The Ultimate 5 to 7 Days in the French Riviera Itinerary

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by Neota Langley


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In this 5 to 7 days in the French Riviera itinerary, you’ll discover the capital of the area, Nice, as well as explore hidden gems nestled in the hillsides, uninhabited islands and the breathtaking cliffs of the Calanques National Park.

Located in the south of France, the French Riviera is a long stretch of coast along the Mediterranean Sea. Also referred to as the Côte d’Azur, this popular destination is famed for its glamorous cities, mediaeval hilltop towns, rich culture and pristine beaches that lead into the glistening azure sea.

How Many Days in the French Riviera?

While it’s entirely possible to explore a small portion of the French Riviera by spending 2-3 days in Nice, to make the most of the entire region without feeling rushed, 5-7 days is the sweet spot. Allowing yourself the additional time will give you the freedom to discover the off-the-beaten-path locations between the main hotspots. 

With 5 days in the French Riviera, you’ll be able to enjoy the glitz and glamour of Monaco and  Cannes, the rich culture of Nice, soak in the sun in St Tropez and visit some of the picturesque hilltop towns and villages in between. 

Ideally, 7 days are the perfect amount of time to do this beautiful region justice. An entire week gives you plenty of time to head out of the cities to discover the lesser-known gems of the Côte d’Azur and soak in the authentic local culture.    

Pampelonne Beach in Saint Tropez
Pampelonne Beach in Saint Tropez

Getting To & Around the French Riviera

Nice is the 5th largest city in France, perched on the eastern side of the French Riviera, it makes the perfect starting point for this Côte d’Azur itinerary. Luckily, Nice is also incredibly accessible, whether you are arriving by plane, train or bus.

If you’re arriving by train, the station Gare de Nice-Ville is conveniently located just a short walk away from the city centre. The trains are a reliable and affordable way to access Nice from a variety of major cities across France and even a handful of Italian cities. You can view schedules here.

The Nice Côte d’Azur airport is the only major international airport along the French Riviera. This is a bustling airport with flights arriving from across the world. Access to the city from the airport is quick and easy with a regular free tram service covering the short 30-minute journey.

For the most cost-effective way to reach the French Riviera, you’ll find comfortable buses that connect Nice to a variety of cities and towns across France and Italy. You can view schedules here.

When planning your route, you may be wondering how to get from one location to the next.

While the buses and trains between cities are very good, to really make the most of your time and explore the hidden gems along the way, it would be advisable to hire a car. You can browse options here to compare options amongst several car hire companies.

A French Riviera road trip itinerary is the perfect way to embrace the region at your own pace and discover your own slice of paradise with hidden coves and quintessentially French hilltop villages not on any bus or train route.

If you are unable to rent a car for any reason then the trains and buses are an affordable and reliable way to make your way along the Mediterranean Coast, just bear in mind there may be a few spots that these primary routes don’t cover.

An excellent way to supplement this is with guided tours, these tours are more likely to visit the spots not served by regular buses or trains such as the Verdon Gorge or the Esterel National Park

If you are relying on public transport, pick up a French Riviera Pass with travel. This pass will allow you to travel freely on the Lignes d’Azur bus services and the city trams in Nice as well as providing free access to a variety of museums and activities. 

View of Nice at dusk
View of Nice at Dusk

5 to 7-Day French Riviera Itinerary

Starting from east to west, this route covers the major hotspots as well as the hidden gems along the coast. If you only have 5 days to explore, you can follow the daily suggestions or mix and match depending on your ideal holiday. The proximity of the destinations means it is easy to curate this guide to suit your needs. 

Day 1 – Nice

The capital of the French Riviera, Nice, is the perfect place to start our itinerary. Not only is it the most accessible city along the coast but it also boasts a rich culture, delicious regional cuisine and a charming old town. Dating back to 350 BCE, Nice (previously known as Nike and Nizza) is easily one of the most cultural cities in France. 

On your first morning, make your way along the world-renowned Promenade Des Anglais. A 7 km long boulevard providing uninterrupted coastal views of the Mediterranean Sea, this is the perfect place to get a feel for the French Riviera. Grab a coffee and a fresh, buttery croissant from one of the many bakeries along the seafront along the way. 

