Red carpets, richly adorned hotels, golden beaches and seriously big yachts are what usually spring to mind when someone mentions the French Riviera. It’s a region that’s long been attached to the great jet set crowds of the Côte d'Azur and Alpes-Maritimes, where mansions rub shoulders with luxurious hotels and film stars can be spotted sipping lattés in the shade of a café.
But, would-be travellers should not be put off just because of its reputation for exclusivity. Between the five-star resorts and Lamborghini parking lots, there’s plenty explore; from the art galleries of St-Paul de Vence to the jazz joints of Juan Les Pins.
Here are five of the top hotspots on the French Riviera, where visitors can get a taste of the glitz, glamour and high-life living that’s made the region so famous and rich.
Long considered the stomping ground of the super-rich, this Provençal port town east of Marseille is a charming and alluring image of the Riviera’s Gainsbourg-esque jet set character. The colorful harbor is riddled with the million-dollar yachts of Hollywood luminaries, while celeb-spotting on the nearby Tahiti Beach couldn’t really get much easier! Famous spots include the super-chic bar at Les Caves du Roy and the luxurious Hôtel Byblos, where great names have graced the lobbies over the years - think Brando, Sinatra and Bardot.
Photo by dbaron/Flickr.
Galvanized hard into the jet set narrative by Peter Sarstedt’s 1989 hit "Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?", the picture-perfect town of Juan-les-Pins on the West Side of Cap d'Antibes still lives up to its reputation as one of the hottest, hippest places to be seen on the Côte d'Azur. Today, the town is riddled with the relics of an art nouveau boom, while hotels like the Sainte-Valerie and luxurious Belles Rives do well to add that quintessential dash of high-society character. What’s more, Juan Les Pins is also hailed as the jazz music capital of the Riviera, famed for its yearly Jazz à Juan festival that now attracts thousands.
Cannes is the undisputed kingpin of Hollywood stardom in the south of France, home to perhaps the greatest cinema festival in the whole world and the sprawling mansions of many an accomplished director, actor and writer. As if it needed any introduction. For the best celeb-spotting opportunities of the year, head here in mid-May, when the eponymous film festival takes over the town. In the night, stroll down for cocktail at the famous Palais Club, or drop in for some seriously fine-dining at the Hyatt’s La Palme d'Or restaurant.
This picture-perfect bastide town on the inland cliffs of Alpes-Maritimes has long been considered one of the artistic centres of the French Riviera. Today, it is home to the prestigious Fondation Maeght museum, where the collection of contemporary art is among one of the best in the whole world. Visitors here looking to sample the hip and happening scene of this jet set enclave in the south, should head to the restaurant Le Caruso, or the Le Saint Paul, while a stay at the charming Grande Bastide affords magnificent views and luxury services.
Linked intimately with the nearby town of Juan les Pins, Antibes is another of Provence’s coastal gems. Its dramatic harbor walls and pristine classical architecture provide the backdrop for classy restaurants and stylish bars, where the jet set from Nice and nearby Cannes can often be seen enjoying a quieter vibe. Be sure to check out the fine dining restaurant Bistro 44, where meticulously crafted Mediterranean dishes make up the menu. In the evening, head to the lively Antibes Absinthe Bar, where the la fée verte (the green fairy) of France’s alcoholic arsenal can be tasted at its best.