On Earth, there is no parallel to the French Riviera. The southern coast of France is an intoxicating blend of rustic landscapes, ancient cobblestone towns, and beautiful Mediterranean coastlines. This is where European aristocrats park their yachts, and for good reason. The antiquity of the Riviera juxtaposed with its immense wealth and luxury is a sight to behold. Here is what you will not want to miss.
1. Villa et Jardins Ephrussi De Rothschild (Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat)
This gorgeous villa overlooking the Mediterranean Sea was built by a member of the infamous Rothschild banking family in the early 20th-century. The villa is composed of exotic gardens that are classified as one of the Noble Gardens of France, and a mansion filled with antique furniture and art. Touring the villa in the cool, quite morning or the lovely evening is recommended, and if you are visiting in June, look for roaming artists on the property, painting the sights on The Painter’s Day.
Villa et Jardins Ephrussi De Rothschild
Address: 1 Avenue Ephrussi de Rothschild, 06230 Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France
2. Les Calanques (Cassis)
If you want to stray from the boardwalks and the cobblestone paths, and put one boot in front of another, there are few better places on the Riviera to discover the mesmerizing beauty of the rustic Mediterranean and her aqua-green waters. The Calanques consist of small mountains, worn by the relentless Mediterranean wind, with narrow beaches in their valleys. If you are in Cassis, and you are an intrepid soul, then put on some hiking shoes and get to the Calanques!
3. Basilique Notre-Dame de Nice
If you visited Paris and the magnificent Notre-Dame, then you might be happy to learn that you can get your Neo-Gothic, Roman Catholic church fix in Nice. The Basilica of Notre Dame, or the Notre Dame of Nice, built in the late 19th-century, is the largest church in Nice. The gilded gold, white stone church has two looming towers at its entrance that stand out in colorful Nice. If you have an appreciation of churches or even history, I recommend meandering on over to this gilded, white elephant.
Notre-Dame de Nice
Address: 2 Rue d'Italie, 06000 Nice, France
Website: Notre-Dame de Nice
4. Musée d'Art Modern et d'Art Contemporain (Nice)
You’ve heard of MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art, in New York City. Now it’s time you heard of MAMAC, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. Located in Nice, the museum holds an array of avant-garde artistic creations, from 1950s to today. Of note, they have many works of European New Realists, American Pop artists, such as Worhol, Arte Povera, and American minimalism. As they say, When in Nice, and when you have an artistic atom in your body, visit MAMAC.
Address: Place Yves Klein, 06000 Nice, France
5. Château de la Napoule (Mandelieu-La Napoule)
Being an American, when I see a castle I freak. The Château de la Napoule, originally constructed in the 14th-century, is a historic landmark and defies common expectations of a castle. First off, the Mediterranean laps its walls, and second off, it’s more green inside the castle than out! Bought by Americans in the early 20th-century, the castle is practically one large lush garden. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, I definitely recommend you coming here and letting your imagination go wild.
Château de la Napoule
Address: Avenue Henry Clews, 06210 Mandelieu-la-Napoule, France
Website: Château de la Napoule
6. Castle Hill (Colline du Chateau)
Even though maybe Castle Hill should be named Hill Castle, considering it’s more hill than castle, it is a hill you will want to climb. From its heights you are afforded an unimpeded, panoramic view of Nice and the surrounding countryside. And if climbing steep steps isn’t on your to-do list, a lift can carry you most of the way.
Address: 06300 Nice, France
Website: Castle Hill
7. Saint-Paul de Vence
I have never said these words, but Saint-Paul is one commune that you will not want to miss. This small, enclosed community is one of the oldest medieval towns on the Riviera. To step in it, is to get a taste of a bygone era. While there, do not pass up the opportunity to check out the modern and contemporary art museums such as the famous Fondation Maeght.
Saint-Paul de Vence
Address: Saint Paul
Website: Saint-Paul de Vence
8. Vallée des Merveilles (Tende)
The Vallée des Merveilles, otherwise known as the Valley of Marvels, is part of a national park and holds a great number of open-air Bronze Age petroglyphs. Over 10,000 of these ancient rock engravings are spread throughout the valley. Some of the more famous ones are, Le Sorcier: The Sorcerer, Le Christ: Christ, and The Chief of the Tribe. If you have any archaeological proclivities, or if you want to connect with your inner caveman, head on down to the Valley of Marvels.
Vallée des Merveilles
Address: Mercantour National Park, 06430 Tende, France
Website: Vallée des Merveilles
What are you waiting for!
You have valleys, churches, castles, gardens, villas, and communes to explore! And for all art aficionados, don’t forget the museums of modern and contemporary art sprinkled throughout the coast. The French Riviera offers enough to see and do to keep you busy for months on end. But you probably only have the time and money for a select few destinations, so look no further and make this your bucket list. It’s a week’s worth of activities that you will remember for the rest of your life!
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