The French Riviera, aka Côte d’Azur, has a lot going for it — more than 300 days of sunshine a year, 75 miles of glittering coastline, 25 miles of white sand beaches and one sun-drenched paradise.
Here are 10 attractions you won’t want to miss when you’re exploring the South of France.
Take your sherbet-colored trousers right from a beachfront lunch to the green at one of the French Riviera’s 19 golf courses. Nearly all are open to the public, though be sure to reserve a tee time in advance.
If you want to stay where you play, book a room in the charming Four-Star resort Terre Blanche, which sits 35 minutes outside Cannes. It has two 18-hole courses and a golf academy.
Stroll Through a Verdant Garden
The French Riviera’s year-round gorgeous weather means its pretty gardens are always in bloom. Some are free, and some require the booking of a tour with a small entrance fee.
Particularly stunning is the flamingo-pink Villa et Jardins Ephrussi de Rothschild in Cap Ferrat, between Nice and Monaco. The villa, built between 1905 and 1912 by Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild of the Rothschild banking family, has nine themed gardens, including one dedicated to sweet-smelling roses.
There are four gardens of note in Menton, which abuts the Italian border. Among them the Jardin du Palais Carnolès; the five-acre parcel dates to 1725 and has 137 varieties of citrus trees, the most of any European garden.
Watch the Sun Set over the Mediterranean
The French Riviera’s sunsets are simply gorgeous. If you’re in Nice, watch the sun melt into the Mediterranean from Castle Hill (or Colline du Château), a park on the side of an 11th-century military citadel. It’s Nice’s highest point — 302 feet above sea level — and from the lookout points you can see the Mediterranean, the promenade and all the way up into the hills.
In Saint-Tropez, take in the sunset from 15th-century stone tower Tour du Portalet, which overlooks the sea.
Take a Coastal Hike
Although a stroll along Nice’s seafront Promenade de Anglais is lovely, we suggest a mini hike.
Eze’s Nietzsche path — so named for the German philosopher who lived there — runs between the coast and ninth-century Eze Village, 1400 feet above sea level. Start in the village and work your day down or hike up from the bottom, a moderate 60- to 90-minute climb. The views from the trail, of Eze and the glittering Mediterranean are beautiful.
Another pleasant and less-strenuous walk is the 2.2-mile-long path from Plage Marquet, just west of the Monaco border, to gorgeous Plage de la Mala, where turquoise water meets limestone cliffs. The beach is safe for swimming and the water refreshing, but do exercise caution when the sea is rough.
Both of these trails have little shade, so it’s crucial to bring a hat and a lot of water.
Tuck into a Seafood Feast
The French Riviera teems with superb upscale restaurants — Hotel Metropole, Monte-Carlo alone has three from culinary powerhouse Joël Robuchon — but be sure to make time for a casual meal of ultra-fresh seafood. Spoon up fragrant bouillabaisse, dip baguette into a pot of savory mussel broth, and enjoy the catch of the day, lightly grilled and served with lemon, its flavor speaking for itself.
Make Your Own Perfume
North of Cannes, you’ll find hills covered with May roses, jasmine, orange blossoms and more aromatic blooms. That’s when you know you’ve arrived in Grasse, the perfume capital of the world.
The perfume industry has been active in the Provencal town since the late 18th century and today, parfumeries Molinard, Fragonard and Galimard offer free tours and workshops there.
Learn how perfume is made and take a look at antique lab equipment before pulling out a chair to make your own fragrance, under the guidance of one of the “noses” (les nez), experts trained to distinguish among hundreds and sometimes thousands of scents.
Charter a Yacht
If there were ever a place to charter a yacht, it’s the French Riviera. In Saint-Tropez and Monaco, the marina is lined with gleaming mega-yachts and aboard them are swimsuit-clad revelers doing some day drinking.
Even if you didn’t cruise into town, you can still join in the fun. A concierge at a luxury hotel can help secure a rental. But there’s also Float, a new app that lets you reserve a seat on a yacht day trip in either destination for a fraction of the rack rate.
Booking one or more seats or chartering the entire boat is as easy as calling a Lyft; choose where, when and the number of people and in three clicks you’ve got a boarding pass. The price includes champagne, canapes and, hopefully, an unforgettable day at sea.
Visit a Historic Casino
While not in France, Monaco technically is part the French Riviera and sits only 13 miles east of Nice. Even if you aren’t a gambler, you’ll want to visit the more than 150-year-old Casino de Monte-Carlo just to take in the gilded, ornate décor and mingle with the high rollers.
Just be prepared: a passport and fee are required for entry. And if you plan on coming in the evening, a business-casual dress code starts at 7 p.m. for the casino and the private salons. Men should wear jackets or blazers.
While the glamorous hot spot doesn’t get busy until nightfall, a tour of its halls and salons can be taken during the day. Fair and Fairy runs engaging tours of the Belle Époque-style casino replete with insider knowledge on Monaco’s Golden Age and uses its profits to support education in Mali.
Visit a Historic Castle
There are quite a few castles in the French Riviera that are open to the public and double as museums.
Château de Villeneuve-Loubet is a 13th-century castle in Villeneuve-Loubet, 30 minutes’ drive from the airport in Nice. It was here in 1538 that French King Francis stayed, signing the Truce of Nice and ending the Italian Wars.
Nearby is the early 14th-century Château-Musée Grimaldi, which looks like a castle straight out of a picture book. It was the home of Rainier Grimaldi (the first Grimaldi to rule what is now Monaco), then the governor’s residence, army barracks and finally a hospital. Today it’s a regal museum showcasing contemporary art from around the world.
Do a Wine Tasting at a Vineyard
Soak up the South of France in a vineyard with a glass of wine in hand. Around Nice, you’ll discover a handful of places. Le Domaine des Hautes Collines leads guided tours and tastings (reservations required). Its has tuilé wines, which are stored in large glass containers in direct sunlight for several months and then moved to oak barrels.
At Domaine Saint-Joseph, you can tour the vineyard and cellar and then taste not only wines but also olives, olive oil and aperitif wines.
If you don’t want to leave Nice for some good pours, stop into Cave Bianchi. It dates to 1860 and stocks a huge selection of Provencal wines for tasting.