When someone says French Riviera, you probably think of St.Tropez tans and celebrities, right? Maybe the glamorous Cannes film festival or the insanely priced Monaco Grand Prix comes to mind? It may not be somewhere you imagine visiting, unless you have a lot of money or a family yacht tucked away somewhere. But the Riviera is filled with so much more than what is seen between the pages of Hello magazine. After spending the best part of 6 years living here, these are some of my favourite spots. You may not have heard of them all, but should absolutely consider visiting… (and they totally won’t break the bank!)
If you follow me on instagram, then you’ll already know that I adore old towns, the older the better! This is probably why I fell totally in love with this perfectly preserved, medieval, hill-top town. Not too far from the city of Nice, it’s winding alleyways and crooked steps make you feel as if you’ve wandered into a fairytale or travelled back in time. The streets are filled with artists studios and the views from the top are stunning. You can read more about it here.
Lac de Saint-Cassien
Don’t get me wrong, the French Riviera is of course filled with beautiful beaches and blue waters (it is the Côte d’Azur afterall!) but there is just something about Lakes that appeals more to me. This one is probably my favourite. Like anywhere in the area, it does become crowded, especially during July and August. But unlike the beaches, you are guaranteed to find yourself a peaceful spot, if you don’t mind a little exploring to get it! You can even hop on a canoe, paddle board or peddleo to find your perfect place for the day…
This 1000 year old town is known for its chocolatiers as well as its outdoor activities. In high season, you can canoe down the river, play mini golf, grab a peddleo on the lake or if you’re feeling really adventurous, then you can hike up to the 3 crosses on top of the rock! If you’re not feeling the water activities, or you’re visiting out of season, wander it’s Friday morning market, grab a coffee, sample the chocolates and soak up the atmosphere!
On the coast, between the striking orange rock of the Esterel mountains and the famous city of Cannes, lies Théoule-sur-Mer. A quieter town than most along this stretch of coast, but still boasts the same traditional restaurants, yellow sands and blue waters. For a few euros you can wander the castle’s fairytale gardens, or, for considerably more, have dinner on its terrace! Built as a fortress during medieval times, the structure was repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt over the years. Then, in 1918, an American couple acquired the land and moved from Paris to make it their new home. Henry and Marie Clews, along with their son, rebuilt the castle, calling on a mixture of history and fantasy and giving it the wonderful atmosphere it still has today.
Yep, I know, it might seem like a funny name to some, but it’s actually one of the prettiest beaches on the coast. With its orange rocks and quiet coves, it is ideal for finding a peaceful place to sunbathe, snorkel or spot some hermit crabs! Various water sports are offered along the beach and there are plenty of sea-view restaurants to choice from. I’m generally not a fan of the beach (I know, what’s my problem, right?!) but this place has won me over!
Another name to amuse the English speakers! This sleepy village is perched up in the hills and filled with art. Every corner you turn, you will find gorgeous scenes painted on doors, murals on walls and brightly coloured characters. Dotted around the streets are various sculptures, making the whole place a permanent exhibition. The top of the town offers panoramic views and is perhaps one of the most peaceful places in the area. If you have chance to drive here, visit the similar villages of Fayence and Bagnols en-Forêt or incorporate it into a day at Lake Cassien.
The coast is full of these neon-lit fun fairs, including ‘Luna Park’ in Saint Aygulf, ‘Azur park’ nearer St. Tropez and ‘Antibes land’ in, well… Biot, actually! The rides are generally pricey at 3-5 euro a go, but entrance is free. Each one is filled with brightly coloured rides for all ages, grab machines to rob you of all sense and pocket change and loads of greasy, sugary foods! What more could you want, right? Most begin opening for the weekends around June and then every night in July and August. Opening times are around 8pm and (when busy) don’t close their gates until gone 2am! Keep an eye out for leaflets in neighbouring shops and tourist offices which will give you discounted goes on selected rides.
Ah, little Venice, there seems to be one in every country now doesn’t there? You can see where it gets its nickname from though. With is stone bridges and coloured houses, this town is perfect for a keen photographer. Although busy, it does have a lovely beach to relax on when you’re not climbing the tower for these views or indulging in one of several ice cream parlours. Boats run from here to the golden town of St. Tropez, which is the ideal transport if you’re looking to visit. As someone who prefers this town to the over-priced St. Tropez, I would highly recommend visiting both places in the one day!
Once an aircraft hangar, Base Nature is now a playground for anyone who wishes to visit. With festivals and events taking place right through the year, you never know what you may find. Some of my favourites were a tattoo convention, where we watched the artists at work, and a bike festival, with everything from top brands to buy from, to BMX shows. When it isn’t hosting (often free) events, every sport imaginable has a place here. Watch the amateurs on the skate ramps, cycle the pathways, fly a kite on the fields or hover board along the disused runway. Just a stones throw from Port Fréjus and right next to the sea, break up a day at the beach, or take a stroll on your way to dinner in the marina.
This abandoned landmark has a sad history but is well worth a visit. Walkers, cyclists and curious minds alike will find something to satisfy here. When the area isn’t parched and brown in Summer, water runs in the shallow river and flowers pop up amongst the rock. Everything you need to know about Malpasset can be found here
Would you like to visit the Riviera? Perhaps you have a favourite not on the list? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or let me know on facebook or instagram! Oh, and don’t forget to pin this post for later!