From the Promenade Des Anglais, head into the old town (Vieux Nice). Meander along the narrow cobbled streets until you reach the Cours Saleya, a bustling market home to stands offering fresh fruit and vegetables, local flowers, handmade crafts and souvenirs. You can also organise a walking tour or food tour here.

The atmosphere is electric, the aromas exciting the senses as you make your way along the street. I would highly recommend purchasing a range of local produce to put together a picnic for the upcoming days – you won’t find anything quite as fresh and delicious in any supermarkets.

Next, visit one of the city’s many museums. Musée Matisse sits atop Cimiez Hill, in a 17th-century villa that was also once Matisse’s home. Here you can find an impressive collection of original paintings, drawings and sculptures.

The museum itself is surrounded by beautiful gardens and ancient olive groves. Cimiez Hill is also home to an archaeological museum, built on the site of the remains of the ancient Roman city of Cemenelum, which is definitely worth the visit if you are in the area. If you have purchased a French Riviera Pass, access to the museum is free.

Head back into the old town to discover some local Nicoise cuisine for dinner. You may have heard of the famous ‘Nicoise salad’, tuna, fresh vegetables and hard-boiled eggs but there are plenty of other regional delights to explore.

Try ‘Daube’, a hearty beef stew, ‘Ratatouille’, a rich vegetable stew originating in Nice or for a grab-and-go dinner try a ‘Socca’ at one of the street food vendors, a chickpea pancake served with a variety of toppings.  

Flea Market of Cours Saleya
Flea Market of Cours Saleya

Where to Stay in Nice

Nice Garden Hotel – Perfect for mid-range travellers, this 3-star hotel is ideal for those looking for a central place to stay in Nice. They have a number of lovely rooms available along with an unbeatable location for exploring all this coastal French city has to offer.

Palais Saleya Boutique hôtel – If you’re staying in the French Riviera on a bit of a higher budget, then this luxury hotel in the centre of Nice is an excellent option. They have a range of lovely rooms on offer along with countless other wonderful amenities.

Aparthotel AMMI Vieux Nice – This aparthotel has a number of fully furnished flats on offer for those who’d rather have their own space while visiting Nice. They have a central location along with breakfast available daily and an airport shuttle on offer.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Nice hotels!

Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Nice
Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Nice

Day 2 – Monaco Day Trip

No trip to the French Riviera would be complete without a day trip into the world’s second-smallest country, Monaco. Just 30 minutes away from Nice by train or car, Monaco offers a unique perspective of the Côte d’Azur. Famed for its riches, yachts, Monte Carlo and hosting the famous inner city Grand Prix, Monaco is a micro country overflowing with luxury. 

The best way to reach Monaco from Nice is by train. There are regular, affordable trains between the two cities throughout the day. 

If you have a car, there are several multi-storey car parks around the city so parking is convenient although perhaps the more expensive option.

There are two routes from Nice to Monaco, along the coast or up through the hills – both offer spectacular views across the Mediterranean Sea. When you’re driving, you also have the option to stop in the charming village of Eze along the way.

If you want to go on a guided tour to Monaco from Nice there are plenty of options such as this full-day tour.

Saying Monaco is expensive is an understatement, so make sure to pack a picnic with some of the local produce you picked up from the Cours Saleya.

If budget is no option, you’ll have plenty to do in Monaco, from luxurious yachts to helicopter rides and casinos. But don’t worry, Monaco is more diverse than it may first appear with a historical old town, botanical gardens and museums. 

After walking along the marina staring up at the super-yachts, head out of the city centre to Jardin De Exotique. You can reach the gardens on foot or by using the free public escalators that whisk you up the cliffside.

A stunning oasis perched above the city, this botanical garden is home to over 1000 species of cacti and succulents from across the world. Some of these plants are over a century old, towering cacti frame the panoramic view across the Port of Monaco extending as far as Italy.

Access to the gardens includes a visit to a cave set back in the cliff, full of stalactites and stalagmites. 

Head back down into the city to visit the Oceanography Museum. A cross between an aquarium and a natural history museum, this grand baroque building is home to an impressive collection of marine life and oceanographic artefacts.

Before you make the trip back to Nice, make sure you visit the old town, Monaco Ville (also known as The Rock). Much smaller than the old town in Nice, Monaco Ville still has the typical picturesque winding streets and colourful buildings.

Most visitors to Monaco focus on the marina and the city centre so even in the high season, this slice of history is fairly quiet and provides a nice, shady break from the city centre. 

