We were exploring Southern France and made a list of the Top 10 places in the French Riviera. Our Top 10 list will help you discover the best places near Nice and Monaco, most of which are easy to get to by train.
For centuries, the French Riviera has been the Number 1 destination for millionaires, movie stars and royals and many of them have built their vacation homes in the region.
This post will take you to one of the most luxurious areas in the world, in the footsteps of the rich and famous.
Or maybe old hilltop villages are more like your thing, the ones that exist all over the French Riviera? Now take good shoes and start exploring the riviera.
The Top 10 Places in the French Riviera, Eze
This is Eze, a hilltop village half way between Nice and Monaco. We, however, will start with Nice.
Beautiful Nice, the center of the French Riviera
Nice is the the first of our top ten places in the French Riviera. As the region’s biggest city and capital Nice is the Riviera’s main tourist destination in its own right.
The French Riviera capital combines luxury and shopping with an atmospheric old town with cafes, shops and market stalls. In addition, Nice has a long pebbly beach with turquoise waters right in the city, running all the way to the airport that you can get to with a normal city bus. Easy and convenient!
The street market of Nice
The city of Nice is the place where to start your trip to the French Riviera and maybe the place you might want to use as your base during your whole stay. To read more about the city, we wrote a separate article on Nice:
From Nice you will have very good bus and train connections to most French Riviera destinations. So even when you love Nice, don’t spend your whole vacation there, go ahead and see what else the Riviera offers. Go and visit the Top 10 places in the French Riviera, selected for you.
The places-to-see list is not in a set order – but to begin with we will take the places you can’t miss. First of all, our own favorite village, Villefrance-sur-Mer located next to Nice.
The best places near Nice, Villefrance-sur-Mer
The village of Villefrance-sur-Mer is right around the corner from Nice, only about 6 km round the peninsula.
Villefrance is like from a fairy tale. As the photos shows, the village is postcard pretty. It’s the place where we prefer to stay in the French Riviera if we only can.
Yellow and rose-colored houses clinging to the steep hills, rows of good restaurants – and above all, a beautiful beach with calm crystal-clear waters. The photo shows how clear the Villefrance-sur-Mer beach water is:
Villefrance beach: ne of the best beaches near Nice
To get to Villefrance from other resorts you just take bus number 100 or the train. The Villefrance train station is on the mountain slope right above the beach.
And with the same bus 100 or train you can get to our next destination, another town that shines in Mediterranean colors, Menton. Menton is the last resort in the French Riviera before Italy, only a few kilometers from the Italian border.
The best places near Monaco: Menton
The city of Menton – like the area around it – is known for its warm micro-climate and the warm colors they use to paint houses. Menton definitely is among the top 10 sights in the French Riviera.
The old town with its yellow and rose houses along cobbled lanes is so pretty you can’t take your eyes from it. Walk around at daytime or after dark, Menton in evening light is also worth to see.
Menton, French Riviera
Menton has a buy shopping street that sells lemon products of the area. There are two beaches, a sandy beach right in the old town and a long pebble beach on the other side.
A must see place on the Riviera: Monaco
The Principality of Monaco is built on a narrow strip of land between the Mediterranean and the mountains.
Monaco is lively, noisy and crowded. More and more people are moving to Monaco and the skyscrapers are getting higher. And the yachts in the harbour are getting bigger and bigger, at least during the annual Monaco Yacht Show that is held each September.
Some luxurious Monaco yachts
But don’t take your rental car to Monaco, your French insurance doesn’t cover Monaco. It’s an independent country, even if you don’t see the difference.
Take the upper road just behind the border and try to park somewhere and walk down to the city. Or maybe better still, take a bus (bus 100 from Nice to Monte Carlo) or train. Monaco definitely is worth a day trip from Nice.
- We spent a day in Monaco and have some ideas where to go and what to see in Monaco: One Day in Monaco
5. Cap Ferrat
Best places near Nice: the luxurious peninsula of Cap Ferrat
Cap-Ferrat next to Villefrance is one of the wealthiest areas in the whole world. Lots of celebrities, politicians and royal families have chosen to stay on this amazing peninsula. Cap Ferrat views are splended, villas majestic, yacht harbor pretty and the beaches postcard perfect.
