The French Riviera is one of the more exclusive parts of France. In the French Riviera cities, you will find a lot of 5 star hotels. In fact, almost 50 of them!
Many celebrities live along the French Riviera. Some French Riviera cities and towns are famous worldwide, like the jet-set destination of St Tropez or Cannes which is known for its famous film festival.
This part of the France has a lot going for it: great beaches, sun, beautiful countryside including nearby Provence and plenty of activities to do. The French Rivera attracts a lot of worldwide tourists who come here for a lot of different reasons.
Where is the French Riviera?
There is no exact answer to this question. No-one really knows where the French Rivera precisely starts. What is certain is that it ends at the Italian border. As a French native, I would say that the French Rivera starts at St Tropez.
The Best French Riviera Cities
From St Tropez to Menton, you will find amazing towns or cities, large and small. However, the French Riviera isn’t just about its towns and cities. This area has very nice roads with plenty of things to see and explore. Did you know that the Corniche road from Nice to Menton is considered as one of the best scenic roads?
Below I’m going to give you some of the best things to see and experience in the French Riviera Cities.
What to Do in St Tropez France?
If it is your first visit to St Tropez, you will probably be surprised by its size. This small fishing village may be far from what you might have imagined given its glamorous reputation.
Today, St Tropez is filled with high-end boutiques and restaurants. St Tropez started to become ‘the place to go’ after the movie “Et Dieu Crea la Femme” (And God Created Woman) starring Brigitte Bardot.
St Tropez has everything. Sunny weather, sandy beaches, a picturesque harbour full of luxury yachts, coloured houses and old cobblestone streets. On top of this, St Tropez is set in beautiful countryside. All of this made St Tropez the most glamorous town in France and celebrities from around the world wanted to have a house here.
One of the best places to be in St Tropez is the vieux port (old harbour). The old fishing harbour has more luxury yachts than traditional fishing boats. The good news is that the very big yachts can’t dock here. The harbour is too small for them to enter.
In the harbour, you will be stunned by the beauty of St Tropez with its backdrop of pastel coloured houses, bars and restaurants, blue sky and nice boats. All of this created a unique and special atmosphere which you will only find in St Tropez.
From the harbour, you can wander around any of the town’s streets at your leisure. If you are visiting during the morning, we recommend you go to the Place aux Herbes where you will find a typical French market with fruit, vegetables and other delicious produce.
To get a great view of the old harbour, walk around the harbour until you reach the lighthouse of Saint Tropez. First, head to the Tour du Portalet (old tower) and then follow the Mole d’Estienne d’Orves. From the lighthouse, you can get a great view of the vieux port of Saint Tropez.
If you feel the harbour is too crowded, you can wander into the old town and discover the most picturesque area of St Tropez. From the old port, take the rue Victor Laugier and carry on to the rue de la Citadelle where you will find cobblestone streets and a pedestrian zone. There are plenty of cafés, shops and restaurants on the way.
What to Do in St Maxime France?
St Maxime shares the same bay as St Tropez, but it is less well known. St Maxime has 7 km of gorgeous sandy beaches with charming hotels and resorts. One of the best things to enjoy in St Maxime are water sports and the beaches.
St Maxime is an Eden paradise for beach lovers! The best beaches are Plage de la Nartelle and Plage du Centre.
Before or after visiting the beach, you can go to the old town to discover some historic gems like La Tour Carrée. The old town is very authentic and is a great place to sit on a bar terrace or to have lunch or dinner in a local restaurant.
In the town centre, there is a local market which is open in the mornings. This is the best place for you to discover regional foods and to meet the real locals. I enjoy exploring local markets and to have a taste of the food available in the area.
What to Do in Fréjus France
Fréjus is an old town along the French Riviera. The town was an important trade port 2,000 years ago. I love Fréjus because the city is calm and relaxing. The narrow streets and houses painted with pastel colours create a special atmosphere.
Just take your time and walk along the streets of Fréjus. One of the highlights of your walk will be Fréjus Cathedral. This small cathedral has some nice carvings around the doorway but is nothing extraordinary on the outside. However, hidden inside is a beautiful baptistery and cloisters dating from the 12th century.
