In this French Riviera travel guide, I’ll tell you the 23 best things to do in French Riviera with all highlights, must-see places and the most important travel tips for the Côte d’Azur in Southern France.
You don’t want to spend too much time on research for your French Riviera travel planning and still don’t want to miss any sights and highlights during your trip? Then JOURNICATION is the right place for you! With the BIG5 checklists, a map with the most amazing things to do in French Riviera + my personal experience report with the best hotels, restaurants and photo spots along the Côte d’Azur you are well prepared for your trip to Southern France.
My personal highlights have not only been the famous cities with beach promenades and old towns, but the small picturesque villages off the coast. You will find them all mentioned below in the list of recommendations.
You’ll see, on the French Riviera there are more must-do activities to discover than just Saint-Tropez or walking through the old town of Nice. Let’s go for a perfect holiday in French Riviera in 2023!
Checklist for the 23 most beautiful things to do on the French Riviera
Here you have an overview of the 23 highlights in French Riviera or Côte d’Azur, virtually your personal Southern France bucket list to check off. This way you can make sure you don’t miss any of the French Riviera attractions during your city trip.
#1 French Riviera Highlight: Saint-Tropez
“Welcome to Saint Tropez”…
The small town on the French Riviera itself has only about 4,000 inhabitants. Because of the dazzling name, several million tourists visit the city center every year.No other city on the French Riviera has surprised me so positively.
To be honest: I had imagined Saint-Tropez differently: Champagne showers, bills flying around and parties of the rich. Instead, a tranquil harbor promenade with admittedly some very ostentatious yachts. Lots of tourists in the adjacent restaurants. But rather people like you and me. So feel free to look around here at your leisure.
Saint Tropez is one of the most beautiful sights on the French Riviera, and not only because of the beautiful town hall and the cozy old town. Especially worth seeing is La Maison des Papillons. In this butterfly house you will find over 20,000 animals in the most dazzling colors and all imaginable sizes.
My favorite is the Citadel of Saint-Tropez: The 4.00 Euro entrance fee is not only rewarded with lots of interesting information and exhibits in the maritime museum. But also with the great view from the towers of the citadel on the old town and the surrounding Mediterranean Sea.
#2 Promenade of the Croisette in Cannes
One of the most famous destinations on the French Riviera is without a doubt the city of Cannes. Cannes is particularly famous for its magnificent film festival, which has been held every year in May since 1946. The famous promenade lined with palm trees is particularly worthwhile.
The Promenade de la Croisette stretches along the coast. Strolling here is an absolute highlight on the French Riviera. You automatically pass the movie palace and the famous InterContinental Carlton Hotel. There is usually a light breeze blowing along the avenue and at regular intervals small kiosks and beach bars directly on the beach invite you for refreshment.
#3 Things to do on the French Riviera: Nice old town
Nice is by far the largest city in French Riviera with about 350,000 inhabitants. And from my point of view also the most touristy.
But also the old town is absolutely worth seeing. Here are many very well-preserved baroque buildings and many churches. The narrow streets and squares are full of restaurants and cafes. Accordingly, it can be crowded here in the high season.
The transition to the newer parts of the city is formed by the huge Place Masséna and the Place Garibaldi.Worth seeing in Nice is also the Russian Orthodox Cathedral Saint-Nicolas. It is the largest outside Russia.
Enough of crowded streets and hustle and bustle? Get out of the old town and relax by the sea or the famous Promenade des Anglais, Nice’s boulevard by the sea.
#4 French Riviera Must-see place: Monte-Carlo Casino
One of the highlights of the French Riviera is undoubtedly a trip to the dazzling principality of Monaco – the second smallest state in the world. Hardly any place there is as prestigious as the famous casino in the Monte-Carlo district.The square in front of it is already impressive:
In front of the Hôtel de Paris opposite, luxury cars pull up every minute – and extremely wealthy clientele get out.
The interior of the Monte-Carlo casino is also as you would expect: Marble, carpets, ornate installations. Admission to the gambling area of the casino currently costs 17 euros. A lot of roulette and poker tables, slot machines and much more are waiting here.
