Côte d'Azur – Overview

All holiday destinations have their time, rolling in and out of fashion with the tide. Not the Côte d’Azur. First discovered in the 18th century by ailing British aristocrats in search of a mild winter climate, then by European royalty, artists and novelists, movie stars and musicians – this stretch of the French Mediterranean coast could never be passé. Crowded, certainly. Expensive, definitely. But chic - always.

The thing to remember about the Côte d’Azur – apart from allowing plenty of time to get from A to B, especially if you’re heading for St Tropez on a Saturday – is that this is a coast of many different colours. You might adore busy, sophisticated Nice but find Monaco a little too manicured; you may love Beaulieu-sur-Mer but think Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat a touch too grandiose. You can see and be seen in a smart, beachfront hotel, or hide from the world in a secluded villa. There is, as they say, something for everyone.

And not just on the coast. Venture inland and you’ll discover landscapes that even those early visitors would recognize: rolling fields of lavender and sun flowers, olive groves and vineyards, roman architecture and medieval castles. 

Laurence Durrell called Provence a ‘cradle of genius’. We couldn’t have put it better.

Why not pair up Cote d'Azure with Corsica for a twin-center holiday?


Nice (NCE) or Marseilles (MRS)


2 hours


+1 hour



Côte d'Azur – Location & Map


Côte d'Azur – Villas


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Côte d'Azur – Regions


Corsica has a unique blend of old world French and Italian culture and is studded with exceptional vineyards, quaint villages and attractive towns. Its 1,000 kilometres of scenic coastline and warm climate, means it is a popular destination for families and holidaymakers looking to relax on pretty beaches near crystal-clear waters.


From elegant town to country village, Provence is rooted deeply in the past. History wraps itself around you with the stories of Roman civilisations in its ancient ruins, 18th-century power games in its great houses and art and culture that have spanned centuries. It’s also breathtakingly beautiful – a place of earthy pleasures, brim-full of good food, fine wines and miles of walking and cycling trails threading through its rolling hills.

Côte d'Azur – Our Guide

The Mediterranean Côte d'Azur is France’s most famous coastline, running from the Italian border in the east to Marseille in the west, and including the Principality of Monaco. Perhaps more than any other destination in France, this coast has been shaped by its visitors, from the stately Promenade des Anglais and the grand Belle Epoque hotels to the extraordinary artistic legacy of Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse and many others. Earlier settlers also made their mark, and the Roman sites at Vaison, Orange, Nîmes and Arles thoroughly deserve their international renown.

The coast is synonymous with glamour and celebrity, although outside the peak season months of July and August there is a far more low-key, family-friendly atmosphere and plenty of beach space for all to enjoy. The other wonderful discovery here is the contrast between coast and country: within 30-40 minutes’ drive of the beach you can be in the rural heartland of the arrière-pays, with its lavender fields, olive groves, vineyards and golden hill top villages.

Côte d'Azur – History & Culture

The medieval town of Menton

The region known as Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur shows evidence of human settlement since prehistoric times, and has yielded many important archaeological finds. Primitive tools dating a million were found in caves near Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, and a fireplace discovered near the port of Nice is one of the oldest in Europe, dating back to around 300,000BC. Stone dolmens and Bronze Age monuments can be seen near Draguignan, and the Valley of Marvels near Mont Bégo shelters the largest collection of Bronze Age petroglyphs (rock carvings) in Europe.

Beginning in the 7th century BC, Greek sailors from Asia Minor established trading posts along the Côte d'Azur, some of which evolved into permanent settlements at Olbia Antipolis (Antibes) and Nikæa (Nice). The Greeks were followed by the Romans in the 8th C BC ; they built towns, monuments and amphitheatres all along the Côte d'Azur and many still survive, including baths at Cimiez near Nice, and an amphitheatre and Roman walls at Fréjus.     


The Roman presence in Provence reached the peak of its power in the 2nd and 3rd C AD. Christianity was gaining a foothold here around the same time, as evidenced by the building of cathedrals from the 4th C AD, but the fall of the Western Roman Empire left a power vacuum that created a long period of war and instability.

The development of Nice and the Côte d’Azur as a resort can be traced to the late 18th C, when wealthy visitors began to come here to escape the long dark northern winters and enjoy the supposed health benefits of the coastal air. With the arrival of the trains in the mid 1800s a new era of leisure travel began, and the Côte d’Azur received a resounding stamp of approval with visits from Queen Victoria and King Edward VII. This was the start of an ongoing golden age for Nice and her coastline, attracting artists captivated by the pure light and bohemian atmosphere, and royalty, socialites and celebrities from around the world.

Spiralled streets of Mougins

Côte d'Azur – Climate

July to August are peak months

The pleasant climate that first brought northern visitors to this area produces around three thousand hours of sunshine per year, and while the winters are considerably cooler, temperatures rarely dip below 10˚C. The summer season runs from May to October, with an average maximum of 21˚C in May and October.    


Temperatures rise to 28˚C in July and August. The sea is warm enough to swim in from May well into October, when it is still a comfortable 19˚C. The one exception to this is when the Mistral wind blows in from the north west, causing a short but sharp drop in temperature.

The sea is warm from May to OctoberPicture

Côte d'Azur – Activities

Cote d'Azure beaches are world known

The Côte d’Azur stretches from Marseille to Menton, encompassing some of the world’s most famous beaches. Around Nice, the beaches are pebbly, so a beach mat and shoes are essential accessories, though you can opt for one of the private beaches where a comfortable lounger is included in the daily admission charge. If you prefer the feel of sand between your toes, head for Cannes, Antibes, St Tropez or Cap Ferrat, one of the most exclusive enclaves on the coast.

