One Week in The French Riviera – Complete guide

By: Julie Anne Syperek

The French Riviera, or The Côte d’Azur, is nestled on the Southern Coast of France along the Mediterranean Sea, just waiting for you to enjoy all of life’s pleasures. You’ll encounter fabulous beaches, food and wine to inspire every palate, and historical treasures around every corner. And at the end of each day, candy pink sunsets paint the sky, just begging you to watch as a new masterpiece unfolds.

I have traveled to many beautiful places in my life, but the French Riviera has that rare je ne sais quois that makes it oh so special to me! But I am not alone in this love. Artists, writers and Europeans looking for a delightful holiday in the sun have been flocking here for centuries. And while there are many charming cities in the Côte d’Azur; Nice, Monaco, and Antibes will be my focus in this article as I share everything you need to know as you plan One Week in the French Riviera.

  • History of French Riviera
  • Getting to The French Riviera
  • Where to stay
  • How many days do you need?
  • Itinerary: My One Perfect Week in the French Riviera
  • Top Things to Do in Nice
  • Day trip to Antibes
  • Top Things to Do in Monaco

A little bit of French Riviera history

In 1887, Stephen Liegeard wrote “La Côte d’Azur”. This novel forever cemented the Southern Coastline of France being known as “The Côte d’Azur,” or The Coast of Azure. The brilliant blue, or azure, color of the Mediterranean sea has an inspiring allure! You will have to see it with your own eyes to fully understand.

The Southern Coast of France is also fondly called The French Riviera. This translates quite simply to “The French Coastline”. And while I appreciate the translation to English, I prefer the latter on my tongue. When I say “The French Riviera” it creates this golden mindset that is filled with sunshine, relaxation, and all of the beautiful things in life that dreams are made of.

Even before I visited Nice for the first time, I imagined the French Riviera with a twinkle in my eye. And now that we’ve spent so much time together, that twinkle is paired with a blissful smile and a loving sigh.

Getting to The French Riviera

The French Riviera is easily accessible by plane or train, bus, or car.  An international airport is quite close to the city center of Nice, and the public transportation system is stellar, and very easy to use. So no matter what your destination after landing, transit will be a piece of cake. If you are landing in Nice and heading to a different city, public transportation or renting a car will be your best option, unless you’d like to take a 100+ Euro taxi to Monaco.

♥ Did you know you can also travel to Cannes from Nice?

Taking the Train in the French Riviera

Although I stayed in both Nice, and near Monaco this summer, I still needed to take the train back and forth from Nice to Monaco at least 5 times for dinners, beach days, and one clutch grocery run. The train cost me 10 Euro (round trip), and on average it was a 30 minute train ride.

Home Base vs. Moving Around

Moving from city to city definitely has its benefits, as mornings and evenings will help you get to know a city more intimately. But on the other hand, this past summer I realized how relaxing it is to unpack for a week. When my holiday was over, there was a feeling of calm instead of feeling like I needed a vacation from my vacation.

» So before you make your decision I encourage you to think about packing time, travel time, potential discounts for staying longer in a location, and what you are looking for in your holiday.

One Week in the French Riviera: Where to stay

You can stay in every city you visit in the French Riviera , or you could make one city your home base and take day trips from there. This is one of the benefits to choosing the French Riviera for your next beach holiday. The train is unbelievably convenient, reasonably priced and the cities and towns are quite close to each other.

The Hotel Beau Rivage in Nice:

When I visited Nice in 2016, I stayed at the Hotel Nice Beau Rivage. It is located near the Place Messena, just off the Promenade des Anglais. Being so close to the Promenade and the beach definitely has its perks. My room was modern, comfortable, and the staff was eager to help as needed. And whether you stay there or not, The Hotel’s Beach Club, The Plage Beau Rivage, is a fantastic way to enjoy the Mediterranean Sea with friendly service, and a comfy beach chair.

Rather stay at an Airbnb in the Old Town?

This past summer I stayed in the Old Town of Nice just off of the Place Garibaldi. My Airbnb was perfectly off the beaten path, and a 10-15 walk to the Promenade. I loved everything about my apartment! Charming, spacious, and located in the heart of the old town- It was my sanctuary. 

There is something really special about walking down a narrow cobblestone street to get home every day. No cars were allowed on this particular street- just foot traffic, which made for a very peaceful stay.

