Welcome to Saint-Tropez: 7 must-see destinations on the Côte d’Azur
Lavish yachts, rivers of champagne, the azure sea and the beauty praised by Fitzgerald – the Côte d’Azur is irresistible. If you are planning a vacation in Nice or nearby cities on the French Riviera, this guide is just what you need.
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Entry conditions to France for Ukrainians
On July 23, France added Ukraine to the list of “green” countries. This means that now the country is open for all types of travel. To enter France, Ukrainians must present one of three documents:
- A negative PCR test done no more than 72 hours before entry;
- An antibody test no more than 24 hours before entry;
- Vaccination certificate from one of the vaccines recognized by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). These include Pfizer/Comirnaty, Moderna, AstraZeneca/Vaxzevria/Covishield and Jansen/Johnson&Johnson.
It should take at least 28 days from the first dose and at least 7 days from the second dose.
Let’s start with the easternmost point of the French coast, the resort town of Menton, nestled between the Italian Riviera and the Principality of Monaco. Menton – it’s unique old center, it’s endless green gardens, it’s incredible beaches, it is a colorful, exciting, cosmopolitan city.
The beaches of Menton are deservedly considered one of the best on the coast, they please their guests with purity, safe shoreline, infrastructure and soft sand (although you can find and pebble beaches).
However, to come to Menton and sit all day on the beach would be an unforgivable mistake. It is definitely worth a look in the Old Town, a walk through its narrow paved streets and squares, see the Cathedral of Saint-Michel, look at the Palace Carnolais, which is also the Museum of Fine Arts, and to visit the Museum of Jean Cocteau. Great time and a break from the bustle of the city can be in the parks and gardens of Menton, and they also deserve the title of a work of art and are a must-see for travelers. Parc du Pian, Jardin de Colombières, the garden of the Villa Maria Serena and the botanical garden of Val-Rame are amazing places where you can spend a pleasant evening admiring the scenery. By the way, beautiful panoramas can also be found in the Old Port of the city – look there!
On the way from Menton to Nice it is impossible not to notice the amazing village of Eze. It is not so big but it is so picturesque that conquers from the first meeting – with its green mountains, red roofs, old stone houses and paved streets as well as luxurious Exotic Garden on the top.
Cost of accommodation: 3* – from €82, 4* – from €145.
Nice is one of the most famous resorts of the Côte d’Azur. It is a mix of good beaches and luxury hotels, expensive villas and fashionable boutiques, the wonderful Old Centre and a busy nightlife. Not for nothing it got the tacit status of the capital of the French Riviera.
Most beaches in Nice are paid, the entrance to them costs from € 12-15 and more, but on top of them there are many free beaches available to everyone. Paid beach areas are equipped with all necessary infrastructure, the coastline – safe, water and sand – clean. If you adjusted (-a) only on rest by the sea, it makes sense to go out of town, on the beaches of nearby towns, which are not inferior to the beaches of Nice, and some superior.
Yes, as we have said, Nice is not a cheap place. Therefore budget tourists and young people prefer to stay in the central part of town. And they do right, because here are not only more affordable, but also many times more interesting. The old city with its small streets, ancient cathedrals, churches, city hall and squares, as well as museums is an ideal place for walks and a pleasant, romantic pastime. The museums are worth telling separately, because for art lovers Nice is simply heaven. Visit the Chagall Museum and the Matisse Museum, as well as the Museum of Fine Arts, where you can see the works of Degas, Renoir and Monet. In the palace Massena or the palace Lascari, the castle Valroz also many interesting paintings and sculptures, and just worth a visit to admire their beauty.
Not far from Nice is Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, one of the quietest corners of the coast amongst the pine groves. Its fame brought not only the unique nature and picturesque bays, but also two famous villas: Villa Leopold, which is recognized as the most expensive in the world and is a true work of art, and the villa of Baroness Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild, which is now a large unique museum with a rich collection of French art from different ages.
Prices for accommodation: 3* from €90, 5* from €347.
A picturesque town of the same name is located in Cap d’Antibes between two main coastal resorts – Nice and Cannes. It is interesting mainly for yachting lovers, because the biggest yacht port of the Cote d’Azur is located here. And you can not only admire the large and original yachts, and take a ride on them.
