The Côte d’Azur polarizes opinion like few places in France. To some it remains the most glamorous of all Mediterranean playgrounds; to others, it’s an overdeveloped victim of its own hype. Yet at its best – in the gaps between the urban sprawl, on the islands, in the remarkable beauty of the hills, the impossibly blue water after which the coast is named and in the special light that drew so many artists to paint here – it captivates still.

The ancient city of Marseille possesses its own earthy magnetism, while right on its doorstep there’s swimming and sailing in the pristine waters of the Calanques national park. To the east the family resorts of La Ciotat and St Raphaël, sedate Hyères and Roman Fréjus hold their own in the face of huge media hype, while true Mediterranean magic is to be found in the scented vegetation, silver beaches, secluded islands and medieval perched villages like Grimaud and La Garde Freinet. You can escape to the wonderful unspoilt landscapes of the Îles d’Hyères, with some of the best flora and fauna in Provence, then contrast the beachcomber charm of La Croix Valmer with the flashy ebullience of its overhyped neighbour, St-Tropez – unmissable if only for a day-trip, though you need to be prepared to contend with huge crowds in summer.

Once an inhospitable shore with few natural harbours, the seventy-odd kilometres of the Riviera between Cannes and Menton blossomed in the nineteenth century as foreign aristocrats began to winter in the region’s mild climate. In the interwar years the toffs were gradually supplanted by new elites – film stars, artists and writers – and the season switched to summer. Nowadays, the Riviera is an uninterrupted sprawl of hotels, serried apartment blocks and secluded villas, with liner-sized yachts bobbing at anchor. Attractions remain, however, notably in the legacies of the artists who stayed here: Bonnard, Picasso, Léger, Matisse, Renoir and Chagall. Nice has real substance as a major city, while Monaco intrigues visitors with its tax-haven opulence and comic-opera independence.

The months to avoid are July and August, when room prices soar, overflowing campsites become health hazards and locals get short-tempered, and November, when many museums, hotels and restaurants close.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

France features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The French Alps: summer amongst the peaks

The French Alps: summer amongst the peaks

It's difficult to picture the Alps in your mind's eye without a blanket covering of white. But when the snows melt, another side to the region comes alive. Neil…

31 Aug 2018 • Neil McQuillian local_activity Special feature
Paris off the beaten track

Paris off the beaten track

Paris is the world's most visited city. It draws in a barely comprehensible 30 million travellers each year – and its monuments, museums and galleries are so…

20 Aug 2018 • Eleanor Aldridge insert_drive_file Article
The world's quirkiest food festivals

The world's quirkiest food festivals

Tomato-drenched crowds wading through a lake of passata at Valencia’s La Tomatina festival might be a familiar image, but such passionate and eccentric cele…

22 Dec 2017 • Lucy Cowie insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs