The glittering Côte d’Azur entrances and lures people from afar – lovers of the life of luxury and the froth of the international jet set come here. But so too do those in search of modern campsites, convenient golden beaches and endless sunny days.
The Côte d’Azur owes its name to the gorgeous blue colour of the sea, and with vast expanses of golden sand, it’s an irresistible draw.
The coast runs from Toulon in the West to the Franco-Italian border in the East and is known for its Mediterranean climate, with an average of three thousand hours of sunshine per year.
Iconic resorts are studded along the coast: Monte Carlo, Nice, Cannes, Fréjus, St Tropez, and Antibes. Of course, there are numerous campsites giving easy access to (but also a respite from) these ever-popular centres.
Inland the landscape rises from the coast to wild and craggy outcrops, vast plateaux and rugged hills. The air fills with the scent of wild thyme, lavender and rosemary as you walk through fragrant Grasse, the perfume capital of the world. It’s a heady, evocative region and a real assault on the senses.
The Var department epitomises the essence of the Côte d’Azur. Running from Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer through to Le Treyas, near Cannes and inland to Lac de Sainte-Croix and the Verdon Gorge.
From Hyères to Saint Raphael, there are countless picturesque fishing villages and quaint harbours, many now chic destinations complete with luxury yachts, harbour-side cafés, bustling beaches and high-end shops.
Saint-Tropez has become synonymous with glitzy glamour, a haven for stylish sun worshippers, ever since the days of Brigitte Bardot and the first topless beaches. Reassuringly though, every morning, a fruit, vegetable and fish market takes place at the picturesque Place aux Herbes near the port.
Aside from its beaches, Le Lavandou also has a charming old town with narrow streets, colourful buildings, and several restaurants and cafes. There are also several parks and gardens in the area, including the Jardin Botanique des Méditerranées, which features a wide variety of Mediterranean plants and trees.
Toulon is best known for its historic harbour and vibrant cultural scene. Here are some of the top tourist attractions in Toulon:
Toulon Harbor: The harbour of Toulon is the city's main attraction, with its bustling marina and waterfront promenades. You can take a boat tour of the harbour or simply stroll along the quays and enjoy the view of the boats and the sea.
Mont Faron: This mountain offers stunning panoramic views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea. You can reach the top by taking a cable car ride or by driving up the winding road that leads to the summit.
Musée National de la Marine: This museum is dedicated to the history of the French Navy, and features exhibits on shipbuilding, navigation, and maritime warfare. It is located in the historic Arsenal of Toulon, which was once the largest naval base in France.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-la-Seds: This cathedral is a beautiful example of Romanesque architecture, with its ornate façade. It dates back to the 11th century and is located in the heart of the old town.
Place Puget: This charming square is surrounded by buildings and features a lovely fountain at its centre. It is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike to relax and enjoy the atmosphere of the city.
These are just a few of the many attractions that Toulon has to offer. Whether you are interested in history, art, or simply enjoying the scenery, there is something for everyone in this vibrant and charming city.
Frejus has a rich history, having been founded by the Romans in 49 BC as a military port for the conquest of Gaul. It was later an important centre of the early Christian Church in the region and was the site of a major bishopric in the Middle Ages. Today, Fréjus is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful beaches, historic landmarks, and cultural events.
The Alpes-Maritimes borders Italy and the Mediterranean Sea. Known for its stunning natural beauty, charming coastal towns, and glamorous cities.
The capital, Nice, is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city known for its sunny beaches, colourful markets, and lively nightlife. Cannes, Monaco and Antibes are all glamourous resorts, whilst inland fragrances of lavender and roses fill the air around the perfume town of Grasse.
Sheltered by the surrounding hills of vineyards and orchards, Nice is the largest city along the Côte d’Azur. Its elegant centre brims with the shops and interesting restaurants of the Old Town, including the daily market on the Cours Saleya.
There is also the famously beautiful promenade, the Promenade des Anglais, which lines the Bay of Nice and which forms a wide, level surface just inviting you to, well, promenade along of an evening. Built by the English aristocracy, who popularised Nice and put it on the map in the 19th century, the promenade features colourful Venetian buildings and monumental buildings in the Belle Epoque style.
Drive along the numerous twisting corniches at various levels above the sea, and you’ll come across headlands overlooking stunning coves and incredible panoramic views at every turn. Inland and uphill, you’ll discover small, sleepy villages, some well-known like St Paul de Vence, with its little shops and galleries lining narrow winding streets. Others seem unchanged by the modern world, despite being so close to the sophisticated cosmopolitanism of the resorts nearby.
Antibes is an attractive town with a beautiful old centre, founded by the ancient Greeks. On the Cours Massena every morning one of the best markets in the region takes place and Picasso once inhabited the Château Grimaldi, now a museum with about two hundred of his works.
The Parc Thuret, a large botanical garden, offers wonderful walks and, for when the kids get just a little fractious, there are three zoos nearby: the Ile aux Oiseaux Magique, La Ferme du Far West and the impressive Marineland.
Cannes is known for its major international film festival, held every year in the Palais du Festival at the Promenade de la Croisette.
This promenade is quite different from Nice, being lined with palm trees, the most expensive beaches of Cannes and a string of luxury five-star hotels. The public beaches are on the Boulevard du Midi and the oldest part of Cannes is 36 metres high in the Le Suquet quarter, a maze of narrow streets that lead to the Castre. This castle is now a museum with a varied collection of primitive art.
A good way to escape the crowds is to take the ferry to the Iles de Lérins, two islands off the coast of Cannes, named after two saints: Saint-Honorat and Sainte-Marguerite. Here you can walk in fragrant pine woods.
Other attractions in the Alpes-Maritimes department
Monaco: This tiny principality is known for its lavish casinos, luxury shops, and a yacht-filled harbour. It is also home to the famous Monte Carlo Rally and the Monaco Grand Prix.
Saint-Paul-de-Vence: This picturesque medieval village is perched on a hilltop overlooking the Mediterranean and is known for its art galleries and charming cobblestone streets.
Grasse: This town is known as the perfume capital of the world and is home to many famous perfume factories and museums. It also features a charming old town with narrow streets and historic buildings.
Menton: This town is known for its lemon festival, which takes place every February, as well as its charming old town and beautiful gardens.
Eze: This medieval village is perched on a hilltop overlooking the Mediterranean and features narrow streets, historic buildings, and stunning views.
Wherever you choose to stay, and whichever of the great resorts you visit, the Côte d’Azur will be the connoisseur’s choice. Treasure it and savour its individuality and quality.
Map of the Côte d’Azur
Editor - Alan Rogers Guides
Rob is the General Manager at Alan Rogers Travel Group, he is responsible for the ongoing development of the Alan Rogers website and publication of the Alan Rogers Guides.
He has been involved in the leisure industry since completing a BTEC in Travel & Tourism in 1993. Previous roles have included the promotion of tourism in Yorkshire and running a motorcycle touring company in the Australian Outback.
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