When you plan to travel to a new place, or even when traveling to a place you’ve visited before, it’s hard to know where to stay. Which city or town is the best to stay in that suits your needs and wants?
So where to stay on the French Riviera?
Sometimes, you just wish that there would be just one place to stay in, which also happens to have a five-star ranking and offer top-class service yet still be affordable. Which house to rent or which hotel to stay in is not everything, though. If you are going to stay in a city or visit a particular geographical area, like the French Riviera, it can still be frustrating since you have to decide which part you’re going to stay in. Are you going to stay by the water, do you want to stay a bit away from all the crowds?
Sometimes, the hunt can be half the experience, and this goes for both the location and where you stay. If you book from a distance which most people do, it’s always interesting to see the place you booked and if it lived up to your expectations or if the images that showcased it portrayed the place a little more beautiful than it actually was – both the hotel/house and the surrounding areas.
These are all questions that many travelers are struggling to find answers to, especially when it comes to the French Riviera.
When you’re going to just one city, it’s easier to decide, but it is the fact that the French Riviera is a geographical area which includes a large number of cities, towns, and villages, that open up for plenty of opportunities to find something that suits your preferences.
The question of where to stay on the French Riviera is asked frequently by travelers, and in this article, we’ll be doing our best to tackle it and give you answers that are adequate.
Where to stay on the French Riviera?
With a geographical area as large as the French Riviera, it’s hard to know which parts are the best and which cities on the French Riviera which are most attractive.
Of course, when it comes down to it, it depends on your tastes and preferences. For example, the French Riviera has several small villages and towns, and while this is something that would make some people fall in love, for others, it would turn into the most boring stay of their life. This is why you have to include all the different factors that play a part in the decision, including tastes, budget, and holiday habits.
The good news is that essentially everywhere you go, it’s absolutely stunning on the French Riviera. The scenery, the stunning coastline, the azure blue Mediterranean, the gorgeous pine trees, the small picturesque villages and houses, and much more.
The best of all which tends to make it easier for tourists to decide where to stay on the French Riviera is the fact that you can make day trips to pretty much everywhere in the region no matter where you’re based.
This is great news since it means that just because you have decided a place on where to stay on the French Riviera, you’re not really locked and tied down to that area as you can still explore the rest of the area and do activities you like and see things you enjoy.
When it comes to deciding where to stay on the French Riviera, it all boils down to preference. The good news is that the French Riviera lacks no supply of things to choose from.
Most people who visit the French Riviera tend to go to the major cities on the French Riviera. This is obviously nothing strange, as the largest cities tend to be the most appealing and most natural choices for tourists.
If you are to trust the opinions of the crowds, the answer to where to stay on the French Riviera is predicated on where most people stay on the French Riviera.
The most popular cities are:
It’s not surprising that Nice is the city that is the answer to most tourists’ question on where to stay on the French Riviera.
It is the largest city on the French Riviera if you don’t include Marseilles (since the French Riviera has no official borders), and most importantly, the airport of the French Riviera with which most people arrive by is situated in Nice – the Nice Cote d’Azur International airport, which makes Nice a natural choice to stay in during their stay on the French Riviera due to its accessibility.
Another important reason why many people answer the question of where to stay on the French Riviera with Nice is that it is considered to be situated in the middle of the French Riviera.
Remember that I said that it is possible to travel to essentially anywhere on the French Riviera as a day trip? Well, the fact is that if you have ”the middle” of the French Riviera as your base, it becomes a lot easier to explore the rest of the French Riviera in both directions, right? Nice is less than half an hour away from many other popular cities for tourists to visit, including Monaco, Antibes, Juan-Les Pins, and many more.
There are, of course, many more reasons why Nice is most tourists’ answer to where to stay on the French Riviera:
There is a wide range of hotels in Nice, which means that no matter what your preferences are, you’ll be able to find something for you. Nice has everything from hostels to five-star hotels that provide the very best service.
Stunning old town
The old town of Nice is extremely beautiful and picturesque. It is built in a traditional Provencal, Mediterranean style, and is very picturesque. Narrow alleys, colorful buildings, and cobblestone streets is what defined the old town of Nice. Best of all is that the old town is packed with bars and restaurants which makes it full of life, especially in the evenings.
Promenade des Anglais
Promenade des Anglais is undoubtedly the most iconic promenade on the French Riviera.
The iconic walk which was built by the wealthy British aristocracy who wanted to walk along the Mediterranean without getting their feet dirty is a staggering 7 km long which means you can enjoy long evening promenades.
