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Côte d'Azur see + do

Sightseeing on the French Riviera is limited by the region's size (just 40 miles from Cannes to Menton), but this isn't necessarily a bad thing: There's little need to race from place to place fearing you might have missed something. France's pleasure coast offers beaches, boating, casinos, food, spectacular drives, and art as its primary distractions, not necessarily in that order.

Though some travelers hunker down for all of July and August, the Côte d'Azur is a relatively brief, greatest-hits affair for most visitors. A proper sampling of its highlights would start in Cannes for a stroll down the famed Croisette and time to relax on the sandy beach. The next major stop would be Nice, the Neapolitan-feeling city that gives the coast a jolt of authenticity and Italianate fun. Getting to know its boulevards and the narrow streets of its Old Town requires only a day, however; then it's time to rent a car and hit the storied Corniche roads (think To Catch a Thief and James Bond) that take you from Nice up to Monaco, providing spectacular sea views. Once in Monte Carlo, it's all about the yachts, the casino, and the shopping. Recover from the sensory (and financial) overload of Monaco at a hideaway along the coast, a good base for exploring the Riviera's classic backcountry towns at leisure. St. Paul de Vence and Mougins, for example, offer a tourist-friendly glimpse at the low-key, rustic hedonism of Provençal life in beautiful village settings. Don't forget that the Côte d'Azur was home to many major painters from the Impressionist period up through Matisse and Picasso. Each left his mark on coastal villages, and often a museum, from Antibes to Mougins to Vence.

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Yachting on the Côte d'Azur

Cannes and Antibes are the centers for boat rental (and purchase). Several companies line the streets of Cannes just off the Croisette, including Locarama,...more

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St. Paul de Vence

The archetypal Provençal hilltop town, St. Paul de Vence calls itself "the most beautiful village in the world." This is debatable—there's plenty of...more

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Nice, Nice

Nice is chock-full of high-energy eating, drinking, and culture, all of which reflects the city's Italian heritage and proximity to Italy. Nice is the fifth...more

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Musée Renoir, Cagnes-sur-Mer

Located at the back of a maze of streets in residential Cagnes-sur-Mer, this complex is made up of two-story traditional Provençal houses with a series of...more

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Musée Picasso, Antibes

Picasso had his studio in Antibes' Château Grimaldi for just three months back in 1946. But it was a prolific period in which he found inspiration in his...more

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Musée Matisse, Nice

This museum in Nice offers an exceptionally wide collection of Henri Matisse's works that appeals to casual fans as well as aficionados. The sculptures,...more

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Mougins

Picasso met his maker in this gorgeous hillside village-perché about 15 minutes from Cannes. Amazingly, the town contains precious little Picasso-related...more

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Monaco Grand Prix

The madly popular European sport of Formula One (or just F1) racing comes to Monaco just once a year—and it is an event. Held on a Sunday toward the end of...more

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Monaco

Monaco is famous for its over-the top, stratospherically priced shops and restaurants, and the antics of the Grimaldis, its ruling family. The postage-stamp...more

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Menton

Menton is at the end of the French Riviera in the last dazzling cove before the Italian border. Long known as a winter spot for English aristocrats, Menton's...more

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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