Attracts and young people Antibes, because, firstly, it is more accessible resort than the “star” Nice and Cannes, and secondly, it is famous for a rich and vibrant nightlife and its dance clubs, bars, discos ready to entertain young hearts until morning.
Sightseers go straight to the Old Town with its museums, chapels, squares, cathedrals, fountains and monuments. Fans of active recreation go to the beaches, where they can dive, water-ski, seaplane, paragliding and other water activities.
Antibes is one of the few cities on the Côte d’Azur that is suitable for holidays with children. The water park “Maryland” with its huge pool and daily sea shows, the Luna Park located near the city, and the Valley of the Butterflies will make the vacations of your kids unforgettable.
If you don’t feel like sitting still, a second stopping point is the resort of Juan-les-Pins, which can be found in the bay of Golfe-Juan. Wide and clean beaches, lots of good restaurants with exquisite French cuisine, small islands and bays, and of course, pine groves – all this is Juan-les-Pins. Music lovers should definitely visit this place in the middle of July when one of the most popular jazz festivals in Europe thunders to its utmost.
Room rates: 3* from €75, 4* from €172.
Cannes is a city that needs no introduction, thanks to the legendary film festival that has made it an iconic destination on the Côte d’Azur. But apart from the red carpet by the Palais des Festivals and the famous Croisette, it has a lot to offer its guests.
The main cultural center of the city is the Suquet neighborhood, leading to the slope of the same name, where the Castle Museum, located in an ancient castle. On the territory of the museum there is an ancient tower, the chapel of St. Anne, and surrounds it all with an amazing garden.
A real gem of the region, the Islands of Lérins lie “opposite” Cannes in the sea. While two of them, St Feréol and Trudelier, are uninhabited, St Marguerite and St Honoré are worth a visit. Saint-Marguerite is famous for its Royal Fort and the Louis XIV prison where the legendary Iron Mask prisoner once served his sentence. St-Honoré is a wonderful green island, dominated by the Abbey of Lérins, which used to be one of the oldest monasteries in Europe, and today is a unique church complex surrounded by beautiful gardens.
Budget tourists who in Cannes are counting on a beach holiday, it is better to choose another place on the coast. Municipal beaches in Cannes will not please you neither cleanliness, nor calm, in the warm season there is nowhere to fall, and the entrance to paid beaches will cost from € 20-25 and above. But there is a chance that on the neighboring chaise lounge will be sunbathing your favorite actor or actress.
Accommodation: 3* – from €80, 5* – from €480.
Not so long ago Saint-Tropez was a quiet, peaceful resort, where famous actors, directors, writers and artists preferred to relax from the bustle and then exalted it in their creations. Today Saint-Tropez is a lively seaside resort which plays host to the young, rich and famous in luxury villas and glamorous nightclubs.
The scenery of Saint-Tropez looks familiar to movie buffs as it is against this backdrop that the stories of the famous characters of Brigitte Bardot, Louis de Funes, Pierre Richard and many other actors unfolded. Pine groves, sandy beaches, picturesque embankments and the Old Town can not leave indifferent, and it is inexcusable not to capture them.
The socialites will love the vacation in Saint-Tropez: dining in expensive restaurants and shopping in trendy boutiques, walking along the waterfront and resting on the famous beach Pampelonne, parties on yachts and in nightclubs – everything here really is like in the movies.
For children, St. Tropez is unlikely to be very suitable as there is little to no entertainment. The Musée de l’Annonciade with its impressive collection of works by Matisse, Signac, Bonnard-Picabia and other famous artists as well as the “House of Butterflies with a large collection of exotic moths from around the world will interest the curious tourist. Gastronomers will have a lot of room here – the city has many high-level restaurants, including Michelin-starred.
Accommodation: 3* – from €115, 5* – from €273.
On the way from Nice to Marseille it is impossible not to notice the amazing city of Toulon with its second largest port on the coast and interesting excursions. And if you get bored lying on the beach, it’s worth a visit.