A ton of museums
If you’re wondering where to stay on the French Riviera and you are, at the same time interested in visiting museums while traveling, Nice is the place for you to stay. There are a ton of museums, churches, and monuments in Nice which are all worth visiting in their own way.
Less positive things about Nice
As with everything, there are both minuses and pluses of Nice.
Some minuses about the city include the following:
A large city
With Nice being considered the unofficial capital of the French Riviera, it is a large city with a lot of traffic, a lot of people, and lots of noise just like any other metropolis. If you are thinking about where to stay on the French Riviera but know that you would like to stay in a calm and relaxed city, Nice is not the city for you. If you, on the other hand, look for places on the French Riviera which are full of life and offer plenty of things to do both during the day and during the night, Nice is the perfect alternative.
Nice has shingle beaches which makes them less than children friendly. Several other cities on the French Riviera offer sand beaches, so if you are planning on deciding where to stay on the French Riviera based on the beaches, nice isn’t the most ideal decision.
(A plus about Nice) A great city for traveling on a budget
Make no mistake, because Nice is not much cheaper than most other cities on the French Riviera if you plan on doing all of the regular tourist activities and eat at the tourist restaurants on the busiest shopping street in Nice. But the good news is that if you plan carefully and choose your spot wisely, Nice is a great place for young people on a budget. In the old town, you can both eat and drink cheaply in the Old Town.
Rick Steves Snapshot Nice & the French Rivier
Cannes is one of the most iconic cities on the French Riviera, known for its glitz and glamour, and most importantly, for being the city where the annual Cannes Film Festival is hosted.
I like to describe Cannes as a city that is ”less than Nice” and ”more than Antibes”.
What does this mean?
It means that Cannes is a smaller city than Nice. It is much calmer, much more laid-back, and less crowded. At the same time, it is larger than Antibes, more full of life, and offers more things to do. As such, we find Cannes to be the perfect middle.
Cannes is, unlike Antibes, full of life all year round. There are always things to do and see, and Cannes is especially a good place to visit if shopping is your jam. Here, you’ll find an enormous number of luxury designer shops, mainly situated on the iconic Boulevard de la Croisette, but also more affordable shops in the main shopping street of Rue d’Antibes
In Cannes, you’ll also find a large number of bars, cafés, and restaurants, many of which in A traditional French style.
Cannes has one of the busiest events calendars on the French Riviera, and it feels like there’s always going on – from the MIPIM to the Film Festival, to the Cannes Yachting Festival, to the Cannes Lions, and many more. These events help draw a ton of people to the city, as well as lots of press which helps with promoting Cannes.
The big benefit of Cannes is that it has sandy beaches which makes the beaches extremely popular. Cannes is one of few places on the French Riviera with sandy beaches, and this is something that draws people from all over the French Rivera.
The iconic Cannes Croisette beach walk stretches along the coastline, with the sandy beaches on its side. It’s a perfect place to just sit and relax and view out over the stunning Mediterranean.
It’s undeniable that Cannes is a city of great prestige, and this is why you’ll find plenty of five-star hotels here. As such, the prices tend to be quite high as well.
What’s great about Cannes is that it is easily accessible. The Cannes train station is right in the center of Cannes, and trains depart regularly.
Traveling from Nice airport to Cannes can be done by helicopter, and this only takes 7 minutes. If you take the airport bus, you’re going to look at a little more than 30 minutes, the same as if you rent a car.
Also, have in mind that during the Cannes Film Festival, the prices are high, especially for accommodation, but also for flights to Nice, and so unless you really want to visit the Cannes Film Festival, it might not be the ideal time to visit.
Here are the top reasons to have Cannes as your ”Where to stay on the French Riviera” location:
A large number of people go to the French Riviera only for sunbathing, swimming, and relaxing on the beach, and if that is your plan, it’s nice to be on a sandy beach and not a pebbled beach where you want to wear shoes.
The water in Cannes is beautifully blue, and it is shallow which makes it perfect for kids.
There are quite a large number of five-star restaurants in Cannes as well as many high-quality restaurants that serve delicious food.
The iconic Croisette is a reason to visit Cannes. Along the Croisette boulevard, you’ll find some of the most iconic hotels on the French Riviera including Carlton Intercontinental and Martinez. Furthermore, you’ll also find an endless number of designer shops along this luxurious strip.
Cannes isn’t known for being a party town, but it does offer some great places for nightlife which includes restaurants, nightclubs, and bars.
