Planning a trip to France and looking for the best things to do in the French Riviera? Well, look no further, because I’ve put together the ultimate list of things to do, places to visit, and wonderful must-visit attractions along the majestic southern coast of France!
The French Riviera stretches along the Mediterranean coast for nearly 600-miles, and it’s become one of the classiest, most elegant, and beautiful destinations to travel to in all of Europe. From gambling at the world-famous Monte Carlo, devouring as much seafood as possible in Nice, and working on your tan in Cannes – a visit to the French Riviera is guaranteed to be a trip you’ll never forget!
As well, being situated in Southern France, it never actually gets TOO cold! During winter, this semi-arid climate region provides moderate temperatures between 10°C and 15°C (50°F – 60°F), making it a popular destination for a winter escape. !
The Riviera is also nicknamed Cote d’Azur, or the ‘blue coast’. This explains why many of the things to do in the French Riviera consists of exploring the region’s pristine beaches. And this destination authentically lives up to the name because it is adorned with countless blue-flag-labeled beaches. In 2017, the area was awarded 82 different blue-flag beaches.
So without further ado, let’s journey to the wondrous French Riviera and learn all about the amazing things to do!
1) Visit The World’s Second-Smallest Country
The principality micro-country that is Monaco shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s home to some of Europe’s finest beach resorts as well as white-sand beaches. And it only spans an area of just above 200-hectares! It is situated between the alps and the Mediterranean Ocean and is a dominating French Riviera attraction. There are many attractions in this small country, but a highlight includes the world-famous Oceanographic Museum.
This museum that took 11 years to build is perched almost 100-meters above sea level. It’s also one of the world’s oldest aquariums and is often synonymous with Monaco. There are roughly 6000 underwater species here. Given that it is less than 2-miles in length, the country is easily walkable. Monaco City should obviously be your first stop in this minute country.
The country is dispersed with glamorous and striking palaces and cathedrals, but a particular one you simply have to visit is the Prince’s Palace of Monaco (Monaco-Ville). This is where the Prince of Monaco presently resides, and the architecture is worth admiring.
Take a watch through this awesome video below, and read through this article on 9 Best Things To Do in Monaco for more information on this exotic destination!
2) Get High up at Les Baux de Provence
The French Riviera is mostly admired for its pristine coastline and lush greenery. However, the area comes with a significant history and culture. This is visible in the landlocked, medieval village of Les Baux de Provence.
The French word ‘Baux’ translates to a steep cliff. This name is true because the village sits at an elevation of almost 220-meters as it extends over a hillside. The village features many impressive characteristics, and the village the cobble-stoned streets will transport you to a bygone era.
You can expect lots of rocky highlands as it’s located within range of the Alpines Mountain Range. A popular landmark of the village is the Chateau-Fortress area. It’s a ridge area that provides some pretty fascinating views that can reach as far as Marseille.
3) Feel the Glitz and Grass at St. Tropez
There’s a reason why this coastline is so sought-after. The coastal town of St. Tropez is a testament to this because of it features in prominent movies such as The Transporter. The town is positioned at the edge of a peninsula, which explains the chain of crystal-blue, white-sand beaches.
Tourism brings about most of the city’s income as not only is it home to picture-perfect beaches, but an array of museums too. And to think that it was only a fishing village way back when. The nightlife here is also worth a visit, with its chic and elite party scene, along with the fancy cruise ships. France certainly offers some of Europe’s best parties!
While this town may be extravagant, its natural landscape is worth admiring. The mild ocean waters are accompanied by rolling green shrub hills and sandy beaches. And don’t forget the olive groves!
4) Discover the Riviera’s Best-Kept Secret at Gigaro
Most people who travel to St. Tropez are unaware that only a 25-minute drive away lies a beach area that is often overlooked. Gigaro contains the start of a walking trail along the Mediterranean.
It’s a resort area that may not boast the high-end aspects of St. Tropez, but certainly does present visitors with untouched natural beauty. The area boasts 6-miles of pine forests and rocky coastal inlets. This makes for the perfect day-trip from St. Tropez should you want to escape from the decadent lifestyle for a bit.
