Explore the exquisite coast of Southern France in 10 days. Incredible food and tasty aperitivos, lead to the ultimate relaxation! There's nothing quite like the French Riviera, especially in the summertime.
Table of Contents
- My Traveler's Note
- General Tips for Traveling Abroad
- Best Time of the Year to Visit
- Our 10-day Itinerary
- Arrival into Nice, France
- Where to Stay in the Area
- Transporting around the Riviera
- Nice: Things To Do
- Must Eat Restaurants in Nice
- Arrival to Cannes, France
- Where to stay in Cannes
- Best things to do in Cannes
- Cannes Tasty Eats
- Southern France City Recommendations
- City of Menton
- Boat day to St. Tropez
- ½ Day trip to the City-State of Monaco
- Helpful things to know
- More Places to Explore
France! Home to Paris, the city of lights and love! Ah, ALL of the THINGS to do and explore. Between Jack and myself, personal or business travel, we've ventured to Paris four times, but never made it out of the city until this trip.
Paris is home to iconic places such as the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and Notre Dame Cathedral. Travel south 6ish hours and you're along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, soaking in the salty air and rocky beaches.
Truly, the south of France is a great place to vacation. It was the perfect mix of relaxation and exploration. It's is home to roads of lavender fields, "The Grand Canyon of France", old world charm, and even ruins dating back to Roman times. Let's get into the details!
My Traveler's Note
We adore traveling and exploring the world and Europe together. As we've ventured and returned to France, it's a country that keeps growing on us. In 2015/2016 (our first time abroad) we didn't have similar experiences to what we had in March of 2022 and now, July of 2023. The French culture is very welcoming, friendly, and hospitable! The land of tasty breads, meats & cheeses, and of course, wine and spritzes!
Usually when we visit Europe, we are non-stop, packing our days full of tours and food. This trip was quite the opposite and truly felt like a vacation. We ventured along the coast of the French Riviera and soaked in all of its beauty. In efforts to consolidate the questions I received on Instagram and as a personal memory for us, I'm digging into where we went, what we ate, and ALL of the things.
Also, we were traveling with Jack's family and another family. In total, there were 11 adults. The ladies took the reins on most of the planning and though I helped with some of it, I can't take credit for this incredible itinerary. It truly was a trip of a lifetime!
General Tips for Traveling Abroad
Whether you're a seasoned pond hopper or jet setter, there are always a few things I like to keep in mind when planning vacations in new cities/countries:
- Ask your community: This could be Instagram, Facebook, or connecting with friends who have recently visited. I always put up a question box on Instagram and ask most of YOU for recommendations (and then I share them). It's singlehandedly the best way for me to collect quick data.
- Research, research, research: It seems obvious to stay, the but more prepared you are for your travels, the more confident you will be when you're there! I use TikTok for a ton of my travel recommendations (and not just because I'm Gen-Z). It's because TikTok's search engine operates like Google. It's SEO friendly, specific, and quick!
- Lodging: For the most part, Airbnb's are going to be more cost effective than hotels. That being said, Jack and I are accuring a lot of credit card points while we plan a wedding and have used those to splurge on hotels. We love the Chase Sapphire card!
- HAVE.A.PLAN: Say it again for the people in the back. If the plan includes 'just walking around', you will be disappointed. It's always a good idea to plan at least 1 to 2 activities each day (it can just be a reservation). Having structure to the day is important, even on vacation!
Best Time of the Year to Visit
Typically, the busiest time to visit Europe is during peak season, May - September. We went in early July when Europe was experiencing record breaking heat. My personal preference is visiting in September. The crowds have settled significantly as kids are back in school, European summer breaks have concluded, but it's still beautiful weather.
When we go back to Southern France, I'd plan our trip for end of August or early September.
Our 10-day Itinerary
- Days 1-3: Nice, France
- Days 3-10: "Home Base" Cannes, France
- Day trips to: Eze & Monaco (same day), afternoon in Menton (from Nice), and boat trip to St. Tropez (all day)
Arrival into Nice, France
Whether you're flying, driving, or training into the area, chances are you will be routed through Nice. It's the biggest city in the region, has an International airport and train station connecting countries together. The Nice Côte d'Azur Airport is roughly 15 minutes from the city center and a quick uber/taxi ride away.
Delta Airlines has a non-stop flight from Atlanta, Georgia to Nice, France. We also looked into connecting through Charles De Gaulle Airport and then training into Nice (roughly 6 hour train ride), but liked the idea of arriving immediately at our destination. If you choose to do that, you can look into taking the TGV train that connects Paris and cities in Southern France. Our family friends who we traveled with flew into Paris first, and then took a train down to Nice a few days later.
