Do you love view-filled coastal trails, lively French towns, and amazing food? Welcome to the French Riviera, or en Français, La Côte d’Azur – this walking vacation in France is for you! The southeast coast of Provence, France, is sprinkled with some of the world’s most popular beaches and destinations, including Monaco, Nice, Cannes and Saint Tropez. Many celebrities, such as Elton John and Brigitte Bardot, have homes in the region.
Following is our list of highlights for what to do, what to eat, and what to see on the French Riviera.
First a quick Trains 101 lesson will get you traveling like a local with your train pass. The Regional Express Train, or TER, connects major coastal cities throughout the Riviera, and runs about every 30 minutes. Most of the stations sit within walking distance of the town center or offer a bus service from the station. You can purchase tickets from machines at each station, just be sure to stamp your ticket in one of the validation machines before hopping on board.
Discover the magical combination of sea and mountains that has drawn visitors to its shores for centuries. Elegant and beautiful Nice enjoys sky-blue sea, marvelous gravel beaches, mild climate, and gorgeous views. Nice holds the second position in the number of museums and galleries in Europe. The Old Town of Nice, also called Old Nice (Vieux Nice), lies just below Castle Hill.
South of Vieux Nice lies the Promenade des Anglais, or Walkway of the English, which comes from the English aristocrats who came to Nice in the 18th century to enjoy the health benefits of the local climate. At that time, the shoreline was not so regular, and because the lords and their wives wanted to walk comfortably, a seaside promenade was built (with the hands and finances of the English people). The English names of the hotels, such as Westminster and West End, still bear witness to the influence of the Brits on this place.
Enjoy the colors, scents, and people-watching at the Cours Saleya Flower Market. Vibrant from the morning to the evening, the Cours Saleya is particularly known for its flower market, but it also hosts other stalls of fruit and vegetables, local handicrafts as well as many traditional Niçoises specialties.
Perched just over the hill from Nice is the charming harbor town of Villefranche-Sur-Mer. With its beautifully colored houses, terracotta rooftops and crystal clear turquoise water, Villefranche-sur-Mer truly is a postcard perfect place.
One of the tiniest villages in France, Beaulieu-Sur-Mer is nestled in a curve protected by tall, grey slabs of the rocky foothills. Beaulieu literally means “beautiful place”. With its shady palm tree-lined roads, lush Mediterranean vegetation, crescent-shaped beaches, marina and luxurious villas, Beaulieu is truly a charming destination.
It’s a lovely stroll from Beaulieu-Sur-Mer to the harbor of glamorous Saint Jean. Next the wooded sentier trails of Cap Ferrat provide breathtaking views in every direction. Great options for the afternoon include a visit to the Rothschild Villa & Gardens or the hilltop village of Eze. A cool drink back in Saint Jean finishes out a truly spectacular day on the French Riviera.
A new day begins with a train ride to Roquebrune/Cap Martin to walk the coastal sentier affording views of both Monaco and Italy. Roquebrune translates to “Brown Rock“ in reference to the brown color of the rocks that can be seen in the old, perched village overlooking the luxuriant vegetation of the Cap Martin peninsula From the medieval castle, breathtaking views command the coastline of the French Riviera from the mountains above Menton and Italy to the dazzling Principality of Monaco. (Three countries in one day!)
With views of both the sea and the French Alps, a walk along the yacht-adorned harbor of Antibes offers up ancient fortress ramparts and charming historic alleys. A sunny terrace near Marché Provençal makes for a wonderful lunch setting before visiting an Absinthe museum to discover what so impressed the Impressionists. Some of our favorite highlights of the area include a self-guided sentier walk, a visit to the Picasso Museum, or to explore the hilltop artist villages of St. Paul de Vence or Grasse.
A short train ride from Nice, Cannes is the host city of the famous Cannes Film Festival. From the top of its promontory, Le Suquet watches over Cannes. This is where it all began when the town was just a small fishing village. Foodies looking for interesting Niçoise faire, Rue Meynadier is the place to visit. The selection of foods is amazing, from pastel-colored macarons to wines, spices to dried fruits, to sweets and cheeses – this is foodie heaven! Cannes’ large, covered Marché Forville, located near the famous La Croisette boardwalk is a local institution.
From Cannes, it’s a short ferry ride to St. Honorat where quiet and calm are the rule. The only motor vehicles found here is the occasional monastery tractor tending the vines. This peaceful setting offers trails through oak forests, graceful vineyards, and olive groves, as well as small beaches and pretty little coves for sunbathing and snorkeling.
The Blue Walk exclusive morning itineraries of seaside walking trails and urban sidewalk strolls bring you to the Mediterranean’s best-loved towns by lunchtime. Open air markets display the best offerings of the season. Charming bistros welcome our small group of travelers to enjoy their regional specialties. On our morning walks explore the areas of Nice, Cannes, Menton, and Antibes. You have the Riviera as your playground each afternoon. It’s a beautiful, fun, feel-good vacation.
The Blue Walk offers walking vacations and art vacation workshops on the Cote D’Azur. To learn more, click here.