Toulon is famous for its old center (a few streets preserved since the time of King Louis XIV), as well as for its picturesque squares and incredible fountains. The Algiers and Lafayette districts are excellent places for walks and you’ll find a rich evening program in the bustling Harbour or Porto, where day and night life is boiling and where it’s nice to drop in some seaside bar and relax with a couple of drinks.
For architecture lovers the Clock Tower and the Opera House are worth seeing and for a panoramic view of the whole town and the coast you must climb up Mount Faron, you can do this on your own or by funicular.
For a beach holiday Toulon is not the best option, its coastal areas are somewhat inferior to neighboring resorts in terms of cleanliness and infrastructure. For a good beach holiday, go to the outskirts of the city – the beaches of Cap Brun and Anse Mango, famous for its quiet and secluded atmosphere, or in neighboring small towns and villages.
Not far from Toulon is Yer, a small resort famous for its old fortress, ancient churches and cathedrals, and one of the centers of water sports on the coast. There are diving schools, sailing schools, yachting centers and many other interesting places for fans of active recreation.
Room rates: 3* – from €70, 5* – from €458.
Our route ends with Marseille, perhaps the biggest and noisiest city on the Cote d’Azur. It is a large port and industrial center of France, a multinational, colorful city, with an abundance of attractions, many museums, cafes, restaurants, shopping centers, but also with good beaches and an excellent coastline. It is just the perfect place for anyone who wants to combine beach and activity holidays.
Perhaps the three main symbols of Marseille are the unique Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica, the Cathedral of Marseille, and the Old Port. The first thing you should see once you arrive in the city. Then you should go to the Palais de Lonçon, which is not only a masterpiece of architecture, but also a museum of natural history and fine arts. It also has an observatory, a zoological garden, and a park with fountains.
Of course the city’s attractions do not end there: the Abbey of Saint Victor, the Radiant City, the Castle of If in the neighborhood and many museums. You can spend a great time on excursions on the sea streetcar or by train.
Beaches in Marseille are very diverse, and everyone can find a comfortable place for themselves. Some of the most popular beaches are Prado, Borely and Bonvin. They are clean, well maintained, with safe coastline, with a gentle entry into the water, and therefore suitable for tourists with children. And the beach will please surfers with high waves and strong winds.
If after the bustle of Marseille you want peace and quiet, the ideal place is the picturesque town of Martigue, charming with its old center, port and promenade. The town does not boast an abundance of tourists, but this is only a plus, as no one disturbs the peace of holidaymakers by the sea, in the gardens or by the shores of the lake Etan de Berre.
Cote d’Azur: 10 Bohemian Destinations
Bohemians love the French Riviera, but so do we. Check out these ten worthy (and not-so-crazy expensive) spots. The itinerary includes the lemon capital of Provence, street art in Cannes, the village where Nietzsche lived, the museum of painter Marc Chagall and architect Le Corbusier, and other attractive spots.
At the very border with Italy, the lemon capital of Provence, Menton, is drowning in gardens. Because of the color of the houses and the landscape, the city looks like an ochre thermite or a lemon-mandarin cake in several tiers. Driving here is already a pleasure. The seaside highway Nice – Menton will always be one of the most beautiful in your life. So never go to Menton by train – it’s full of tunnels. Here’s the plan: first for the cakes, then to the Wedding Hall (we’ll explain everything in a moment). It’s on the same street – Rue de la République, in the very center. The Kiss of the Apprentice bakery (Au baiser du Mitron) serves the best lemon tart in Menton. It’s a local delicacy. It looks unsightly, but tastes delicate and melting – set yourself up for two servings.
Now for the spiritual food. In the City Hall building is another local pride, the Marriage Hall, painted by Jean Cocteau, an icon of French intellectuals. Jean Cocteau was a writer, screenwriter, artist – and led a free life. So his work is a controversial one. In the center of the composition is an idyllic hymn of love. But on the side walls and ceiling the plots are not at all festive: the slaying of the centaurs, the fight between the angel and the Pegasus, the wedding feast in the style of an oriental bazaar. In short, the hint is clear: marriage is not sugar. On the promenade you will find two other Cocteau museums: the old bastion and the new futuristic pavilion, which resembles a giant leggy table.
