Things To Do
There are many things to do while visiting the French Riviera, and if you’re looking for ideas, Iconic Riviera will fill you in on the very best places to find whatever you’re looking for. Here are a few favorites:
Attend an Event or Festival
There are always events happening on the French Riviera. From special events like galas, to arts festivals, to sporting events, and music festivals, no matter when you’re visiting, your trip is almost guaranteed to coincide with several exciting world-class events.
Check our events guides and calendar to see what to attend while you’re here. Also check out local theaters, comedy clubs, etc. Your hotel concierge will have suggestions.
Go Sightseeing and Shopping
Sight-seeing in the Old Towns is endlessly enjoyable. Dramatic, diverse, and picturesque, this area is home to numerous ‘villages perchés’; ancient hillside towns packed with thriving communities, where secluded luxury blends with history. Such unique enclaves of inspiration indeed project an inimitable pull, ready to enchant and beguile the senses of those who come to explore.
These charming towns are filled with boutiques, souvenir-shops, arts-and-crafts galleries. Keep in mind that on Sundays most of the smaller boutiques are closed. The same goes for restaurants, which may also be closed Mondays. This guide to the most charming places & towns will get you started, or make a beeline to the best places to go shopping.
Go to a Market
Speaking of shopping, the French Riviera boasts some of the best markets in the world. It’s part of France’s curious charm that there is no market more perfect than the one you are strolling through at that very moment. There is always the fear that you will never see raspberries of such a deep fuchsia again or catch the very same scent of saucissons laced with garlic, fennel or Comte cheese.
The markets in the Old Towns of the French Riviera are basically the beating heart of each town. They are lively places where locals get their daily produce and say “Bonjour!” to their neighbors, while eager tourists look on, curious about the daily activities of the locals, and try to catch the feel of daily Riviera life.
There is much to see and get from the markets in the French Riviera. From arts and crafts, textiles, antiques, handmade lavender products, flowers, fresh and dried fruits, vegetables, and fish, you can find almost everything that you can think of.
Tour the Gardens
The French Riviera is filled with some of the world’s most impressive gardens and parks — there are some 80 gardens and parks open to the public. Matisse and Van Gogh found inspiration in these gardens, as did Jean Cocteau, Coco Chanel and Somerset Maugham. Families such as the Rothschilds and the Vanderbilts employed dozens of gardeners to nurture their exotic plants, imported from around the world. And now it’s you who gets to enjoy them.
Plenty of the Côte d’Azur’s gardens provide the chance to explore adjoining historic private villas. Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is the most famous one, with its nine themed gardens, fountains and sculptures. Other unmissables include Renoir’s former home and studio in Cagnes-sur-Mer (the painter fell under the spell of the olive trees of the Domaine des Collettes and moved there in 1907) and the garden of Château de la Napoule, an often unheralded gem that clings to the shore in the Esterel. Bought in 1918 by the American Henry Clews, its garden alternates English and French styles, with a soupçon of Venetian, Roman and even Moorish influence thrown in for good measure.
If you’re going to be in Monaco, make sure to read through our guide to Monaco’s parks & gardens.
See Some Famous Art
It is no secret that the evocative Cote d’Azur has long been a big draw for artists, resulting in masterpieces that have changed the face of art as we know it. These favored haunts have aroused such passionate vision thanks to the peerless blue waters and vivid sunsets, a fact easy to appreciate when watching the exquisite light flicker across the undulating coastline.
Art enthusiasts will be delighted by the unparalleled history, the many art galleries, and the exhibits in every city and town. The French Riviera has a long history of being home to masters in art, design, and architecture. Picasso left his mark, as did Chagall, Corbusier and many others.
Check out our guides to the best art museums on the French Riviera, and where to see art in Monaco. Museums in France are typically closed either Mondays or Tuesdays. If you’re planning on doing a fair amount of sightseeing, you can visit 180 attractions on the French Riviera with the Côte d’Azur Card (€45 for a 3-day adult pass; €72 for a 6-day adult pass). The pass includes access to museums as well as kayak rentals and guided cruise tours around the coast.
Visit the Seaside (Even in the Winter!)
The French Riviera is known for its beaches, views, picture-perfect water, yachts, and as a playground for the wealthy. It is the place for the world’s elite to rub shoulders every summer. The ports glitter with superyachts. Craggy cliffs jut over a turquoise sea, forming the French Riviera’s famously rocky coastline.
Enjoy Cannes for its white sandy beaches and head to Nice, Monaco or Menton for their rock beaches if you don’t want to get sand in your shoes. Strolling down La Croisette in Cannes and Promenade des Anglais in Nice offers a simple pleasure. Spend an afternoon and see the sunset from a private beach.
Note that most of the private beaches shut their doors come October, packing up for the season. Thirty beaches across the Côte d’Azur, however, remain open year-round. This includes Plage Beau Rivage and Blue Beach along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, as well as L’Écrin and Plage Goëland on the Boulevard de la Croisette in Cannes. See our guide to the best beaches.
Take some time to visit the ports and look at the superyachts or charter a yacht and have a decadent yachting experience. The French Riviera is home to over 50% of the world’s superyacht fleet. While 90% of all superyachts have visited the region’s coast at least once in their lifetime.
Check out our guide to the climate, weather and when to visit the French Riviera.
Have a Gastronomic Experience
Incredible local food and wine are always part of the experience in the French Riviera. With more than its fair share of Michelin-starred restaurants plus a variety of homegrown dishes, the Côte d’Azur is a great place for both fine dining and rustic fare while overlooking the Mediterranean.
Savor a glass of rosé and some local cuisine on Cours Saleya in Nice. (Check out our guide to the foodie dishes that Nice is known for.) Or have a glass of champagne in one of the luxurious cafés in Monte Carlo.
If you prefer to eat on-the-go, local markets sell fresh local products like fruits, vegetables, and flowers every day. Local anchovies, olives, honey, herbs, and spices are easy to find, and local cheeses and baguettes are in every bakery. Check out our guide to the best markets.
And if you’re into wine (and really, who isn’t?!) there are nearly 80 vineyards on the hillsides behind the seafront, producing some of France’s most prized bottles. Forget Napa! France is the authentic epicenter of wine-making, and this is the best place in the world to tour wineries.
Get Into Nature
If you’re a fan of hiking and nature, you’ve come to the right place. The French Riviera conjures up images of sand and pebble beaches, plush beach mattresses, long seaside promenades, bright blues of sea and sky, yellows and gold of sun and cliffs… Rarely do we think of mountain ranges and outdoor activities when dreaming of the French Côte d’Azur, but this region has some of the most spectacular hiking available.
Not into hiking? Then put the top down and go for a drive along the “Corniche de l’Estérel” coastal road between Cannes and St Raphael and let the Esterel Mountains cast their fiery spell on you. The range’s volcanic pikes rise out of the sea like pointed fingers in a dash of brick red colors. Their burned red colors contrast against the deep blue of the Mediterranean Sea. Their sharp, tormented peaks rage against the calmness of the sea. Stop at one of the seaside restaurants and enjoy lunch with the Mediterranean seawater lapping at your feet.