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The best places to stay on the French Riviera, from dazzling cities to picturesque towns

Looking for that luxury lifestyle? The best places to stay on the French Riviera tick all of the gold standard boxes

Written by
Heidi Fuller-Love
Alex Floyd-Douglass
Camila Karalyte

The French Riviera is everything it claims to be and more. The international capital of luxury travel is packed with mind-blowing spots that are the gold standard of idyllic holidays, although you might be surprised to find how friendly the areas are (no shade to the locals). And luckily, you don't have to be super rich and wealthy to enjoy some fun in paradise. You can easily bask in the sun on a beautiful beach and not spend a single euro. Although the ice cream might be calling your name...

Brave the narrow, and sometimes steep, streets of Eze and marvel at the panoramic views from the mountainside village. Or coordinate your outfits with the bright and vibrant buildings in the medieval old town of Menton, while you walk along the stunning coastline. Imagine the snaps you'll get for your socials. Even if just for a day, embrace the life of luxury and leave with enough to fantasise about when you're back at home. Post-holiday blues are real. 

The best places to visit on the French Riviera all offer something different, from celeb-laden streets to quaint nostalgia. Heck, why not try to cover all of them in one magnificent road trip? Where did we put that bucket list…

Best places to stay on the French Riviera

Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Grasse

A short drive from the bustling coast, the French Riviera’s perfume capital was originally a centre for (far less pleasant-smelling) leather tanneries until someone had the bright idea of selling scented gloves here sometime in the seventeenth century. Nowadays, this pretty town, with its jumble of medieval and Renaissance buildings surrounded by endless fields of purple lavender, is home to no less than 30 perfume factories. 

Time out tip: Get in touch with the big perfume factories – from Galimard to Molinard and Fragonard – which offer free tours of their sweet-scented workshops.

Photograph: Shutterstock

2. Eze

High on its rocky perch, this picturesque town with its winding alleys and stocky stone houses is best explored via the Nietzsche path (named for the German philosopher who once lived here). The steep hike along this path, which links the town to its lofty summit, is worth it to admire the medieval fortress featured in Hitchcock's classic To Catch a Thief. 

Time Out tip: Don’t miss a visit to the cactus-studded Jardin Exotique gardens, filled with weird and wonderful succulents and sculptures by Jean-Philippe Richard. But, the main reason to go? To lap up spectacular vistas of Saint-Tropez’s glittering gulf.

Photograph: Shutterstock

3. Antibes

The jewel in the Riviera’s glittering crown, labyrinthine Antibes’s sixteenth-century rampart-enclosed old town and the densely forested Cap d’Antibes peninsula are home to some of the region’s most luxurious villas. You’ll also find some of the Riviera’s swankiest yachts in its elegant marina (the Med’s largest). The town is packed with shops and art galleries and is relatively accessible to all.

Time Out tip: Can’t-miss sights include the Picasso Museum, and Fort Carré, where Napoleon Bonaparte spent time in prison.

Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Villefranche-sur-Mer

Sat between turquoise seas and a backdrop of wood-clad cliffs, Villefranche-sur-Mer’s ochre houses overlook one of the world’s most beautiful bays. And if you think the Jean Cocteau-decorated Saint-Pierre chapel and Villefranche’s charming tangle of cobbled streets look familiar, they probably do: this breathtaking town has played host to dozens of films including Never Say Never Again with Sean Connery and The Jewel of the Nile with Michael Douglas.

Time Out tip: Don’t skip a sunbathe at the beach at Villefranche-sur-Mer, to the left of the Old Town, just five minutes walk from the train station. Swim in turqoiuse seas before lying out on the golden shelves of sand. The section furthest away from town is the quietest. 

Photograph: Fred Romero / Flickr

5. Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

Strewn with ornate Belle Époque villas and magnificent lush gardens, elusive and exclusive Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is one of the Riviera’s most picturesque spots. Once favoured by the European aristocracy and now (slightly) democratised, this pretty peninsula is home to countless striking bits of architecture. Our pick is the Villa Île-de-France, decorated with more than 5,000 works of art and other items brought back by owner Baroness Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild from her travels around the world. 

Time out tip: If looking at pretty things is your bag, pay a visit to the Shell Museum. There are 7,000 seashells on display, including an exotic collection – the largest in the Mediterranean. 

