A hundred years ago, celebrities from London to Moscow flocked to the French Riviera to socialize, gamble, and escape the dreary weather at home. Today, budget vacationers and heat-seeking Europeans fill belle-époque resorts at France’s most sought-after fun-in-the-sun destination. Some of the Continent’s most stunning scenery and intriguing museums lie along this strip of land — as do millions of sun-worshipping tourists. (For a breezy and photogenic escape from the beach scene, head inland and upward to explore some of France’s most perfectly perched hill towns and splendid scenery.) Evenings on the Riviera, a.k.a. la Côte d’Azur, were made for a promenade and outdoor dining.
At a Glance
▲▲▲ Nice The Riviera’s metropolis, with a sun-drenched promenade, a delightful French-Italian old city, and museums dedicated to Chagall and Matisse.
▲▲▲ Villefranche-sur-Mer, Cap Ferrat, and Eze-le-Village Small, Italianate beach town of Villefranche-sur-Mer, ritzy but woodsy Cap Ferrat, and little cliff-topping Eze-le-Village — linked by the panoramic roads known as the Three Corniches.
▲▲ Monaco Tiny independent principality, known for its Grand Prix car race and classy casino.
▲▲ Inland Riviera Perfectly perched hill towns of St-Paul-de-Vence (France’s most-visited village) and Vence, the perfume capital of Grasse, and the spectacular Grand Canyon du Verdon.
▲ Antibes, Cannes, and St-Tropez The Riviera’s west: laid-back Antibes, with a medieval old town and Picasso Museum; glamorous Cannes, with sandy beaches and movie stars; and the luxurious port town of St-Tropez.