Sun and Sand in the French Riviera
When we arrived in London last summer, we were bummed about the cool, rainy weather, so this year we made sure to plan plenty of trips to warm weather. We’d heard great things about the French Riviera or Côte de Azure, so we booked our flights early (March or April) and locked in a decent price for a bank holiday weekend. While the beaches don't rank at the top of our list, we had a great time with our friends Kari and Steve, exploring the different towns along the coast soaking up the sun and sand.
Friday 26 August
We flew into the Nice airport, which was about a 20 minute drive from our Airbnb in Antibes. Our place was great – it had a small balcony on each side of the apartment, which significantly helped with airflow (especially since there was no AC!). We hadn’t eaten dinner yet, so we went in search of some food. It was 11pm by the time we got settled, so a sports bar was our only food option. We grabbed a quick bite and went to bed, tired from a long day.
Saturday 27 August
Market in Antibes
We woke up and walked through Antibes’ old town to the main market. On the way, we stopped for a freshly baked almond croissant, which just melted in our mouths. From there we went on to peruse the stalls of fresh fruit, vegetables, cheeses, and olives. There we sampled socca, which is a regional stone-fired pancake made it of chickpea flour – delicious! We stopped for what we thought would be a quick dip and bread sample, and ended up tasting every spread the guy had to offer. We bought several to take home for happy hour, and went on our way.
One of the reasons we chose to stay in Antibes is because it has sand beaches, unlike most of the other towns in the region. Antibes has a few public swimming spots, which while small, totally do the job and satisfy the summer beach need.
35 Rue Aubernon, 06600 Antibes, France
Our guide book recommended a place in town for excellent foie gras, and we figured we might as well try the local delicacy. It’s a tiny shop that has fresh baguettes and offers a variety of sandwiches. We were glad that we decided to split one between us, since the bread was the highlight of the meal.
We spent the rest of the day at another ne of the town's beaches. For happy hour, we sat out on our balcony and enjoyed more fresh baguette with the cheese, dips, olives and wine that we bought in the morning. For dinner we were eager for some good pizza, since the French Riviera has lots of Italian food due to the proximity to Italy. but unfortunately our meal didn’t hit the spot.
Sunday 28 August
Nice Old Town and Castle Hill
It's a 25 minute drive from Antibes to Nice, where we walked around the adorable old town and market. We could have spent all day meandering the little streets, but there was a lot we wanted to see. From there, we did a 30 minute up-hill walk to Castle Hill, where we were treated to a lovely panoramic view of Nice. Despite the heat, it was well worth the walk.
9 Rue de la Préfecture, 06300 Nice, France
By this point we’d worked up an appetite and were ready for lunch. We found a Lebanese restaurant that had excellent sampler platters with really fresh and delicious vegetables, meats and dips. We were too full to get dessert but had read that Fencchio had the best gelato in town (we stopped in just to look, and it looked amazing!).
Monaco is a 20 minute drive east of Nice, and if you’re not going to gamble or spend money, there isn’t much to do other than ogle at the expensive cars and boats (which we did). We popped into the Monte Carlo casino to look at the lobby but didn’t feel like paying €10 to enter.
On our way back to Antibes, we stopped in Èze, a medieval town that’s built up on a mountain. We walked around and explored the winding cobblestone streets, enjoyed the views and sat for drinks. It was such a picturesque place that seemed to be stuck back in time, and it was a real highlight of our trip. The photos really don’t do it justice, so you’ll have to go and see it for yourself!
15 Cours Masséna, 06600 Antibes, France
Dinner at Le Zinc was much better than the first night, but we still weren't totally wowed. The restaurant was just off of the main market square, where there was live music playing throughout our meal. After dinner we stopped to listen and take in the atmosphere. Even though it was a Sunday night, all of the restaurants were packed and people were out of their seats dancing. There was also a little artisan market set up in place of the morning fresh market, so we enjoyed looking around and taking in the scene.
4 Rue Aubernon, 06600 Antibes, France
Always on the search for excellent gelato, we’d been wanting to try this place all weekend. There was a line down the street, so we figured it would be worth the wait and it absolutely was!
Monday 29 August
We woke up early to beat the heat and drove 10 minutes to the Cap d’Antibes for a 5km shore walk. The trail skirted along the rocky coast, passing by some enormous private villas. The view was beautiful and it felt good to get our feet moving after so much eating!
21 Avenue Pasteur, 06600 Antibes, France
We were still on the search for excellent Italian food, so we tried once more at this Italian restaurant near our Airbnb. The beef carpaccio was fantastic, and the pizza was pretty delicious too.
Beaches in Juan les Pins
On our way back from the hike we discovered a whole different side of Antibes, where there were resorts and restaurants lining the beach. This part of Antibes felt much more like the beach towns we’re used to back home, so we enjoyed walking around here. Most of the beaches were private, with a €15-20 cover charge to rent a chair, but we found a small triangle of public sand and enjoyed our last afternoon at the beach.
577 Avenue Jules Grec, 06600 Antibes, France
Dinner the last night was a little off-the-beaten-path. This restaurant had excellent reviews, so we decided to go for it, not realizing quite how far of a walk it would be. It was well worth it though, as it was by far the best meal we had in Antibes. Upon arrival we were treated to an aperitif and delicious bread and olive oil, and the meal itself was fantastic too. We were thankful for the walk home after such a huge meal.
Tuesday 30 August
One of our servers told us that the French Riviera used to be a winter getaway because it’s known to have 300 sunny days a year. Whether or not that’s true, we were really bummed to wake up on our last morning to a grey, rainy day. We grabbed one more fresh croissant, and headed out of town.
Saint-Paul de Vence
In the end, the rain was a blessing because Staint-Paul de Vence is one of the prettiest towns we’ve visited in Europe. It’s about 30 minutes inland from Antibes, up in the mountains of Provence. You can walk on the ramparts of the old city wall and enjoy views of the other mountain towns. The town itself has winding cobblestone streets filled with galleries,cafes and shops. Marc Chagall is buried in the cemetery there, and you can go and visit his grave. Saint-Paul de Vence is the quintessential French town and was the perfect way to end our trip.
On every trip we share our rose (highlight), thorn (lowlight), and bud (what we're looking forward to).
Rose – hike (Josh), exploring the little French towns (Becca)
Thorn- eating bad pizza twice (Josh), forgetting to buy a postcard (Becca – I buy a postcard as a memento from every trip)
Bud- America (Josh), eating gelato in Lake Como (Becca)
If you go, things to know…
When to go? Except for our last day, the weather was perfect - sunny and 80 degress every day. Apparently Antibes has sun all year, making it a great year-round destination. That said, the French Riviera is known for being a great summer beach destination, so summer is definitely peak season. Given its proximity to Cannes, festival time is probably a popular (and expensive) time to visit.
What else is there to do? We didn’t have time to drive over to Cannes or Saint Tropez, but we’ve heard these are also fun day trips in the area. There are several Picasso museums in the region for art lovers.
Where to stay? There are a lot of options for places to stay on the French Riviera, depending on the type of experience you’re looking for and your budget. We originally planned to stay in Nice, since it’s the biggest of the cities on the coast and pretty central for day trips. When we started looking at hotels and Airbnbs, it was a lot more expensive and the places in our budget were farther out than we wanted. Antibes ended up being a great choice for us because we really enjoyed spending time in its cute old town and being a 15 minute walk to the beach.
How long to stay for? This again depends on the type of holiday you’re looking for, since you could easily spend a week on the French Riviera lounging on the beaches and enjoying the various towns in close proximity. Four days felt like a good amount of time to fit in a mixture of touring and beaching.