The Old Town of Nice transported me to the centuries of old, yet with all the comforts of home! There was an elevator or lift, washing machine, and an air conditioner that worked beautifully. My hosts were also kind and incredibly helpful-I would stay there again in a heart beat.

» Want to see where I stayed? Click here

Where to stay while visiting Monaco

If you’d like to travel to the country of Monaco there are 3 options of where you can stay. All will allow you to see Monaco at its best – it just depends what you are looking for.

  1. Beausoleil, France (just steps from the gates of Monaco)
  2. Stay in one of the many towns along the coast and take the train in. Like Cannes, (3 day travel guide)
  3. Monaco. Everything is more expensive here in comparison to the other coastal towns, but if you are looking to live that luxurious life for a few days then I say own it!

Stay in Beausoleil, France

I stayed in a modern, and absolutely stunning Airbnb in Beausoleil, France. It had a jaw dropping view of the Mediterranean and the Odeon Tower, with a balcony. The view was just so magnificent! This home away from home is an absolute gem! Click here to see the Airbnb where I stayed. Want to read everything about Beausoleil, my full experience and how to travel from Beausoleil to Monaco?

♥ Click here for my blog about my stay in Beausoleil

best place to stay in beausoleil

Stay in Monaco at The Fairmont Hotel

If you are looking to treat yourself to luxury, breathtaking views out your window, and a hotel that is conveniently located next to everything you will want to see- look no further than The Fairmont Hotel

From Nobu, to Nikki Beach to spa services and beautiful rooms, this hotel really has it all. The next time I go to Monaco, this is exactly where I want to stay! Shortly, I’ll dive a little deeper into more of what the Fairmont has to offer in my must do section. Fortunately you don’t need to stay at the Fairmont to experience most of their amenities.

One week in the French Riviera: How many days do you need?

Whether you stay for 2 nights, or 3 weeks, The French Riviera will always be calling you back. I recommend staying in the Cote d’Azur for at least a week. This will allow you to explore numerous cities and towns along the coast.  

Itinerary: My One Perfect Week in the French Riviera

If I had one week, I would make Nice my home base and spend 3 full days there. For day trips, I would take 2 days in Monaco, 1 day in Antibes and 1 day on a wine tour of Provence. As you plan, remember that traveling from place to place takes away from the time you have to enjoy yourself. 

If you have extra time, there are many other small towns with gorgeous views and beaches to explore. From the beach of Beaulieu-sur-Mer to lunch with a view at Hotel du Cap Eden Roc on Cap d’Antibes. These are two destinations that top my list for next time.

One week in the French Riviera: Top Things to Do in Nice

Nice la Belle or “Nice the Beautiful” is one of the Top 5 largest cities in France by population. It has that large city feel with beach vacation vibes, all while transporting you to an era of old. Nice truly has it all. 

So here’s my list of top things to do in Nice in short:

  1. Make it a beach day – how does 20 euro for the perfect private beach setup sound?
  2. Very important side note: Rosé and Caprese All Day
  3. The Promenade des Anglais – stretching for 3 miles along the coast
  4. Castle Hill – 92 meter climb to the most stunning view of Nice
  5. Place Messena – main square and my favorite place in all of the Cote d’Azur
  6. The Old Town –wander without agenda
  7. Cours Saleya – the place to go for great restaurants & shops

Do you want to read more about the top things to do while you’re in Nice, or what you absolutely cannot miss about this beautiful city? Then click here for my full blog filled with more tips about my favorite restaurants, shops, my beloved square, and all of my adventures in the French Riviera.

Is Nice the place to go when you solo travel?

I love traveling solo, because I can focus more on the sights, sounds, and my own personal thoughts instead of being focused on conversation all the time. And the Old Town of Nice, (Vieille Ville or Vieux Nice), is the ideal place to do exactly that, and so much more. You can read more about why I love traveling solo, and 16 of my best travel tips here.

One Week in the French Riviera: Go to a French Market

During the day, a bustling flower and food market can be found at the heart of the Cours Saleya. You will discover French produce, and exquisite meats and cheeses. They will be the most delicious and highest quality you will ever experience. 

One afternoon, as I gazed upon the prettiest array of flowers I had every seen, I realized that going to a local French market is truly the best way for a visitor to grasp what French culture is all about. I promise that it will be a delightful feast for all of your senses!

