The Côte d’Azur is the glittering jewel in France’s crown. Yet, with so much to see and do on the French Riviera, it is difficult to know where to start. Luxury travel expert, Amber, compiles her Côte d’Azur highlights for a taste of la belle vie.
My first experience of the Côte d’Azur was at fifteen years old on a family vacation. I spent the majority of the time holed up in our villa, manically trying to complete my GCSE art course work, a far cry from the idyllic vacation experience one envisages in the South of France. As a result, I was so excited to properly explore the region with my husband who had spent many of his childhood summers there.
To beat the queues which will inevitably be awaiting your arrival at Nice airport, I’d recommend becoming an Avis Preferred member, so you can get on the road and start enjoying your vacation sooner. In addition to consuming copious amounts of local cheeses from the markets, the daily ritual of choosing a different variety of baguette from the boulangerie each morning, and enjoying beautifully bottled Provencal rosé wines, other highlights of the region include:
Saint Paul de Vence
Only a 20 minute drive from Nice airport, St. Paul de Vence makes for a great first stop. It’s a picturesque hilltop artisan town full of little laneways brimming with boutique shops and galleries, and affording superb views over the surrounding landscape. If you’re looking to stay, a great option for families and couples alike is Chateau Saint-Martin, which has a spacious pool surrounded by lawns, a tranquil lunchtime dining option in the orchard, a great spa and magnificent views. A three night stay here, followed by a week in one of our nearby Scott Dunn villas makes for a perfect 10 day getaway. Or, it can be tied in with the family friendly Terre Blanche, located near Grasse, famed for its perfume, a destination which is particularly great for avid golfers or spa breaks.
Arguably the most iconic destination in the Côte d’Azur, and it certainly lives up to its reputation. Great shopping from the designer to the boutique, including a bustling Provencal market at the Places des Lices each Tuesday and Saturday morning which is fascinating to walk around. There are also a number of great dining and drinking venues to people watch from, I have a wonderful memory of being sat outside the Brasserie Des Arts watching a group of locals compete at a game of pétanque. Only a stone’s throw away sits the picturesque town of Grimaud, where we enjoyed an unforgettable dinner sitting in the candle lit courtyard of Restaurant Fleur de Sel enjoying their tasting menu. This spot is perfect for couples and certainly worth booking ahead. Accommodation wise, for those looking to avoid the hustle and bustle of central Saint Tropez, just a 5 minute drive away is the charming Villa Belrose.
La Reserve Ramatuelle
La Reserve is a stunning property overlooking the sea near Ramatuelle, the perfect place to unwind, you are bound to never want to leave. Their beautiful on site villas are perfect for families, as they offer expansive lawns and pools to keep everyone occupied. The main hotel is ideal for couples or groups of adults looking for great food, stunning views, clean lines and minimalist design, and a fantastic spa. From here you can enjoy boat trips along the coast, head to one of the many popular beach clubs at nearby Pampelone Beach, venture into Saint Tropez just 15 minutes away, or the picturesque hilltop town after which the hotel is named.
A hidden gem and only twenty minutes from La Reserve. The main beach here is very popular with local families and has a lovely relaxed feel to it. You’re guaranteed to find a space to enjoy for the day without feeling surrounded by people, as you so often are on other beaches in the region. The coastal walk is a must. It takes you to hidden coves, discovered only by a smattering of sailing boats who moor up for the day, and such incredible scenery I was reminded of living in Sydney. A great spot for dinner is the Couleurs Jardin which has a cool surf shack vibe to it, serving great fresh seafood and boasting the most spectacular views at sunset.
For those looking to do a two-center vacation in the region, an often overlooked part of southern France is north of Marseille near Avignon where the stunning Hotel Crillon le Brave is situated. This hotel is perfect for a three to four night stay at the end of a southern France itinerary, where you’ll be extremely well looked after. Families can do anything from cycling and kayaking, whilst couples can enjoy wine tasting experiences and exploring nearby towns and markets. It’s then just a 1.5 hour journey to Marseille airport to get you back home where you’ll no doubt be craving a return to this beautiful part of the world in the not too distant future.