Photograph: David Baron / Flickr

6. Juan-les-Pins

The main attraction at this star-studded resort is the art deco Hôtel Belles Rives where F. Scott Fitzgerald hosted glamorous parties attended by the likes of Rudolph Valentino, Hemingway and American tycoon Frank Jay Gould, which later inspired him to write The Great Gatsby. But this elegant town doesn’t just live in the past: Juan-les-Pins’s Jazz à Juan festival in July, along with some of the Riviera’s best beaches, make it a magnet for well-heeled tourists today.

Time Out tip: Juan Les Pins Beach lets you rent deck chairs for any impromptu sunbathing. 


Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Saint-Tropez

This town has Brigitte Bardot to thank for its reputation as a glitzy tourist magnet. When she frolicked on its beaches in the 1950s, Saint-Tropez was just a tiny fishing village. Now it draws a wealthy bohemian crowd, with everyone who’s anyone coming here to strip down on ‘clothing optional’ beaches, buy chic beachwear and go clubbing. St Trop’, as it’s fondly known by habitués, has a world-class art scene and a string of Michelin-starred restaurants. 

Time Out tip: Café Sénéquier is a local institution for a reason. it on its postbox red terrace overlooking the harbour and devour one of its cream-topped ice cream sundaes. 

Photograph: Pexels / Cristina Campos

8. Cannes

Socialites have been flocking to the resort’s renowned film festival since 1946 – and come May, it is as busy as ever. Although this is the best time for star-spotting (where's our binoculars?), there are always plenty of celebrities hanging around Cannes: you’ll spot them taking selfies along the beautiful Promenade de la Croisette, flashing platinum credit cards as they shop in designer boutiques, or slipping out of their palatial hotels to chill incognito in one of the Lérins Islands’ hidden coves. And if you do spot a celeb, act cool. 

Time out tip: Le Suquet, just above the city, is the oldest neighbourhood in Cannes with winding streets and pastel-coloured buildings. It’s a little taste of what the place would have felt like in the 18th and 19th centuries, before all the Hollywood glitz. 

Photograph: Shutterstock

9. Menton

Next to sparkling emerald seas between Monaco and the Italian border and framed by the mighty Alpes-Maritimes mountains, lush Menton is a picturesque town famed for its subtropical microclimate and astoundingly beautiful gardens. It is where the citron de Menton is from: you can see some in Menton’s vast La Citronneraie lemon grove or during the La Fête du Citron festival in spring. 

Time out tip: Nature lovers can get their kicks at the sweet-scented, petal-strewn Fontana Rosa Garden. 

The French Riviera’s sun-splashed cosmopolitan capital and France’s fifth-largest city is often hailed as the birthplace of tourism on the Côte d’Azur. Easily the Riviera’s most vibrant nightlife spot, elegant Nice has plenty of other charms, ranging from sunset views along the Promenade des Anglais and baroque and Belle Époque buildings around the Garibaldi and Massena squares, to the peerless Chagall and Matisse museums, along with some of the region’s most scenic strips of boutique and café-lined sand.

Time out tip: Paya trip to Marché Aux Fleurs Cours Saleya, an incredible flower market in the Old Town dating back to 1897. 

Discover the best things to do in Nice

Photograph: Shutterstock

11. Cassis

Renowned for its Calanques, those narrow limestone coves backed by sheer cliffs of which the most famous (and most difficult to get to) is Calanque d’En-Vau, Cassis is a charming, unspoilt seaside town. Among its must-see sights are the resort’s winding streets, lined with some of the Riviera’s quirkiest boutiques, and the pretty harbour that bobs with vividly painted fishing boats called pointus, backed by France’s tallest cliff, the 394-metre Cap Canaille.

Time Out tip: Cassis is a great base for the picturesque hike to the Calanques – a beautiful turquoise sea inlet surrounded by sublime craggy rock faces and a national park. 

Although not strictly on the Riviera, independent and magnificent Monaco still deserves attention. This two-square-kilometre principality on the French-Italian border has glitzy casinos, a superb marine museum and its own opera house. It packs a lot in such a tiny area. And if that’s not enough, it’s also home to one of the world’s most prestigious car races: the Monaco Grand Prix, which runs through the resort’s streets every year in May.

Time Out tip: Pay a visit to Le Jardin Exotique, a botanic garden with breathtaking views over the city’s bay and its own natural grotto, where prehistoric remains have been found.

Discover the best things to do in Monaco


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