South of France by car
With 71 miles of winding corniche roads, numerous quaint Provincial villages to visit, and endless soft sand beaches to stop at and enjoy some sun-soaking, France’s Cote d’Azur is one of Europe’s dreamiest road trip destinations. Rent a car on the French Riviera and the Mediterranean Sea and the charm of southern France is at your fingertips! On your Riviera road trip, you’ll wind your way around a variety of landscapes, soak up a diverse range of cultures, and enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding coastline. After all, there’s no better way to navigate the coast than to do so with the comfort and freedom of your own vehicle.
Where to Go
Menton is one of the easternmost towns on the Cote d’Azur and is well known for its beaches, manicured gardens, and hilly medieval old town. Make sure you visit the 17th century Basilique Saint-Michel, Promenade du Soleil beach, and Serre de la Madone gardens. If you’re coming from Nice, the road to Menton consists of steep mountain roads that wind their way down to the sea and you’ll have the choice of taking the high road, the middle road, and the low road which varies in steepness.
Casino Monte-Carlo, the Exotic Garden of Monaco, and Saint Nicholas Cathedral should all be on your Monaco to-do list along with the Old Town which is completely pedestrianized so leave your vehicle at your hotel! On that note, central Monaco can prove to be tricky to navigate as a tourist and you might find yourself taking unexpected turns due to confusing signage. Opt to use your car in the neighboring towns instead of the city center. Nearby places of interest include La Turbie and the picturesque town of Villefranche-sur-Mer. In Villefranche-sur-Mer, all three corniches (roads that are cut into steep cliffs) that connect Nice to Italy meet. The Basse Corniche roads here are a dream to drive and offer spectacular views out to sea and back to Monaco.
Nice is one of the most popular places along the coast to kick-start a road trip as car rental at Nice Cote d’Azur Airport is easy to navigate. Spend a few days exploring the glistening resort town and be sure to climb Castle Hill for spectacular views of the surrounding coastline. As with Monaco, driving in Downtown Nice can be quite a chore so it’s best to explore the center on foot and keep your driving for the neighboring towns.
Cannes is a resort town, famous for its international film festival which draws celebrities from far and wide to its glistening shores. Days in Cannes can be spent shopping in luxury boutiques, dining on Provincial cuisine, and exploring the islands of Lerins just a short ferry ride away. Don’t forget to visit nearby Theoule-Sur-Mer a small town, just a 20-minute drive away, with an attractive harbor.
Frejus is a small French town with a heck of a lot of monuments. The town, which sits just under an hour’s drive from Nice and a 40-minute drive from Cannes, is well known for its art and history and has several architectural artifacts and Roman relics. Frejus Cathedral, the Museum of Archeology, and the Frejus Aquaduct are all worth a visit. From Frejus, consider driving to Sainte-Maxime and enjoying a day on the beach.
The drive to Saint-Tropez from Cannes is quite spectacular and it’s not surprising this part of the world receives over 100,000 visitors a day in the height of summer. If you’re looking to take a road trip from the town center, consider visiting Vidauban (an area known for its rose wine production), La Garde-Freinet (an area with great forest hiking), and Lorgues (a fortified Provencal town).
When to Visit
Autumn and Spring are the best seasons to take a road trip along the Côte d’Azur as the weather still offers fantastic views and the roads aren’t too busy. You’ll also enjoy cheaper rental prices if you travel in the shoulder seasons. Peak summer can be a little crowded, especially in July and August when the schools are out and the tourists are in full swing, and the price for rentals and day trips shoot through the roof. However, the glorious weather in summer is quite possibly worth the price!
How Long to Stay
The length of your French Riviera road trip depends on how many stops you wish to make, but seven days is just enough time to enjoy a flying visit of Monaco, Nice, Cannes, and St. Tropez. To enjoy the surrounding smaller towns and winding roads that lead you off-the-beaten-path, we’d recommend spending closer to 10-days on the Cote d’Azur. It’s always a good idea to give yourself a day or two without a car at the beginning and end of your trip too, as this gives you more time to familiarize yourself with new surroundings.
Day Trips vs Road Trip
If you’re not a confident driver, or you’d prefer to spend your French Riviera vacation without navigating the coastlines winding roads, consider booking a car tour from one of the coast’s major cities. Why not explore Cannes in a vintage car, join a limousine tour of Monte-Carlo, or book a Ferrari driving experience in Nice? Alternatively, rent a car with a driver and enjoy being chauffeured along the Cote d’Azur, stopping as and when you please.