Here, you’ll also find some fantastic beach restaurants that serve only the freshest seafood. And these beach restaurants aren’t falsely advertising. Marius a la Plage is quite literally on the beach, only a few feet away from the water. The views from this restaurant are unbeatable.
5) Get Some Ve-nice Pics at Port Grimaud
Although the French Riviera is situated close to the French-Italian border, you won’t be needing to travel there. The Riviera has its own little piece of Italy, and more specifically – Venice. The French version of Venice is fairly new, as Port Grimaud was only developed in the 1960s.
It should not be confused with Grimaud, a medieval village that is part of the same commune as Port Grimaud. This seaside town is also another viable option as a day-trip from St. Tropez because it is only 4-miles west of this region.
Rather than mimicking Venetian architecture, Port Grimaud’s chain of canals is bounded by Provencal-style buildings. These buildings are architectural wonders because each is distinct in color and design.
If you’ve been to Venice and found yourself wishing for some natural elements too, then Port Grimaud is your best alternative. It combines the multi-color spectacle of Venice, but is set against the backdrop of lush, rolling green hills. You can find incredible beaches perfect for swimming, a luxury you won’t be afforded when in Venice.
6) Unwind in the Lerins Islands
Just off the coast of Cannes lies an archipelago of four islands, two of which are untouched. The islands are only a 20-minute boat ride from Cannes and offer a break from the city. The two main islands that tourists visit are located just under one-mile from each other.
Forget about any form of transportation on these islands because you’ll only be able to walk. This means that the islands are the ideal destination for those seeking active things to do in the French Riviera.
The two islands that are available for the public to visit are the Île Sainte-Marguerite and Île Saint-Honorat islands. The former island is the biggest of the two and is an absolute must-see. It contains almost 14-miles of natural hiking trails, but also has strong cultural aspects too.
This includes the Cistercian monks that live on the island and work on the island’s vineyards. Although they lead a simple life, they produce some elaborate wines which have scored many an award. Be sure to taste some of these wines when you’re on the island.
7) Get Star-Studded at Cannes
You’ve surely heard of the famed Cannes Film Festival, but what more do you actually know about things to do in Cannes? Over and above the chic lifestyle and film industry, this town is Cote d’Azur’s economic hub – and is informally regarded as the ‘sister city of Beverly Hills’.
It’s also a culinary utopia for visitors, with extensive food markets that promote traditional French cuisine. A top-pick is Cannes’ Marché Forville. Any trip to Cannes wouldn’t suffice without a visit to one of France’s most established and popular streets, La Croisette.
This street is a promenade that stretches for 1-mile, with lovely views of the gleaming Mediterranean waters. Cannes is a popular cruise destination too.
The reason why Cannes is so favorable is due to its prime positioning on the French Riviera. While you can lead a very cosmopolitan lifestyle in the city, the outskirts and surroundings offer some of the most uncompromised nature experiences you could wish for.
8) Leave the Ocean Behind at Fontaine-de-Vaucluse
This small commune is within the French Department of Vaucluse. It’s another inland destination that is often neglected when visiting the French Riviera. Yet, this little commune is home to a magnificent natural spring that originates from a 755-foot cliff. What’s more is that this is actually France’s largest spring, and the 5th-most powerful in the world.
This flow of water is extremely strong, surging 630-700 million cubic meters of water annually. This functions as one of the more unique options for French Riviera things to do. Although it is a massive surge phenomenon, all the water sources eventually flow into a shaded basin that is still and calm. The locals rever the spring, and view it as a sacred site.
The commune is interspersed with quaint waterways that meander through the buildings and is set against the backdrop of rocky outcrops. The sparkling emerald green waters of the canals and surrounding rivers mean that you’ll never be short of a refreshing (and Instagram-worthy) swim.
9) Enjoy all of the Riviera’s Characteristics in Théoule-sur-Mer
This charismatic village has compressed all the features of a large city. It’s scattered with red rock formations, four ports, a castle, and a palace! All this within a 1050-hectare radius. And you’ll never feel separation anxiety from the crisp salty air and blue waters here, because the village occupies over 8-miles of beachfront.