Photo: AndreaA | depositphotos.com
Lurking between Menton and the Principality of Monaco is a small French town, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. Small but proud. On its shores drowned one of the greatest architects of all time – Le Corbusier. But before that he managed a lot: he built a summer house for himself and upgraded a couple of neighboring houses. Now it’s all a single Capmodern museum complex. The entrance is right next to the Rockbrunov train station. The nuance Capmodern in that on inspection it is necessary to sign up in advance, contacts – on a site. Most surprising is Le Cabanon, the wooden shack where Corbusier spent his summers for 13 years. He, who put the world architecture on its ear, contented himself with a 3.36 by 3.36 meter box and a height of 2.26 meters. In his conviction, that was enough for a man. And now let someone try to complain about cramped apartments.
One of the doors of the house leads directly to the neighboring Sea Star Café. where Corbusier did a lot of work on the interior. The owner used to feed his favorite client for that, deliciously and free of charge. Today the cafe is part of the museum complex – you can no longer dine here. But there is an excellent open-space restaurant under the same hit name Le Cabanon nearby. Not cheap, but with taste. For example, a portion of specialty fried cod a la Monegasque – €19. But it is a serious portion, with a side dish. Well, and chef Silvio is a virtuoso cook.
The area around the Monte Carlo Casino is the most luxurious in the entire dwarf state. It’s immediately clear who’s in charge here. The princely palace is much more modest. However, the princes are the key shareholders of the gambling business. At the same time inside the casino citizens of Monaco are not allowed, but all the rest of the adults (do not forget your passport) may enter. You can even wear jeans, but in flip-flops and shorts will not be allowed. The lobby and toilets are free, but if you want to see the glitz and glamour of the gambling halls, you have to buy a sightseeing tour for € 17. It includes two €5 chips: you can lose them in the machines or play roulette with a real croupier. But then the minimum bet will be €20 – you’ll have to pool together or buy more chips. Without leaving the casino, you can go to the Opera House. On the way out – to the park, rich in flowerbeds and modern sculpture. A little further away, a helicopter pad sparkles with motley honeycomb. Some players arrive at the casino by air.
To get to the old town you have to walk along the pier along the Formula 1 circuit (just behind the freshly restored Hotel de Paris) and then climb the hill. The ancestral home of the Grimaldi dynasty is not particularly impressive. The Oceanographic Museum, for example, looks much more presentable. Especially bold looks, if you bypass it from the rear. The cost of admission ticket is almost like in a casino: € 16. What do you like more: fish or money?
Nearby, the imposing cathedral of St. Nicholas – the tomb of Grimaldi – casts marble. All the flowers, however, go to one princess Grace. Former Hollywood star Grace Kelly married the Prince of Monaco, sacrificing her career and becoming a local favorite. Like Lady Di to the British. Princess Grace, by the way, also died in a car crash. And her picture still adorns restaurants, stores and even the walls of ordinary houses.
“Man is something to be surpassed,” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche. In Eze. This is where his book on the Superman, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, was born. Nietzsche lived in the village of Eze for 18 whole years, and every day, according to the rumor, he went down from the mountains to the sea and back again. Would you like to repeat that journey? Look for the signs. However, the pleasure is not so good: some places asphalt, some steps, some fences, some rugged terrain. Height difference – about half a kilometer. Cool. But the views are crazy, too. After all, if you go on the lower (seaside) route, you have no other way out. The bus stops at the village of Eze-sur-Mer . The main attraction here is U2 frontman Bono’s villa with its own pier. But you actually have to go to upper Eze.
Under Nietzsche, it was a blind corner – now it’s a completely touristy location, though not yet completely ruined. The stone labyrinths remain the same as in the suffering Middle Ages. Prices, however, have risen. Hotel rooms, food in a restaurant, souvenirs in a store cost the same as in neighboring Monaco. To spend in Eze € 50 for lunch is easy, so it’s more budget to go here with your lunch. Baguette, cheese, wine from the supermarket in Nice and the local panorama would make for a very romantic picnic.