For shopping, strolling, culture or simply people watching, the elegant resort towns of Cannes and Nice are ideal. Saunter along the palm-shaded promenade of La Croisette, or pose for your close-up on the red carpet at the Palais des Festivals. The Old Town of Nice has changed little since the 1700s, an atmospheric warren of golden streets and squares hosting vibrant flower and produce markets and filled with tempting bars, restaurants and delicatessens.      


The regional capital Marseille is a rather grittier but nonetheless appealing city. Highlights include the new Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée and Le Panier, an arty quarter of steep streets stuffed with one-off shops and artists’ ateliers, nicknamed the Montmartre of Marseille.

Inland you’ll find the classic Provencal landscape of gentle peaks dotted with postcard-perfect villages like Èze and Mougins, which also hosts the outstanding Musée d’Art Classique. The region is synonymous with perfume: visit the Musée International de la Parfumerie in Grasse to learn about the process and enjoy the displays of rose, jasmine, lavender in the surrounding gardens. Many museums and galleries close during the month of November, so it’s worth making an advance enquiry before travel if you want to visit a particular site.

Stroll ambient old streets

Côte d'Azur – Feasts & Festivals

Nice hosts a carnival and jazz festival

As if the natural beauty of the area were somehow not enough, the Côte d’Azur offers a packed calendar of traditional festivals and speciality events. Nice hosts its own Mardi-Gras style carnival on or around Shrove Tuesday, and France’s original Jazz Festival in July. In addition to the Film Festival, Cannes welcomes visitors to a magical 6-day firework festival in July and August, plus live music nights on the beach throughout the main summer season.

In St Tropez, colourful processions on 15 June celebrate victory over the 1637 Spanish sea raid, and from 16-18 May, you can watch locals in traditional costume firing muskets in a deafening celebration known as ‘Les Bravades’.      


Around Whitsun, the Pentecost Festival in Nîmes attracts close to a million visitors who come to watch a Spanish-style series of events focusing on music and bull-fighting; not to everyone’s taste but tickets sell out well in advance. For a less raucous experience, try the Wine Harvest festival here in September, or the colourful Thursday evening food-and-music markets which run through July and August. More traditional foodie fun is on offer at the Cassis Grape Harvest Festival on the first Sunday in September.

Grasse is the world’s perfume capital, and marks this status with the International Rose Festival in May and the Jasmine Festival in August.

Nîmes holds Spanish-style events

Côte d'Azur – Food & Drink

A colourful pot of ratatouille

It’s worth visiting the Côte d’Azur for the food and wine alone, and many of France’s classic dishes originate in the region. The signature dish of Marseille is bouillabaisse, a rich terracotta-hued fish soup served with croutons and a saffron rouille.

Your pre-dinner apéritif will almost certainly be offered with a pot of tapenade, a deeply savoury dip made from black olives, capers, anchovies, garlic and olive oil. Other Provencal staples include a garlicky mayonnaise known as aioli, colourful ratatouille, a bewildering choice of salamis and tangy fromage de chèvre, served on its own or to flavour many dishes.   


For the sweet toothed there’s nougat, made with honey, roasted almonds and egg whites, or tarte Tropézienne, a sugar coated brioche filled with orange-flower-flavoured cream. Pastis is the classic apéritif, stongly flavoured with aniseed and served with a carafe of water which turns the clear liqueur milky white.

Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur is France’s 4th largest wine region, producing top quality rosés and reds. The best rosé comes from the Côtes de Provence AOC, whilst the most renowned reds come from Bandol and the iconic Châteauneuf-du-Pape estates near Avignon.

Tapenade is a common apéritif

Côte d'Azur – For Families

The palace at Monaco

The Côte d’Azur is an excellent family destination, easily accessible from the UK and combining an impressive diversity of landscapes and attractions in a relatively compact area. Aside from the bright lights, beaches and boat trips all along the coast, children love the Aqualand water park near Ste Maxime, the small zoo at Cap Ferrat and the charming, car-free Ile de Pourquerolles a 20-minute boat ride from the coast between Marseille and St. Tropez.      


Further afield, a day trip to Monaco makes for a fun excursion to the 2nd smallest country in Europe: see the ceremonial guards perform their duties at the castle and don’t miss the marvellous Aquarium, complete with shark lagoon and over 4000 different types of fish. The Roman cities of Nimes and Arles are interesting for all ages to explore, but for little ones who find towns all a bit much, the magnificent Pont du Gard is a great alternative to the beach on a hot day as you can paddle in the river shallows under the ancient Roman structure.

Pont du Gard

Côte d'Azur – For Couples

Marseilles at nights

For its sheer variety of landscapes and things to see and do, few places can rival the Côte d’Azur. Enjoy the vibrant buzz of Cannes and St Tropez, the old-world elegance of Nice or the edgy, contemporary style of Marseille, France’s 3rd largest city. Shop for designer labels, market bargains or gourmet specialities all along the coast.

Stroll by marinas packed with million dollar yachts, or escape to the Provencal hills and hike for miles through pine and lavender perfumed air without seeing another soul. This region also has some of the most important art collections outside of Paris. 


Whether you’re a novice or an expert, you can discover the artistic heritage of Provence with museums and galleries dedicated to Matisse and Chagall in Nice, Cocteau in Menton, Picasso in Antibes, Van Gogh in St Remy and Cezanne in Aix.

And if all you crave is some downtime and sunshine, this beautiful coastline offers many stylish places to stay where you can recharge your batteries with some outstanding food and wine in a timeless and romantic setting.

Enjoy the buzz of St Tropez