One week in the French Riviera: Go on a Wine tour 

I had dreamed about exploring the wine region of Provence ever since 2016 when I took my first sip of Rosé while looking out onto the Mediterranean Sea. So when I decided to spend my summer in the South of France, I knew that a wine tour through Provence was a must. 

Grape Tours Nice

The tour began in Nice on another brilliantly sunny day, and we drove into the countryside where we enjoyed tastings and tours at 3 very beautiful wineries.

Pierre filled our minds with history and shared his knowledge of wine while sipped and swirled our way through Provence. The highlight for me was our lunch at Château de Saint Martin where we dined al fresco, and drank chilled Rosé while sharing stories of our travels surrounded by the natural beauty of Provence. It was heavenly!

Wine Tours: Always a Good Idea

In my opinion, going on a wine tour while traveling is one of the best ways to get to know the culture, and the region you are visiting. You don’t need to be a wine connoisseur either- you just need to have a curiosity, an appetite for delicious things, and a desire to be surrounded by beauty. Many thanks to Pierre, and Grape Tours Nice for curating such a lovely day filled with life’s simple pleasures! 

♥ Curious? You want to go on a wine tour? Click here to read about the best beautiful wineries in Nice

One Week in the French Riviera: The Train is a piece of cake

I cannot stress enough how easy it is to go back and forth between the cities on the coast of the Mediterranean. The trains are plentiful, dependable, and very easy to book. You can purchase a train ticket at the station on kiosks, OR through the Trainline EU app which is much easier to navigate. 

One week in the French Riviera: Day trip to Antibes

On a recent trip to the South of France, I hopped on the train and spent the day in Antibes. I went specifically for the Picasso Museum, and then stayed to enjoy the sandy beach and the friendly environment.  

First I walked around the dock and discovered Le Nomade, a gigantic sculpture keeping watch over the Sea. From there I strolled down one of many charming streets enjoying an espresso and a croissant, before making my way to the museum. The Picasso Museum is housed in a former Roman fort on the water known as Château Grimaldi.

Picasso and the Sea

Picasso lived, painted and sculpted in this very place for a few months back in 1946, and all of his works from that time period have remained. Inside, his works did not disappoint! His paintings, drawings, and sculptures have always shown the many fascinating periods of his life, and this chapter was no different.

As I stood next to “Ulysse et les Sirènes,” and looked out the window to see the Azure waters, I imagined an inspired Picasso working in that very room. This space, and this moment of his life could quite possibly be the most captivating of them all.

Outside, sculptures perched on the stone veranda made the Mediteranean Sea even more beautiful to behold. It also made for the perfect backdrop for a photograph or two.

Antibes is a place that I know I’ll go back to someday. I was only there for a short time, but it was everything I love about the South of France. Great food and wine, beaches (that were sandy!), history, art and all of the charm you could hope for. 

One week in the French Riviera: Top things to do in Monaco

I must be honest that Monaco was not on my radar when I arrived in Nice, but when I met someone on the plane who was heading there, I definitely took notice. You can read more about my solo experience in Nice and Monaco here.

When it comes to Monaco, I had heard of the Monte-Carlo Casino, the Monaco Grand Prix, and Grace Kelly’s fairytale wedding and tragic death. The stories of the glitz and glamour always had my attention, but I still never understood the allure. What could be so special about Monaco? 

Monaco has a dress code

If you make your way inside of the Casino, or other establishments in Monaco, make sure to be mindful of their dress code. I encourage you to double check no matter where you go.

Because the streets and steps of Monaco are steep, your footwear may not always be a simple choice. I saw women carrying their heels everywhere I went. Sometimes they were wearing flats, and other times they were even barefoot!

I myself had flip flops that fit in my purse, or I would wear my flats, and put a pair of heels in my bag just in case. You never know where the day will bring you in Monaco!  It’s best to leave room for spontaneity, as those days end up being the greatest of all. 

Monaco is a must see – top things to do

But behind my questions about Monaco, there was always a genuine curiosity. So when I got invited to The Monte-Carlo Beach Club, I jumped at the chance to see this storied place with my own eyes.

After spending a day relaxing poolside with the sea and the majestic mountains of Monaco surrounding me, I not only became a lover of this mystical little country, but I became a believer as well.  Monaco lives up to the hype! In my book, it’s a must-see. And whether you make it a day trip or stay longer, here are the things you should do while you are there.

