For a memorable trip to the French Riviera, you’ll want a hotel as magical as your surroundings. The shimmering Mediterranean Sea and Alpine landscapes have made this coastline a favorite of sophisticated travelers for decades. The southern French flair, fantastic cuisine, and glittering cities like Cannes, Monaco, and St. Tropez are a haven for lovers of style, fashion, food, and design. The Côte d’Azur is also bursting with secluded, charming villages and a wealth of unique 4 star hotels, luxury hotels, and small romantic hotels.
Where to stay on the Côte d’Azur? Important locations at a glance:
Cannes: Old-world luxury
Widely known for the annual international film festival, there’s a reason the rich and famous continue to flock to Cannes year-round from around the world. Aside from the possible elbow-rubbing with a star, this seaside city boasts a perfect climate, a chic atmosphere, and a suite of luxurious villas and hotels. These establishments are what you think about when you think about class: private beaches, proper old-world service, and top-of-the-line French cuisine. The Marché Forville and old quarter have hung on to the historic energy of France, a charming district speckled with old fisherman’s houses, terraced gardens, and twisty alleyways. Cannes’ thalassotherapy center offers beauty care packages, massages, and unique treatments—the icing on the cake to a romantic or wellness-oriented holiday. Jet off on a boat tour of the nearby Lérins Islands for a fun-filled excursion with the kids, or send them off to Fun City for a day of indoor games. Just inland from Cannes and the coast, find wonderful country house hotels with a focus on immersion into the natural. Near Grasse, up in the hills, discover the longstanding history of perfume-making or while away a day poolside at your spa hotel. Near Mougins, find expansive 4 and 5-star establishments with attached golf courses and fine Mediterranean cuisine served in lavish dining areas.
Nice and Monaco: French glamour
Another world-famous beach city on the French Riviera, what makes Nice special is its fusion of real-city energy and old-timey opulence. Attracting tourists since the 1700s, the Mediterranean Sea and the city’s mild climate has remained a pull today for beach and sun-lovers from around the globe. What keeps them coming back is the special ambiance the city exudes, a combination of French and Italian influences, a varied landscape of colorful markets, bright-blue sea, and hilltop castles, and the memory of all of the artists who have come and gone, among them the likes of Matisse, Chagall, Picasso, and Renoir. The hotels in Nice are extremely well-appointed, with every aspect individually tended to, and they have snagged some of the best locations: whether right on the beach, tucked away in beautiful Old Nice, or with a view of the towering, Gothic Basilique Notre-Dame de l’Assomption. Foodies will be sure to get their fill here too, with markets filled with fresh, local produce, tasty street food like socca (chickpea pancakes), and a wealth of charming bistros serving up beef stew, pistou pasta, and Ratatouille with veal. Just 18 kilometers away, you’ll find the stylish town of Monaco, known for being totally glamorous and luxurious. Choose a hotel here if it’s ultimate glitz you’re after; you’re promised to be pampered in these 5-star, beachside resorts.
Saint Tropez: Sexy beach holiday
With the release of the film, “And God Created Woman”, in the 1950’s, the city of Saint Tropez’s reputation as a seductive beachside haven was born. With not a whole lot else to do but sunbathe and enjoy the company of your sunbathing neighbors, Saint Tropez is mostly just about being there. The total glamor of this resort town is undisputed, in its boat-lined harbor and sparkling cobblestone lanes, it’s the most famous resort in Europe and it knows it. Set off for a day on a yacht leaving from your own hotel, chill in the suite with haute-cuisine room service, or savor a pastis at a bar on the coast. Pampelonne Beach is maybe the only real destination in St. Trop, as it’s affectionately referred; there you’ll find 27 bars and restaurants, and all the summery excess that you’d expect. Lovers of fine cuisine will be in heaven in the both historic and super-modern establishments here; pamper yourself with French cuisine as you’ve always understood it to be true, but never tasted yourself. Try poached eggs with foie gras, sugar-crusted cake, or even a caviar feast. The city also has a bustling LGBTQI-friendly scene, with a plethora queer bars and a generally gay-friendly nightlife in the Old Town.
Marseille: Cultural renaissance
The multicultural and multifaceted port city of Marseille has, after a cultural renaissance following its title of European Capital of Culture in 2013, proudly earned its name as France’s second city. The beating heart of the city, Vieux Port, has been on many trade routes for about 2,600 years, though most of the industry has now moved to the docks in the north and the port is mostly filled with boats-for-pleasure. A wander through this expansive and dynamic inner-city area is a destination in itself, especially when you manage to end at the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, a 19th-century monument that looms over the skyline. Make the trek to the top for breathtaking views, or opt for the tourist train that departs regularly from the Old Port. The hotels in Marseille are perhaps not as luxurious as some you’d find elsewhere on the Côte d’Azur, but well-equipped and well-designed, offering great views and service, as well as fine French cuisine and wines. For a day trip into nature, Calanques National Park is comprised of an exceptionally beautiful collection of terrain, just south of Marseille. If the city life doesn’t interest you at all on your trip to the French Riviera, head further south to the more unspoiled regions of Bouches-du-Rhône and Var. The modern beach hotels here boast floor-to-ceiling windows, trendy interiors, garden or sea views, and extensive spa and wellness centers, fit even for a honeymoon.
Good to know
Getting there: The Aéroport Nice Côte d’Azur is the main way in to the French Riviera. Once there, pick up a Ticket Azur for access to transit via bus all along the coast. If you plan on staying in one place, it’s probably not worth it to rent a car; the traffic into some of the more major cities can be quite bad anyway. If you do plan to bounce around, the Regional Express Train also connects major Côte d’Azur cities with one another and travels on a beautiful route, climbing to high altitudes with stops in charming mountain villages along the way.