The South of France is the gem of Europe. Charming medieval towns, beaches, resorts and of course, wonderful food. If you have never seen it, you owe it to yourself to discover what well-heeled travelers have known for two centuries.
Nice is in the south of France. The Queen of the French Riviera, which the French call “La Cote d’Azur” (AzureCoast or Blue Coast). It is a wonderful city with lots of charm and character; a mixture of French and Italian cultures where the people are easy-going and friendly even if you don’t speak French.
Although you might think it is a summer resort, you can visit Nice at any time of the year and still have a good time. If you happen to go in the winter, you will be surprised to see flowers in their numerous parks and gardens.
Nice has a Mediterranean winter, so the temperature stays around 40 to 50 degrees (7-10 °C) during the coldest months but if you like skiing, ski resorts such as Valberg and Isola 2000 can be reached by car in one or two hours. If you go in the summer, get ready to share the city with lots of tourists.
The popular streets where most restaurants and cafes are, can get crowded, but they can be a lot of fun if you enjoy people watching; and since most of the streets are closed to traffic, it is not hard to just walk around and enjoy the upbeat atmosphere.
Nice has a major airport and its close location to the city makes getting there a cinch.
Finding a hotel should be easy since there are plenty of accommodations for all kinds of budgets. The author is a frequent guest of the Meridien Hotel, a 4-star hotel located on the Promenade des Anglais, facing the Bay of Angels (Baie des Anges).
Things to see in Nice
Promenade des Anglais. The Victorian English residents of the 1800s provided the funds to build the beautiful boulevard, hence its name. It is a wide avenue that follows the bay’s coastline and it’s lined with beautiful palm trees and flowers.
Hotel Negresco. Beautiful and glamorous, it is located at 37 Promenade des Anglais and if you are not rich enough to stay there, you must go and see it.
Old Nice. Winding narrow streets with Italianate buildings painted in earthly colors describe this old part of the city. You will enjoy strolling. people watching and quaint little shops full of charming Provencal crafts.
Marche aux Fleurs. Located on the Cours Saleya, the flower market is open Tuesday through Sunday, 7 am-5 pm, but if you decide to go, check with your hotel for the hours of operation. You can also have lunch or dinner there, where a large variety of restaurants set up tables and chairs outside where you can dine in a pleasant and fun atmosphere.
Marc Chagall Museum. If you like modern art, you can catch a glimpse of the painter’s most important collection. The hours of operation vary depending on the season so check with your hotel clerk before you go.
Other places in South of France
Nice is so well located that you can take half-day and full-day trips either by car or by public transportation. Easily reached towns by car or public transportation are Monaco, Eze, Grasse, St Paul de Vence, Cannes, and St Tropez.
While Monaco may be the world’s tiniest country (the Vatican is even smaller), it more than makes up for its diminutive stature with an air of sophistication. Known as one of the world’s most notorious tax havens and the host of the annual Formula One Grand Prix since the early 20th century, Monaco has long been a draw for the rich and famous.
Despite its enormous wealth, Monaco does not have the prettiest town on the French Riviera. High-rise hotels, super-yachts, and apartment blocks adorn Monte Carlo’s skyline like dominoes in an utterly bewildering street layout that appears to have been designed to confuse the sane pedestrian.
The rocky outcrop known as Le Rocher, which juts out on the south side of the port, is crowned by a rather charming old town, which is home to the principality’s royal residence.
A symbol of glamour and elegance, Monaco sits on a beautiful stretch of the Mediterranean coast. Its most famous town Monte Carlo has much to offer with its casinos, boutiques, and exotic gardens. Don’t forget to visit the village of Monaco, located high on “the rock” as it is affectionally called by the locals. It is a charming town with shops and cafes and a wonderful view of the sea.
Eze, a medieval village, sits on a hilltop overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Eze, despite its small size, has a lot to offer visitors. As a starting point for exploring the surrounding coastline and small towns, Eze is an excellent choice.
Eze is located in the middle of the French Riviera’s most popular tourist destinations, Nice and Monaco. The Mediterranean Sea can be seen from the hilltop village.
Nice, Monaco, Cannes, and Antibes are all easily accessible via public transportation to the small village of Eze-en-Provence. 25 minutes is the time it takes to get from Nice to Eze by bus.