#5 Harbor of Cassis
Cassis is a great place to escape the big city hustle and bustle of Marseille. In the picturesque fishing village, the neighborhood around the harbor is an absolute feel-good place.
Over the years, the importance of fishing has diminished somewhat. Nevertheless, freshly caught fish is still sold daily at the harbor.
Directly opposite the harbor is the Plage de la Grande Mer. So a bathing beach conveniently in the middle of the city. From here you have a great view of the mighty Falaises de Cassis, one of the highest cliffs in France.
Seamlessly adjoining the harbor is the old town and the hill of the Château de Cassis in the small town of only about 7,000 inhabitants. Here you will find a great selection of restaurants and cafes.
Cassis is a great starting point for boat trips and day trips to the Calanques National Park.
#6 Things to do on the French Riviera: Menton
The picturesque lemon town of Menton has been a border town for many centuries. It is the easternmost town on the French Riviera before leaving France for Italy.
A long walk through the harbor and the old town is well worth it: the harbor offers a great view of the old town around the Basilique Saint-Michel-Archange, which hugs the hill like a perfect postcard motif.
You can get a great view of the city, the surrounding countryside and the sea from the lookout points near the cemetery. Yes, there are some steps up there… but it is worth it!
The city is famous for its many citrus fruits. You can find orange and lemon trees everywhere. This is not by chance: in Menton you enjoy about 320 sunny days a year!
In Menton you should not miss the culinary delights. In the lemon city there are many delicious Mediterranean dishes, especially the famous lemon tart!
#7 Things to do on the French Riviera: Antibes
Antibes is super located between Cannes and Nice. The history of the city goes back to the Iron Age, but it became really important as a Greek and Roman colony. The remains of aqueducts and fortifications still bear witness to this today.
Worth seeing is the cozy old town with many winding streets and the old market. Here is also the cathedral and the Picasso Museum.
A great view of the largest harbor Port Vauban and the Fort Carré opposite can be seen from the large city wall.
With its many restaurants, Antibes is a great place to have dinner after an exciting day of sightseeing or a day at the beach on the French Riviera.
Antibes travel tip: If you want to save a little on your travel budget: Many restaurants offer delicious pizzas to take away and a beer from the kiosk does it too. So you can enjoy the sunset on the wall even with delicious dinner.
#8 Panorama Route Corniche des Crêtes
The Corniche or Route des Crêtes is a great panoramic road in the Calanques National Park on the French Riviera.
The winding D 141 from Cassis to La Ciotat is known for its spectacular viewpoints: Cap Canaille and the Falaises de Cassis, one of the highest cliffs in France.From here you can see wonderfully Cassis and surroundings, especially the Calanques opposite.
Parking is available at the best viewpoints, so you don’t have to stop suddenly in the middle of the road.
On the Route des Crêtes from Cassis to La Ciotat simply stop where you want is in my view one of the main arguments FOR a rental car on the French Riviera.
French Riviera Travel Tip: The route is regulated from June to the end of September and may be closed for short periods if the wind is too strong or there is a risk of fire.
#9 Mountain village Èze
The village Èze consists of three parts:
- Èze-sur-Mer directly on the sea. The railroad line makes the seaside resort on the coast easy to reach from Nice or Marseille.
- St. Laurent d’Èze is a small village with hidden bay
- Èze Village
The highlights of Èze can be found in the Èze Village district: medieval alleys, old fortification walls and many small stores and cafes await you here.
In the village, you climb almost 300 meters to the top of the hill. However, you won’t get to the top for free: There is an extensive cactus garden at the top. The entrance fee is currently 6.00 euros.
Most people will hardly pay the price because of the great variety of cacti, but because of the magnificent view. And it’s really worth it: from here, you can see far across the sea and the picturesque surrounding bays of the French Riviera.
#10 Things to do on the French Riviera: Cap Canaille
We would like to highlight a very exciting viewpoint on the Corniche des Crêtes: Cap Canaille.
From the 360 meter high cliffs you have a magnificent view of Cassis and the surrounding coast. Even the foothills of the Calanques National Park can be seen from here.
