Looking to plan a 7-day trip to Provence and the French Riviera with my husband and parents. Our dudget is somewhere in the middle - willing to splurge when and where it counts, and scale back when splurging isn't necessary. We love good food, good wine and good culture. Know 7 days is a short time to get it all in but would like to see as many "must see" towns/villages as possible within in-land Provence, and my mom would like to see Nice and St. Tropez, for sure. Trying to understand how much time is needed in the Riviera and what's worth seeing - Nice, St. Tropez, Cannes, Monte Carlo, etc. Is it easy to drive between the cities or take public transport? Which is the best town to use as a home base? What is the best town to stay in Provence if we would like to be centrally located to take day trips to other towns? We are thinking of going next June.
Thank you in advance for any guidance!
I've taken three trips to Provence all of them 7-8 days. Never used a car. I took the train between cities and never had a problem. Here are some of my favorite places.
Eze, France, just outside of Monaco. Its a beautiful medieval city. Here you might need to rent a car or arrange for a taxi in advance. But its well worth the trip to see this view and experience the charm.
Monte Carlo. Don't pass up the chance to visit Monte Carlo, especially the casino and the yacht basin.
Nice I made Nice my home base while spending time on the eastern portion of Provence. Get a close as you can to the water and the historic part of the City. Lots to see and do along the promenade and the city.
Cagnes-sur-Mer. Not really a priority place to stop. Most of the city is not that charming, but there is the old city (more of a village) at the top of a big hill where I had dinner. It was one of most charming places that I had visited. This picture was taken several years ago, so I don't know if the restaurant still exists.
Cannes. Cannes is worthwhile to visit, just because of its association with the Film Festival. Where there is no festival, the city is pretty much just another beach town. It has a nice beach and great old section to walk around. Cannes is also a good place as a home base in this area of Provence.
Saint-Tropez. And yes, you have to stop over at Saint-Tropez. Beautiful and fun.
There are so many places to visit along the French Riveria. I suggest that you mark off a few places that you know you have to visit and build in some free time just to explore some of the areas around those key areas. Some of my best experiences came as a result of exploring the area.
Have fun. You are going to love the experience.
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In the Riviera you probably want to use Nice as your home base and take day trips to other towns from there. It's a big city with lots to do and plenty of plazas and night life. There's a truffle restaurant there called Terres De Truffes which is delicious. The Truffle olive oil that comes on your table is to die for. I had to try hard not to steal the bottle. The train from Nice is really easy and is a quick ride to Cannes or Monte Carlo. One place to be sure to check out is Antibes . It's a small place but so beautiful and the Musée Picasso d'Antibes there is wonderful. Cannes is nice, but honestly very touristy and full of people who want to go and see where the stars have been. With so many amazing places in France, it's definitely low on my list of favorites.
Saint-Tropez is the one place where you probably want to spend a night outside of Nice. Although it doesn't look far on a map, traffic can be insane as there is basically only one road along the coast that connects the towns. But it's definitely worth a stay. The boardwalk where all the yachts pull up is insane.
Provence is incredible. My favorite region of France by far. It's scenic and romantic and historic all at the same time and the food is absolutely delicious. Places to hit up: Arles - a small town with some great restaurants including Bistro À Côté by Jean-Luc Rabanel - a small place for mouth watering French country gourmet comfort food. Avignon is a must for history, especially the Palais des Papes. Saint-Remy-de-Provence is an adorable little place that is a hidden gem in Provence. If you're there in late July/early August, you MUST drive through the lavender fields. The sight is breathtaking. Provence is really best experienced by driving through the countryside from one town to the next. Don't take the highway or you'll end of missing so much of the region. Pack a picnic and stop on the roadside for a snack and a drink. You'll see that everyone does this in Provence. Drive along the Gorges du Verdon for gorgeous views. Stop in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie for a hike which is an adorable town and on your way to the Riviera.
I'm sorry to say that you probably won't be able to do all this in 7 days but if you can just hit up a few of these areas and get a nice mix of old, and new, country and city, you'll be hooked. The best part about France is that it just keeps drawing you back for more and more.
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There are already excellent answers on this thread, so I just want to add my 2 cents! If you are looking for a beach day somewhere quiet, budget friendly, and unique you should check out Plage Mala. To access the beach, you walk about 15 minutes around a cove. The path contains steep stairs and narrow walkways, so make sure your group is up for the walk! (I would not consider this a hike). Gorgeous photo opps, and gives you a sense of adventure! There is a surf shack if you want to rent kayaks or paddleboards, and 2 beach clubs. We went to them both and found them equally enjoyable. Also a floating dock you can easily swim out to and bask in the perfect riviera sunshine.
