The Top Stops Along the Côte d'Azur, France

Monte Carlo is a glamorous stop along the Côte dAzur
Monte Carlo is a glamorous stop along the Côte d'Azur | © Dalibor Brlek / Alamy Stock Photo
Courtney Stanley

The southeastern coast of France is famed for its glamorous resorts, ancient ruins and superyacht-strewn ports. Go beyond Nice, Cannes and Marseille and explore new quaint streets and sparkling Mediterranean views that have inspired countless artists with these five lesser-known locations along the French Riviera.

Set sail for these postcard-perfect towns by hiring a boat for the day though SamBoat. Alternatively, Dream Yacht Charter offers week-long sailing holidays along the Côte d’Azur.

1. Cagnes-sur-Mer

Architectural Landmark

View from water of the beach in Cagnes-sur-Mer with a church tower and Mediterranean buildings along the shoreline
© CEGALERBA Nicolas / hemis.fr / Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

Although just a short train ride away from Nice, Cagnes-Sur-Mer is much more than a convenient location. Venture up the steep hill to the medieval village surrounding the Château Musée Grimaldi in Haut-de-Cagnes and you’ll pass through clusters of charming houses and cobbled streets. The castle was built around 1300, and in 1946 it was restored into a museum. Now, the gallery showcases an olive tree museum, a collection of Suzy Solidor portraits and temporary contemporary art exhibitions. Afterwards, stop in one of the many restaurants that overlook the city below. A museum dedicated to the life and artwork of Auguste Renoir, one of the many artists inspired by the Côte d’Azur, is located in the house built for his family in 1908. Here, he painted renowned landscapes, portraits, nudes and still lifes that give a hint of life in Cagnes-Sur-Mer over a century ago.

2. Antibes

Natural Feature

Fort Carré on top of a promontory in Antibes, with many yachts and sailboats in the marina in front of it
© MATTES René / hemis.fr / Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

In the centre of Antibes, narrow, cobbled streets follow lines of colourful houses with picturesque shuttered windows. Pablo Picasso spent July to December of 1946 working in a 14th-century seaside château in Antibes, which now houses a collection of his works. The town comes to life with daily markets selling food, produce, handcrafted goods and clothing. On the outskirts of town sits Fort Carré, a 16th-century, star-shaped fort. Take a guided tour and explore the protected park surrounding the fort where Napoleon Bonaparte was briefly imprisoned. The fort is also famous for starring as an evil villain’s lair on the big screen – can you guess which film? Hint: it stars a man who takes his martinis shaken, not stirred.

3. Monte Carlo, Monaco

Architectural Landmark

View from above of Monte Carlo cityscape built into the mountainside with skyscrapers and a large harbour
© Dalibor Brlek / Alamy Stock Photo

Whether you plan to moor your yacht and hit up the casino or lounge on the beach and people watch, Monaco is a must-see stop along the Côte d’Azur. Located within the borders of France, it is the second smallest country in the world – only Vatican City is smaller. Monte Carlo, the glamorous capital, is known for its shining skyscrapers, its casino and the annual Formula One Grand Prix. Take in the beautiful coastline while you walk along the promenade past extravagant yachts. Visit one of Monaco’s many gardens, like the Exotic Gardens, which holds several million species of succulent plants, or the Zen-like Japanese Garden.

4. Fréjus

Architectural Landmark

Aerial view of Fréjus Harbour with moored boats and apartment buildings on either side of a canal
© JOHN KELLERMAN / Alamy Stock Photo

Indulge your historical side with the excellent collection of ancient ruins in Fréjus. A Fréjus Pass will give you admission to four historic sites, and the pass is valid for a week. These include the impressive Roman amphitheatre and a 700-year-old cathedral with its uniquely decorated cloister. Take a break from all of the history with a walk around the charming centre of town where restaurants range from the Moroccan La Rose de Sables to the traditional Autres Ray’Son.

5. The Three Corniches

Architectural Landmark

A corniche is a road on the side of a mountain. There are three between Nice and Monaco: the Grande Corniche, the Moyenne Corniche and the Basse or Inférieure Corniche. On three separate levels, each corniche offers its own majestic view of the Mediterranean and the surrounding villas. The Grande Corniche rises up to 550m (1,800ft) above sea level and is the most treacherous of the three to drive, but the views are exceptional on a clear day. The Moyenne Corniche, possibly the most famous of the three, offers several stopping points to enjoy the views, but be sure to visit the medieval hill town Èze, too. The Basse Corniche runs along the waterfront past many famed seaside resorts all the way to Menton near the border of Italy.

Book a Dream Yacht Charter sailing trip along the French Riviera, or reserve a day boat rental through SamBoat from any major French Riviera town – no experience necessary.

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