First associations with the Cote d’Azur? Beaches, azure water, the scent of luxury in the air and topless sunbathing tourists. On one hand, we knew that we really wanted to see this place, on the other, we did not know if it would be our thing, because places made for rich and snobby tourists usually do not fall into our vibe.
The off-season trip turned out to be the best possible choice, there were no crowds or topless tourists (to David’s disappointment), but there were also beautiful views and colour of sea water which takes your breath away. Would we like it the same way during summer high season – we don’t know, but in October it was brilliant!
If you came up with the same idea of connecting the French Riviera with Provence, got and check out the post “What to see in Provence“, where you will also learn some practical information about planning a trip to these regions. In this post, we will show you what to see on the Cote d’Azur to return from the trip fully satisfied!
Port Grimaud – What to see on the French Riviera
Port Grimaud is a town and port in the Gulf of St. Tropez near the town of Grimaud. Port Grimaud is called the “Little Venice of Provence” and it’s hard to argue this statement, although in our opinion Port Grimaud does not resemble Venice, but the colourful Burano located in the Venetian lagoon. The harbour maze full of colourful houses built right by the water, with an overwhelming number of private boats and yachts, is a relatively new initiative.
The canals dotted with colourful houses began in the early 1960s, and despite its young age, in 2002 Port Grimaud was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. We have to admit that this is a place that exudes luxury, but still has that “something” to it. Expensive yachts and mansions worth millions can be intimidating, but colourful buildings and canals reminiscent of Venice lend a timeless elegance. First, we went to the beach to fly the drone from a distance, to not disturb the peace of the inhabitants. We were surprised to discover that Port Grimaud is not a private gated community and that as a tourist you can go in and get lost between the canals.
St. Tropez – What to see on the French Riviera
St. Tropez in our minds seemed like a completely different place than the one we found there. St. Tropez is simply a colourful coastal town, which years ago was an ordinary fishing village, and it gained fame thanks to the cinematography, which also contributed to the creation of the “myth of St. Tropez”.
The reality and the legend arose around St. Tropez were slightly different from each other, the myth depicts St. Tropez as a land of sexually liberated, beautiful women, luxury, southern holiday slack. The villagers at first were not happy about it, and they did not like the sudden popularity of the small village, after time and with the flow of money that tourists left there, they changed their approach and reconciled that it would never be the same as before. To this day, St. Tropez is associated with luxury and celebrity parties. Yes, it is not difficult to find luxury boutiques and restaurants in the town, but everything is perfectly integrated into the local landscape and does not look as you can imagine, and celebrity events probably take place on yachts moored in the port.
After the high season, St. Tropez is quiet enough town (although there are still a lot of tourists there), with well-kept and restored colourful tenement houses, a port and lots of streets to wander around. We recommend you to go to the viewpoint on the way to the Citadel, from which you will see St. Tropez from a completely different perspective. We also couldn’t miss the Gendarme Museum of St. Tropez, the second production (after “And God Created Woman”), which made the town famous. The museum is located in the building of the gendarmerie’s film post, it is not huge, but interesting, unfortunately a lot of it is described and explained only in French …
Le Trayas – What to see on the French Riviera
Le Trayas is a small beach in and around Saint Raphael, characterized by red rocks cutting into the sea, and rolling hills covered with lush green pine trees. The whole combination of red rocks, green trees and sea in an unusual shade of blue is impressive, and we managed to find there also the perfect place for drone flights – marked on the map at the end of the post.
The whole area is full of trekking paths and if we only had more time, we would definitely go hiking. Unfortunately, there was no time so Le Trayas had to be enjoyed form the car, stopping every now and then for photos. In this area you will find many small, wild beaches that are perfect for sunbathing, if crowdy popular ones are not for you!
Cannes – What to see on the French Riviera
During last trip, we swapped Cannes for Grasse, which we do not regret. As we’ve been to Cannes before, we decided to add it to the list. It is one of those places that we do not fully feel, but it is worth visiting to create your own opinion. Cannes certainly cannot be denied the beautiful, long and wide beach with a promenade full of palm trees, sun loungers and beach bars.
Behind the beach, there are high-rise resort buildings, although those in Cannes have their charm and atmosphere, resorts are not what we like the most. In Cannes you will also find a small old town, definitely more charming it he one in St. Tropez, as well as a port full of luxury yachts.
Antibes – What to see on the French Riviera
Antibes is one of the seaside towns, especially popular thanks to the old town, which is surrounded by 16th-century defensive walls with a star-shaped fort jutting out into the sea. The old town looks great not only from the outside, the streets of the old town are also delightful, and the nightlife was very interesting, despite the low season and the lack of tourists.
In Antibes, Pablo Picasso, who loved this region, lived and worked for some time, and he often appears in stories about many cities and towns of Provence and the Cote d’Azur. In Antibes you will also find an interesting Absinthe Bar near the old market, inside which after a glass of absinthe, when you close your eyes, you will feel as if you moved to the interwar period and spending a lazy afternoon in the company of Picasso.