Whether you opt for luxury car hire on the Cote d’Azur and spend two weeks cruising the coastline or you take a private car tour of one of the big cities to relax and enjoy the highlights, your south coast road trip will showcase the very best of the French Riviera and leave you asking for more. What’s more, if you’re on a budget when it comes to transport, there’s plenty of Cote d’Azur car rental options to suit every traveler!
Events and festivals on French Riviera
The Cote d’Azur is abuzz with glitz and glamour all year round but it’s the summer months that really get the party started on France’s sought-after south coast. Events and festivals are held every month and range from theatre performances and music festivals to cinematography celebrations and yacht races. A-listers, millionaires, and outright party people flock to the shores of the Mediterranean for a summer to remember as seaside towns and secluded beaches become the stomping ground for a summer of fun. Below we take a look at some of the best events and festivals on the Côte d’Azur and provide a handy event guide to help you plan your dream trip.
Nightlife on the French Riviera - Cote d'Azur
The French Riviera is renowned for its glitz and glam appeal, hedonistic summers, and over the top attitude to partying, all of which make it a popular destination with those looking for a lively social scene. Jazz cafes, trendy bars, and glamorous night clubs line the sparkling coast and visitors can choose between splashing the cash at an invite-only beach party or rubbing shoulders with A-listers at one of the best clubs in the world. Whatever your entertainment taste may be, the Cote d’Azur has a little something for everyone.
Boat activities on Cote d'Azur - France
The French Riviera, also known as the Cote d'Azur, is found on France's south-east coast and overlooks the glistening Mediterranean Sea. Known for its dazzling sand beaches, upmarket resort towns, and glamorous casinos, the Cote d'Azur has been a popular holiday destination with some of the world's wealthiest travelers since the 18th century. While boutique shops and Michelin-starred restaurants are certainly points of interest on the coast, one of the biggest draws is the array of water-based activities available. From yacht rentals, private boat tours, parasailing excursions, water sport rentals, and jet ski hire, the list of aqua-excursions is endless! Our simple guide to boat rental on the French Riviera takes a look at the different watersports available along the coast and the range of yacht and boat rentals available. After all, no visit to the Cote d'Azur can pass by without a day at sea.
Shopping on Cote d’Azur
It’s no secret that the South of France is an area well known for its acquired taste in luxury living, and when it comes to shopping this affluent region has a real flair for fashion and a lot to offer for shopaholics. Dare to drag yourself away from the alluring arrondissements of Paris’s fashion district and you’ll be rewarded with a sunsoaked shopping haven on Cote d’Azur and when it comes to shopping, the French Riviera does not disappoint. From upmarket department stores like Galeries Lafayette (whose flagship store you’ll find in Paris) to independent art galleries including the Sheun Gallery in Nice, the array of shopping available on Cote d’Azur covers a variety of tastes and, believe it or not, can be tailored to suit all budgets.
Best restaurants on Cote d'Azur - France
Famous for its designer fashion brands, rolling vineyards, and historic monuments, France is a country with a lot to offer but it’s the nation’s gourmet cuisine that draws millions of visitors year after year. French dishes, which are usually full of flavor, made using simple ingredients, and boasting great finesse, have been replicated around the globe by passionate chefs aiming to try their hand at traditional dishes and haute cuisine. Below we’ve looked at some of the best restaurants in the south of France. Whether you’re looking for fine dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant (France is home to the highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world) or hearty French cuisine at an authentic bistro, we’ve covered all dining options to suit every taste in this restaurant guide.
Top activities on Cote d'Azur
The scenic stretch of coastline known as the Cote d’Azur winds its way along France’s south coast from Saint Tropez to Menton, encompassing the chic towns of Cannes, Nice, and Monaco along the way. The area is known as a playground for the rich and famous, and a glamorous holiday destination for those looking to soak up the very best of the French Riviera. When it comes to Cote d’Azur attractions, there are plenty of things to do and places to visit along the coast to keep all character types entertained. Whether you’re exploring Nice’s charming Old Town on a free walking tour, people-watching at Monte Carlo Harbor, or admiring 19th-century art in Cannes, the Cote d’Azur doesn’t disappoint.