To a certain extent, the fun is only for those with a head for heights: there is no protective grating in front of the cliffs to prevent you from falling. Attention, s’il vous plaît!
#11 Port of La Ciotat
As in Cassis, the harbor in the small town of La Ciotat is the place to be. Especially in the evening. The harbor is surrounded by restaurants and bars that can place their tables quite close to the water. Another plus: cars are not allowed to pass through here.
Directly behind the iconic fishing and motor boats rise the cranes and facilities of Sémaphore, La Ciotat’s industrial port. Industrial port sounds less inviting than it actually is. The large lettering “La Ciotat” on the crane is even something special there.
La Ciotat is a great place for a leisurely dinner at the harbor after a day in the Calanques, Cassis or the Corniche des Crêtes.
#12 Provencal markets of Toulon
Toulon is not necessarily on the list of every French Riviera traveler, but it has some exciting sights to offer. The southern French port city is still an important naval base and hub for ferries. During our visit, one could marvel at submarines and an aircraft carrier (!) in the harbor behind small fishing boats, for example.
Of course, in such a city, the great Museum of Marine and Shipping is one of the most important sights. Other buildings worth seeing in the old town are the Tour Royal, the Cathedral of Toulon and the Operá.
One very special activity I recommend for your city trip to Toulon: visiting a Provencal market. Here they are much less touristy than in the other destinations on the French Riviera. So if you want to stock up on cheap herbs of Provence, a delicious lunch, and tons of fresh fruits and vegetables, this is the place to be!
Toulon is one of the most popular terminals for ferries to Corsica, the Balearic Islands, Sardinia and Sicily.
#13 Mont Faron near Toulon
The Mont Faron is with 584 one of the highest elevations of the region. From the top you have a great view over Toulon and the region.
To get from Toulon to the Mont Faron, you have two options:
By car or by cable car.
Many hiking routes start at the top. Next to the Allied Landings Museum, there is a zoo (Zoo Fauverie du Mont Faron) that specializes especially in large wild cats.
#14 Plage des Pampelonnes
The Plage des Pampelonnes is one of the most famous beaches on the French Riviera and is located near Saint-Tropez, which is why you can see a real armada of small and especially large yachts anchored here – there is not enough room for every boat in the rather tranquil harbor of Saint-Tropez.
The beach is 4.5 kilometers long. Here you will find Le Club 55, which is considered the most famous beach bar in the world.
There are berths directly on the beach. From my point of view, however, not particularly desirable, because you really sit or lie quite closely pressed together. For a first impression of the rich and beautiful or Wannabes is enough.
The high-priced restaurant is set back a bit and beautifully situated in the dunes and under trees.
Among the palm trees on the Plage des Pampelonnes is also the Nikki Club. A place for lavish parties and large bottles of champagne. This is where the parties of Saint-Tropez are held.
French Riviera travel tip: Parking here is not as expensive as you think. Especially if you only take a quick look around.
#15 Historical testimonies in Fréjus
The port city of Fréjus was an important place on the coast of southern France under Roman rule. Ruins of an amphitheater, an aqueduct, a lighthouse and thermal baths still bear witness to this today.
The Saint-Léone Cathedral with its picturesque cloister is also particularly worth seeing. Rather unusual sights on the French Riviera are the Sudanese mosque Missiri and a Chinese pagoda.
#16 Church of San Rafeu in Saint-Raphaël
The church of San Rafeu in Saint-Raphaël was built as early as the 12th century. It also served as a fortress for many centuries. Particularly striking is the tower, which bears a strong resemblance to Templar fortifications. From the tower you have a magnificent view of the city and the surrounding countryside.
On a clear day, you can see from the Gulf of Fréjus to the Moorish Massif.
Another sight in Saint-Raphaël is the church of Notre Dame de la Victoire, which commemorates the victory at the Battle of Lepanto.
#17 Le Suquet – The old town of Cannes
Cannes has much more to offer than its dazzling beach promenade de la Croisette and the film festival: On the other side of the marina is Le Suguet, the picturesque old town of Cannes. Here, picturesque cobblestone streets, the old fortifications with towers and the magnificent Russian Orthodox Church await you.
