Côte d’Azur, je t’aime!
Ooooh Côte d’Azur, what a beautiful area filled with cute little cities, incredible sceneries and good restaurants. You can definitely get into the holiday mood on a sunny terrace, a cold rosé glass in your hand and a pair of chic sunglasses on your tanned face. Alongside of the French Riviera, you can easily find a lot of beautiful places that are easily accessible by train (which is cheap!). Budget travelling in the French Riviera is pretty easy since the cities are full of restaurants to choose from so you can find one that suits your budget and still eat amazing food. In addition, since wine, cheese and baguette are amazingly good and affordable, having a picnic while watching the turquoise Mediterranean Sea is highly recommended. Since the French Riviera is filled with cute little cities that are easily accessible by the cheap local train (TER), we suggest that you shouldn’t spend your whole holiday in Nice. So here are some cities to which you can easily travel by train from Nice!
The city of an annual film festival that is held in the end of May. Cannes isn’t the cheapest city to visit but consider it for a day trip destination because it has its perks. First of all, it has nice sandy beaches that you cannot find from Nice. Secondly, it has cute shopping boulevard, Rue d’Antibes, from where you can find all the affordable clothing chains like Zara, Bershka and Pull&Bear among others. Of course you can also visit all the luxury stores (you can find them all from Cannes) if you can afford that! Thirdly, Cannes is just pretty little town that is less crowded than Nice and especially during summer the port is full of luxury yachts. Enjoy the chic “French Riviera” atmosphere while you are walking the iconic Promenade de la Croisette or having a drink at a sunny terrace!
If you are into perfumes, Grasse is the place for you. This cute little town up in the hills is filled with perfume shops and perfumeries. We visited Fragonard’s perfumery that was free. It included a tour inside of the perfumery, where we were told about the methods and ingredients and it ended to their shop where we smelled different perfumes and got personal guidance so we were able to find the perfect perfumes just for us.
Antibes was my home during my exchange for almost five months. It is a cute town that most of the tourists don’t find since it isn’t as known as Cannes and Nice. It has sandy beaches, big port full of ridiculously huge luxury boats and a cute and lively old town. For its size Antibes is filled with good restaurants that offer affordable high quality food but you can also find fancy and a bit pricey Michelin Guide restaurants. One of my favorite restaurants in Antibes is Restaurant Aubergine where you can get French three-course dinner affordably. It is highly recommended to stay in Antibes since it is more traditional French town with less people but you can still find everything you need and catch a train to other towns nearby. Even though it is more favored by retired people and families, you can find cozy pubs to have a drink in and if you feel like clubbing, you can walk or take an Uber to Juan-les-Pins that has more nightlife.
Port of Antibes
Most likely you will arrive to Nice when you visit the French Riviera. Even though we would recommend traveling to other cities too, Nice is definitely worth a visit when travelling in Côte d’Azur. If you arrive by plane, you can take a bus to the center or if you are travelling to other cities, you can walk to the Nice Saint-Augustine railway station and catch a train. Nice is famous for its promenade along the Mediterranean, Promenade des Anglais, where you can find all the luxurious hotels like Negresco. To get the famous panoramic picture of this promenade and Nice, you can climb up stairs to Parc de la Colline du Château, referred also as Castle Hill. Visiting Nice’s Old town is another must thing to do in Nice. Wandering around in the old town and visiting the flower market, marché aux fleurs, at Cours Saleya are top things to do in Nice. The old town is full of restaurants but try to avoid the touristic ones because you can find really cozy restaurants that offer amazing food more affordably. If you are planning on staying in Nice for a beach holiday, remember to take your flip-flops or swimming shoes with you since the beaches are pebble beaches!
