Cities You Can Visit On The Côte d'Azur Different Than Nice!

➺ Saint-Paul de Vence

By going to Saint-Paul de Vence you take the road to Côte d’Azur art. The Maeght Foundation, much more than an exhibition space, is a true work of art: an extraordinary place paying tribute to the many international artists who came to write a page of their history here. While visiting the Foundation and its gardens, you’ll be able to admire a large number of important 20th-century works – including those of Giacometti, Léger, Braque, and, of course, Chagall and Maeght.

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➺ Èze

In craggy cliffs high above the sea, the medieval village of Èze is a delightful step back in time—and blissfully calm for the Riviera. The well-preserved stone buildings, winding alleyways, 14th-century chapels, and dramatic Mediterranean backdrop make this tiny village seem like a movie set. The dramatic views are best earned by taking one of the many hiking trails, like the famous Nietzsche path, that connects the town and the summit, which sits 1,400 feet above sea level. At the top, you'll discover the town's medieval fortress, which you may recognize from Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief, surrounded by the Jardin Exotique, a desert garden brimming with succulents and exotic florals.

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➺ Villefranche-sur-Mer & Beaulieu-sur-Mer

Closer than 10 kilometers (under a 30-minute drive) from Nice are two quaint seaside villages: Villefranche-sur-Mer, with a cheerful harbor, and Beaulieu-sur-Mer, an idyllic vacation resort.

In a lush Mediterranean environment of palm trees and vibrant flowers, Villefranche-sur-Mer is distinguished by its colorful waterfront buildings and a remarkable historic chapel, the Chapelle de Saint Pierre des Pecheurs. This 16th-century chapel has a surprising interior covered in frescoes that Jean Cocteau painted in 1957. The whimsical dream-like murals illustrate biblical themes, as well as typical scenes of the fishing village.

Just four kilometers away from Villefranche-sur-Mer, Beaulieu-sur-Mer is worth visiting to see the Villa Kérylos. This stately waterfront palace is a close replica of an ancient Greek nobleman's house (circa 2nd-century BC), complete with decor and furnishings based on items found at archaeological sites.

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➺ Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

The golden triangle formed by Villefranche-sur-Mer, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, and Beaulieu-sur-Mer is a fount of magnificence. Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is an ode to love. Not to be missed on the Côte d’Azur, straight out of a fairy tale, surrounded by lush gardens that will take you from continent to continent. This villa is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful Renaissance residences open to visitors on the Côte d’Azur. Push open its gates and explore all its treasures! There is no end to its refinement – from the gardens, rose gardens, archaeological remains, and musical fountains.

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➺ Grasse

Grasse is a quiet, pretty

the medieval village that also holds the distinction of being the world’s perfume capital. While famous perfumeries like Fragonard offer free tours of their factories, the real reason to come here is to take in the near-endless fields of lavender that dominate the area’s hilly landscape. Come August, the town plays host to the Jasmine Festival, a three-day celebration of jasmine, one of the two flowers to have dominated local perfume production (the other is Damascus rose). Expect homes to be draped in garlands, people dancing in the streets, parades, and jasmine petals everywhere. Grasse is conveniently located between Cannes and Nice, so a quick stop here is worth your while if only to pick up a few bottles of perfume and stop to smell the lavender.

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➺ Monaco

Renowned for its prestigious yachting event and sublime natural scenery, Monaco has a special status on the Côte d'Azur. This small coastal city is its own principality with a royal family, epitomizing the glamour of the French Riviera. The palace of the royal family is located on what is fondly called "Le Rocher" ("The Rock"), a promontory overlooking the sea.

Tourists may visit the Palais des Princes de Monaco (royal palace) to discover its treasures: a monumental Carrara marble staircase; precious 16th- and 17th-century frescoes depicting mythological scenes; the Mazarin room, covered with ornate wood paneling; and the Throne Room, where official state events and ceremonies take place.

Other cultural highlights in Monaco include the cathedral; the Chapelle de la Visitation, which houses a museum of religious art; the Oceanographic Museum in an amazing waterfront setting; and the Jardin Exotique, a gorgeous exotic garden with stunning sea views.