If you want to capture the essence of the Cote d'Azure in one afternoon, head to Saint-Tropez and spend your hard earned dosh at Club 55. It's a chic, family friendly beach club/restaurant exuding all the charm and glamour of 1950's Tropez and none of the snobbery. Call well ahead and reserve towels/umbrellas and a 2pm lunch reservation. After tanning yourselves on the small but lovely beach, head to the gorgeous outdoor restaurant and enjoy carafes of Rose wine while staring at perfectly put together French families (think: chignons, white linen dresses and well-mannered kids) munching on crudites. The club has quite a lovely history, opening as a restaurant to feed Bridgette Bardot and her crew while filming in the area. It has never let me down.
Side note: try not to let your jaw hit the floor as the yachts stop by for a spot of lunch. Sigh.
I've been to this area three times, and have always stayed in the old town of Nice (renting an apartment through Air BnB). I found it was the perfect base. There's lots to see in Nice itself, including the Cours Saleya flower market, the Musée Matisse, Le Chateau and, of course, the beaches along the Promenade des Anglais. The old town (Vieux Nice) is lovely to wander round - narrow streets, tall, colourful buildings, lots of tiny restaurants and cafés and specialist shops.
Outside of Nice, Monaco is certainly worth a visit, if only to see how the other half live! The harbour is well worth a look, as is the Monte Carlo Casino (which is free to go in, and you can just have a look - you don't need to play!). In between Nice and Monaco, there's also the village of Eze, with beautiful views over the Mediterranean. But take good walking shoes for that one, it's very hilly.
Further inland, the villages of Saint-Paul-de-Vence and Vence are lovely - very old walled towns with lots of history, culture and character. Grasse is famous for its perfume factories, which you can take tours round to learn the history of perfume-making in the region and to see how it's made today (and buy the finished product at factory prices!). And finally, Tende is an interesting day trip - a train from Nice through the mountains takes you up to this little town almost on the Italian border, which is famous for its prehistoric rock carvings.
All of these places can be reached easily by public transport from Nice - I used a combination of bus (to Vence and Grasse) and train (Monaco and Tende). It's reasonably cheap and I found it really easy to use.
Hope you enjoy your trip!
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I'm from Nice, so I'll try to help you:).
Did you think about using Antibes as home base? The old part of this city is very nice. St. Tropez and Monte Carlo are not good as home base because there located at extremities of the French Riviera. I would say that Nice or Antibes are ok.
Yes Nice, Saint-Tropez, Cannes, Monte Carlo are worth to visit.
I tried to think about a program for you:
- Day 1 - Nice in one full day, because it's a middle-size city.
- Day 2 - Saint-Paul-de-Vence village and Grasse (the village of the perfumes).
- Day 3 - Saint-Tropez, it's about one hour and a driving from Antibes. It's very difficult to access by transport. Be aware that in summer time there are big traffic jams as this nice village is very touristic, and sometimes you get stuck for hours.
- Day 4 - visit Monaco-Monte-Carlo. When coming back, stop Beaulieu-sur-Mer, the beach is beautiful or Eze Village, so nice! You can also stop Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, the walk along the cape is gorgeous, and Villefranche-sur-Mer, the village and the beach are very beautiful too.
- Day 5 - visit Cannes in the morning. If you like picnics, you can take a boat from Cannes and go to the Île Sainte-Marguerite.
Day 6 – you could visit inland villages like Gourdon (50 minutes driving from Antibes) or go further to visit Entrevaux (about 1H15 minutes driving), there is a citadel built on a rocky spur.
Day 7 – You can go to the beach and do what locals do: having a picnic, enjoying the sun, relaxing, swimming and chatting: ).
I would say that renting a car is better as this is more flexible than transport. That being said, you could take a train to go to Nice or to Monaco from Antibes. However, if you go back late for example after having dinner, there are a lot fewer trains.
It’s easy to drive between the cities when there is no traffic : ). Be just aware that when you drive on highways in France you have to pay for toll fees.
June is more okay (like September) than July and August. These months are French holidays and the French Riviera is very very touristic. In June the weather is nice, it begins to be touristic, but this is not the peak of the high season yet.
I hope it helps, enjoy your trip!
PS: if you like wine, you can try the rosé wine. A big part of the rosé wine is produced in Provence.
PS 2: if you want to visit typical villages of Provence, it’s better to visit other parts of Provence like the Vaucluse region.
The French Riviera is a part of Provence, It’s beautiful and there are inland villages, but the typical villages of Provence are located in Lubéron or near Avignon. I found these websites where you can find more information on these parts of Provence: http://www.provenceguide.co.uk/, http://www.provence.guideweb.com/villes/indexa.php
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My wife and I stayed in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in Provence, famous in France for its antique street markets (the best outside of Paris). It is a charming town with its own unique history. It is somewhat centrally located if you wish to visit the wine country to the north and other villages to the south and east.
Not far from here you should make sure to visit Les Carrières de Lumières, an old limestone quarry that has been turned into a performance space with slides projected on the huge. flat, white wall and choreographed to music. It is a truly magical experience that cannot really be described in words - you must experience it to believe it!
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