As you can guess, properties are not the cheapest on this kind of a peninsula, and no special offers exist on the pricy restaurant menus.
One of the Cap Ferrat beaches
This is the beautiful Paloma beach, one of the many pretty Cap-Ferrat beaches. It’s a pebble beach and one of my favorites on the whole Riviera.
- Read more about Cap Ferrat here: Walk around Cap-Ferrat, French Riviera
On the top: Eze hilltop village
Eze is a fortified hilltop village where most tour buses stop on their French Riviera route, so it will be very crowded during the high season. Nevertheless, the postcard-perfect village has its place on any top 10 list of the French Riviera.
The old village of Eze contains narrow cobbled lanes, all of them hidden within the thick city walls. There are nice small shops and high-end restaurants – and splendid views!
For the best panorama climb to the botanical garden on the absolute top of the hill!
The fortified hilltop Eze between Nice and Monaco
In Eze, park your car in the car-park below the old village. Coming by train, you can choose to walk up along a steep path from Eze Station down on the seashore. Or, to make it easier, take a connecting bus up to the village.
Visit by train: Roquebrune near Monaco
The medieval village of Roquebrune has been built around a hilltop castle as well, and belongs to the larger community of Roquebrune-San-Martin.
To reach the village from the Roquebrune train station you need to climb hundreds of steps – but after all sweating, the village and the views will reward you. The village itself has a lot of stairs as well, in all places. And Roquebrune has beautiful arches and tunnels to walk through:
The ancient hilltop city of Roquebrune
From Roquebrune you will get striking views to the Mediterranean and the peninsula of San-Martin that you can walk around along a marked footpath.
Number eight among our top 10 places in the French Riviera is in the west.
The wealthy Cannes is one of the cities to visit on the French Riviera.
Cannes is a little bit like Nice in a small scale. Luxurious hotels, a green landscaped beach promenade and a long, wide sandy beach. And as you know, this is the place where the world’s all movie stars gather and with a good reason.
Drive (or walk) up the hill where the castle is and you will see the city skyline.
Cannes beach promenade
The hill village of Saint-Paul-de-Vence
Saint-Paul-de-Vence is another village located on a hilltop. It differs from the other villages we have seen until now in that it’s not on the coast. As Saint-Paul is an inland village, you don’t get there by train, instead you will have to take a bus from Nice or Gagnes-sur-Mer.
Saint-Paul is a real artist village, filled with art galleries and exhibitions located throughout the hidden lanes.
Alley in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, French Riviera
Like Eze, Saint-Paul is a place where busloads of tour groups visit so it may be crowded (or certainly will be). But tour organizers are not wrong, this is a very atmospheric village and deserves its place on our list.
10. Peille and Peillon
Visit by car or bus: Peille and Peillon
Then there are two non-touristic mountain villages, Peille and Peillon. To visit you will need a car, reserve half a day and drive into the mountains. Take the road to Peille from La Turbie and return via Peillon to La Trinité and Nice.
Both villages are medieval, Peille is on the mountain slope and Peillon stands on a hilltop. Mountain roads are narrow and contain endless sharp turns, but you can do it as there’s not much traffic on these side roads.
These top 10 places in the French Riviera were our best picks of this beautiful area when visiting. When time allows I’m going to write more about the French Riviera destinations, in the meanwhile I wish you a nice trip!
Finally, here’s a French Riviera map to help you in travel planning in case you got inspired:
Map of the Top 10 Places in the French Riviera
On this map you can see the French Riviera. Zoom in the map or open it up in Google maps to see the location of the top ten places. They are in the area near Nice, Monaco and Cannes.
Read More about the French Riviera
If you are planning a trip to the south of France, these French Riviera articles might interest you:
- City Walk: See Nice in One Day
- What to See in One Day in Monaco
- Walk around Cap-Ferrat, French Riviera
A Menton lemon, the French Riviera