Another of the must-see attractions in Monaco is its emblematic harbor (Port Hercule), filled with luxury yachts. This enormous harbor is large enough to dock cruise ships. With its picturesque Mediterranean scenery and refreshing sea breezes, Port Hercule is a wonderful place for strolls or al fresco dining. Many of the waterfront restaurants have pleasant outdoor terraces.

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➺ Ile de Porquerolles

With gentle turquoise waters lapping against its soft sandy shores, the Ile de Porquerolles has a dreamy, tropical feel. Although it's only a 10-minute boat ride from the French Riviera coastline, Porquerolles Island gives the impression of being much farther away.

The northern side of the island has fantastic beaches, while the southern side features cliffs and secluded hiking trails alongside creeks. Other popular activities during summertime are sailing, snorkeling, and scuba diving.

Nestled in the center of the island is the little village of Porquerolles, with a wide selection of hotels and restaurants. To arrive at the Ile de Porquerolles, take a shuttle boat from Hyères (about a one-hour drive from Saint-Tropez or less than a 30-minute drive from Toulon.)

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➺ Menton

The sunny seaside city of Menton boasts a sensational location (the closest town on the French Riviera to Italy) with a mild climate year-round. The warm weather allows vibrant flowers and citrus fruits to flourish. In this lush Mediterranean environment, Menton's Vieille Ville (Old Town) has a distinctive Italian influence.

Visitors can begin a tour along the Rue des Logettes and the narrow Rue Longue, passing the town's ancient fortifications. A flight of steps (Rampes de Saint Michel) leads up to the Place de la Conception terrace with marvelous views of the sea. On the left stands the 17th-century Parish Church of Saint Michel with a winged altar created by Manchello in 1569. Farther up is the 17th-century Jesuit Chapel of the Conception.

For those in search of seaside relaxation, the Plage des Sablettes (beach) is ideal for sunbathing or taking a dip in the calm, temperate waters.

Menton is classified as a Ville d'Art et d'Histoire (City of Art and History) because of its cultural attractions. Not to be missed are the Musée des Beaux-Arts, which presents a diverse collection of European paintings, and the Musée Jean Cocteau (at Menton's harbor), which displays hundreds of pieces painted by Jean Cocteau, who created many noteworthy artworks here during the 1950s.

Another highlight of Menton is its splendid gardens, including the Jardin Biovès, filled with sculptures, fountains, exotic trees, and flowering plants, and the Jardin Serre de la Madone, renowned for its reflecting pools and terraces landscaped with exotic plants.

The Jardin Exotique Val Rahmeh is another luxuriant green space. This lovely botanical garden is planted with a wide variety of palm trees and tropical vegetation including avocado, banana, and papaya trees.

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➺ Cannes

Long before it was synonymous with the International Film Festival and earned its reputation as a playground for the world’s dizzyingly well-heeled (and home to excess in everything from luxury cars to haute couture fashions), Cannes was a shimmering, seaside destination made for resting and people-watching—something that remains true. But it also offers extraordinary views and culture. Climb the winding staircases and pass the pastel-coated homes in Le Suquet, the city’s old quarter, and you’ll end up at the Musée de la Castre, a home for ethnographic art in a medieval fortress overlooking the marina and the Croisette. For restorative beaches and landscapes free of crowds, take a 15-minute ferry ride to two of the Lérins islands off the coast: Ile St. Honorat, known for its working monastery and forest groves, and Ile Ste-Marguerite, the spot for hidden coves and beaches.

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➺ Antibes

Beyond the megayachts and picture-perfect beaches, Antibes is a draw for its literary and artistic history. It was at the Villa Saint Louis (now the popular hotel Belles-Rives) on the Cap d’Antibes that F. Scott Fitzgerald took up summer residence with Zelda and his daughter Scottie in 1926 and began his work on Tender is the Night. The enclosed mansions and dramatic villas lining the shore that once fascinated Fitzgerald are still very much a part of the landscape, but there’s a local charm to be found, too. Stroll around old Antibes, through the Cours Masséna, a Provençal food market, and up to the Musée Picasso, the first museum dedicated to the artist. Formerly the Château Grimaldi, the stronghold was Picasso’s home and workshop in 1946 and remains one of the commanding cultural draws in the resort town.

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