Directly from Nice to upper Eze are buses 82 and 112. On the way, you’ll cross a high trestle bridge, also called the Bridge of the Devil (after the builder, according to legend).
Everyone who happens to be in Nice goes to the Chagall Museum in formation, especially on the first Sunday of the month, when admission is free. And it makes sense, because Nice has the world’s best collection of works of the fantasist from Vitebsk. But try not to overlook another fantasist, Anatole Jacovsky from Chisinau. He spent his whole life collecting works of self-made artists (so-called naive art). The result is an interesting collection. While at the Chagall Museum you feel like you’re in a church, at Jacovsky’s you feel like you’re at a real carnival.
At least one evening in Nice should be given to jazz. It was through the Côte d’Azur that this virus entered Europe. At first it infected nearby Antibes, but Nice quickly seized the initiative. The city organized the first jazz festival in the Old World, which is still alive today. Traditionally it takes place in summer, but almost every month the management organizes seches of cool performers at quite adequate prices (from € 14 per ticket). Watch the poster or just drop by the bar of the most famous hotel in Nice, the Negresco. Surrounded by Rodin sculptures and fabulously expensive furniture here you will often find not always famous, but always talented musicians playing. Check the bar’s FB page for a calendar of performances. Admission is free for everyone (if you’re appropriately dressed and have seats). One cocktail costs the same €15-16. Near Galeries Lafayette in the center of Nice is an excellent piano bar Kosma. There is no admission fee and the drinks are half the price of Negresco. Until 23.00 there is mainly blues, jazz, chanson, after that – hotter and louder repertoire. If you get bored or don’t seem enough, you can always add to the bar of hostel Villahostels with, probably, the cheapest beer in the city. It’s in the next courtyard.
Bus number 400 from Nice takes you in turns to two exemplary villages. First is Saint-Paul-de-Vence with the modest tomb of Marc Chagall in the village cemetery and the chic Hotel d’Or (La Colombe d’Or) in the center. The hotel repeated the fate of Cinderella. At first it was an ordinary inn, but the artists, who were frequenting it for sketches, paid off the owners with their paintings. As a result, they gathered a weighty collection, which would handicap many museums in the capital. A stand-alone masterpiece is the local chapel of Folon (or the Chapel of the White Penitent Sinners). Not too famous, but talented Belgian artist Michel Folon painted it very movingly. In nearby Vance, the stellar Henri Matisse did a similar thing with the chapel. In fact, it is his last near-death creation. In both Vans it is exceptionally pleasant to wander around the ornate streets, fortifications and bucolic paths without purpose. And in the end to hang out in one of the boulangeries, wine shops or cafe-chanteens. We, for example, liked the blooming veranda at the exit of the old part of Vence – Côté Jardin.
The most artistic shopping on the Côte d’Azur is in the Nice suburb of Cagnes-sur-Mer. The Polygone Riviera mall is a selected mix of the most stellar brands and innovative art. The main building of the shopping center was constructed in the form of a huge box, from which a human head is sticking out, and on top of it there is another box, but it is a bit smaller. The author of the concept is Sasha Sosno (Alexander Sosnovsky). Another similar cube-head he erected in Nice, near the MAMAC Museum of Modern Art. You walk through Polygone Riviera like through a biennale: works by Wen Du, Pablo Reynoso, Anthony Gormley, Cesar and other demigods of the XXI century are freely available. Living olive, palm and cypress trees on the grounds are mixed with artificial trees. There are more than 100 boutiques and 30 café-restaurants. If you are not interested in contemporary art and shopping, then from the railway station do not turn left but turn right – the road will lead to the Renoir Museum and the impressive Grimaldi Castle.
One of the largest fortifications of the French coast – Fort Carré – protects the entrance to the beautiful bay of Antibes. The fortress is built in the shape of a pentagonal pointed star and is a half-hour walk from the city center. In high season tours of the bastions are taken every half hour (€ 3), at other times you can not get inside. But even to walk around the perimeter of the fort is a powerful thing. Antibes itself is no less picturesque. The city is depicted in the paintings of Monet, Picasso, Paine, Mesonnier. Look closely: there are reproductions of these paintings on the seafront and at some other points. So, on this very spot, some Impressionist painted Antibes landscapes a hundred years ago. In the 40s, Pablo Picasso lived and worked in the city for a while. He left his work (not only paintings, but also ceramics and sculpture) as a gift to the city. From this made a popular museum in the city castle with a nice terrace overlooking the sea.
