The Top Things to Do in the French Riviera

by Crissandra Ayroso
things to do in the french riviera

From rosé and world-class modern art to local farmers’ markets, here’s our up-to-date list of top things to do in the French Riviera!

1. Gamble at the casino in Monte Carlo

roulette table at the monte carlo casino

“Bond, James Bond.” Agent 007 famously uttered these words for the first time in Monte Carlo Casino, in 1962’s Dr. No. Little did he know, one day these words would create a moment eponymous with Monaco’s wealth, glamour and the international jet-set, now inseparable from the film. Place your stakes at one of the card tables in one of the salles privées, and marvel at the intricate details of this 1863 belle époque building up close.

2. Browse the Cours Saleya market in Nice

the cours saleya marketin nice

Cours Saleya is a famous market in the heart of the French Riviera. Held every week from Tuesdays to Saturdays, visitors come by for local specialties like pissaladière (a thin pizza-like crust topped with olives, onions and garlic), locally made olive oils, homemade jams, organic honey, sea salt, spices and fresh fruit and vegetables. Surrounded by beautiful pastel-hued buildings, colourful stands and buzzing cafés, Cours Saleya is must-see in Nice. Enjoy lunch in the open square and follow your nose to this Old Town market square for a taste of traditional Nice.

There’s another market nearby, Marche Liberation, where you’ll find a throng of locals shopping for fresh meats and fish, fruits, vegetables, bread and cheese. It’s less well-known, so it tends to be less busy and a little cheaper here.

3. Drive along the Corniche de l’Esterel

dirt road along the corniche de l'esterel

Opened by the Touring Club de France, the Corniche de l’Esterel is a scenic 30 km drive along the coast, south of Cannes. On one side, you’ll see the red rock formations of Esterel, and on the other, the sparkling blue Mediterranean sea. Take in some of the most picturesque views of the French Riviera, and make time to stop for a dip at one of the beaches tucked into the little inlets along the way.

4. Marvel at the art in the Fondation Maeght in St-Paul-de-Vence

st paul de vence hilltop village

Modern art fills the walls of this impressive building near St-Paul-de-Vence, a hilltop village about 25 km from Nice. Among the collection are works by Marc Chagall, Joan Miró, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and other masters of the 20th century. More than 13,000 curated pieces are part of the gallery’s permanent collection which is considered to be one of the best of the world’s leading cultural institutions. Be sure to visit St-Paul-de-Vence afterward, where you’ll find the famous La Colombe d’Or bar and restaurant, rumoured to be Picasso’s favourite local. Sip on a cocktail and take in the sweeping views of the surrounding coast.

5. Spend a sun-kissed afternoon sipping on Côte d’Azur rosé

reflection of palm trees in a glass of rose wine

Vineyards can be found all along the French Riviera and north of the coast in Provence. Sprawling mountains, gentle slopes, mistral winds, and fertile soil give this region a perfect climate for growing grapes, putting several French Riviera rosés on the map as the world’s best. Nice boasts its very own appellation, a region that’s given distinction for its wine grape varieties by the AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée), the European counterpart to the American Viticultural Areas system. In this region of Nice, you’ll find the special floral-scented grape variety Braquet, used in the appellation’s distinctive AOC Bellet rosé. Here, you’ll also find Folle Noir, a Syrah-like spicy and sweet black fruit grape variety predominantly used to make AOC Bellet reds. The main white variety of white found in Bellet is Rolle, which can be found all over Provence.

Near Cannes, there’s a place called l’Île St Honorat which monks have called home since the 5th century. Monks make their own Holy Wine with a range of white and red wines, and liqueurs, from one of the most breathtaking locations for a vineyard in the world. Enjoy a glass of the French Riviera’s noteworthy grape varieties and make this region a part of your France wine tour.

6. Stroll down the promenade of Villefranche-sur-Mer

white bench by the ocean

Villefranche-sur-Mer is an idyllic palm tree studded, postcard-perfect seaside village. It’s the quintessential image of Mediterranean coastal living and an impressive sight to marvel at first-hand. Take a leisurely walk past the pastel coloured buildings along the waterfront and be sure to see the Chapelle de Saint Pierre des Pecheurs, which has an interior decorated by Jean Cocteau.

7. Private French Cooking Class at a Local Home in Nice

a chef whips fresh eggs in provence

Oh, you thought Paris was the only place to indulge in French pastries and cuisine? This fun afternoon of cooking with a local chef will open your eyes! Discover the best of Provencial eating with a private experience for you and your travel companions. You’ll prepare and enjoy a three-meal course in your host’s family home. The food will vanish pretty quickly, but the memories will last for years.

8. Saint Tropez and its Stars

aerial view of luxury boats docked at saint tropez

Discover the beauty of St. Tropez, a small fishing village that has become the meeting point of the international jet set. Enjoy a cruise aboard the ‘Brigantin II’ through the bay of Canoubiers to see the villas of the stars and admire the innumerable luxury yachts of Saint Tropez ‘Old Port’. Then stroll through the alleys of the amazing village of Port Grimaud, called ‘Venice Provençale’.

The heart of the French Riviera is full of cultural, gastronomic and historical experiences. 


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