Stairs to the Castle Hill viewpoint
View from the Castle Hill
Eze Village is a beautiful little town up in the hills. You can reach it by taking the local train from Nice, stepping out at Eze and hiking up to the village. The sign near the railway station says that it takes around 1,5 hours to get to Eze Village, so I would recommend to bring a lot of water and not to take the hike when it’s burning hot. The trail is quite steep and not so well maintained so don’t try to do it in flip-flops. However the hike will be totally worth it because you will be seeing beautiful sceneries so remember to take you camera with you! When you finally arrive to Eze Village, you can walk around narrow streets, dine in one of the beautiful restaurants and visit La Jardin Exotique d’Eze, an exotic garden, to take more panoramic pictures.
Scenery from the exotic garden
Luxury cars, luxury yachts, luxury hotels, luxury clubs, luxury shops…doesn’t sound like a place to visit if you are on a budget. However a daytrip to Monaco is an excellent idea because you can easily see the whole city in a day and it doesn’t ruin your budget! The local TER train takes you from Nice to Monaco in around 20 minutes and you can see the difference when you step out of the train to modern and clean railway station. Start of the day with climbing up to the Prince’s Palace, take photos that can almost fit the whole Monaco and watch the guard change at 11.55am. If you like aquariums, visit the Oceanographic Museum. After wandering around and spotting many luxury yachts and cars, you can walk to Casino de Monte Carlo. During the day you can get in without a suit but shorts, sport shoes and flip-flops are not allowed. In addition, you need pay 10€ entrance fee and have ID with you to get in. Famous Café de Paris is right next to the Casino but you have to pay for example 7,50€ for a coke or 6€ for a cappuccino if you wish to sit down on their terrace to spot luxury cars passing the Casino. Remember that during the Monaco Grand Prix week, Monaco is full and some walking routes are closed but before the competition days it is cool to see how the track is being build and you get to experience the Grand Pix atmosphere for free!
Menton is a city between Monaco and the Italian border. It is known for its annual La Fête du Citron, Lemon festival, when the Biovès Garden is full of huge incredible sculptures made out of lemons and oranges. You can also get into lemony mood with lemonade and a crêpe with lemon syrup. Menton’s old town is really pretty and worth a visit! In addition, Menton has its own casino if you feel like gambling. The coastal line is long and beautiful so you can have a long relaxing walk and watch when the sun sets behind the hills.
La Fête du Citron
Okey, Ventimiglia isn’t in France (Monaco neither) but you can go there with the same local TER train from Nice so I had to write something about this pretty Italian city. First of all, almost everything is cheaper on Italy’s side so Ventimiglia is full of French people doing groceries and visiting the market. On every Friday there is a big market where you can find anything from fine Italian cashmere knits to Parmesan cheese. The market is usually filled with people buying the best Italy has to offer but I would still recommend to experience it! After visiting the Friday market, have a pizza that is way better and cheaper than in French Riviera. Then you can walk around until you feel like having a coffee and gelato break and enjoy your Italian coffee (way cheaper than in France) and gelato on a sunny terrace. Successful Italian getaway guaranteed!
Ventimiglia Old Town
Last but not least, a place where you can’t go with a train but is still one of my favorites! Saint-Tropez is a really beautiful small town that used to be fishing village but is nowadays known as a holiday spot for jet sets and celebrities. Again, probably not the cheapest place to visit but still recommended for a daytrip. You can get to Saint-Tropez by boat from for example Saint-Raphaël (did this once, so much nicer than with a car!) and Nice or by bus or by car. However Saint-Tropez is pretty famous for its traffic jams so reserve enough time to drive there! Once you get to Saint-Tropez, go check the tiny port full of luxury yachts and the beautiful town. Wander around the old town and enjoy the atmosphere. You can walk up to the viewpoint behind the old town to see the whole city and a landscape that opens up on the other side. Saint-Tropez has also beautiful sandy beaches and luxurious beach clubs if you feel like partying and staying there for longer. Try the local delicacy Tarte Tropézienne if you are craving for something sweet!
Landscape from the viewpoint
I hope you enjoyed this post and were able to get some tips for your next trip to the French Riviera! Comment below if you have some questions, I will be happy to help! Merci et au revoir!