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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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Massif de l'Estérel

The Côte d'Azur isn't known for its hiking and camping, but nature is just a 20-minute drive west along the coast from Cannes on the N98 road, a.k.a. the...more

Editors' Pick
Corniche Drives

The sweeping vistas, pink sunsets, and medieval towns along the Grande Corniche were romanticized in Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief. They are all still there and...more

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Chapelle du Rosaire, Vence

The simple town of Vence is unremarkable except for the Chapelle du Rosaire, a church whose stained-glass windows were designed by Henri Matisse. It was the...more

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Casinos on the Côte d'Azur

Breaking the bank at the Monte Carlo Casino has happened once, and only once—in 1891. To give it a try, you'll need to cough up at least $14 at the door...more

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Cannes Film Festival

Arguably more glamorous than the Oscars, this ten-day mid-May schmoozefest ties up the coast's harbors with megayachts, while hotels are booked solid (at...more

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Cannes, Cannes

A fashionable resort town since the 19th century, Cannes is one of the coast's primary shopping and party destinations. The Croisette is the big see-and-be-seen...more

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Beaches on the Côte d'Azur

The Mediterranean is an often shockingly intense blue on the Côte d'Azur, but it takes a bit of know-how to find the right sandy or rocky spit to...more

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Antibes, Antibes

Antibes is an odd combination of cutesy medieval town and luxury yacht harbor, with one of the Côte d'Azur's longest stretches of beach at its western...more

Editors' Pick
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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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