Italy is just under an hour by rail (and road) making it easy to extend this vacation into another country. Genoa, Italy is approximately a 3 hour train ride and incredibly scenic, as it follows the Mediterranean Coast, skirting the Riviera di Ponente west to the French border (and then Côte d'Azur).
Where to Stay in the Area
We stayed in the AC Hotel by Marriott in Nice. It was incredibly nice and had a rooftop pool view of the ocean! After exploring the area, I'd stay here again. Note: when looking at a map, I wouldn't stay west of the AC Hotel by Marriott. It's more residential and closer to the airport.
The hotel location was lovely, since it was on the outer-skirts of the city center: it was quieter, was close proximity to the boardwalk/ocean, AND not along the club strip. The farther East (near Old Nice), the more the nightlife felt like Fort Lauderdale or Miami.
Transporting around the Riviera
The best part about Europe (in my opinion) is how accessible it is. It's easy to buy train tickets and take a day trip to another city. Especially in the summer months, short visits to main attractions are perfect to check the travel box and continue venturing! I really enjoying walking to main attractions too. You can spend a full day just wandering through narrow streets, finding areas off the beaten path and small town hidden gems.
While some will road trip throughout the South of France, we stuck with using the central train station while staying in Nice. It's walking distance from the hotel and old town Nice. Note: during high season (May - September), the stations can be very crowded and long lines. Luckily, we purchased them pretty quickly most days and the kiosks are straightforward to use.
Nice: Things To Do
With its azure Mediterranean waters, charming old town, and vibrant atmosphere, Nice offers a variety of things to do for all travelers.
- Cours Saleya Flower Market: Located in Old Town, this market is famous for its fresh flowers, local pastries and products. Stroll through and soak in the French Flare.
- Relax on the beach: Find a beach club and rent chairs for the day.
- Visit a Museum: If museums are your thing, I've heard good things about Marc Chagall National Museum or Matisse Museum. For a dose of contemporary art, visit the MAMAC!
- Take a Day Trip: Nice is a short train ride from other nearby gems like CAnnes, Antibes, or Monaco.
- Nightlife: Experience the lively nightlife in Nice around Old Town and the Port area.
Must Eat Restaurants in Nice
There are 2 dining experiences that were arguably the best food we ate the whole trip (way to start it off on a bang!!). One is reservation only, made up to 4 months in advance, and the other is no reservation, walk in only.
Breathtaking. Equal parts stunning as unique as delicious. Half of the experience is the actually food and the other half (clearly displayed below) is the transformation of a retro diving platform into a three-tiered restaurant: Le Plongeoir.
I made our reservation 5 months in advance, which is plenty of time, but I really wanted to make sure it was on our itinerary. Even booking during peak season, I'd say 2 months in advance is plenty of time. Note: I looked up the typical sunset time prior to booking the reservation so we could experience it there. It's also located around the bend of Old Nice, so we took a short taxi ride (I'm not sure it would have been possible to walk).
The food is divine and the whole dinner, I just kept looking at Jack and the surrounding view. It is so incredible. Definitely a pinch me moment and one of the best places I've ever enjoyed a meal (especially with my Fiancé 😉).
If you're looking for an unforgettable night, book a table at Le Plongeoir and soak.it.in!
On our first night in Nice, we ate at La Cucina which oh.my.goodness. I'm speechless for how amazing the food, atmosphere, and ambiance was. On a side cobble stone street off the main drag, La Cucina is a family owned, 12-table restaurant that doesn't accept reservations and serves seasonally fresh, fantastic food.
It was a short walk from the AC Hotel by Marriott and totally off the tourist beaten path (that's when you know it's good)! There is one waiter and he runs the business with his brother and sister-in-law. When I say it's fresh, we saw them pick the herbs and fruit that went into our meals! I dream about this meal.
La Cucina opens at 6pm and there typically is a line prior. Because we had 5 people, we arrived around 5:30pm and there were 4 other couples already in line. The waiter served us cocktails and wine while he continued to set up and prep for opening! It was so inviting and a great way to start the evening.
After we ordered almost one of everything, we enjoyed the evening on the patio with a easy breeze, tasty cocktails (the passionfruit margarita, YES PLEASE), and the actual dinner: YUM. I ordered the truffle pasta, Jack had the lamb shank which FELL off the bone, covered in a sweet & salty glaze that just melted in your mouth. Our sweet waiter brought us homemade limoncello shots after dinner to top off the evening.