The red rock formations are a marvel and form part of the Esterel Mountain Range. These rock formations give rise to coves that are great for explorations. Over and above being simply a beaching destination, this village is the perfect gateway to some of the Riviera’s finest hiking opportunities.
Two of the top things to do in French Riviera’s Théoule-sur-Mer are to visit the Pointe de L’Aiguille and the Notre-Dame d’Afrique. These two sites authentically display the essence of Cote D’Azur – ocean and lush mountains.
The Pointe de L’Aiguille is a departmental area that provides visitors with many scenic hiking routes along the rugged coastline. Here you’ll have direct access to the coves. You should also venture out to the Notre-Dame d’Afrique, or the Our Lady of Africa place of worship in the mountains. Here, you’ll find a mountain-top statue that almost reaches 15-meters.
10) Get Some More Nice Pics!
Tourists usually associate things to do in France with Paris, the capital city. Yet, the French Riviera has its own capital city, which is a little ‘nicer’. The most synonymous destination to the French Riviera is Nice, as it is the region’s largest city.
It’s the capital of the French Riviera as it presents visitors with the quintessential Côte D’Azur experience. In other words, along with the pebble-stoned (and golden-sanded), transparent-water beaches, it is connected to a crucial culture and history.
It’s famed for its long-stretching Promenade des Anglais, that snakes along the ocean for 4-miles. Not only is this a French Riviera must-see destination for the rich and famous, but it has also lured many artists over the past centuries. This means that the quality of art compositions here is unrivaled, and you’ll find a Chagall and Matisse museum that proves a great experience.
You’ll also notice the strong Italian resemblance of the city, as it was only part of the French empire from the late 1900s. You should also include a visit to the city’s expansive green spaces in your things to do in Nice itinerary, should you want great vistas of the city. Parc de la Colline du Château even has a waterfall!
11) Have Intimate Nature Experiences on Bendor Island
The mainland of the French Riviera is often more touristic. But, the region consists of numerous islands that are short distances away from some of the major cities. Bendor Island is a prime example, as it is an island in close proximity to the coastal town of Bandol.
This is certainly one of the best places to visit in the French Riviera if you wish to escape from the inland crowds. And that’s because it’s sparsely populated. The island is attached to a complicated ownership history as it has been entitled to many different owners, and has even been deserted at times.
Presently, it is under the provision of Paul Ricard’s son. This is why the island is sometimes referred to as ‘Paul Ricard Island’. A true humanist, the classic French figure, Ricard, converted the island in the 1960s into a colorful spectacle.
It is even home to an art garden scattered with intriguing sculptures. But other than Provence-style buildings, the island is largely untouched and offers top-notch hiking opportunities along the rugged terrain and coastline.
12) Don’t Aim for Nice, Aim for Better! (And Eze)
Eze is a coastal village that is only 8-miles away from Nice. It is positioned along mountainous landscape and it has a charming medieval flair because of its narrow and bumpy rock avenue. Much of the village hasn’t been altered architecturally, and it sits at an altitude of 430-meters above sea level.
Another highlight of the historic village is its award-winning Jardin Exotique d’Èze, or the botanical gardens. This isn’t any ordinary botanical garden, as it is positioned on the top of a steep mountain.
A particular favorite trail among the locals is the Nietzsche path that snakes along the steep terrain. You’ll be afforded some of the most scenic inland and oceanic views of Cote D’Azur. Eze is also home to some pretty splendid beaches and stays true to its Southern-France position.
13) Venture to Europe’s Highest Coastal Village
Also known as Sainte Agnes, this probably isn’t the typical image that comes to mind when thinking of the French Riviera. Sainte Agnes is a village that is positioned high up on the mountain, way above the city of Menton. It offers some of the best panoramic vistas that you can get from any urban space in Cote D’Azur.
It’s not a well-known site as it is often overshadowed by Menton, even though it quite literally overshadows Menton. The medieval village is perched at a height of 800-meters above sea level and given its close proximity to the border, your view will comprise of Italy too.