After Picasso’s images, it’s time to go down to the basement of another museum. It’s a five-step walk in the Provençal market at 25 Cours Masséna. It looks like an ordinary grocery store, but the sign of L’Absinthe Bar will not let you go astray. The interior will acquaint you with the history of absinthe, and the bartender will show you how to consume the drink in the French way. According to the rules of the establishment, no more than three servings are poured to customers.
The Palais des Festivals is horrible to look at. But everyone goes through this ritual: look at the star steps, albeit without a red carpet, measure your palms with casts of the hands of movie idols, find a special photo area stylized as a palm tree ceremony in the local tourism office (it is located in the same immense building). That’s it, now we offer a more interesting quest. There are more than a dozen brightly colored cinematic-themed murals scattered around Cannes. The plan can be downloaded here. The most monumental of the murals is on the same square where the town hall is. The search for the others should be conducted along the Boulevard Victor Tuby/Boulevard de la République line. From the latter, by the way, it is a short walk to the fashionable district of Cannes called California. There are several such neighborhoods in the area, but only California is within walking distance. Here you can walk in silence among the expensive villas. Cars are rare, people even rarer, only video cameras around.
Photo: Bareta | depositphotos.com
If you’ve seen the eerily beautiful movie Perfumer or read Patrick Suskind’s book of the same name, it’s mostly about Grasse. The city smells in a special way even now. The streets are fragrant with perfume. But if you go into the sullenest nooks and crannies, the heavy, stinky spirit of the Middle Ages is still lingering within these walls. Grasse has been the perfume capital of Europe for centuries. The legendary Chanel No. 5 was created here.
Even on the way to the city you notice huge distillers on the roadside. Those roadside ones now serve as decorations. But there are some that still work properly. There are three big factories in Grasse and a bunch of artisan manufactories. Any of the factories can be visited for free with a guided tour. The calculation is simple: after the tour, guests will still buy fragrant goods for a couple of years in advance. In the tourist office of Grasse you can take booklets with a 10 percent discount on perfumes of all factories. Since the Fragonard factory is located in the center, it catches the main flow of tourists. If one tour seems to be enough, you can go and work in the nearby street of the International Museum of Perfumes. But you have to pay: € 4 for the museum itself, € 4 for the garden, or € 6 for all together.
You can fly to Nice with Wizz Air from Vilnius or Krakow. The second option is cheaper: you can find tickets even for € 10 per one way during spring but more often – € 10-30. For flights from Vilnius be guided for € 30-50 per one way. Since the end of April a direct flight to Nice will be also launched by the Ukrainian carrier Sky Up. Its prices start from € 80.
Nice airport is connected with the city by a streetcar line № 2. Nothing else you need. The streetcar leaves every 4 minutes and runs along the coast as far as the port (which is the opposite edge of Nice).
Transport on the Côte d’Azur is surprisingly affordable. A single ticket for 70 minutes costs € 1.5, a ticket for 10 rides costs € 10. For € 1.5 you can get by bus to all the above points. Remember the key routes: #100 (Nice – Monaco – Menton); #200 (Nice – Antibes – Cannes); #400 (Nice – Saint-Paul-de-Vence – Vence); #500 (Nice – Grasse). They travel frequently, once every 15-30 minutes. The #100 leaves from the port. The others – from the stop Parc Phoenix.
In summer on the Riviera is really unreasonably expensive. But if you hustle before the bathing season, you can find a roof at an adequate price. Don’t count on hostels: they are few and not very pleasant to live in. In Antibes you can spend a night on a yacht near the pier (for example, hotel MSV Sunrise). Also a romantic option. But if you plan to actively scour the cities and towns of the Cote d’Azur, it is logistically more convenient to live in Nice. It’s the center of this universe.