The Chapelle Sainte-Anne houses the exciting Musée des Explorations du monde, or Museum of World Explorers. From here you have a great view of the Promenade de la Croisette, the beaches of Cannes and the palm trees along the major streets.
#18 Things to do on the French Riviera: Saint-Paul-de-Vence
Just 20 kilometers from Nice, you’ll find Saint-Paul-de-Vence, one of the oldest medieval villages on the French Riviera. It’s a place for great views – so absolutely my thing!
The village has hosted many famous guests such as Pablo Picasso or Jean Paul Sartre.Today, the narrow streets are full of large and small art galleries as well as small stores.
Saint-Paul-de-Vence has its own city wall, from which you have a great view into the valley. Outside the wall is the village’s small cemetery. The most prominent gravesite is that of the famous Jewish artist Marc Chagall.
The best view of Saint-Paul-de-Vence is from the main road towards the village, just past the traffic traffic circle.
French Riviera travel tip: You can park in Saint-Paul-de-Vence quite cheaply outside the walls, especially along the main street.
#19 Colline du Château in Nice: The Castle Hill
Nice is overlooked by the Colline du Château, the castle hill.
In contrast to the rather flat old town and the Promenade des Anglais on the beach, there are quite a few steps up here: the hill above Nice is about 90 meters high. But the climb is worth it: From the Frédéric Nietzsche, you have a literally outstanding view over the entire city and coastal sections of the French Riviera.
This special place has a long history: Greeks and Romans settled here many centuries ago. From that time, however, only ruins remain. Ruins are also all that remains of the former castle and citadel: After the conquest of Nice by King Louis the XIV, all fortifications were ground down.
Other highlights on Nice’s Colline du Château are the Tour Bellanda, visible from afar, with the Musée Naval (maritime museum) and a large artificial waterfall.
Nice travel tip: The waterfall is turned off in the afternoon. So don’t be too late here.
#20 Things to do on the French Riviera: Villefranche-sur-Mer
Near Cap Ferrat, Villefranche-sur-Mer is located on a beautiful bay. Coming from the direction of Monaco, you already have a great view of the city from the main road.
The harbor in the bay is so deep that even cruise ships can dock here. The city is overlooked by a citadel from the 16th century. It now houses the town hall, several museums and a large open-air theater.
Villefranche-sur-Mer is a particularly nice place to end a long day of sightseeing with a leisurely dinner. In the evening, the restaurants on the lake promenade place many tables directly on the sea.
#21 Things to do on the French Riviera: Cap Ferrat Saint-Jean
In contrast to the glittering coastal cities of Monaco or Cannes, Cap Ferrat is rather quiet. It is known for its particularly warm climate, rocky coastline and a wide variety of plant species.
In the fishing village of Saint-Jean there is a small marina as well as cafés and restaurants.
On Cap Ferrat, several beaches such as Paloma Beach invite you to swim. A welcome cooling after the tour through the city and across the island.
A few years ago, Cap Ferrat was named the world’s most expensive residential area after Monaco.
Also noteworthy is the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, which has hosted many notables over the years: From starlets from film and television to British royals and various American presidents.
#22 Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
A little off the main road on Cap Ferrat is the magnificent Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.
It is also known as Villa Ile-de-France.The villa was built in the Neo Renaissance style on Cap Ferrat.
Today the villa is a magnificent museum. Already in the courtyard with the spacious arcades you can admire works of art from all over Europe. Almost all rooms can be visited. Here you get a good impression of the luxurious life of the upper class at the beginning of the 20th century.
Apart from the villa itself, the gardens are also extremely worth seeing. In addition to the large French-style garden, there is a Spanish and Japanese garden, as well as a stone and rose garden.
#23 Rock of Monaco
Opposite Monte-Carlo is the majestic Rock of Monaco, Le Rocher de Monaco in French. Behind ancient fortifications is the Palais Princier. From here the princely family Grimaldi still rules the city.Parts of the palace are open to the public.
Especially worth seeing is the changing of the guards. You can watch it daily at 11:55 am. Be there early if you want to have a good view: The changing of the guard is very popular with visitors to Monaco and the place can get accordingly crowded.