  • The Monte Carlo Casino
  • Apéro Hour at Nobu
  • Nikki Beach
  • Sass Café
  • Buddha Bar

The Monte Carlo Casino

When I first saw the Monte Carlo Casino, it was one of those gasp worthy moments that I live for.  I jumped off the train from Nice on my way to dinner and there it was; Shimmering through the palm trees with the sun setting to the tune of a baby blue and pink sky.  The architecture of the casino is stunning and SO grand. The grounds are beautiful and lush, with the tranquil sounds of the fountain creating a luxurious atmosphere, and a really gorgeous photograph.

As you approach the Casino, high end shops like Chanel and Dior call out to you on the right. On the left, a café makes for the perfect perch to watch a stunning lineup of extravagance drive in and out of the casino grounds. Bentleys, Porches and a list of head turning vehicles are parked right outside of the Casino, just waiting for you to take a closer look as they strike a pose in their natural environment.

Inside the Casino you will find restaurants, a high end boutique, bars, lounges, and of course-games. Strangely, The Casino can only be enjoyed by those visiting from out of town. It is illegal for Monaco citizens to gamble at the Casino. 

From the Casino, you may walk along the sea to get a glimpse of the Opera de Monte-Carlo and the yachts in the harbor, or you may find yourself at the Fairmont Hotel like I did.

Apéro Hour at Nobu

I first wandered into the Fairmont Hotel one steamy Monaco afternoon after enjoying the casino grounds. It gets quite hot in Monaco, so I started looking around for a place where I could enjoy Apéro Hour, or happy hour, with a view and a reprieve from the hot sun. 

What I found was Nobu, a culinary star all over the world! And this particular restaurant had a shaded outdoor patio, and a very kind waitstaff.  I sat there for hours lingering over my French Rosé and snacks while swooning over the incredible view.

Picture yourself admiring yachts of every size floating over the azure water, as you listen to the sound of the waves gently crashing into the seawall.  And off in the distance, you can see coves of Monaco, France, and a bit farther off- Italy. 

Pure peace and happiness washed over all of my senses. And looking back, my afternoon of just letting things happen seemed to unleash a domino effect of positive events for me.  

Nikki Beach: A must in the French Riviera

After Nobu, I continued the spontaneity and made my way to the concierge desk at the Fairmont. They helped me make a reservation for Nikki Beach– the glamorous and vibrant “beach” club on the rooftop. I heard it was a must do, and my waiter at Nobu confirmed it!

I would spend the next day sunning myself on a poolside cabana at Nikki Beach while enjoying a crisp bottle of Minuty Rosé.  For lunch, I devoured a Tuna Poké bowl that was bursting with bright, perfectly balanced flavors. I spent the rest of the afternoon leisurely swimming in the pool or relaxing in the warmth of the sunshine. Now THIS was bliss. I closed my eyes and wished upon a mountaintop for this day to never end.

Living the Dream

Just when I thought this dream of a day was getting a bit too good! I met one of those people that impacted my life long after our enthralling poolside conversations. Chance meetings with incredible people will always have a special meaning- but being in Monaco made it feel like pure magic.

What I didn’t understand until I arrived, was that the magic of Monaco that seemed so unattainable, was right in front of my nose the entire time! It was just waiting for me to embrace it as my own.

Treat Yourself, and Make a reservation

All Cabanas and Chairs at Nikki Beach carry a different price tag, and reservations are highly recommend. But I promise you that the experience will be quintessentially Monaco! So please. Treat yourself, make a reservation and ENJOY. To be one week in the French Riviera, and NOT go to Nikki Beach would be a mistake.

For those not looking for a pool day, the restaurant at Nikki Beach is a fantastic place to dine or sip cocktails. With the misty mountains to the North, and the glistening blue sea to the South, the view is priceless!

Be Spontaneous

In the spirit of spontaneity, if lunch turns into a yearning to be poolside, I encourage you to ask the staff what your options are. Nikki Beach is usually booked up for the day, but it never hurts to ask. The staff is friendly, and very accommodating when they can be. The kind customer service throughout the Fairmont Hotel only heightened my experience! I would visit Nikki Beach again tomorrow if I could.  

Buddha Bar

Buddha Bar is another dining hot spot in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. With outdoor terraces, a dining room upstairs and lounge downstairs, this vibrant atmosphere has much to entertain. As soon as you walk in, you will be greeted by a giant Buddha that keeps a careful watch over this eclectic space where East meets West. And that is only the beginning.

