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Where to have a home base in the French Riviera (for 3 nights)

We are travelling from Florence to the Cote d'Azur area mid-Aug. This will be our first visit to the area.

After much research I was set on staying 3 nights in Nice as it seemed a good location to be able to access the other areas of the Riviera. I am having some doubts about this being our best decision. Would we be better to head towards Antibes and Cannes? At one time we really wanted to hike or kayak to The Calanques but realize that is too far out and need to save this for another visit. We really only have 2 full days in the area before we head up to Paris.

Here are some things we would like to do:

  1. We would like to have a good part of one day at a beach. Recommendations for beach would be helpful! We don't want to be surrounded by tons of kids and families as we are in our mid-40s and don't have our children travelling with us.

  2. We would probably like to do a nice hike or walk surrounded by beautiful scenery (we are physically fit people). Exploring is always fun. Any nice seaside walks to remote or quieter beaches nearby? Could tie this in with #1.

  3. We love visiting quaint villages (Eze, Villefranch-sur-Mer, or Cap Ferrat all sound good) and old city centres. Having a bite to eat and a drink on patios is relaxing. And a variety of good restaurants and bars - for our age group (meaning bars) is important.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


Posted by
211 posts

Kerry: I've stayed in Nice both times I've visited the Cote d'Azur as it has the best access for trains and buses to visit other places. But you can easily stay in other towns that are accessible by train too. Nice does have a long stretch of beach though.

Another town you might like to visit is Roquebrune Cap Martin. And I really like Menton.

Posted by
56 posts

Nice was terrific, for both the beach and transportation access. They have beach clubs with waiters, chairs, and towels, Try the bottled beer that is mixed with tequila, tres bien!

Posted by
16894 posts

My experience is the same. I have stayed in Nice twice, for the easy bus and train options, plenty of hotels, Chagall & Matisse museums, beachfront right there, etc. Other towns are also served by both train and bus, but smaller towns like Villefranche can have fewer departures, or may sometimes require a connection at Nice. I also enjoyed a stay in Menton (at the youth hostel).

Posted by
7 posts

My wife and I stayed in Nice last summer and loved it. We stayed at the Hotel Nice Mercure Promenade Des Anglais which is right on the Mediterranean. You walk across the Promenade Des Anglais and you are on the beach. Through the hotel you can buy a pass for use of a private beach which was extremely relaxing. The hotel is also just a couple of blocks from Old Town Nice for exploring and the Cours Seleya walking promenade for great food.

Posted by
1318 posts

A nice hike or walk is around Cap Ferrat. You can find more info in Rick's Provence book. We went to a fun beach there called Plage de Passable and rented beach chairs but it had families and wasn't remote. There is a nice restaurant at that beach, not geared to families, try to get there to watch the sunset.

A nice place to have an outdoor lunch with scenery is the restaurant at the Villa Ephrussi Rothschild on Cap Ferrat.

Posted by
8700 posts

Antibes has a sandy beach (tops optional), an outdoor market, a walled old town, and the Picasso Museum.

Posted by
9720 posts

Nice is a good suggestion as it's a nice city in itself and also provides easy access to so many other places.

Besides a day spent in the city of Nice itself walking the Promenade, going up to the castle ramparts, visiting the flower market, another nice day is to take the bus to Eze village up above, see it, and then follow the path down to the sea level. Another day you could take the bus/train west to for example Juan les Pins and its sandy beach (keep in mind the beach at Nice is rocky. None of this matters very much because with your access to the beach, you buy access to a lounging chair, so it's not as if you'd be laying on the rocks. Still, some prefer sand!!). The transport connections are so good and so easy from Nice, and it's such a pleasant place itself, that you can't go wrong there!

Posted by
56 posts

Nice is a great base for touring the Cote D'Azur. The food is incredible. Try the bouride (fish soup similar to bouillabaise but you add a dollop of garlic aioli on top). I have stayed in Nice twice and love the old town.

For quiet: I've read that Bordighera, a town east of Nice, is a quieter town than the ones west of Nice. It was where the British aristocracy used to summer in the South of France.

Outside of Nice:
St. Paul de Vence is a nice day trip from Nice and it has an arts & crafts ambiance and is located in the hillsides above the coast.
Antibes is a nice place to visit if you want to visit the Picasso museum but I found it to be really small.

Posted by
8700 posts

I remember reading a post on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree that said there is a trail that goes along the water's edge from Beaulieu-sur-Mer to Monaco that is very secluded because there are cliffs all along the way. It's not unusual to encounter nude bathers on the beach.