was shut by the time we got there.
Let’s face it. Monte Carlo isn’t known for being a budget-friendly resort. However, when staying nearby, it seems almost silly not to check it out!
We visited the marina first to drool over even more spectacular yachts and boats. It actually is a really beautiful area, and it is worth the climb up to see the view from the hill.
More hills I’m afraid! It’s a bit of a trek up to the Prince’s Palace of Monaco, but the reward is lovely views over the town, and the grand buildings in the castle area are also worth the hike.
The palace is the official residence of the sovereign prince of Monaco, and during the summer months the stately rooms are open to the public. We enjoyed just looking around the area and admiring the beautiful architecture and grand sculptures.
If you have a whole day or more to spend in Monte Carlo, check out the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco. We didn’t have time to see it, however we have heard good things about it, and if the building and sculptures outside are anything to go by, it looked amazing!
Carry on just a little way through the parks from the aquarium, and you’ll come across this small amphitheatre. The views of Monte Carlo and the coast alone are worth it, but whilst you’re here, why not try out your performance skills?
Let’s be honest, if you’re not amongst the super-rich yourself, you come to Monte Carlo to check out how the other half lives. The casino is a great area for people-watching and for checking out the incredible sports cars that drive past every few minutes. The actual casino is open to the public, but it has a dress code so don’t try getting in wearing your hiking gear!
If you fancy a spot of (window) shopping, head to the Pavilion Shopping Centre located opposite the casino. These beautiful architectural bubbles are filled with the likes of Gucci, Chanel and Miu Miu.
If you’re after grand architecture and unique shopping opportunities, then head into the Le Metropole Shopping Centre. The centre contains a multitude of luxury stores, as well as antiques shops and even a Sephora! If you’re not into shopping, it’s still worth a visit just to check out the amazing chandeliers.
We hope that this helps you to plan your visit to the French Riviera, especially if you are short on time and just want to see the highlights!
You can catch up on our visit by checking out our YouTube channel where we have our vlogs from the three days we spent in the South of France.