If you only have one night in Nice, I can't even tell you which dinner spot to pick. The views of Le Plongeior OR the food/sheer deliciousness of La Cucina. Get the best of both worlds and at least stay two evenings in Nice, France so you don't have to make that decision.
Arrival to Cannes, France
You probably know Cannes (pronounced like "khan") because the famous annual film festival and Boulevard de la Croisette. It's a quieter city than Nice and flexes it's sandy, luscious beach front in contrast to stone filled ones.
To familiar yourself with the area, Rue d'Antibes street in Cannes is lined with luxury goods and local gems alike; a great place for shopping in the city. You can find a ridiculous number of boujee yachts in Port Pierre Canto. We walked the boardwalk from the Festival to the marina most days and soaked in the lively area.
Another recommendation on where to stay:
The town of Antibes is less than a 10 minute train ride from Cannes and a gem of an area. My cousins visited the French Riviera a month after us, and they stayed in Antibes for the duration of their vacation.
Where to stay in Cannes
Our villa was located just north of the main strip in Cannes and easily accessible to the city. We were able to walk or Uber to Boulevard de La Croisette in just under 10 minutes. We stayed at the villa for 7 days and took day trips from Cannes.
Note: If we were to plan this trip again, we would mix up where we stayed to be able to experience more in different places (a few nights in Antibes, a few nights in St. Tropez, and maybe even a night or two in Eze).
Best things to do in Cannes
I'd be remiss not to say: The Cannes Film Festival! Though it's the main event of the city each year, I'm not sure its the best time to vacation in the area (May). It gets stuffy with all of the traffic and might take away from the full experience.
Similar to Nice, Cannes offers a variety of things to do.
- Le Suquet (Old Town): Climb the windy streets of Cannes to the top to explore historic Old Town. It has some of the best panoramic views of the city!
- Shopping: Cannes is known for it's high end shopping. If you have your eye on something, take advantage of the tax-free goods and "treat yo-self".
- Beaches: There are SO many sandy beaches in Cannes. You will need to rent loungers at one of the many beach clubs on the strip. Make the reservation early enough to try to get front row. It can be HOT in the summer and it was great being super close to the water!
- Nightlife: Cannes is so vibrant late at night. It reminded me of Miami or Fort Lauderdale.
Cannes Tasty Eats
While we ate at our Villa for some nights in Cannes, we also ate at Bella Storia (my favorite out of the three), La Mome Beach Club (for dinner), and another local Asian inspired place. Bella Storia is on a cobblestone, pedestrian only street and has great food.
La Mome was breathtaking because we ate there during sunset and had the most beautiful golden hour. However, the food was just fine and very pricy.
Southern France City Recommendations
As you can imagine (or are learning), there are numerous small towns and sights to see while along the coast of the Riviera! Though we stayed in Nice or Cannes for the duration of our trip, I would have spent a night or two in St. Tropez, Eze, or Antibes. Okay, let's break down some of the coastal cities in Southern France that we explored.
City of Menton
Menton is a short trip from Nice (approximately 35-45 minutes by train) and SO worth it! It's nickname is "City of Lemons" or "Pearl of France". It's delightful, with colorful buildings all around. Menton is the last town in France before you hit the Italian boarder, and there is Italian influence all around. It's so charming.
Stroll along the enchanting boardwalk while soaking in the panoramic views of the Mediterranean. I highly recommend grabbing a pain au chocolat and fresh squeezed lemonade (maybe not together), but during your time there. It's really easy to see Menton in an afternoon so it makes it a perfect day trip from Nice.
Our train ride on the way back to Nice was the last one of the day and it was incredibly crowded. We luckily all got a seat on the train, but as we continued back towards Nice, it was severely overcrowded and some unhappy travelers.
Boat day to St. Tropez
This was by far one of my favorite days. The vastness of the Mediterranean, mountains in the horizon, and sunshine in the sky, I just wanted to soak in the beautiful landscapes and panoramic views. If you have the opportunity to take a boat into St. Tropez, it has my highest recommendation.
The town of St. Tropez is incredible cute and definitely a place I would stay for a night or two just to fully explore it. It's also popping with people! Ok, so our boat driver took us into the St. Tropez port first, dropped us off to explore the town for an hour, and then we hopped back on the boat and went to Club 55. We stayed there for a long lunch, then went got back on the boat and cruised until it was time to head back to Cannes.
I believe that you can access Club 55 via car from the city of St. Tropez, but during busy season, it gets incredibly congested and you can spend the whole day just trying to get into the beach club. The marina is also PACKED and there are insane yachts everywhere. We spent the whole time cruising into the port in awe of the gigantic yachts around us.