30 minutes along the coast and we are back in Nice. For the best view of the sunset, take a walk up Castle Hill. A popular spot for locals and tourists alike, you can take in panoramic views across the city and along the coast as the sun sets. The perfect way to end the day. 

Casino of Monte Carlo.
Casino of Monte Carlo

Day 3 – St Paul de Vence, Antibes & Cannes

Next, we wave goodbye to Nice as we continue our journey west along the French Riviera. Start your day by heading inland to the hilltop village of St Paul de Vence. A perfectly intact, Medieval village renowned for its art. Matisse, Picasso, Chagall and Renoir all spent time here, and today the narrow lanes are full of art galleries and artisan studios. 

Take a stroll through the historic streets, sculptures and vine-covered buildings around every corner. Alongside the many galleries that line the cobbled streets, you can find gift shops and chic cafes. 

Moving along the coast to Antibes, a 16th-century walled city. A popular day trip from Nice, it’s not hard to see why Antibes has captured the hearts of many artists over the centuries. 

Perhaps one of the world’s most famous artists, Picasso, lived in Antibes for a time and now has a museum dedicated to his life and works, the Musee Picasso. Entry is free for French Riviera Pass holders. 

Take the time to explore and stroll around the Cap d’Antibes, away from the hustle and bustle, this quiet peninsula is the perfect place to discover a hidden cove for a dip in the azure sea to cool off or simply take one of the hiking trails to embrace yourself in nature.

We end day 3 in Cannes, known for its glitz and glamour and, of course, the Cannes Film Festival -which is held at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès annually. This city is the perfect place to spend the evening.

As the sun sets, take a stroll along the Croisette, a world-renowned boulevard stretching 3 km along the Mediterranean Sea. Here you will find a wide range of beach clubs offering fresh seafood and regional wines. 

Cannes is a hot spot for nightlife on the French Riviera so if the mood takes you, after dinner, check out one of the chic rooftop bars or head to a nightclub to dance the night away. 

Beautiful Cannes
Beautiful Cannes

Where to Stay in Cannes

Villa Claudia Hotel Cannes – This lovely, mid-range hotel is perfect for your average visitor to Cannes. they have a range of wonderful rooms to choose from, a fantastic location, breakfast on offer each morning and a lovely garden for guests to enjoy.

Hotel Splendid – This opulent hotel is perfect for luxury visitors to Cannes. Ideal if you want your French Riviera trip to be as splendid as possible, with gorgeous rooms and amenities like a bar, breakfast, room service and a lovely terrace.

La Bastide de l’Oliveraie – If you’re looking for a large suite instead of a traditional hotel room, then this sophisticated hotel in the centre of Cannes is a great option. There are several different rooms, a spa, a rooftop swimming pool and hot tub and a great breakfast served daily.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Cannes hotels!

Notre-Dame de l'Esperance Church in Cannes
Notre-Dame de l’Esperance Church in Cannes

Day 4 – Cannes

The next morning, take the ferry from Cannes to Sainte Marguerite – one of four Lerins Islands, just off the coast of Cannes. Spend the morning exploring the unspoilt island via the pine and eucalyptus-lined walking trails. You can pre-book tickets here.

At just 3 km long, you can easily reach hidden corners of the island on foot, perfect for a picnic. Don’t forget to stop in at the Museum of the Sea to visit the prison cell of the Man in the Iron Mask before heading back to the mainland. 

After soaking in the natural oasis of Sainte Marguerite, it’s time to make the most of Cannes’ wide range of watersports on offer. Whether you are an adrenaline junkie looking to parasail along the Mediterranean coast or simply want to take the afternoon to relax on a paddleboard or kayak.

The best way to see the coast is from the water, a unique perspective on the city and the hidden coves along the shore. Activities along the start of the Croisette tend to be more expensive than those towards the end so take a stroll along the boulevard to save yourself some pennies. 

After spending the day on the azure sea, head inland for dinner. Cannes’ old town may be smaller than Vieux Nice but it is just as charming. Cannes offers a wide range of restaurants, from Michelin-starred to rustic and homely. Restaurants line the streets of the old town so take your pick and settle in to enjoy some of the region’s finest food. 

Fort Royal on Sainte-Marguerite Island
Fort Royal on Sainte-Marguerite Island

Day 5 – St Tropez

It’s time to move further along the coast to our next destination, St Tropez. If you have your own vehicle, the drive takes just over an hour but there is a more picturesque way to travel between the two cities.