The big minus about Cannes is that it is expensive.
Being a town of glitz and glamour, Cannes is expensive. The beaches and the restaurants along the coastline and near the Croisette are especially pricey.
Moon French Riviera: Nice, Cannes, Saint-Tropez, and the Hidden Towns in Between (Travel Guide)
Antibes is another popular city on the French Riviera which many tourists choose as the place on where to stay on the French Riviera.
Antibes is much calmer than both Cannes and Nice. It is smaller, less crowded, and more of a relaxing summer resort which, in the winter, significantly slows down its pace as all of the tourists and summer visitors leave. In other words, unless you want to visit a quite dead city, Antibes is not the place to visit during the winter.
Antibes includes Cap d’Antibes and is situated just minutes away from Juan-les-Pins which means that when talking about Antibes, Juan-les-Pins is often included as well.
Cap d’Antibes is a stunning peninsula, a cap, and one of the most beautiful in the south of France. Antibes is situated between Cannes and Nice, which makes it a great answer to where to stay on the French Riviera if you plan on exploring more of what the French Riviera has to offer.
If all you’re looking for is a relaxing time on the French Riviera with lots of time spend on a beach under the lovely Mediterranean sun, Antibes is a great place to stay in.
It is smaller, calmer, and more picturesque than all of the other major cities on the French Riviera. It is divided into two distinct parts: the old town and the new part of Antibes. The most iconic, popular, and beautiful part to be in is the old town, which has lots of old buildings, old walls which were built to protect from enemies, as well as castles and other typical buildings from the past which today are stunning to look at.
Antibes is mainly known for two things: multi-million-dollar yachts, and an old town that is almost like a maze, encased by 16th-century ramparts. Antibes is the number one town for superyachts to stay, and the vast majority of the largest superyachts in the world will sometime visit Antibes’ harbor.
There are plenty of museums in Antibes worth visiting, including the Picasso Museum where he himself lived for a period of his life. Antibes is a city that has a rich culture, both in buildings and museums, and so if you’re interested in culture, Antibes should definitely be your answer to where to stay on the French Riviera.
In the old town, there are plenty of picturesque restaurants where you can sit down and relax, and admire the beautiful buildings surrounding you.
Rick Steves Provence & the French Riviera
Where to stay on the French Riviera: Monaco
Monaco is undoubtedly the most luxurious place on the French Riviera and a place that is truly out of the ordinary, not only on the French Riviera but in the world.
It is the second smallest country in the world and is home to some of the wealthiest people in the world.
If you are thinking about where to stay on the French Riviera and want to stay in a place that offers glitz and glamour and luxury at another level, Monaco is the place to stay in.
Monaco is beautifully situated on the rocky coastline, just right next to the stunning azure blue Mediterranean. It is close to the Italian border, as well as several beautiful cities on the French Riviera, making it a relatively good place to stay in for exploring other cities on the French Riviera.
Monaco is, despite its tiny size, a city that is host to an endless number of events throughout the year. There’s always something going on. From the Monaco Grand Prix to the Monaco Yacht Show.
There are many iconic must-visit places in Monaco that are truly out of the ordinary. This includes the iconic Monte Carlo Casino, Café de Paris, the Hotel de Paris, and many more.
Despite its small size of just over 2 km², there’s a ton of things to do and see in Monaco. Unlike what many people think, Monaco’s culture is rich, and it has plenty of interesting museums that are worth visiting.
Here are some of the best parts of Monaco:
Amazing restaurants and great nightlife
The number of Michelin-starred restaurants in Monaco is extremely high. Furthermore, the number of top-class restaurants which will serve you absolutely incredible dining experiences is even higher. Monaco also has a great nightlife with some of the best and most prestigious nightclubs on the French Riviera.
Great designer shopping
If you wish to go shopping for designer clothes and jewelry, Monaco is the ultimate place. Here, you’ll find all the designer brands you can imagine.
A ton of events
There are always events going on in Monaco, and this ensures that Monaco is always full of life.
No matter which season, Monaco is never dead, which is the case for several other cities on the French Riviera.
As for accessibility, Monaco is quite conveniently situated. By car, it is only 25 minutes from the Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport. You can also take the train directly into the country, and, of course, take the helicopter. Monaco has its own heliport which makes accessibility super easy.
The architecture in Monaco is absolutely stunning. Buildings such a the iconic Casino are built in a belle-epoque architecture which makes them absolutely stunning to look at.
