French Riviera Travel Guide
Traveling in the French Riviera (Cote d’Azur) is an absolute dream. It’s easy to get around, every town has its own unique wow factor, and the coastline is as pretty as a picture. Enjoy all the top things to do with this complete French Riviera travel guide.
Day 1 – 2: Marseille
Marseille is the best place to start your Cote d’Azur trip, as the oldest city in France and the capital of the French Riviera! It’s a romantic city, with narrow alleys filled with pastel-colored houses, flowers, and elegant ancient buildings. However, it’s also dynamic and vibrant, with its street art, food markets, and modern architecture that pops out amongst the old.
There are so many great things to do in Marseille itself, however, it’s also a great jumping-off point to visit some stunning natural wonders in the area, such as Calanques national park. Here you can hike along sheer cliffs and among dense greenery, before reaching sheltered coves with stunning blue water. This is what the French Riviera is all about: the perfect combination of refreshing summer swims, warm nights, delicious dinners, and city sightseeing.
Where to stay in Marseille
The best place to stay in Marseille is anywhere near the old port (Vieux Port). It’s right in the center of the old town and the best place to stay to see the sights and be at the heart of the action of the city.
Getting to Marseille
Despite being in the deep south of France, Marseille is really well connected by train to other cities in France, as well as other cities in Europe! For example, you can take a train from London, Paris, Rotterdam, or Amsterdam. This is a fantastic slow way to travel, allowing you to see beautiful landscapes and be more sustainable.
Marseille also has its own airport, which has flights leaving to many other international destinations. This makes it a very easy place to fly into on your French Riviera trip!
Day 3 – 4: Cassis
Cassis is just 30 minutes away from Marseille, but a whole world away from the bustling city life. When you arrive in Cassis, you’ll immediately be transported to a slower pace of life, and the beauty of the town is truly like something from an old painting. There are pastel-colored houses that complement the charming harbor, and loads of delicious restaurants to choose from.
Food is very important here and the small town is famous for its extensive market, with beautiful locally sourced products. Grab your shopping bag and head here to buy the most delicious ingredients for your dinner!
Where to Stay in Cassis
Cassis is small, but there are plenty of great places to stay. If you’re looking for a little more luxury, there are some incredible hotels that sit high above the town on the surrounding cliffs, with views of the sea. There are also local guest houses too, which are the perfect place to stay to be in the heart of Cassis.
Getting to Cassis
Cassis is only 30 minutes drive from Marseille, so use Marseille as your main hub for travel. From Marseille, you can travel to Cassis by train in 18 minutes for as little as 5 EUR.
Day 5: Saint-Tropez
Saint-Tropez used to be a small fishing village popular with artists. Over the years, it became known as a luxury destination. Now, the colorful town is home to chic cafes, beautiful houses, and a harbor full of elegant yachts. One of the best things to do is come, people-watch, and sit in one of the harbor-side restaurants with a cocktail in hand.
All of the beaches in Saint-Tropez are beautiful! The water here is a stunning turquoise color that is reminiscent of a Caribbean island – perfect for a day of relaxing and swimming. Hire yourself the classic red and white parasol and live out your French Riviera dreams.
Getting to Saint-Tropez, French Riviera
The nearest airport to Saint-Tropez is Toulon (50 minutes). Alternatively, there is Nice airport which is 90 minutes away.
Reaching Saint-Tropez by public transport is a little harder as there is no train station. However, you can take a train from Nice to the nearest station, ‘St Raphael’, which takes around 50 minutes. From here, you’ll need to take a taxi to Saint-Tropez (1 hour and 15 minutes).
There are lots of great free things to do, from visiting the famous weekly market to finding murals in the old town (Le Suquet). You can also stand in the same spot as some of your favorite actors and actresses by visiting the Palais des Festivals, where you can see the red carpet and the ‘walk of fame’. Or, as an alternative to Cannes, visit Antibes!
Getting to Cannes
Reach Cannes from Saint-Tropez by car in 2 hours or by train from Nice in under half an hour.
Day 7 – 8: Nice, French Riviera
Nice is true to its name: one of the nicest cities in our French Riviera travel guide! Sandwiched between the majestic Alps and the dazzling blue of the Mediterranean Sea, it’s no surprise that Nice is one of the most popular places to visit on the Cote d’Azur.
