The Cote d’Azur offers much more than the blockbuster cities of Nice and Cannes – nestled amongst the rocky crests and twisting curves of the southern coast of France lie some spectacular natural scenery, quaint villages and some excellent cultural destinations.
Basing yourself in pretty Villefranche, a cute settlement just outside of Nice, is a great option. Buy a 10 trip bus/tram ticket, which will set you back only 10 euros, and you can explore the region as far afield as Antibes/Cap Martin. Here is the Vingt Paris selection of local delights.
St Jean Cap Ferrat is a splendid village and offers a stunning walk around the cape. In summer refresh yourself with a dip in the crystal clear waters. Antibes is also a lovely old place with the Picasso museum housed in an old chateau showcasing the works he painted in the town just after WWII. Take in the fresh air looking around the Cap D’Antibes and spoil yourself with a stay at the secluded Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc.
But for the most picturesque village look no further than medieval Roquebrune, perched on the hill above Cap Martin. You’ll be in good company as this was also Churchill’s favourite French coastal residence. Earn your supper with the steep walk from the train station (or take the bus) and be rewarded with the panorama up high. Some other towns deserving a spot on your itinerary are Haut de Cagnes, St Paul de Vence and Biot – the latter a charming, authentic town chock full of artisan ateliers and excellent gift choices. A word from the wise: to get the most out of these places, off-season in early Spring or September/October may be a better choice when the crowds have died down.
There are several outstanding museums in the area, although our advice is to stick to the national institutions rather than regional, they are generally of a higher calibre (although the regional Matisse collection in Nice is housed in a fantastic building). The Chagall museum in Nice is definitely worth a look, along with Saint Paul de Vence’s Fondation Maeght housed in a 1964 building by Catalan architect Lluís Sert. Our favourite though is the wonderful Leger museum, en route to Biot, which owes much to his wife and is an essential for modern art lovers.
If you’re leaving the region from Cannes, try and leave time for some of the town’s great shopping and a Saturday morning stroll along the promenade, to take some last gulps of fresh, sea air before returning home.
Musée National Fernand Léger
255 Chemin du Val de Pôme, Biot
Musée National Marc Chagall
36 Avenue Dr Ménard, Nice
623 Chemin des Gardettes, Saint Paul de Vence
Musée Picasso Antibes
Place Mariejol, Antibes
Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc
Boulevard J F Kennedy, Antibes
04 93 61 39 01