On the Rock, there are other sights to discover besides the Palais Princier: for example, the Cathedral, the Oceanographic Museum and various government buildings of Monaco.
Monaco travel tip: From the Terraces du Plalais on the Prince’s Rock you have a magnificent view of the Port Hercule, the largest marina in Monaco.
Planning to visit Monaco during your trip to the French Riviera? Then learn all about the TOP 20 Things to do in Monaco + travel tips.
BIG5 Things to do on the French Riviera, France & Travel Tips
You don’t want to miss any French Riviera highlights and must-see places? Find all travel tips and checklists for a perfect French Riviera holiday here:
BIG5 French Riviera – Speed Date
What should you know before your trip to French Riviera? So let’s go on a speed date:
What is outstanding on the French Riviera?
The French Riviera inspires with its diversity: Here you can celebrate great beaches, cozy old towns, medieval villages, but also upscale cuisine and luxury in every form.
What sucks on the French Riviera?
Many city centers, beaches and coastal roads are very crowded with tourists, especially during the high season
What you should definitely DO on the French Riviera?
Jump from one of the many beaches into the gorgeous azure blue water for a proper refreshment
What NOT TO DO on the French Riviera?
Don’t just plan a beach vacation on the French Riviera. The old towns and breathtaking landscapes along the coast should not be missed.
What not to tell your mother about French Riviera?
Nice is especially popular with young people as a language school destination and offers a more than distinctive nightlife – as does Cannes
BIG5 French Riviera – Rapid Fire Q&A
Are there many beaches on the French Riviera?
Yes, there are over 150 beaches on the French Riviera. Some of these are pebble beaches, but there are also great sandy beaches in the south of France.
What makes the French Riviera so special?
On the French Riviera, you can expect a very special flair with a Mediterranean climate, beautiful beaches with the azure water that gives it its name, picturesque old towns and high society that exudes luxury.
Which place surprises the most on the French Riviera?
Saint-Tropez is the most surprising place on the French Riviera! If you expect only rich people, parties and champagne showers here, you will look around a bit surprised. If you leave the touristy marina with many restaurants, you can look forward to a cozy old town and an exciting citadel.
The parties of the rich take place mainly on their yachts or in the beach clubs on the Plage de Pampelonnes.
What is the French Riviera particularly known for?
As the name suggests, the French Riviera is known for its spectacular azure waters, but also magnificent beach promenades, cozy old towns and wealthy guests.
What is the difference between French Riviera and Côte d’Azur?
There is no difference between French Riviera and Côte d’Azur. Both terms refer to the Mediterranean coast in the southeast of France.
How many days should you spend on the French Riviera?
To experience the best French Riviera sights and highlights, you should plan at least 5 days in the south of France. The more, the better.
BIG5 French Riviera – Orga
What is the best travel time for the French Riviera / Côte d’Azur?
The best time to travel to the French Riviera are the months of April to October. Here it is warm and you have to expect little precipitation. In July and August, however, it can get quite hot – perhaps even too hot. High temperatures, however, can usually be endured very well on the many beaches and promenades near the sea.
French Riviera travel tip: If you want to combine the French Riviera with a round trip through Provence region with the famous lavender fields: The blooming period of the famous lavender fields goes from mid-June to August, depending on the region. Cannes is a good starting point for trips to Provence.
How to get to the French Riviera?
Do you need a visa for French Riviera, France?
Visa: Check here whether you need a visa for France with your passport
Is it possible to fly to the French Riviera?
For the journey to the French Riviera, the two international airports in Nice (IATA: NCE) and Marseille (IATA: MRS) are ideal.
Price level/budget for the French Riviera
- What is the currency in France? – The currency in France is Euro(EUR, €)
Withdraw money: On the French Riviera you will find banks and ATMs everywhere along the way. On the coast of the rich and beautiful, you should always have enough change in your vacation fund. To save money while traveling, you should use a credit card that does NOT charge additional fees abroad. I have been using the free DKB VISA credit card for many years.
What is the Taxi fare in French Riviera? Cabs can be quite expensive, especially across cities. A cheaper alternative in many places is Uber or similar providers.
