WHERE TO STAY, EAT, DRINK, SEE, EXPLORE, & SHOP.
The South of France blew me away. The water is bright blue and crystal clear. The villages are quaint and charming. The people are warm and gracious. This is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, in natural environment, culture, people, and lifestyle.
My mom and I stayed at the ‘Welcome Hotel’ in Villefranche-Sur-Mer, a small village ten minutes out outside of Nice. We woke up just feet away from the sea in a beautiful room and fresh air. Each morning, we enjoyed coffee and a small breakfast at our hotel or in the nearby cafes while we watched the local fisherman bring in his daily catch.
The French Riviera is famous for beautiful hikes and was a major draw for us to visit. Each morning, we hiked 8 to 10 miles in a different area. We hiked beautiful trails, on beaches, through neighborhoods, ports, and villages, and even to a few five-star hotels. We loved exploring the different towns, while being outside in the sun and enjoying the natural beauty of the C’ote D’azur.
After hiking, we sat for a healthy lunch and lingered in the sun. In the afternoons, we shopped in Nice, napped on the beach, jumped in the sea, and had too many Aperol Spritz to count. On Sunday afternoon, we happened on the opening party at a rooftop so we partied in the sun all afternoon.
In the evenings, we wandered the streets of the Old Town of Nice, eating at great restaurants, and enjoying our last cocktails and Spritz of the day. Before bed, we had CBD tea and dark chocolates, just like we would at home.
It was a really fun and relaxing long weekend together. We basically created our own wellness retreat which was the perfect reset for me after moving at such a fast pace.
About C'ote D'azur:
The French Riviera first became popular in the 18th century when British novelist, Tobias Smollett, began writing about the the health benefits of the coastal climate. At this time, British doctors would prescribe visits for “climato-therapy.” Meanwhile, British and French entrepreneurs noticed the growth in tourism and the Prince of Monaco started building the first casino in Monaco. Famous artists, most notable being Pablo Picasso & Henri Matisse, were also drawn to the French Riviera for its vibrant colors.
Today, the French Riviera is famous for the major resorts of Cannes, St. Tropez, Monaco, and Nice. These cities have beautiful beaches, amazing restaurants, high-end shopping, day and night life. In between the major cities, there are tons of other beautiful villages including Cap-d’Ali, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, Saint-Raphaël, and more. Nice is only 15 miles away from the Italian border so the cuisine and restaurants are heavily influenced by Mediterranean and Italian flavors. The South of France is known for day parties and beach clubs. There are tons of fun options for both day and night.
Here is my guide for the best restaurants, clubs, hikes, and day trips!
Activities & Day Trips:
Nice: Vieux-Nice is the vibrant Old Town of Nice with cobblestone street, beautiful buildings, local shops, and restaurants. Wander through the streets, along the promenade, or up to the Castle.
Villefranche-Sur-Mer: The “most colorful town on the Riviera” and home to the “Welcome Hotel” where we stayed. Villefrance became my favorite village for its beautiful pastel buildings, local beach, tiny town, and beachside restaurants.
Antibes: About 40 minutes south of Nice is the town of Antibes. This is where Pablo Picasso spent his summers and is home to the Picasso Museum. The hike around Cap D’Antibes is beautiful and anywhere from 6 to 13 miles long.
Eze: Eze is a tiny village on top of a mountain with sweeping views of the sea. There are a few local boutiques, art galleries, hotels, and restaurants. The hike to the top of Eze is really challenging but beautiful.
Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat: This was the most beautiful hike and area we visited. It is about 6 to 8 miles around the cap with tons of beautiful bays and beaches. The port would be a great place to stop and eat lunch after hiking or spending time at the beach.
Ephrussi Gardens & Villa: Located in the middle of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is the Ephrussi Villa and Garden. for about 15 euros, you can walk through the 9 different gardens (rose, Japanese, cactus, etc.) and tour the villa. Inside and out, it’s really stunning.
Saint-Paul-de-Vence: One of the oldest towns in the French Riviera, Saint-Paul-de-Vence is a medieval town famous for its art galleries and museums.
Cannes: Cannes is about an hour bus or car ride from Nice. Famous for the Film Festival and the luxury city. After exploring the city of Cannes, you can take a short boat ride two beautiful islands, Ile Ste-Marguerite and Ile Saint-Honorat.
EAT & DRINK:
- Le Galet: on the beach in Nice, this restaurant makes amazing Italian and French food. The Nicoise salad was the best I have ever had. This is a must.
- Movida: cool tapas bar with a view of the Promenade and a lively atmosphere.
- Poke Nice: a delicious poke place to stop for poke bowls or to take for a picnic.
- The Fit Kitchen: a health cafe with smoothies, acai bowls, poke bowls, salads, and other healthy snacks.
- La Popote d’Ondine: a trendy brunch spot with classic brunch dishes, healthy ones, lattes, and juices.
- Emily & the Cool Kids: cute cafe in the heart of Nice with the best cookies you will ever have!
- Clay: another brunch spot with healthy food, juices, lattes, and a sunny terrace.
- Marinette: famous for their cookies. and cakes, they also serve a delicious brunch and lunch here.
- Bocca: amazing restaurant with the coolest interior, delicious tapas, and a great rooftop bar.
- La Petit Maison: super local spot with live music on the weekends, dancing at tables, and beautiful food.
- Babbo Mio: lively Italian restaurant with a pizza oven and delicious pastas. famous for the spaghetti burrata with cherry tomatoes and the baked rigatoni.
- Di Piu: same owners as Babbo Mio and a similar Italian menu, this is a popular spot for lunch and dinner because it is right on the promenade.
- Nespo: upscale Italian restaurant with truffle pasta.
- Gaglio: a mix of French and Italian food with the perfect location in the Old Town and tons of outdoor seating.
- Cafe des Chineues: a really funky bar and the best place to get a drink before or after dinner.
- Lou Pantail: a charming Italian restaurant with pastas and pizza.
- FUN BARS: Waka Bar, Trafalar Bar, Wayne’s Bar, Blast Bar, Bulldog Pub
- CLUBS: High Club, Glam Club, L’Etoile Nightclub
- Villefranche-Sur-Mer: I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend staying in Villefranche. It’s a much more authentic and relaxing way to experience the Riviera and the location is very central. It is is only a ten minute drive to Nice and hiking distance from Eze, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, and Nice. We loved staying in the Welcome Hotel for its sea-side views, location, accommodations, and amazing staff. I would also recommend an airbnb in this village.
- Nice: If you prefer to stay in Nice, I would recommend staying in the old town of Nice (Le Vieux-Nice). Some options here are Palais Saleya Boutique Hotel, Hotel Rossetti, or Airbnbs.
- Luxury Hotels: Four Seasons on Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat or Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc on Antibes. These are some of the most beautiful hotels I have ever seen.