Villas in Côte d’Azur

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CÔTE D’AZUR Villa holiday guide

Think of the French Riviera, and what do you see? Celebrities at Cannes Film Festival? Luxury yachts bobbing in St. Tropez harbour? Nice’s Belle Epoque promenades washed by gentle waves? There is an iconic side to every Côte d’Azur villa holiday that continues to enthrall. Look beyond the glitter, too, to find perched villages, citrus groves, and world-class museums where works by artists like Monet, Dufy, and Cocteau interpret the varied and luminous landscapes that you can discover from your luxury Côte d’Azur villa.

Explore Côte d’Azur

In old-school Nice, 19th-century mansions line the Promenade des Anglais, named for the Victorians who holidayed here each winter. Glamorous Cannes alternates luxury boutiques with stretches of golden beach frequented by the jet set. In St. Tropez, sidle up to a portside bar for an icy Ricard as yachts bob beyond the peach-hued houses, or don your sunglasses for a trip to tax-free Monaco, where chic high-rises appear to cling to the cliffs. Inland Grasse is crumbling around the edges, but still has quaint cobbled lanes and a thriving perfume industry.

Nice's Promenade des Anglais street sign against an old building's facade, Nice

Discover Côte d’Azur's countryside

It is the azure coastline that first springs to mind, but the Riviera’s hinterland is also worth exploring. In winter, the village of Tanneron, beyond Grasse, becomes a centre for canary-yellow mimosa. Explore its forests and buy fresh cuts from mimosa farms. In summer, drive serpentine lanes to villages surrounded by olive and eucalyptus groves. The Mercantour is an immense national park between the Alps and the sea, and houses the Vallée des Merveilles—mountains with over forty thousand prehistoric drawings carved into their rocks.

Lac D'Allos, Mercantour National Park

Eating and Drinking in Côte d’Azur

When it comes to eating, Italy’s influence is omnipresent, from the red-ripe tomatoes used in tangy sauces, to olive oil, herbs, and truffles. Nice is famous for socca, a thin, pizza-like bread made from chickpea flour, often topped with caramelized onions.  Menton is the citrus-fruit-growing centre of the south—at its annual lemon festival each February, decorated floats parade through the town. Around Bormes-les-Mimosa, book a vineyard tour of the rosé wineries. Taste Saint Césaire chardonnay, made by Lérins Abbey monks since Medieval times on Cannes’ peaceful offshore islands.

Oven with Socca baking.. Antibes, Cote D'Azur

Côte d’Azur's coast

Spectacular’ is the word that best describes this jagged stretch of coastline. See it from on high at Eze, a nine-hundred year old village overlooking Monaco. At night, the principality shimmers at your feet. Eat ice cream on smoothed pebble beaches off Nice’s old baroque quarter. Pampelonne beach in St. Tropez is where stars tan themselves at private beach clubs. If you are travelling with kids, Plage de la Bouillabaisse’s sandy stretches are closer to St. Trop’s centre. For relaxation read a book in the shade of pine trees on Cannes’ offshore Îles de Lérins.

Croisette beach, Cannes

History

Just as they did in Provence, the Romans conquered the Côte d’Azur, leaving behind impressive monuments like La Turbie’s Trophée des Alpes (‘Alpine Trophy’), erected in 6 BC to celebrate France’s surrender. Jump forward several thousand years at Hyères, where at the Cubist Villa de Noailles Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, and Man Ray threw extravagant parties. History lovers will appreciate Nice’s old quarter for its baroque buildings, like the gilded Chapelle de la Miséridcorde and Palais Lascaris, which has elaborate frescoes and an 18th-century pharmacy.

Nice's old quarter

Arts and Culture in Côte d’Azur

Vivid sunlight and inspiring landscapes have made the Côte d’Azur a haven for artists over the centuries. Today their works hang in museums and galleries along the coast. Jean Cocteau chose a 17th-century fortress in Menton for his pieces, which include rainbow-coloured mosaics. Nice is the place to see Matisse’s Nu Bleu in the Musée Matisse. The artist also designed the Chapelle du Rosaire in Vence, resplendent in blues and yellows. Vallauris’ old stone castle houses three museums, including one on Picasso.

Matisse Museum, Nice

Côte d’Azur nature

A sub-tropical climate makes this region a gardener’s paradise, especially at Domaine du Rayol near Bormes-les-Mimosas; bamboo, cacti, and proteas slope down to the sea, where dolphins swim. Further east, St. Jean-Cap-Ferrathouses the Villa Ephrussi Rothschild, whose gardens are planted with roses. If you are looking for fauna, rather than flora, spend a day in Monaco’s palatial aquarium, set inside the Musée Océanographique. You will find almost a hundred tanks filled with sea life, including sharks.

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Nice

Côte d’Azur's nightlife and entertainment

Dress up to fit in at Monaco’s elegant bars and bistros; and if you are feeling flush, visit the Casino (a jacket and tie is required for men). Cannes’ trendy nightclubs and bars draw a designer-labelled crowd and compete with St. Tropez’s more intimate venues, nestled around the port and beaches. For an evening amid red-velvet and crystal chandeliers, buy tickets for the Opéra de Nice, which hosts opera, ballet and symphonic concerts.

Opera de Nice