Getting To -and Around- the French Riviera
Our French Riviera travel guides and itineraries include transportation guides for each town, giving you the best routes to take and guides to the different transportation modes.
Arriving By Plane
The Aéroport Nice Côte d’Azur is the main hub for the French Riviera and the second busiest international airport in the country after Paris. Delta and boutique all-first-class airline La Compagnie are the only airlines to offer direct flights from the US to Nice, with daily service from New York City. A number of other airlines, such as British Airways and Air France, offer daily connecting flights into Nice with stops in cities like London, Geneva and Paris. Check out our guide to the Nice airport and transportation options from there.
The French Riviera By Car
If you plan on staying in just one spot, like Nice or Cannes, don’t worry about renting a car. These towns are pedestrian-friendly, so you can walk almost anywhere or easily hop a train or bus to a nearby village. Plus, traffic in and out of Cannes and Monaco is notoriously bad and parking spaces are tough to find in the summer.
Uber operates throughout most of the Côte d’Azur and into Monaco (but not vice-versa — annoyingly, you can’t catch an Uber from Monaco) and is a much easier option than calling a taxi or waiting for one at a designated taxi stand.
That said, French road trips just don’t get more glamorous than this: cinematic views, searing sunshine, art history aplenty and the Mediterranean around every turn. Cruising the Côte d’Azur is the French road trip everyone has to do at least once in their lifetime. From film town Cannes to down-to-earth Nice, via the corkscrew turns of the Corniches and into millionaires’ Monaco, it’s a drive you’ll remember forever. Filmmakers, writers, celebs and artists have all had their hearts stolen by this glittering stretch of coastline: by the end of this trip, you’ll understand why. Try to avoid the dreadful summer traffic in July and August, but any other time is a dream.
One of the most exciting driving experiences when visiting the French Riviera is experiencing the scenic views from the windy Corniche Drives (named after ‘cornices’, the decorative friezes that run along the top of elegant buildings). From fashionable residential capes, Belle Époque resorts, medieval villages, and picturesque hills, the Corniches do not lack anything when it comes to breathtaking views. This stunning trio of coastal roads offers the most outstanding overview (literally!) of the Riviera.
The Corniche Inférieure skirts the glittering shores, with numerous swimming opportunities. Up in the hills, the jewel in the crown of the Moyenne Corniche is the medieval village of Èze, spectacularly perched on a rocky promontory offering awe-inspiring views of the coastline. And then there is the Grande Corniche, snaking along the 500m-high cliffs, with spectacular vistas at every bend.
The A8 motorway / highway, or “La Provençale,” connects Nice to the Esterel and then on to Aix-en-Provence in the west and Menton and the Italian border in the east. The 950 kilometer (or 590 mile) drive from Paris to Nice takes about eight hours.
If you break down on a motorway in France, even if you have European breakdown recovery in place, your first call shouldn’t be to the RAC (roadside assistance service). French motorways are privately managed so instead of calling the RAC, first use the emergency telephones – these are orange and positioned every 2km along the motorway. If you can’t get to one of these orange phones, call emergency services by dialing 112.
The Famous French Riviera Train Routes
The rail system links the French Riviera to other destinations throughout France, as well as major European cities. From Paris, it’s about a five-and-a-half-hour ride to Nice on the high-speed TGV train. The train tracks both east and west rattle with long-distance carriages running direct from Moscow (a luxurious 47-hour journey) and London (just nine hours with a quick platform change in Marseille).
The Regional Express Train, or TER, connects major coastal cities throughout the Riviera, from Fréjus to Ventimiglia, the first town over the Italian border. Trains run about every 30 minutes and 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.
From May to November, the guided voyage on the Trains des Merveilles (€15 round-trip, leaving Nice at 9:17am) runs from Nice to Tende in the Valley of the Marvels, with stops in perched villages like Peille. The train climbs nearly 3,280 feet high on the two-hour trip through the lush Mercantour National Park. Throughout the journey, you will benefit from the comments of a tour guide who will explain the sights and the rich artistic heritage and culture of the Nice hinterland. There is free entertainment on weekends and holidays from May 1 to May 31, every day from June 1 to September 27 and weekends from October 3 to November 1.
Taking the Bus
Buses snake throughout the Côte d’Azur, connecting coastal towns to perched medieval villages. With the Ticket Azur (€1.50), you can hop on buses that link Nice to nearby towns like Grasse, Saint-Paul de Vence, Eze Village and Monaco. The ride from Nice to Menton on the line 100 bus (which departs from the port) is a scenic trip east along the rugged coastline with stops in beachside towns like Villefranche-sur-Mer, Beaulieu, Cap d’Ail and Monaco.