Over the years, the French Riviera (or Cote d’Azur as locals call it) has attracted visionary artists like Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, and Paul Cezanne, thanks to the unique qualities of its light.
And literary legends like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald were also spellbound by the Riviera, the latter living here permanently for several years and establishing a Jazz Age party scene which inspired the novels Tender Is the Night and The Great Gatsby.
A further sprinkle of stardust is also added by the annual Cannes Film Festival, which attracts Hollywood’s biggest names to the red carpet every May.
You’ll find glitz and glamour here as well as understated Gallic charm and it’s a cultural hotpot with sublime scenery. If you’re tempted to sample this special stretch of coastline in the south of France for yourself, here are five fabulous French Riviera activities.
1 | People-watching on La Croisette
As mentioned, May is the best time to spot stars in Cannes, but people-watching on La Croisette (the main, ocean-facing thoroughfare) is enjoyable at any time of year. Sip a Kir Royale on the terrace of the elegant Art Deco Hotel Martinez and watch the ad hoc street theatre as supercars cruise past and pampered poodles are perambulated by their vampish mistresses. Find out more about Hotel Martinez at hyatt.com.
2 | Strolling around St Paul
St Paul de Vence is a charming castellated commune in the interior where you’ll find amazing traditional and contemporary art galleries around every charming cobbled corner. Treat yourself to lunch at La Columbe d’Or just outside the town walls ̶ this unassuming watering hole hosts a treasure trove of original artworks by Picasso, Matisse and Alexander Calder.
3 | Driving to Monaco
The French Riviera is an amazing place to explore by car, with lots of wonderful windswept coastal roads as well as efficient modern motorways, so hire a car from enjoytravel.com and adventures await. For instance, millionaire’s playground Monaco is just over an hour’s drive eastwards along the A8 road from Cannes and here you’ll see the famous serpentine Grand Prix course and iconic buildings like Casino de Monte-Carlo.
4 | Yacht spotting in Golf Juan
Golfe Juan is a laid-back fishing village between Cannes and Nice which was one of Pablo Picasso’s favorite spots. You’ll find charming cafes and quality restaurants here, as well as Port Camille Rayon ̶ one of the Riviera’s best-kept secrets, there are often more majestic superyachts here than you’ll find berthed in Monaco.
5 | Partying in Juan Les Pins
Nestled next door to Golfe Juan (simply slip off your shoes and stroll along the beach to get there) Juan Les Pins is a party town where locals and tourists alike go to let their hair down. The compact and bijou town centre is always buzzing in high season, there’s a casino where you can try your luck at the tables, and you’ll enjoy colourful cocktails and exotic dancers at the Pam Pam bar. Find out more at antibesjuanlespins.com.
These five activities are a mere soupçon of what’s on offer in the French Riviera ̶ you’ll discover more magic when you get there!