Courtney's opinion: If I were to go back and re-do this day, I would stay on the boat the whole time. Club 55 is overpriced and over-hyped for what you get. If anything, I would select to rent beach loungers instead of eat at the restaurant (like we did). It ate up a chunk of our day and our yacht was waiting for us in the water while we ate (can you tell I love boats and being on the water?:P).
Throughout the day, we cruised through the Mediterranean, stopping to swim & dive, snorkel with fish, and it was SO fun. The drinks and vibes were flowing and we ended the day with a happy hour on the boat, tasty charcuterie, and watching the sunset fall on the French Riviera. Pure Bliss. The whole day I just kept looking at Jack and thinking: "this is our life. o m g."
This city is SO charming and definitely one to add to your list. Out of the other cities we visited, this one felt the most like ancient Europe (in a charming way). So many cobblestones, beautiful architecture, and oh my goodness, the VIEWS! Insane.
We had a private driver that took us from Cannes to Eze which was about a 40 minute drive. According to our driver, a lot of drivers won't drop you off at the top of Eze because the roads getting to it are hilly, windy, and narrow. Don't get me wrong, the views along the drive are SO gorgeous, but it's definitely concerning when another car is coming from the other direction.
I've heard that you can take the train or cab to the foot of mountain where Eze resides. From there, it's about an hour walk straight up. My friend, Erin, tackled it and said: "Ok. It was SO HARD." Honestly, I really wanted the workout and dressed accordingly. But I didn't realize our driver was taking us right to the top, so I wasn't able to conquer it.
We had lunch at Chataeu Eze and it was breathtaking. If you can get a reservation here, I highly recommend it. I had a fabulous crispy fish sandwich with homemade tartar sauce and fresh slaw. YUM! The grounds are home to a hotel and certainly worth wandering if you have time.
Eze is really easy to navigate since it essentially has one road that just keeps going up. The town itself is quieter and really stunning. Chataeu Eze and Le Plongeoir win for the two best views while eating this trip.
Recommendation: Deli' for the best sandwiches and salads. They have the best olive oil! Pop into Fragonard perfumery and smell all of the scents.
½ Day trip to the City-State of Monaco
Get a glimpse into the opulent world of a tiny principality of Monaco. After touring Eze, we popped into Monaco, aka home to Formula 1 racing. Again, our driver was very insightful and gave us a lot of history about the area before even arriving. Be sure to bring your passport to Monaco as it is a principality so standard international travel requirements apply.
It's known for it's iconic Casino in Monte Carlo which is right across the street from the hotel that Selena Gomez filmed Monte Carlo in (such a good moving). We popped into the casino to grab a drink and play at the casino (how can you not? It's famous)!
Monaco is easy to cover in a half of day. You can also explore the Jardin Exotique for panoramic views of the city and the harbor. I was really impressed with how clean and safe it felt. According to our guide, the whole principality can close the borders within 60 seconds, that's how protected and analyzed it is.
We didn't explore Antibes, but my cousins visited a month after us and stayed here. Here are their recommendations:
- Food: Effet mer for dinner on the beach.
- Hikes: Billionaires Bay (a little hike they saw on TikTok).
- Beach Club: Plage Keller. Note: we loved Les Bains in Villefranche Sur-Mer which is a quiet, colorful fisherman town that has sandy beaches and is significantly less crowded.
- Stay: Hotel du Cap-Eden-Rock (Sophia Richie's wedding hotel. Try to grab a drink there. Yes, it's as hard as it sounds).
Helpful things to know
If you want to explore the coast (like we did), you definitely don't need a car. However, if you're looking to venture to the mountains or lavender fields, you'll need to arrange transportation.
They both have similar lifestyles; however St. Tropez is a town at the tip of the peninsula and feels more like a port town (direct access to beaches and yachts). Monaco is much more metropolitan and a tiny, separate country.
The Euro is the accepted currency in France. Simply look up the exchange rate before arriving so you have an understanding of what things cost. We often pick up some Euros to have on hand, and then we use our Chase Sapphire Card every place accepted.
Phew! What a 10-days in Southern France. I hope this blog post helps while you're planning your trip. Feel free to leave any comments or questions in the forum below. Au Revoir!
More Places to Explore
If you're looking for other travel posts (in Northern America), be sure to check out my 4-Day Puerto Rico Itinerary, 2-day Weekend Getaway in Savannah, Georgia, or my venture to Zion National Park (girls trip)!
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. It’s my passion to share about traveling that can aid your experience or be shared with others. Let me know if you have any questions; happy to answer them below! Safe travels! XO Courtney Paige