My most recent adventure was to the Cote d’Azur. I decided on this location mainly because I had never been to France and Google’s Flight Matrix (bookmark this my travel lovers!) found a great deal – so Nice it was! My travel buddy and boyfriend, Stephen, and I booked our 8 day trip the first week of April.
In comparison to my prior trip to Bali, I didn’t do much research or planning before hand. There are countless hot spots in the French Rivera: Nice, Cannes, Monaco, St. Tropez, Marseilles, etc. so I knew that we would want to fit in as places as we could, but still get a relaxing vacation. Instead of detailing our trip out, we booked one hotel in Nice for the first few nights, rented a car, and basically winged it. My top tips and itinerary for exploring The Cote d’Azur are below!
1. Prioritize The French Riviera is big, accessible, and beautiful. While I don’t have to point out the pros to this, the biggest con you will run into on a trip like this is time. I only had 7 “adventure” days so I really had to prioritize what and where I wanted to see. Be realistic! My first crack at this list included 5 different cities in 1 week which really doesn’t give you enough time to explore each spot. I recommend choosing your top 3 spots and then filling in smaller towns if time permits.
2. Rent a Car Highly recommend renting a car if you plan on exploring different cities! Public transportation is convenient and affordable, but the freedom of having a car was a game changer. We were able to cross a couple more spots off our list than we would have been able to do sans car. Plus, the drive is gorgeous!
3. Pack Light My trip was in the beginning of April – the start of Spring in the South of France. It was pretty chilly in the mornings and evenings, but hot in the afternoons so layering will be your best friend. Locals dress pretty casually so there is no need for anything fancy (unless that’s your fancy!). Also, the French Riviera is not well-suited for luggage. Stay away from heavy rolling bags or larger suitcases. A couple pairs of pants and mix matching tops is definitely the way to go. Also, don’t forget scarves and comfy sandals! See my
French Style post for my full packing list!
4. Language Barrier If you don’t know much aside from ‘Bonjour’ and ‘Merci’ I recommend studying up a little bit! I took French in high school so I remembered a bit here and there which ended up being more helpful than I thought. Most people spoke at least some English so it never was a big hindrance. However, there were several restaurants with only French menus so you may want to brush up on food and drinks.
5. Don’t Rule Out Airbnb
We stayed in hotels every night, but we both wish we would have tried out Airbnb! There are countless markets with fresh produce, herbs, fish, cheese, etc. and it was such a shame not to take advantage of it and get to cook. Cannes would be a great spot to try out Airbnb as the city is more spread out and hotels were a bit more pricey here. If you are driving, having a parking spot in a busier city would be a huge plus too!
Day 1 – Nice The jet lag day. I am always exhausted after a long flight so I tend to take it pretty easy the first day and get myself oriented with the time change. We rented a car for the duration of the trip so we picked up the car at the airport before heading to our hotel, Hotel Perouse. If you decide to rent a car and are staying in Old Town, you can park at the Port Lympia’s parking lot. This is where several cruises dock so there are plenty of open spots here! After settling in, we grabbed an early dinner at Chez Juliette (great little spot!) and called it a night.
Day 2 – Nice We hit the ground running on our first full day in Nice. After grabbing a coffee to go and a couple delicious croissants, we headed down to explore Port Lympia. After a magical sunrise walk, we made our way to the Cours Saleya market in Old Town. The market is filled with fresh food, herbs, and – the flowers! We, however, got extra lucky because it just happened to be a Monday. Every Monday, the market also turns into a Brocante or antique market. Antiques, jewelry, collectibles, art, memorabilia, books, etc. – you know it, the market had it. You could spend hours shifting through the market, which we did. The next stop on our list was the Promenade des Anglais. Basically, it’s a long boardwalk along the sea that runs through Nice – you can’t miss it. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the beach and sipping mojotios before grabbing dinner in Old Town.
Day 3 – Nice
Luckily, our hotel was in prime location so the Castle of Nice was just above us so we made the climb up the castle early. We spent the rest of the morning at the Parc de la Colline du Château. This is an absolute must-see if you are in Nice! It is free to go up and the views are worth every step. There is a small market and plenty of spots to have a picnic at the top.
Afterwards, we headed down to Jardin Albert 1er and continued down Avenue Jean Medecin towards Nice’s shopping district. The main shopping strip is on Avenue Jean Medecin, but Rue Massena and Rue Paradis have great options as well! If you like to shop, this is the place to go. We then stopped at Garibaldi Square for lunch which was absolutely charming and with a great view of Nice Chapelle du Saint-Sépulcre.
That evening, we took a scroll on Promenade du Pavillion through Nice Parc before grabbing dinner in the centre of Nice.
Day 4 – Monaco After a few days exploring Nice, we made our way towards Monaco. The drive is right along the coastline and just stunning! We drove through Eze and stopped for lunch in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, which was the perfect halfway point from Nice to Monte Carlo. After about an hour drive, we headed out to explore Monte Carlo!
We went to check out the ornately famous Metropole Shopping center and the gorgeous gardens at the Grimialdi Forums. It was easy to walk around and stumble upon beautiful views and Grace Kelly memorabilia (because, it’s Grace Kelly).
That night, we went to the Fairmont for dinner at Nobu. Best.meal.ever. We opted for the tasting menu, which was recommended for newbies. Highly recommend if you want to splurge! The next stop on our list was the Casino de Monte Carlo. The casino itself was stunning so even if you are not a big gambler, you should 100% pop in!
Day 5 – Cannes What I lovingly like to refer to as the hangover day (casino night, can you blame me?). So, of course, I needed McDonalds. We plugged in the nearest Mickey D’s into the GPS (bless Stephen’s heart) and headed up the mountains. Talk about another scenic view! The drive was even more beautiful the second time around – and yes, I like to claim this was all part of my plan.
After a much needed chicken nugget meal, we made our way down the mountains towards Cannes. Again, everything is fairly close to each other so we were only in the car for about 2 hours total. We stayed in the City Centre of Cannes which was a perfect location! If you opt for public transportation, the Gare de Cannes train station is in this area as well. After checking in, we spent the rest of the afternoon walking along the pier.
Day 6 – Cannes We woke up early to make sure we caught the good stuff at the Cannes Farmer’s Market – Marché Forville. The market was overflowing with fresh fish and herbs and all kinds of goodies, similar to the one in Nice. This is one big reason we would do Airbnb next time around. There are so many fresh foods that we would have loved to cook for ourselves a couple nights. Cannes would be a great spot to do so because the city is much more compact than other spots. We also explored the Musée de la Castre and the Beaureux of Arts which overlooks the city of Cannes. Amazing views and a relaxing break from the bustle of the city!
We spent the rest of the afternoon window shopping along the Promenade de la Croisette and sipping on rose at Plage du Goéland (great food, even better service).
Day 7 – Antibes
That morning we had a major case of the Sunday scaries. We headed back towards Nice to prepare for our flight back home. We decided to make one more stop on our drive back and I am so glad we did! Antibes is the most charming town with a ton of character. Walking around Fort Fort Carré with gelato in hand was the perfect end to our trip! Highly recommend spending an afternoon exploring this spot. Great market finds and unique shops. The Musée Picasso and Marineland are also popular attractions if you have a full day here.
Overall, the trip was magical and we plan on going back to explore more of the Cote d’Azur! Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.