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West of Nice day trip Questions - Itinerary Thoughts?

Planning two day trips from Nice westward... and would love input.

Day 1: Antibes (based on Rick's glowing recommendation). Is it really that awesome? Does it really warrant an entire day? Alternative ideas welcomed.
Alternatives include taking a high-speed train or direct bus (Lignes Express Regionales) to Aix-en-Provence. What would you think of doing that instead of Antibes?

Does anyone feel strongly that Marseille would be more interesting than Aix-en-Provence?

Day 2: Looking at a small group tour (8 hrs) that goes from Nice to Cannes, Grasse, Gourdon, briefly Tourrettes sur Loup and St. Paul de Vence. The tour is through Viator (Provence Countryside Small Group Day trip).
All of those stops are "must-sees" for me, except for Grasse (not particularly wild about perfume). Thoughts on this tour/itinerary?

Thank you for your always insightful comments.

Posted by
3551 posts

I have enjoyed villefranche sur la mer, Antibes is ok less touristy in general than other beach towns.
I would skip Marseilles for small Cassis nrby. Take boat tour of the calanques, here.
Amazing geologic limestone masses along coastline with inlets from Marsaille to Cassis.
Ck it out online.

The tour u speak of visiting the corniche villages and towns sounds excellent. I saw most of those by car rental. I highly recom visiting this area. Beautiful, unique, amazing Mediterranean views, a great visit.

Posted by
624 posts

People frequently combine Antibes with another destination like Cannes, unless they are doing a half day at the beach or taking a boat ride. A trip to Aix would spend a lot of time on the road, and there is quite a bit of construction going on in the centre, it appears. I might save it for another trip, unless this is your last and only time you'll be in the south.

You might consider a car rental for a day or two -- -this can allow you the flexibility to hit the hill towns and see some natural sites more easily. That is my preferred method to get to Tourettes sur Loup and Gourdon.

Posted by
12154 posts

For a day trip, it would probably be Cannes or St. Tropez. I went to Cannes but didn't go as far as St. Tropez.

I prefer Antibes as the best place to stay in the Riviera. It has the best sand beaches, great marina, walled old center with lots of cafes in the square plus an art gallery. I don't see it as a day trip destination as much as the best overall place to locate. I really like it in the evening.

I lived in Antibes for a semester in college and would agree you can make a day out of the village - it is so cute and very fun. Off of Place de Gaul there is a great crepe place called fleur de sel, I think it is still open and their food is great.
You can walk along the Med near the marina and admire the yachts, then go to the fortress and take a self guided tour (great views). Place Nationale has great restauarants and is fun for lunch or dinner. Right down the street from here there is another cute park/place with a carousel. Around the corner from place nationale there is the Provençal market which is very lively and has great treats.
If you have some more time there is an absinthe bar next to the market where you can drink some and wear fun hats.
If you’re still looking for things to do the beach is there and is fabulous - it’s in a little cove and feels private.
There is also a Picasso museum of that suits your fancy - not really my style.

Antibes is really just a cute small town on France, it is fun just to stroll the old streets and go in the cafes/bakeries.

Now if you’re in the area you have to hike Eze. I’ve made the hike many times and each time it’s been a workout and fun.

Bon voyage!

Posted by
401 posts

I like Marseille but it's quite different from Aix-en-Provence. It's definitely more culturally interesting and varied. And much, much larger.

Aix is pretty and jammed with tourists. I look at it as a relatively wealthy, well-kept but fairly monotonic place.

A Moroccan co-worker of mine from Marseille described Marseille as a northern outpost of Africa, run by the mob, and he seems to be right. It has a rich north African feel, a long history going back to the ancient Greeks and even before, museums, churches, varied street markets, waterfront, calanque tours, and on and on. Among the big three French cities, I see Lyon as being grittier than Paris (central Paris), and Marseille as being grittier than Lyon. For those who find that challenging or uncomfortable, Aix might be a better choice.

Aix is pretty. It has the same stuff other French cities have -- street markets, quaint architecture, outside dining, and college students (lots of college students). It also has Cezanne's workshop, so there's that going for it.

Posted by
115 posts

Hi it depends what type of thing you are looking for. I stayed in aix 2 nights and antibes 2 nights, then nice for last 2 nights of a 23 night trip.. Aix was great to see Cezanne’s studio and the fun library entrance with giant books outside, but there was a LOT of construction going on near the main round about by the TI and all the bus stops. It was VERY hot July 3-5 of course. I thought the market at Antibes, and in Nice even, were just as nice if not better than the one in Aix, although they were all amazing! I’d forego the extra transit time of getting to AIX, since you are alr doing that 8 hour tour, and stroll through Antibes. Without a doubt, Antibes! They have an “old city” area, fortress, marina, SANDY beaches, and plenty of shops and cafes. It’s very manageable. I heard many people say they would not recommend Marsailles for people with limited time or have other places on their lists.

DO go to the Antibes market (daily except Monday’s? Closes by 1). Picasso really isn’t my cup of tea, but the Grimaldi Mansion that houses his museum is the real treat, with its vast ocean views from inside and on the terrace, as well as over the Spanish style rooftops. Stunning! With a lovely church next door, and around the bend from the market and cafes. There’s lovely walks around the ramparts, and a small boardwalk (sidewalk) along the beaches further west of the city (Plage Solis, i think?). It was across from our place, Hotel Josse.

We did an 8 hour van tour into villages from Avignon and enjoyed it. Can you just go directly to the tour operator instead of through Viator? It is usually less expensive. The trip sounds great. Maybe you can spend the time in Grasse writing in your journal or catching your breath while the others tour the factory. And, have you already been EAST of Nice? Mom and I took a bus for 1.50 Euro to Monte Carlo, and did a little train tour there, as well as visited the casino area and the Paris Cafe for a nice dinner before heading back to Nice. 3 Euro round trip! Plenty of other stops along the way looked amazing if you get an early start. Rick’s Provence book has great tips. Anyway, Bon Voyage and keep us posted!

Posted by
11294 posts

I think Aix and Marseille are much too far for a day trip from Nice.

Antibes was nice enough, but I didn't fine it as "awesome" as some others do (but then, I didn't take to the Riviera in general). If you "finish early" with Antibes, you can easily get to Juan les Pins, and can also visit Cannes. My favorite place (of the ones I saw) to the west of Nice was Cagnes-sur-mer Haut des Cagnes, where Renoir's house is. For that, you need a bus from the train station; for the other places west of Nice, the train is about twice as fast as the bus.

For your day 2, you realize that any tour that takes in 5 places in one day will only spend a short time in each. If that's what you want, go for it.

I enjoyed Cannes more than Rick does. The glamour zone which he emphasizes is actually very small; as you get farther from the beach, either toward the train station or up the hill, you can see the "normal" parts of town, the places people who aren't zillionaires live and shop. For St. Paul de Vence, it's very pretty, but very crowded with tour groups; the highlight for me was the Fondation Maeght, outside of town, but I doubt your tour will have time for you to see this. I didn't see the other places on this tour.

EDITED to give the correct town I loved, with Renoir's house.

Posted by
3560 posts

Of the towns you mentioned, St. Paul de Vence is my favorite. Its star attraction is Fondation Maeght, a smallish museum of modern art. The sculpture garden is particularly fine. As I recall, the artists . . Picasso, Miro, and others, lived there while creating their works.
As another poster said, Eze (the upper town) is very nice, as is Tourettes sur Loup. IMO, Cannes is forgettable. I’ve been to Aix a couple of times and just didn’t warm to it. I would not pay for a tour that gives S. Paul short shrift.