When en Provence, there’s no better way to shake up the languid lifestyle than with a day on the French Riviera. Also known as the C’ôte D’Azur, this glitzy Mediterranean paradise dotted with mega-yachts has got to be the most luxurious stretch of coastline in the world. All along you’ll discover delightful resort towns, spectacular sea cliffs and white sandy beaches full of beautiful people. Enjoy our round-up of the best seven destinations for a Riviera day trip and start dreaming up your next adventure to the South of France.
Welcome to the ultimate high-roller playground and the smallest country on earth (after the Vatican). Even as France and Italy have tried to sweep Monaco under their rule, this tiny principality has remained independent thanks to the tenacity of the Grimaldi family, who’ve held the crown and the clifftop palace for 700 years. On the brink of ruin in the late 1800s, the Grimaldis built the glamorous Monte Carlo Casino overlooking the sea, inviting Europe’s elite to gamble in the lap of luxury. Today Monaco has the highest per-capita income of any place in the world, plus plenty of billionaires passing through its yacht-filled harbors. Against a backdrop of colorful high-rises and towering rocky mountains, a luxury shopping day at the Cercle d’Or takes on a fairy tale mystique.
Every May since 1946, Hollywood’s biggest stars have descended on this gorgeous seaside town for what is arguably the world’s most prestigious film festival. However you don’t need a ticket to a screening to experience the glamour of Cannes. Home to so many exclusive hotels, incredible restaurants and luxe boutiques, this resort town is a fabulous place to get to know any time of year. Strut your stuff down Le Croisette, the waterfront promenade lined with palm trees and grand 19th century palaces. Or, visit Le Marché Forville, a massive covered market, to taste the local flavors. Beaches here are mostly private, but your entry fee gets you a coveted spot beneath your own umbrella to unwind in true Riviera fashion.
With its iconic skyline of twin medieval towers rising up over the sea, this magical town has captured the hearts of some of the 20th century’s greatest artists and writers. Jules Vernes, F. Scott Fitzgerald and most famously, Pablo Picasso are just a few of the creatives to have called Antibes home. Modern art aficionados might make the trip just to visit the Picasso Museum—an exclusive collection of paintings and drawings housed in the grand stone halls of the Château Grimaldi where the artist once lived. Antibes’ tiny public beaches are more relaxed than in bustling Cannes and St. Tropez, though they do get crowded come August. If you’re not in the beach bum mood however, Antibes also offers plenty to explore on foot—from winding cobblestone streets, to traditional Provençal markets, to lovely waterfront parks.
The second largest city in France and one of the oldest in all of Europe, Marseille is a bit more dynamic and culturally complex than the posh resort towns the Riviera is known for. Shaking its formerly gritty reputation, in this decade the city has been enjoying a renaissance that includes swanky new museums, grand concert halls and shimmering skyscrapers. It’s the perfect destination for a day of urban exploration, with ample opportunities for sight-seeing both old and new. As for what to have for lunch, consider the local speciality: La Bouillabaisse de Marseille—a delicious soup made with four types of fish and finished with a glorious garlic-saffron sauce.
A charming fishing village nestled between dramatic cliffs, Cassis is one of the hidden gems of the French Riviera. At the Vieux Port on the water you’ll find wonderful seafood restaurants, creperies and ice cream shops, all with amazing views of the spectacular Cap Canaille—the highest sea cliff in the country. You can sit back and soak up the small-town charm with a glass of the local Cassis white wine, or if you’re feeling active, rent bicycles and go explore the town’s surrounding vineyards. In the summer, do not miss your chance to cruise over to Les Calanques for a day of fun in the sun. This majestic Mediterranean landscape is all limestone and turquoise—a paradise for hiking, rock climbing, scuba and snorkeling, or even just exploring the white sandy coves.
Pack your stilettos—a glitzy scene awaits in star-studded St. Tropez. Made popular in the 1950s by Brigitte Bardot, this iconic Riviera town still draws A-listers by the yacht-ful. Everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to Beyoncé has been seen lunching at Club 55 (the beach club to end all beach clubs), which sends a pick up boat to collect celebs and billionaires from their massive moorings. Back in town, you might like to stroll through the Place des Lices, a tree-lined avenue that turns into a thriving open-air market on Saturdays. Or perhaps you’d prefer to peruse the best selection of luxury boutiques south of Paris before hitting up one of St. Tropez’s many Michelin-starred restaurants.
Craving a romantic off-shore adventure? If you’re ready to leave the coast, the majestic island of Corsica is like a whole new world to discover. Here you’ll find charming ancient towns perched on towering limestone cliffs, soft white beaches that give onto tranquil turquoise waters, and grand forrest-covered mountains with hundreds of miles of hiking trails. The island’s pristine shores offer some of the best scuba-diving and snorkeling in the world, while the picturesque villages are the perfect place to indulge in a taste of Corsica’s chic local culture. Drawing influence from Italy, France, Spain and North Africa, Corsican food and wine has a flavor all its own—and many restaurants will serve it with a side of live music, a beloved island tradition.