Nice – What to see on the French Riviera
Nice is our place “for the next time”. We had all day and ambitious plans for it but after a week of travelling around the weather became just perfect, and we came across ideal place to rest the whole day on the beach. We were not sorry for Nice at all, because it is not difficult to get there for a short city break, so we will definitely settle the score with this city in the future and devote as much time to it as it is due. We managed to reach the castle hill to admire the sunset.
We do not know, however, why 30 minutes before sunset a guard appeared and said that the viewpoint was just closing and everyone was supposed to leave. In the end, we saw the sun setting over Nice, the English promenade and the Mediterranean Sea near the walls of the Cimetière du Château cemetery. If you only have to visit one place in Nice, let it be this hill at sunset, because the views soothe the soul!
Villafranche sur Mer – What to see on the French Riviera
Villafranche sur Mer is the place we chose over Nice. For more than a week in Provence and on the Cote d’Azur, we did not manage to get at least a moment for sunbathing, we had such plans in Menton, but were sitting on the beach in sweaters due to cold blowing wind. Don’t really count for sunbathing day on the beach. As soon as Villafranche appeared behind last corner in the road “azure coast” revealed itself in full glory, you know, the one everyone talks about. Green and blue shades of water, full of lighter and darker spots, we were stunned and knew this is it, our day of sunbathing.
Villafranche sur Mer is a really beautiful town, colourful like many other places on the coast, well-kept, full of charming streets and alleys. The beach in Villafranche is not overwhelmingly wide, long, does not impress with its golden sand and we would rather call it a city beach, but we didn’t need anything else to be happy. As for October, the water was surprisingly warm, the sun was warm, and we do not regret dropping Nice for these few hours, although we are not generally avid sunbathers.
Eze – What to see on the French Riviera
Eze is a medieval hilltop village overlooking the French Riviera. It is sometimes called the “village-museum”, because not many people actually born there live in it, and it also attracts crowds of tourists. Eze is narrow, shady streets, cobblestone, ascending stairs, art galleries, upscale boutique hotels and expensive restaurants. This is one of those places, the description of which probably would not encourage us to visit, because the enclaves of the rich are rather beyond our interests, but in Eze there really is some magic and an invisible force that attracts you to it.
Eze gained fame and popularity thanks to blasé artists who, bored and overwhelmed by the wealth of aristocrats occupying Nice, decided to find a calmer, more atmospheric place to live and create. As you know, artists often set trends, so others followed them from Nice, and after time the town became popular and widely appreciated (at that moment, the artists were probably looking for a different place to live). This is why Eze has so many art galleries and shops to find. Popular with Monaco residence for lunch or dinner.
Monaco – What to see on the French Riviera
Monaco is one of those completely “not our” places, artificially inflated with luxury, a ghost town built by the rich for the rich, because many people have apartments there just to avoid taxes, but do not really live there permanently. High-rise buildings, built on top of each other, with flats at prices that make you dizzy, remain empty in the off-season. Apart from a small number of the most expensive apartments and the highest floors of buildings, many of them, due to the densely built-up areas, suffer from a lack of sufficient sunlight, and the view from the window is … other skyscrapers, not breath-taking panoramas.
Monaco is such an artificially inflated bubble for the richest in this world, without a soul, without a climate. As we were both already in Monaco and we knew that this was not our atmosphere, we bypassed Monaco without remorse. We do not deny that there are nice places there, but we prefer places with soul. We recommend you to visit Monaco, if only to form your own opinion, because you don’t have to agree with ours! One of the things that we dream of, however, is seeing the Formula 1, the Monaco Grand Prix.
Tete de Chien – What to see on the French Riviera
In the previous paragraph, we must have outlined our aversion to Monaco quite bluntly, but it does not mean that there is nothing nice to it. There is one place, a place that shows Monaco from a different perspective and it is a stunning perspective, the kind of Monaco that you will see from Tete de Chien we definitely like. Tete de Chien is a hill with, among others, a weather station and a perfect view of Monaco.
You have to go up a short trail (we do not recommend flip-flops due to rocky bedding and unevenness) to get a view of Monaco from above. This panorama is so impressive that will blow one away. Monaco looks absolutely beautiful from above, narrowly arranged, elegant residential skyscrapers, the colour of the Mediterranean Sea – there is some magic in this view! On the other hand, there is a view of the other part of the Cote d’Azur. If you have to choose one of the two – Monaco or Tete de Chien, you already know what our choice would be!
Menton – What to see on the French Riviera
Menton is a gem of the Cote d’Azur and our absolute favourite, as they say “Last, but not least”. Menton is located a few kilometres from the Italian border and you have to admit that the atmosphere there is a bit of the Cote d’Azur and a bit of Liguria. Menton is a town with LOTS of colourful, pastel houses and tenement houses, the shutters of which are also painted in wonderful colours, creating a coherent, impressive whole. In Menton there is also a city pebble beach and beautiful azure water, as well as a port. There is no point trying to describe it, see for yourself in the pictures!