The ferry leaves Cannes at 10:15, cruising through the Mediterranean Sea to arrive in St Tropez at 11:30. You can pre-book tickets here.

The journey is truly invigorating, fresh sea spray, colourful parasol-filled beaches, hidden coves, and ancient seaside towns appearing around every corner. This is the perfect way to indulge in a boat trip without breaking the bank.

Long associated with sunbathing, beach parasols and deck chairs – St Tropez is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the region. Many of the towns and cities we have visited so far offer pebble beaches along their shores but not St Tropez. Here you will find wide stretches of golden sands, glistening turquoise waters and undulating dunes. 

St Tropez used to be a quiet fishing village, however, it rose to popularity when the 1956 film And God Created Woman starring Brigitte Bardot was shot here. Since then it has been a popular destination to soak in that Riviera style. 

Take the morning to stroll along the old port (Vieux Port). Once you pass the rows of luxurious, modern super yachts, you will come to a footpath that leads around the old fisherman’s district, La Poche.

The tiny beach and cobbled streets give you a glimpse into what St Tropez may have been like before it became a tourist destination. 

After building up an appetite, head into the traditional square, Place Des Lices to discover the charming restaurants offering regional cuisine. If you are lucky enough to be visiting on market day (Tuesday and Saturday) you will find a bustling market, sprawling across the plaza.

Locals come to the market to get their groceries from local farmers and bakers and to grab great deals on everything from antiques to spices, vinyl records to homeware.

St Tropez is much more than sunbathing on the beach but our next stop embraces the activity this city is known for. If glitz and glamour are your thing, head to the world-famous Pampelonne Beach. A 5 km scenic stretch of golden sand, clear blue sea and exclusive beach clubs.

If you want to soak in the St Tropez beach scene without dealing with crowds, you may want to head further along the coast to Canoubiers beach, a quieter spot where you will find locals taking a dip in the ocean and enjoying the natural shade of the umbrella pines. 

If you only have 5 days in French Riviera, this will be your final day. After returning to Cannes on the 16:30 ferry the options for onward travel are endless. Whether you are hoping on a flight from the Nice Cote d’Azur airport or taking your car across to explore neighbouring Italy.

However, if you’re taking a week to explore the French Riviera, then consider either basing yourself in St Tropex for the night or heading all the way to Hyères, the next stop on our itinerary, in order to avoid backtracking.

Village of Saint Tropez
Village of Saint Tropez

Day 6 – Hyères

On day six of this itinerary through the French Riviera, it’s time to head a bit off the beaten tourist path and visit the Western part of the Côte d’Azur. Often overlooked by tourists, this area is favoured by French travellers for being much quieter than the likes of Nice or Cannes

The charming mediaeval town of Hyères is our next stop. Take the morning to explore the city and wander through the narrow streets of the old town before bursting out to the open sandy beaches.  

Hyères is an unmissable destination but we are not here for the city itself. Just off the coast of Hyères, you will find the ‘Golden Islands’ a collection of 3 islands all offering beautiful vistas, sandy beaches, lush greenery and diverse wildlife but each providing visitors with something different. Shuttle boats run regularly from the port of Hyères.

Our destination is Port Cros National Park, a protected oasis of nature and tranquillity, this island is the wildest of the three. Providing 3 excellent hiking trails where you can fully immerse yourself in the natural and cultural wonders that you can find in Southern France.

The area is world-renowned for spectacular diving with crystal clear waters and an abundance of protected sea life. There is a dive centre along the harbour where you can book full-day beginner scuba courses or simply rent snorkel equipment. There are 15 incredible scuba diving locations around Hyères and the Golden Islands including a shipwreck off the coast.

There are several restaurants and accommodation options on the Port Cros island if you truly wish to immerse yourself in this beautiful Mediterranean island if you don’t plan to hop on the shuttle boat back to Hyères.

Pointe de la Badine beach in Hyeres
Beach in Hyères

Where to Stay in Hyères

Hôtel Le Méditerranée – This cosy hotel located right on the beach in Hyères is ideal of those visiting this town on a mid-range budget. They have many clean, comfortable and bright rooms to choose from, a great location and breakfast available each morning.

