Highlights of the French Riviera: Nice, Cannes & Monte Carlo
The French Riviera
The French Riviera is that marvelous stretch of French coastline along the Mediterranean and the tiny principality of Monaco.
Also referred to as the Côte d’Azur, it has been a magnet for tourists and the rich and famous for years. This article will highlight three different areas: Cannes and Nice in France and Monte Carlo in Monaco.
Cannes is a city with a beach resort feel. Here you will find the luxury hotels, sandy beaches, upscale boutiques and shops, millionaire yachts, and the occasional famous face or two. It’s laid back and relaxing, but during the famous Cannes Film Festival, usually held in May, this invitation-only event brings even more recognizable faces (and the press) to the city to walk the red carpet of the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. But Cannes is wonderful to visit at other times of the year too: sun yourself on the beach, enjoy water sports on the Mediterranean Sea, shop the Rue d’Antibes, stroll La Croisette (the beachfront promenade) or Le Suquet (the old town), dine in premier restaurants, and party in its fabulous nightlife. The best time to visit Cannes is in the spring before the Film Festival and the tourist crowds descend on this popular destination. It’s walkable so no need to hire a car unless you are travelling on to Nice. Or better yet, take a high speed train!
Nice is a much larger city than Cannes with the inherent busyness of an area capital. It is also a popular tourist destination with over four million visitors annually. It emphasizes the arts (think Matisse, Chagall, Arman), culture, architecture, and remarkable scenery. The city sports beautiful public and private beaches, and a 7 km ( 4.35 mile) promenade, the Promenade des Anglais. Being the 5th largest city in France, it has the fine dining restaurants, bars, nightlife, shopping, and history to explore. Nice was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2021.
The best time to enjoy Nice (just like Cannes) is in the early Spring or perhaps the other shoulder season in the Fall. Its airport serves as a gateway to the Côte d’Azur, and this French city is just eight miles from the border of Monaco and Monte Carlo.
The tiny principality and city-state of Monaco has an administrative area, Monte Carlo, at its “center.” It is sandwiched between the Maritime Alps and the Mediterranean Sea, and surrounded by France though the Italian border is not far away. One of the first thoughts that comes to mind of Monte Carlo is the casino area, the Place du Casino, which symbolizes both this state’s wealth and its attitude to wealth. Probably more billionaires as a percentage of the population have a residence here than in any other country. A second thought may be of the ruling House of Grimaldi which one often sees in the news, the current head being Prince Albert II and the son of the late Grace Kelly.
While all that emphasis on wealth may be present, you don’t have to be a high-income demographic to enjoy this part of the French Riviera. It has the beaches, grand hotels, designer and luxury goods shops (explore the Metropole Shopping Monte-Carlo), Michelin-star restaurants, an opera house, and bonus: the world-famous casinos to tempt Lady Luck. The weather is great (except in winter, which is to be expected), and it’s eminently walkable as it’s so tiny. Do note that Monte Carlo may also be crowded due this small size and immense popularity, especially in summer, and can also be more pricey than the other two cities. Tip: If you don’t like crowds avoid the Gran Prix event (Formula One racing, late May or early June) and the Yacht Show (early September).
The French Riviera is one of the most famous tourist destinations on the Mediterranean, especially if you are seeking a resort vibe. However, no matter which cities we highlighted you choose to stay in during your visit, the area is relatively concentrated and there’s no reason you can’t enjoy all three places – and more!
All images courtesy of Adobe Stock except the header image of Cannes with female tourist which is courtesy of Bigstock.