The beach is only a minute’s walk from the station in Eze-Sur-Mer, which is serviced by trains running from Nice. To get to the Village, you’ll have to walk for a while.
Grasse is located in the hills above Cannes, the more well-known city on the French Riviera, and it lacks direct access to the sea. You’ll find plenty of jasmines, tuberose, and lavender fields there. It has earned the title of “Perfume Capital of the World” for this reason.
For a while, things were different. Grasse’s emergence as a center of the perfume industry dates back to its reputation as a foul-smelling metropolis in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The town of Grasse was well-known throughout Europe for its leather goods, not perfume, in the medieval and sixteenth centuries.
The town’s tanneries contributed to the stench of rotting animals and lye. Glove manufacturers were the first to use maceration, a process for improving the smell of their product.
Considered the perfume capital of France Grasse is a small hilly town with beautiful parks and panoramic views. If you go to Grasse, you must visit the perfume factories. The biggest is Parfumerie Fragonard. An English-speaking guide will show you the process of extracting the perfume from hundreds of pounds of flower petals.
St Paul de Vence
Saint-Paul-de-Vence is a town with the charm of a village located in the extreme southeast of France in the Alpes-Maritime department. Around 3,500 people live here on 7.26 square kilometers, which corresponds to a population density of 480 inhabitants per square kilometer. The well-known city of Nice is around 20 kilometers away, and the no less beautiful Antibes is around 40 minutes drive away.
The climate in Saint-Paul-de is the Mediterranean, with mild, rainy winters and hot summers. It gets warmest at around 27 degrees Celsius in summer in the months of July and August. The coldest month is January, but even then the temperature does not usually drop below zero degrees. Precipitation is to be expected especially in the months between October and January. The driest month is July. Then most hours of sunshine per day can be expected.
The best time to visit is late spring or early summer when it is not yet the holiday season in all of Europe, but the days in the south of France are already sunny and warm. Fires can occur more frequently in midsummer.
A picture-perfect medieval town, sitting on top of a hill, St Paul de Vence has been painted by many artists and photographed by thousands of tourists.
Cannes sits on the shores of La Napoule bay, surrounded by a backdrop of Mediterranean hills. Cannes is one of the most popular cities on the French Riviera.
Its beaches, Mediterranean climate, and exceptional geographic location near Nice (15.5 miles), Monaco (22 miles), and Saint-Tropez (27 miles) attract some three million visitors from all over the world each year.
Inevitably, the International Film Festival and the world-famous La Croisette come to mind when discussing Cannes. England’s political and literary figurehead Lord Henry Brougham fell head over heels for this small town in 1834 and helped to popularize it among his fellow countrymen.
Cannes has evolved into much more than the sleepy fishing village it once was. Film stars and other wealthy tourists flock to the city’s prestigious luxury hotels (Le Martinez, le Carlton…), which are frequented by the likes of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The Palais des Festivals in Cannes is where the stars of the world’s film industry arrive each year for the Cannes Film Festival.
Saint-Tropez used to be a small, unknown fishing village until it was discovered by Guy de Maupassant and Paul Signac at the end of the 19th century. Many more writers and artists followed and the place quickly became a meeting place for the fine arts. For example, Paul Signac, Henri Matisse, and Pierre Bonnard were there, whose works are also on display in the Musée de l’Annonciade at the port. There were no holiday homes or even luxury hotels back then.
These came in the 50s, when the town became famous around the world, particularly through the film “And God Created Women” with Brigitte Bardot. The film was shot there in 1956 and resulted in a real rush of artists but also high society. It is Brigitte Bardot and Gunter Sachs who, together with the gendarmerie films by Louis de Funès, made Saint-Tropez known in Germany. The television series of the same name “St. Tropez ”contributed to its popularity.
Today, many prominent Europeans spend their holidays in Saint-Tropez or stop there with their yachts and visit the well-known beach clubs or fine restaurants or shop in the expensive boutiques of luxury labels.
Once a small fishing village, St Tropez is now a summer place for the jet set. It is sitting on the southern shore of France made it attractive to turn-of-the-century artists who were then followed by writers, poets, and eventually movie stars and their fans. It is now internationally famous.
So, get your tickets, book your hotel and go to the south of France. Whether it’s summer, autumn, or winter, the south of France is always welcoming. We promise you will have an unforgettable experience. You can start with Nice and go around through all Riviera’s cities, towns and villages and enjoy your holidays.