The French Riviera has been a place that I had been wanting to visit for a long time for its glamorous lifestyle and beautiful scenery but I was waiting for a special occasion that would justify the splurge since it is quite an expensive destination (this place is literally dripping in money, it's absurd). Our honeymoon fit the bill quite nicely. The Côte d'Azur, as it is known in French, is the popular resort area where the Cannes film festival is held and it has earned a prestigious and exclusive reputation from the many celebrities that visit, spending a pretty penny on private mega-yachts and glittering seaside mansions.
Geographically, the French Riviera is the stretch of coastline in the southeastern corner of France from Toulon in the west to Menton in the east where France meets Italy. It also includes the sovereign state of Monaco which is technically a separate country from France and is the wealthiest place on earth famed for its casino, fast cars and enormous yachts. The French Riviera is unofficially divided into two sections--the western part known as the Var, which includes Saint-Tropez, and the eastern part known as the Alpes-Maritimes which includes Cannes, Antibes, Nice and Monaco just to name a few. This post will focus on the Alpes-Maritimes & the Nice area but I will get to the Var & Saint-Tropez later!
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
The Côte d'Azur is accessible by plane via Nice-Côte d'Azur Airport in the east and less-busy Toulon-Hyères Airport in the west (best for accessing the Var & Saint-Tropez). It is also accessible by TGV high-speed train, and travelers can take a direct route from Paris which is about 5-6 hours through some of the prettiest terrain (the Provençal lavender fields are a shade of purple like no other!) Once there, visitors can get between most towns via regional train, bus or rent a car. Of course renting a car will give you the greatest flexibility and will allow to you visit some of the smaller, quaint towns so if you don't mind driving in a foreign country, go for it. Just beware that some of the roads are very narrow so the smaller the car the better!
WHERE TO STAY
First you must choose an area to call your home base, which can be tricky due to the sprawling size of the Riviera. If you have the time, I recommend splitting your time between the Alpes-Maritimes (the Nice area) and the Var (the Saint-Tropez area). Both of these areas are different in terms of landscape and vibe. Specifically, I found that the east had more of the well-known towns to explore, was extremely pretentious and the landscape was more mountainous with pebbly beaches. On the other hand the west didn't have as many of the big name towns but it had the best beaches in the region and the culture was a tad bit more down to earth yet still wealthy. If you only have the chance to choose one and if you've never been, then go with the Alpes-Maritimes as this area gives you the best representation of the Riviera. If you've been-there-done-that then the Var might be better for you.
The good news is that there are plenty of places to stay, the bad news is that they all are so appealing! But here is my list of hotel recommendations that should make your search a little easier:
Hyatt Regency Nice Palais de la Méditerranée or Le Méridien Nice if you want a small-city vibe and to be able to have everything at your doorstep yet still have access to the beach. These upscale hotels are centrally-located overlooking the Promenade des Anglais and offer all the amenities you'd need for a comfortable stay. (13 Promenade des Anglais; 1 Promenade des Anglais)
Château de la Chèvre d'Or or Chateau Eza if you're looking to stay in a quaint, medieval village that feels removed from busy Nice yet a close drive away. These luxurious, 5-star hotels are located up on the hilltop in car-less Eze Village and the rooms are spread throughout the village rather than in a traditional hotel building, giving these hotels a unique, homey feel. The views are stunning and the sweet-smelling jasmine is intoxicating. (Rue du Barri; Rue de la Pise)
La Voile d'Or or Hotel Royal Riviera for sometimes more afforable, yet still upscale, options in an exclusive neighborhood. These hotels are both located on the peninsula of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat which boasts some of the most expensive villas in the world as well as a cute town. (7 Avenue Jean Mermoz; 3 Avenue Jean Monnet)
Hôtel le Cap Estel in Eze or Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes for a really, really, REALLY special occasion that you don't mind splurging on. Or realistically-speaking, if you win the lottery. These uber-glamorous, gorgeous 5-star gems are dripping in luxury and have arguably the best pools on the Riviera. The former is a short drive from Nice while the latter is closer to Cannes. (1312 Avenue Raymond Poincaré, Eze; Boulevard John F. Kennedy, Antibes)
Does this post have you dreaming of the Côte d'Azur yet? Now that you know how to get there and where to stay, stay tuned for my next post which will be all about what to do and where to eat and drink in this magnificent place! Au revoir!