As I sipped my champagne, I let my eyes wander around the room. The warm and colorful lighting only adds to the exotic ambiance, and the intricate carvings on the dark woods walls adds a sense of mystery. Curious to know more, I asked about the history of the building, and the details of this beautiful room. I do love a good history lesson, so I was pleased to learn that at the beginning of the 20th Century, The Buddha Bar was The Cabaret de Monte Carlo.

The past meets the present

There is something about being in a place that has a story. No matter where I looked, I was in the presence of the stunning splendor of the past that was perfectly blended with the present. Chandeliers of mini lamps and red tassels hung from impressive 7 meter high ceilings. And of course, the meditating Buddha, larger than life, was there to remind me of the historical giants who had mingled in that very room.

Did you know? 

Monaco is a country located in the middle of the South of France! It is also smaller than Central Park in New York City. Monaco hosts the world renowned Grand Prix F1 race, and also famously attracts the wealthiest people in the world. 

Why is that you ask? It may be in part because Monaco is a tax haven, and it’s located near an international airport. But Monaco also has the Mediterranean sea, the mountains, and the glorious weather. It is truly the perfect place to enjoy all of life’s magnificent splendors in the most glamorous way possible. 

The best way to see ALL of Monaco

The Hop on Hop off tour is the best way to see all of Monaco, and from there you can decide where you’d like to go back to. The Hop on Hop off will show you the Princess Grace Japanese Garden, The Palace, The Monte-Carlo Casino, and so much more! Monaco is definitely walkable, but as I mentioned before the walkways are quite steep and tiring.

♥ It’s best to plan a bit before you wander

Sass Café

This restaurant, and iconic Monaco hotspot glows in red to create a supremely sexy ambiance that is all its own. I met Julie and her fiancé at Sass Café for dinner on the terrace while I was staying in Nice. We sipped champagne, talked about our favorite places in the world, and enjoyed salmon with saffron rice.

Sass Café always attracts a glamorous crowd, and is the kind of place that makes you wish the walls could talk! It’s perfect for a cozy dinner, or late night cocktails.

Red Hot in Monaco

On another evening as I walked home from the grocery store in Monaco- I met a few gals from Germany. They were dressed to the nines, carrying their heels, and wearing flip flops. This was a veteran move in order to navigate the steep walkways and Monaco dress codes, so I knew they had to be doing something fun.

Curious, and always looking to add to my list of evening destinations- I asked them! They were so kind, and invited me to join them at Sass Café. Sadly, I had to decline. It was already quite late, and I had a date with Nikki Beach the next day. I rarely have travel regrets, but it was one of those moments where I do wish I would’ve said yes!

The Stairs of Monaco

In Monaco, the streets are quite curvy as they take you up and down the mountains. And unfortunately, there isn’t always a cross street to get you easily from point A to point B. Instead, there are perfectly placed, yet sharp staircases that will take you on a more direct route. Thankfully, every staircase seemed to magically appear when I needed it most, but lucky for you, I found a map that will be a more dependable guide.

» Did you Know? French is the most common language in Monaco, although English is widely spoken as well. Attempting to speak the language of the country you are visiting is always the right move! Many times, they will speak English back to you, but truly it’s the thought and the try that counts.

The French Riviera is the perfect holiday

This past summer I immersed myself in the culture of the French Riviera. This magical coastline made my soul sparkle like the brightest star, and it made its way into my top 2 favorite places in the world. Taking the top spot is Paris-my one true love. The City of Light inspires me every time, and gives me an energy like no other from the moment I arrive!

But the South of France is my lover. It always leaves my eyes sparkling, my skin glowing from the Mediterranean sunshine, and my mind filled with countless moments of joy that will last for a lifetime.

I hope you found your own inspiration to visit The French Riviera this coming summer! The Cote d’Azur is the perfect place for these uncertain times. As long as France is open, you are bound to have the perfect framework for your holiday: Gorgeous weather, beautiful terrain, and a culture that celebrates history, great food, and even better wine.

This article is written by Julie Anne and a proud member of the Dutchbloggeronthemove team. Julie is known for her food and wine experience and she flawlessly combines these to give us the best travel experiences. To learn more about Julie, you can read her bio here or read more of her articles about Italy and Paris here. You can also always ask us anything in the comments below.


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