Hôtel Lido Beach – This is another charming (and pet-friendly) hotel located on the beach in Hyères. There are countless lovely amenities for guests to enjoy, a number of delightful rooms to choose from and an excellent location for enjoying all the region has to offer.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Hyères hotels!

Day 7 – Cassis

The final bit of your French Riviera trip takes you even further west along the coast to the picturesque fishing village of Cassis. Nestled between the dramatic Cap Canaille (the highest sea cliff in France) and the Calanques National Park, Cassis is easily one of the most beautiful villages on the Cote d’Azur.

The port is the beating heart of this small town, still in use today, if you arrive early enough you will catch the fish market where local fishermen sell their catch of the day to locals and restaurants along the shore. 

The streets of the town are largely car-free so make a great place to wander around, discovering pastel buildings with colourful shutters and vines snaking over the balconies.

You can discover more about the history of Cassis in the Musée d’Art et Traditions Populaires, housing permanent collections of archaeological artefacts and fine art alongside temporary exhibitions from the Provence region. 

Pack a picnic and head out to the Calanques National Park, a stunning area of natural beauty. The park is home to 26 Calanques, which are narrow, steep-walled inlets that form in limestone rocks, resembling fjords. You can also take a bike tour here or enjoy some standup paddleboarding.

These breathtaking natural formations combined with the pale rocks, lush pine trees, sandy coves, and crystal-clear turquoise waters, make up this strikingly picturesque landscape.

The area offers some of the finest hiking in the region, whether you want to go on a full-day hike or just meander through the beautiful scenery for an hour or so.

It is possible to walk all the way from Cassis to Les Goudes which is located on the outskirts of Marseille, however, the majority of people who visit from Cassis tend to concentrate on the three closest Calanques: Port-Miou, Port-Pin and En-Vau. There are organised groups that can be joined to hike here.

Head back to Cassis for dinner on the port side. Enjoy the catch of the day at Le Grand Bleu or sample a local speciality bouillabaisse, a traditional Provençal fish stew along the back streets at Le Bonaparte.

Port of Cassis
Port of Cassis

Have More Time?

If you have more than a week on the French Riviera and want to explore more of this stunning coastline, Cassis is centrally located in the south of France making it the ideal starting point to either continue west or head inland.

For those visiting who have the use of a vehicle, there are several national parks throughout the French Riviera that are well worth the road trip. 

Verdon Gorge is a stunning, high-sided gorge with crystal-clear turquoise waters. Hire a kayak or a pedalo from below the bridge to meander up the river through the towering cliffs.

If you are visiting in the summer be aware the water levels can get quite low towards the top end of the gorge so you may not be able to make it all the way through the ravine. 

Those who have a bit more time could also add a few more of the Riviera’s picture-perfect villages to their itinerary. For instance, Menton is a popular option as is Villefranche-sur-Mer.

You could also opt to road trip through the lavender fields of Provence. There are multiple lavender farms spread out along Provence so the best way to see them is by road trip. If you can only visit one, head to Notre-Dame de Senanque. There are also many towns to visit in this region such as Avignon and Aix-en-Provence.

This 12-century abbey is surrounded by countless rows of beautiful lavender fields. Because of how iconic this stop can be (it’s featured on many postcards), it does get very busy in peak season. It’s worth it to arrive as soon as they open in order to avoid large crowns.

Although not technically part of the French Riviera, Marseille is a large port city that is worth a visit if you have more than 7 days in the French Riviera. With a bustling city centre, there is plenty to do in the 3rd largest city in France. 

Palais du Pharo
Palais du Pharo in Marseille

The French Riviera is one of the most beautiful regions in France. With ancient cities, rich culture, stunning sea views around every corner and sleepy hilltop villages. With this itinerary, you will be able to cover the main destinations along with some of the local secrets and hidden gems along the way.

Are you planning to visit the French Riviera? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Neota Langley

Neota is a writer for The World Was Here First. Born and bred in Cornwall, she can usually be found with hiking boots on, ready to embark on an adventure. For the last 6 years, she has travelled throughout Europe in her self-built campervan with her trusty canine companion, Ivy. She loves exploring France, the Nordics and spending time in Alpine destinations.

Comments

  1. Thank you for the wonderful information. We head out to St. Paul de Vence for two weeks at the end of April. I’ve made lots of notes out of your suggestions. We decided to rent a car and look forward to seeing much of the riveria!

    Reply

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