If you’re fed up with medieval facades that have been revitalized from the 1400s, then Sainte Agnes also functions as the gateway to some steep and impressive hiking trails. You can reach as far as the Baudon summit, which forms part of the Southern Alps, and has an altitude of almost 1270-meters above sea level.
14) Blossom at Tourrettes sur Loup
Another underrated village that is sandwiched between Cannes and Nice is the charming Tourrettes sur Loup. While it may not be as elevated as Sainte Agnes, it’s still positioned on a rocky highland. The village claimed the nickname of the ‘Violet Village’ which will be evident upon first gaze – these flowers are scattered throughout the village.
If you find yourself looking for what to do in the French Riviera in March, annually, this village hosts a flower festival that is dedicated to Violets. Like many of the other Cote D’Azur settlements, Tourrettes sur Loup is a utopia for artists.
In its medieval city center (Grand Rue), various forms of artistic expression combine to offer visitors and locals a range of local products to buy. The major cities such as Nice and Cannes are infamous for their expensive artifacts that are often tourist traps. So if you want traditional French artifacts, support these local artists too.
15) Spot Cetaceans in the Pelagos Sanctuary
A Cetacean is a category of aquatic mammal species that comprise of dolphins and whales, among others. In total, there are 89 species of Cetacea. The typical associations you’ll conjure up when thinking of what to see in the French Riviera doesn’t usually relate to marine life, so this should be a unique activity for you.
Nevertheless, you’ll be able to view these species in a protected and conserved area that spans 875 000-hectares. The Sanctuary evolved out of a consensus between Italy, France and Monaco (the territories through which the Sanctuary runs) to preserve the oceanic life.
It’s a maritime site that attracts many aquatic species, but you’ll have a high chance of having some stellar whale and dolphin sightings during summer. The significance of this sanctuary is unrivaled because of the ongoing destruction of coral reefs and ocean polluting.
So, do your part in supporting this important conservation initiative. At the sanctuary, you can choose between half-day tours, whale-watching boats or partaking in a research cruise. There are extremely high concentrations of Cetaceans in these waters due to it being rich in food sources for these mammals.
16) Breathe in the Fresh Air of Menton
You’ve already read about Sainte Agnes, which sits on top of Menton. But you should adjust your French Riviera itinerary to visit both of these destinations. Menton is a coastal city that offers spacious tropical gardens, along with scenic beaches. It’s also in close proximity to the French-Italian border.
One of the more popular gardens of the city Serre de la Madone, exhibits less common plant species, making it well worth the visit. The area is a well-liked resort destination with lengthy promenades, high-end hotels and infamous casinos.
Yet Menton also has historical appeal; some of its facades are rooted in medieval Baroque architecture. A walk along the Promenade du Soleil will showcase the multi-colored houses that are all of uneven heights, but all connected at the sides.
But, the buildings aren’t the only things that are uneven in Menton, as so too is the landscape. The Eastern section of the city is hilly, and is adorned with a 1700s, historic Bell-Tower that is definitely worth a visit.
Am I Missing Any Amazing Things to do in the French Riviera?
It’s been a few years since I’ve traveled to the French Riviera, so I’d love to hear what you guys love about this gorgeous destination! There really is so much to do along the entire southern coast of France, as it’s filled with beautiful beaches, glamorous destinations, and is guaranteed to be a trip that you’ll never forget!
Planning a Trip to France & Europe?
My travel blog has tons of helpful articles and travel itineries that can serve as a great resource! Take a read through some of my favorites below, and feel free to reach out with me with any questions you have! I’m always happy to help anyway I can!
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Final Thoughts on the Best Things to Do in French Riviera
So, next time you visit this haven, remember that there are inland destinations other than the 8 major towns. The best things to do in the French Riviera are not limited to the major towns as the small villages and coastal towns are worth admiring too.
Often, you’ll find the less touristy, and more intimate cultural experiences on the outskirts of major towns. With a semi-arid climate that was gifted by the Mediterranean sun, you’ll certainly be able to withdraw from Northern Europe (and even France)’s frosty winter climates.
So, what are you waiting for? It’s an all-year round destination so book your favorite French Riviera destination now! Or, all of them.