Fréjus has plenty of Roman ruins but the most interesting is the aqueduct. The aqueduct was built to bring water from the mountains to the city. The aqueduct took 20 years to build and is 42 km long and features 36 arches.
If you want to entertain your kids, you can go to the Luna Park to have a fun evening. There are fairground attractions for all the family.
Museum lovers could visit the interesting Musée des Troupes de Marine. This museum exhibits old maps, model ships and historical posters showing different cultures from the 17th century.
If you want to enjoy the sea, Fréjus has very nice beaches. The sandy beaches are clean and have no rocks in the water making them perfect for kids to play and swim. You have the choice between the Nature base beach and Port Fréjus beach. For me, both are similar but usually families prefer the Port Fréjus Beach. The Nature base beach is accessible for disabled people.
What to Do in Cannes France?
Cannes is the city of cinema and festivals, but there is a lot more to Cannes than that. Cannes is a vibrant town which is a nice place to live and to visit. In Cannes, you have beautiful beaches, high-end boutiques and markets.
Below are the main things to do in Cannes. If you aren’t particularly interested in the film festival, I would advise you to avoid visiting Cannes at this time. During the film festival, Cannes is very busy and hotels and restaurants are full.
Most tourists wander along la Croisette when they visit Cannes. La Croisette is the road which runs along the beach and it is lovely to walk along it. On one side, you have public beaches and private beaches from the most famous hotels. On the other side, you have high-end boutiques and big hotels with fantastic architecture.
If you want to be immersed in the local culture, you could go to the local Forville market (marché de Forville). Here, you will discover local produce from the area.
Cannes has prestigious private beaches where you can receive 5-star service, but it also has public beaches where you can relax or enjoy water sports.
Cannes harbour is a good place to walk and have a café on a terrace just watching life go by. I enjoy walking along the dock to see the names of the boats and where they came from.
On of the best things to do in Cannes is to take a ferry to go to the Lerins Islands. These islands are one of my favourite places to visit in Cannes. You can explore the islands and, on top of that, you will have a memorable boat ride.
If you want to know more about Cannes, you need to read our article about 21 things to do in Cannes.
What to Do in Antibes France?
Antibes is situated between Cannes and Nice and has ancient 16th century ramparts around the city. The city has a rich history and great beaches. Antibes also has a big harbour where you can find small and large yachts.
I love to spend time in Antibes when I’m in the area. The mix of interesting architecture close to the Mediterranean Sea makes Antibes a very good place to spend some time.
Visiting the city by foot is a good option to have time to appreciate the historical part of the city. The impressionist painter, Picasso, took a lot of inspiration from Antibes and the surrounding area. There is a small pathway where you can discover the place used by Picasso to paint famous art.
If you want to learn more about Picasso, you could explore the Picasso museum. Picasso lived in Antibes for six months and now you can admire 254 of his works here.
A little bit further south, you will find le Cap d’Antibes. Here, there are some more great beaches. The best beaches of Cap d’Antibes include Plage de la Salis and Ponteil to catch the sunrise. For the best water, head to Plage des Ondes.
You can also walk next to the sea on the Sentier du Littoral or take it easy in a nice restaurant. Walking on the Sentier du Littoral is perfect if you want to do some exercise and be amazed by the view. This walk can be done in 1 or 2 hours. According to the locals, it is the best coastal walk on the French Riviera.
You can start your journey next to Villa Eilenroc. However, before starting your walk, we recommend that you visit the Villa Eilenroc. The villa is stunning with beautiful gardens. Afterwards, you can start your walk and finish at Plage de la Garoupe.
Another good place to visit is the Fort Carré which is a star-shaped fort set above the sea. From the fort, you will get a great view of Antibes harbour. If you are a fan of James Bond movies, you will recognise this place from the movie ‘Never Say Never Again’.
During the summer, there are plenty of festivals in Antibes. The gardening festival celebrates the arrival of spring and more than 50,000 flowers are used. If you like sailing like me, you will be happy to hear about Les Voiles d’Antibes which is a major yacht event with plenty of activities.