As a seaside city, one of the best things to do here is to visit the many beaches. Follow the Promenade des Anglais, a long boulevard that follows the sea. Although it looks like there is one long stretch of beach, it’s actually split up into 30 different beaches (some private, some public) for you to choose from.
Where to Stay in Nice
Many people choose to base themselves in Nice for the entire duration of their stay on the French Riviera, as it’s such a good location to get to all the other delights of the Cote d’Azur. It’s also got loads of great accommodation options for a variety of prices. Whether it’s beachside or in the historic center, there’s something for every kind of traveler.
Getting to Nice
Nice has an international airport so it’s very easy to get to from all over the world. Trains from Cannes to Nice run regularly and take about 35 minutes. Book your train connection here.
Day 9: Villefranche-sur-Mer
Villefranche-sur-Mer is the hidden gem of the French Riviera. It’s much quieter than some of the more popular neighboring cities and towns on the coastline and this adds to its charm. Every old building has been beautifully preserved and it’s so picturesque that it’s been the setting for many famous films.
The old town is the must-see on your trip to Villefranche-sur-Mer and you could easily spend a few hours getting lost in the narrow cobbled streets. Grab your camera and enjoy finding all the beautiful details of the colorful townhouses, painted shutters, and hanging flowers. There are even some spooky surprises when stumbling across the Rue Obscure: a 13th-century passageway that goes under the old town.
Where to Stay in Villefranche-sur-Mer
Most people choose to visit Villefranche on a day trip from Nice. However, if you have time to extend your itinerary, it’s well worth slowing down in this charming town. There are plenty of great accommodation options beachside, or you can find pretty apartments in the old town.
Day 10: Monaco
Monaco is an independent state that’s so beautiful it has become an exclusive holiday destination for the rich and famous. There are grand houses, villas, and even a palace to see on a day trip to Monaco.
Spend your morning exploring the city, your afternoon relaxing on the beautiful beach, and the evening enjoying the legendary nightlife!
Getting to Monaco
Take a train from Nice to Monaco in under half an hour. You can also drive in around 30 minutes but be aware that parking is very expensive.
Best of all, it’s thought to be one of the warmest places on the coastline, with over 316 days of sunshine a year! This means it’s the perfect place to visit the French Riviera at any time of year, and it’s the perfect place to grow lemons. The town is very proud of this, and you can find every type of lemon product imaginable. There’s even a lemon festival held every year at the end of February.
Just like Nice, there are plenty of town beaches to choose from. The ones to the east of Menton (towards Italy) are the sandier ones and are a great place to relax after a day of wandering the steep streets of the gorgeous old town.
Did you know? Menton is so close to the border of Italy that it can feel more Italian than French. Hello, pizza, pasta, and gelato!
Where to Stay in Menton
Menton is small but perfectly formed, and anywhere in this beautiful town is a good area to stay. It’s particularly nice to choose from one of the hotels that look out over the sea and wake up to beautiful views!
Getting to Menton
There are two railway stations in Menton, and it sits on the regional train line that goes between Nice and Italy. From Nice, it only takes 40 minutes, and it’s a beautiful train ride.
Extending your French Riviera Travels
Costs of Traveling on the French Riviera
The French Riviera is known for its beautiful but expensive hotels and restaurants. However, there are ways you can budget for your trip. For example, travel in the off-season when the prices are lower, and it’s less busy. You can also stay in lesser-visited towns like Menton or Eze to reduce costs. Nice and Marseille are bigger cities that also offer a much bigger range of accommodation.
How to Travel Around the French Riviera
Traveling around the French Riviera is super easy by car but also via public transport. There are great rail links between all the towns and tickets are generally very cheap
There are public buses, but roads can be busy at peak times on coastal roads. Additionally, hiring a car can give you the freedom to explore hidden corners of the French Riviera but make sure to factor in the costs of parking in the cities and towns.
Best Time to Travel to the French Riviera
The French Riviera is the warmest place in France, with over 300 days of sunshine a year! The summers are hot and dry, spring and fall are still warm, and the winters are mild. This means that any time is good to travel to the French Riviera. If you want fewer crowds and lower prices, we recommend traveling during the spring or fall.