The biggest minus about Monaco is that it is extremely expensive. Of course, this isn’t surprising considering that Monaco is a city of the highest standard and prestige, but make sure to be prepared that it is going to be expensive if you stay in Monaco.
Lonely Planet Pocket Nice & Monaco (Travel Guide)
Menton is the last city on the French Riviera before the Italian border. Menton is a popular spot for elderly people, and it is a popular retirement spot for French people. As such, Menton is a city that is far from a city that is full of life. It is more of a laid-back, very calm city which is all about relaxation – except in February when the annual Lemon Festival takes place.
Menton is especially known for being a large producer of exquisite lemons, and legend has it that Menton sprung from a lemon. When Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise, Eve took with her a golden fruit. Adam told her to throw it away so God wouldn’t get even angrier at them, and so she buried the golden fruit, the lemon, in the most beautiful place she saw after crossing mountains and plains and from it grew Menton.
Menton has a lovely long strip of sandy beach as well as a seaside promenade which makes it a perfect place for just strolling along the beautiful coastline.
What’s especially attractive for many people who answer the question of where to stay on the French Riviera with Menton is that it has a lovely old town which is amazing to explore.
Furthermore, Menton is also situated close to a few other beautiful towns on the French Riviera which are worth visiting, including Roquebrune, Cap d’Ail, and Monaco.
If you really want to experience Monaco but don’t want to pay the expensive hotels, staying in Menton is a great idea.
A minus about Menton is that during the off-season, the town is completely dead. There’s not much to do, and the streets are quite empty. If you want to spend your vacation not the beach all day long, especially as a family, you’ll love Menton during the summer, though.
Travels Through the French Riviera: An Artist’s Guide to the Storied Coastline, from Menton to Saint-Tropez
Saint-Tropez is mostly known for being a go-to town for the jet set and the people looking to spend their vacations eating expensive meals accompanied by delicious champagne.
Saint-Tropez is expensive, there’s no going around it, but it has one of the most beautiful coastlines on the French Riviera, as well as some absolutely gorgeous sandy beaches.
It is one of the most prestigious cities, not the French Riviera, but since it is situated quite ”off” from the other main cities on the French Riviera, and the public transportation to Saint-Tropez is very limited, with no trains arriving there, the people who tend to spend time there are the jet-setters who return every year and stay there for the most part of their vacation. O course, if you wish to take a helicopter, getting to the main cities on the French Riviera can be done effortlessly and quickly, but it is, of course going to cost you.
The beach town was initially a small fishing village, and now, it far from lacks luxury villas and top-notch beach clubs.
It is especially known for having some of the world’s beach clubs, and definitely the top beach clubs on the French Riviera, so if this is something you plan on doing Saint-Tropez should answer your question on where to stay on the French
Houses of Saint-Tropez
Small picturesque villages
The French Riviera is not only known for its glitz and glamour, but it is also known for being the home of many old and picturesque towns and villages, especially those situated on the hillsides, providing a stunning view over the azure blue Mediterranean.
There are, in fact, plenty of traditional Mediterranean villages and towns that are worth visiting, and maybe even making the answer to where to stay on the French Riviera, if you enjoy calmer and traditional villages of course. For the tourists on the French Riviera, the coastal resorts are what attracts the majority of them, however, some people prefer to get away from the large crowds of tourists and find more traditional spots where they can meet the local residents for real. If this is the case for you, you shouldn’t look at the most popular cities on the French Riviera as answers to where to stay on the French Riviera, but instead, you should look farther inland up on the mountainsides where the hillside villages are set.
St Paul de Vence
St Paul de Vence is a Medieval village on the French Riviera. It is situated not far inland from Cannes and Nice. It is nestled among the vineyards and olive groves of the valley, on the hillside.
Check the best prices and available hotels in St Paul de Vence
Mougins is an incredibly beautiful place to stay in if you are impressed by beautiful Mediterranean buildings and picturesque small alleys.
Mougins is a medieval village that was the home or holiday resort for famous individuals like Picasso, Man Ray, Yves St Laurent, Winston Churchill, and more.
Grasse is probably the most famous mountainside town on the French Riviera. It is the capital of perfume and situated not a long train journey from Cannes. Here, you’ll find cobbled streets lined with ancient houses, boutiques, and cafes, and you can also visit and go on perfume tours on some of the most famous perfume houses such as Galimard, Molinard, and Fragonard.
Biot is another beautiful medieval city on the French Riviera. It is known for its glass-blowing industry and has a stunning town with picturesque lovely houses.