The French Riviera has been the backdrop to countless movies and movie-worthy romances since the fashionable British and American set – from Gertrude Stein to F. Scott Fitzgerald – started spending summers there in the 1920s. And ever since Brigitte Bardot stepped onto the scene in Et Dieu Créa La Femme, tourists have been flocking to the sun-soaked region to get a taste of European glamour the likes of which you just can’t find anywhere else. Whether it’s your first time on the Cote d’Azur, or your tenth visit to this beautiful corner of the world, here are our top reasons for making it your first vacation stop of the summer.
1. The Glamour
See above. But seriously, there’s no other place in the world quite like the Riviera when it comes to seeing and being seen. From the star-studded 10 days of the Cannes Film Festival to the glorious excesses of summer yacht season, when European royals rub shoulders with bikini-clad models and perma-tanned business moguls, you’re guaranteed world-class people watching here, especially at the many Michelin-starred restaurants or chi-chi hotels that cater to the region’s glitterati. Grab a coffee along La Croisette, slip on your shades and enjoy the spectacle.
2. The Day/Nightlife
If you haven’t got the idea yet, let us enlighten you; looking good is an art form on the Cote d’Azur. And what’s the point of getting all dressed up with nowhere to go? From lunch ’til the wee small hours of the morning, there’s a chic spot for almost every hour of the day. Start your pilgrimage at a barefoot boho day club like Nikki Beach in Saint Tropez, where poolside cabanas with sheer white drapes invite you to relax with something refreshing in hand. For a pre-dinner cocktail, the American Bar at the Hotel de Paris is hard to beat, and after dinner you can party the night away under the fairy-light-clad palm trees at super chic nightspot Le Baoli in Cannes. Or there’s always the Monte Carlo Casino, for those unbeatable James Bond vibes.
3. The Shopping
With all this looking good and rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous, you might feel inspired to update your wardrobe a little. And you’re in luck. The shopping along the Cote d’Azur is quite spectacular. If you’re into labels, make a beeline for the famed Cercle d’Or in Monte Carlo where you’ll find all of your favorites, from Dior to Cartier. But don’t neglect the winding streets of the old town where you can find one-of-a-kind gems and Provencal souvenirs. Shoe aficionados should make a stop in at K. Jacques in Saint Tropez for a pair of beautiful handmade leather sandals.
4. The Art History
For over a hundred years artists have been flocking to the French Riviera for one of its most unique attributes – the sunlight. Bouncing off the Mediterranean in sparkling beams of light and setting the buildings aglow with soft sunset colors, there’s something truly unique about the light quality on the Cote d’Azur. Painters like Picasso, Renoir, Chagall, Monet and more were all drawn here by the beauty of the area and their lasting impressions can be seen at numerous museums nearby. Firstly, there’s the Picasso Museum in Antibes in the Chateau Grimaldi, dedicated to works painted in the region by the artist. Then there’s the Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul de Vence which houses paintings by Chagall, Kandinsky and Calder as well as dedicated spaces created specially for the museum by sculptors including Giacometti and Joan Miro.
5. The Architecture
The Cote d’Azur is dotted with richly ornamented villas boasting stucco wedding-cake-style curlicues, grand entranceways and turquoise pools. And of course, plenty of celebrity neighbors – everyone from Angelina Jolie to Elton John and Bono. The good news is you can snap up one of these Belle Epoque beauties for yourself and live the Riviera Dream, even if it’s only temporary. And if you want to double up on Villa life, the way it was enjoyed by the well-to-do families of the last century, you can take a tour around the very interesting and very opulent Villa Ephrussi perched above the sea in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. It was built and decorated by a daughter of the famed Rothschild family and has been restored to the glory of its Edwardian heyday.