Experience Mediterranean marvel and majesty at THE FRENCH RIVIERA.
Henri Matisse; F.Scott Fitzgerald; Queen Victoria; Elton John. Michael Schumacher; James Bond. Fact, fun or fiction, all share one common thing - they have all enjoyed the sparkling hospitality and charming novelty of the incomparable French Riviera.
Blessed with enviable riches - be it of the wealthy, cultural or natural kind - the French Riviera is one of those holiday destinations that you have to visit at least once in your lifetime, but end up making the rest of your lifetime a pursuit to return to its pristine waters and warm embraces.
A Jewel of Mediterranean Blue
The French Riviera in the Mediterranean coastline of the southeast corner of France is generally considered to stretch from either Cassis, Toulon or Saint-Tropez on the west until Menton on the east, where it joins with the Italian Riviera. Author Patricia Highsmith described the French Riviera to be the entire coastline between Toulon and the Italian border in her popular 1955 novel The Talented Mr Ripley (which was adapted into a film in 1999).
Panorama of Villefranche bay, Nice, Cote d'Azur, France, showing Mont Boron to the West and Cap Ferrat to the East, with the clear turquoise Mediterranean sea.
The French Riviera was one of the first modern resort areas. It started out as a winter wellness resort for the British upper class and European royalty in the 18th and 19th century. In the first half of the 20th century, it was also popular among artists and writers, who have since left a strong cultural impact in the region, locally and globally. As a matter of fact, its French name Côte d'Azur (literal translation; Coast of Azure) was given by French writer Stephen Liegeard in his December 1887 book titled La Côte d’azur. The Azure refers to the pristine turquoise blue of the Mediterranean Sea.
With a climate that is dry during the summer and mildly windy during winters, with 71 miles of coastline and beaches paired with over 300 days of sunshine annually, it’s no wonder why the French Riviera is perfect for a holiday, a getaway or even to shoot a film or two.
Local Charm, Global Appeal
If the French Riviera is your destination, you can’t go wrong with having Nice, Monaco, Cannes and Saint-Tropez on your itinerary. Here’s a look at what makes the local charm of the Mediterranean so appealing to the wanderlusting traveller.
Nice (pronounced like “knees”) is the elegant cosmopolitan capital of the French Riviera. It is its largest city and home to the Riviera’s most vibrant nightlife, and offers sublime sunset views along the Promenade des Anglais with some of the region’s most scenic strips of boutique and café-lined sand.
An aerial view of the Fontaine du Soleil in Place Messena, Nice.
To get a feel of old Nice, head to the Place Massena and Garibaldi square for photos amidst the baroque and belle epoque buildings, and some delicious fruit gelato at the later square! For some cultural recreation, the Marc Chagall National Museum and Matisse Museum is sure to inspire, featuring the best of both artists’ seminal works.
Cours Saleya market Chez Theresa (Photo: cheztheresa.fr )
Meanwhile, at the old town that clusters around the famous and cherished Cours Saleya is a market that fills the main square with the heartening colours and scents of fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers sold almost weeklong from Tuesdays to Saturdays. For foodies, this is the place to sample market wares before enjoying a socca snack at Chez Theresa, or a meal at any of the delightful cafes, bistros and restaurants in the area.
If you’re there in February, you might also get to enjoy the Nice Carnival. Held over a two-week span in February, the carnival is a parade filled with masquerades, floats and competitions. Visiting in July? Then you might want to get in on the Nice Jazz Festival - a 5-day celebration of music that started back in 1948 and is now the most prestigious Jazz festival in Europe.
The second smallest country after the Vatican City, Monaco is the wealthiest place in the world not just due to its tax laws, but also because 30% of its population are millionaires. Hence, Monaco is perfect for a glamorous holiday.
Part of that glamour may also be attributed to the popularity of Monaco’s royal family, the Grimaldis - from the Hollywood starlet Grace Kelly who married Prince Rainier III, to the current ruler Prince Albert II and his wife, former Olympic swimmer, Charlene Wittstock. For a bit of history on how the Grimaldis came to rule Monaco, you might want to visit the site where it all started - the Prince’s Palace of Monaco itself. You’ll be greeted by a statue of Francois Grimaldi, who led the way for the Grimaldis to subsequently rule Monaco. You may also visit some of the rooms and halls inside the palace for a glimpse of how Monagesque royals live, or even catch Prince Albert himself driving away in his Tesla if you’re lucky!
The view from the palace is quite expansive but you’ll want to make your way to the Monaco Harbour to enjoy more of the beautiful panorama of the Riviera. Also known as Port Hercules, it was featured in the James Bond film GoldenEye, featuring the breathtaking sight of the Mediterranean contrasted with the lines of luxurious yachts and boats. For more inspiring views, stroll through the Jardin St-Martins where the azure sea is the backdrop for some seriously gorgeous manicured gardens.
Lastly, for a delightful gastronomic experience that also includes some people-watching, visit the legendary Cafe de Paris, which is also a prime spot for watching the prestigious F1 Monaco Grand Prix races when the event rolls into town every April.
It’s almost impossible to not want to go to Cannes if you’re already in the French Riviera. It’s most famous for hosting the Cannes Film Festival, and will definitely inject a bit more glamour to your Mediterranean holiday. In fact, you can go right up the steps of the Palais des Festivales and pretend you’re a movie star walking the red carpet, as that carpet is kept there year round.
If you want to escape the Cannes crowd, though, do visit St. Marguerite Island and check out the Museum of the Sea as well as the cell where it is said that the mystery man from Alexander Dumas’s The Man in The Iron Mask was held captive for 11 years.
Another favourite of the rich and famous, its prominent harbour promenade is the main attraction for tourists to enjoy their vacation either from their cosy cafe tables or a lovely afternoon walk. Visit the Citadel and take photos at its cannons, or enjoy the sights at its beaches and harbours that have inspired painters for decades. Its nightlife is also something many visitors come here for, so it might be worth a go if that’s your cup of tea. And while you’re here, don’t forget to try their famous Tropezian pie.
Other Azurean Attractions
Lemon Festival (Photo: Fete du Citron Menton)
The French Riviera is active throughout the calendar year, hosting myriad local and international events for both local and international visitors.
There is the Lemon Festival at Menton in February, the Violet Festival at Tourrettes-sur-Loup in March, and the Rose Festival in May and the Jasmine Festival in August at Grasse. There are charming towns and villages such as the Port of Antibes and its old town, natural beauties such as the Iles d’Hyeres, as well as the quiet and quaint Eze.
The Iles d’Hyeres. Cobblestoned streets of Eze Village.
Making Your Way To The French Riviera
Nice is home to the Nice Côte d'Azur Airport, the third largest airport in France. It is easily reachable within Europe, and accessible via connecting flights. From KLIA, you can either connect via London with British Airways and Malaysia Airlines, via Doha with Qatar Airways, via Dubai with Emirates, via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines or even via Amsterdam with KLM. Between the cities, the best way is to take either the train or the bus, depending on your budget and time.