Do you need a travel adapter plug for the French Riviera, France?
In France, E sockets are used with a voltage of 220 V with a voltage of 50 Hertz.
Do you need a travel adapterfor the sockets in France? Then I can recommend you SKROSS Pro World travel adapter, which I myself have in my luggage for some time:
What are the best Restaurants, Bars & Cafés in French Riviera?
Along the entire French Riviera there are many top addresses in all price categories. The harbor and beach promenades of La Ciotat and Villefranche-sur-Mer, for example, as well as the old towns of Cannes and Antibes are particularly nice places to sit.
BIG5 The must-do Activities on the French Riviera
What activities should you not miss in French Riviera in any case? Here are my BIG5:
- Jump into the gorgeous azure sea – from the jetty, from the boat, from the beach – no matter
- Stroll along the Promenade de la Croisette in Cannes
- Enjoy the view from the hill in Èze
- Drive along the panoramic route Corniche des Crêtes
- Watch the changing of the guard in front of the Prince’s Palace in Monaco
BIG5 – The best Photo spots on the French Riviera
You may wondering about the best photo locations to take pictures for Instagram or your holiday album. Here we go:
- From the castle hill to the old town of Nice
- The Carlton Hotel on the Promenade de la Croisettein Cannes
- View from the high cliffs at the Corniche des Crêtes
- View from the top of the hill in the mountain village of Eze
- The picturesque town of Menton with its colorful houses
Insider Tips & Things to do off the beaten track on the French Riviera
- Climb the citadel of Saint-Tropez
- Marvel at the largest Russian Orthodox church outside Russia in Nice
- Enjoy dinner on the harbor promenade of La Ciotat
- Explore downtown Toulon with its Provençal markets
- Follow in the footsteps of the Romans in Fréjus
BIG5 French Riviera – Culinary Journey: What to eat on the French Riviera?
- Fougasse mentonnaise – orange blossom cake sprinkled with anise and sugar, typical of the town of Menton.
- Bouillabaisse – super delicious, very garlic-heavy seafood dish. Usually made with mussels, shrimp and perch. Legend has it that the dish even dates back to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.
- Tapenade – savory dip made from capers, olives and various herbs. With baguette a very good appetizer.
- Daube – delicious stew with red wine sauce and Provençal herbs.
- Socca – popular crèpe made from chickpea flour.
BIG5 French Riviera – Communication
What language do you speak on the French Riviera?
In French Riviera, France you speak French.
Here are the BIG5 words for basic friendly communication in the local language:
- thank you – Merci
- yes – Oui
- no – Non
- hello – Salut / Bonjour
- goodbye – Au revoir
What are the best day trips on the French Riviera?
There are so many things to do in French Riviera and the region – easily too much for one day.
If you have more time on the French Riviera, you should take a day trip to Marseille. For that, read on here and learn everything you need to know about the best Things to do in Marseille + travel tips.
The French Riviera is also a good starting point for day trips in the region or tours throughout France.
There are a lot of great convenient tours and day trips from French Riviera
The 23 best Things to do on the French Riviera 🇫🇷🇲🇨
Once again summarizing the French Riviera Highlights as checklist for you at a glance:
- Promenade de la Croisette in Cannes
- Old town of Nice
- Casino of Monte-Carlo
- Port of Cassis
- Panorama Route Corniche des Crêtes
- Mountain village Èze
- Cap Canaille
- Port of La Ciotat
- Provencal markets of Toulon
- Mont Faron near Toulon
- Plage des Pampelonnes
- Historical testimonies in Fréjus
- Church of San Rafeu in Saint-Raphaël
- Le Suquet – The old town of Cannes
- Mountain village Saint-Paul-de-Vence
- Colline du Château in Nice
- Cap Ferrat Saint-Jean
- Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
- Rock of Monaco
Now you know the 23 best things to do on the French Riviera and see what a great destination the Côte d’Azur in Southern France is. Does the French Riviera with Saint-Tropez, Nice and the beautiful villages off the coast also rank on your bucket list now?
If you want to know even more about the best things to do in French Riviera or need more info, feel free to let me know via message or in the comments.
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