What to Do in Nice France?
If you are visiting the French Riviera, you should stop at Nice. Nice is an authentic city and is far from the jet set style of St Tropez. Nice has a historical area, attractive parks, an impressive sea view from la Colline du Château (Castle of Nice) and a fantastic seafront promenade.
If it is your first time in Nice, first go for a walk on one of the most prestigious promenades, La Promenade des Anglais. On one side of the promenade is the Mediterranean Sea and, on the other side, are high-end boutiques and stunning hotels.
To have the best view of Nice, head to la Colline du Château. To reach the castle, you can climb the steps or use the lift. Be aware of the timetable because the lift is closed during the winter months and closes at 6pm in the summer.
Another option is to go to the Mont Boron where you will get another great view of Nice. To reach Mont Baron, you need to take public bus 33 or use your car.
If you want to more about visiting Nice and other things to do, you can read our post about 21 reasons to visit Nice.
What to Do in Monaco France?
Although the small independent state of Monaco is not part of France, it does form part of the French Riviera. Monaco has a perfect climate with 300 days of sunshine. Monaco and, particularly Monte-Carlo, are famous for being home to very wealthy people.
The first thing you will notice about Monaco is the architecture of the buildings. The Monte Carlo Casino and the Oceanographic Museum are the two best examples.
There are plenty of things to do in Monaco. My favourite place is the Oceanographic Museum, not just for the stunning building mentioned previously, but for everything you will discover inside. The museum has 6,000 specimens and 90 aquariums which showcase marine habitats from all over the world. In addition, there are special exhibitions and a shark experience.
Did you know that you can also visit the Prince’s Palace whilst in Monaco? It is a unique experience to enter and visit the palace where the Prince of Monaco actually lives. The palace belongs to the Grimaldi family and the family still live here.
If you prefer gardens, you will be amazed by the Exotic Garden in Monaco. This garden is really special because all the vegetation is succulent plants (cacti). The garden is set on a hill above Monaco with spectacular views. There are a series of terraces linked together by bridges.
Monaco has a big history with cars and, of course, the famous Formula 1 race track snakes around the streets of the city. The best place to learn more about cars is to visit the car collection of the Prince of Monaco. The collection was started in 1950 by Prince Rainier III and the family are still adding cars to the collection.
Finally, there is the Casino of Monte-Carlo where the wealthy go to gamble. However, you can visit the casino during the morning to take a look inside. Of course, you can go inside to play and the minimum change is 20 Euros.
If you want to have a full guide of Monaco, you can read our article about 21 Reasons to Visit Monaco.
What to Do in Menton France?
Menton is the last town before the Italian border. Menton is less well known than Cannes, Nice or St Tropez but believe me it is worth the visit.
Menton is famous for two things: the famous film director, Jean Cocteau, and lemons! Menton is the best place to learn more about Jean Cocteau. You can visit the Jean Cocteau museum on the Promenade du Soleil not far from the beach and the old harbour. There are two other sites to visit if you are a fan of Jean Cocteau. The first one is at the bastion and the other site is the wedding chapel.
The other big thing in Menton is the lemon, but why lemons? In Menton each year, there is a lemon festival (Fête du Citron) which attracts more than 200,000 visitors. All the city participates in the festival which is a carnival celebrating the lemon.
Carnival floats are decorated with enormous lemon sculptures. In addition to the parade, there is a Garden of Lights with citrus exhibits. The festival takes place each year in February and lasts for 15 days.
Other things you can do in Menton include a visit to the cemetery of the old château. This cemetery overlooks Menton and the sea which makes it a great place to have a bird’s eye view of old Menton.
Menton also has nice beaches. La Plage des Sablettes is my personal favourite. Firstly, it is next to the old port so you have plenty of restaurants. Secondly, I like that you can see the Italian border.
As a French native, I have travelled around France a lot. This is why I have recommended the French Riviera as a nice area to visit in France. Of course, it is not the only area to visit in France! France is a beautiful country and there are plenty of stunning areas to discover.