25 Jul 10 Days in the French Riviera: your Road Trip Itinerary
You want to treat yourself with a trip to one of the most beautiful areas in the South of France? Then you should definitely take a look at the French Riviera! I have written for you an ideal 10 days road trip itinerary to get the best of the Côte d’Azur! The French Riviera has so many assets that you will want to visit again and again!
I will help you understand why you should absolutely go on a trip to the French Riviera! The French Riviera, called “Côte d’Azur” in French, is the eastern part of the Mediterranean coastline located between Monaco and the Italian borders. By extension we can also include the coastline until the city of Marseille and its surroundings.
One of the first reason why you should visit the French Riviera is included in its name! Riviera is an Italian noun for “coastline”, nothing surprising here given its location… But if you take a look at the French nickname of this region: “Côte d’Azur”, meaning “azure coast” in English, you will find a better explanation. Because of the perfect climate with a lot of sun and no wind, the sky has a bright blue color similar to the Mediterranean Sea all year long! The pleasant weather is a great first reason to visit this place!
Secondly, for the nature lovers, this area is gifted with some beautiful landscapes: the coastline is breathtaking, the beaches are amazing, and you can find a few beautiful National Parks and regional Natural Parks.
Thirdly, you will love to explore the cities of the French Riviera! Between lovely colorful towns, charming medieval villages and very chic and glamourous places, you won’t get bored!
Last but not least, the gastronomy is exceptional in the French Riviera!
Côte d’Azur is a real gem! No wonder why it’s one of the most popular and fashionable vacation spots in France!
What is the best time to go on a trip to the French Riviera
Now that you know why you should go to the French Riviera ASAP, let’s see when is the best time to visit it and when to plan your road trip in the French Riviera!
Summer is of course an obvious nice season to visit the French Riviera: you will appreciate all the treasures of this region to the fullest! But it’s also the most touristy season and it’s very hot. Therefore, if you want to avoid the crowd or do not handle the heat very well, I recommend you visit during spring or fall. The temperatures are still high enough for you to enjoy the beaches and swim in the Mediterranean Sea!
Finally, because of the ideal climate, you have a very high percentage of chance to enjoy a perfect weather even in winter, so why not escape the cold in this paradise?!
How to get to the French Riviera
There are 2 major entry points to your road trip itinerary in the French Riviera if you visit from France or from abroad: the cities of Nice and Marseille. And you can choose to come by flight or by train.
The airport of Nice is the 3rd French airport and the one in Marseille is the 5th one. You can check which one is the most practical for you depending on where you live or where you will be coming from.
If you come by train from Paris, I would recommend you choose Marseille as your entry point. There is a direct high-speed TGV train line between Paris and Marseille, and it will take you only 3h20 to get there!
You can also take the train from Paris to Nice, but it will take you around 6h. This train takes the same route as the train line between Paris and Marseille, but then between Marseille and Nice it stops in every station and it is way longer.
Your road trip itinerary in the French Riviera
I will give you below 2 options for your road trip itinerary in the French Riviera: one starting in Marseille et one starting in Nice.
If you want to visit the French Riviera, renting a car is the best. It will allow you to be completely independent and move around more easily. There are train stations in all the cities of this itinerary, but the train is less practical. You can rent a car in Marseille and give it back in Nice or vice-versa.
My recommendation is a 10 days road trip, but I am sharing with you more ideas of places to visit in case you want to stay longer at the end of this article!
Your Road Trip Itinerary in the French Riviera starting in Marseille
Here is my recommendation for a road trip itinerary in the French Riviera starting in Marseille:
- Arrival in Marseille on Day 1.
- Day 1 to 3: 3 days and 2 nights in Marseille. On Day 1 you can start visiting Marseille, then on Day 2 you can spend the full day in the Calanques, and on Day 3 do some more sightseeing in Marseille.
- Leave Marseille and go to Monaco on Day 3 (afternoon or end of day) – around 2h30 drive with the toll highway for 25,90 euros and 5h with free local roads.
- Day 3 to 6: 2 days and 3 nights in Monaco. You can visit Monaco on Day 4 and visit Menton on Day 5.
- On Day 6, leave Monaco in the morning to go to Nice. You can visit Eze on the way.
- Day 6 to 10: 3 days in Nice and 4 nights in Nice. You can spend 2 full days visiting Nice on Day 7 and Day 8. On Day 9, explore Villefranche-sur-Mer. Day 10 is your day of departure and you can enjoy “la dolce vita” in Nice a bit more before leaving.
Your Road Trip Itinerary in the French Riviera starting in Nice
Here is my recommendation for a road trip itinerary in the French Riviera starting in Nice:
- Arrival in Nice on Day 1.
- Day 1 to 4: 3 days and 3 nights in Nice. You can spend 2 full days visiting Nice on Day 1 and Day 2. On Day 3, explore Villefranche-sur-Mer.
- Leave Nice on Day 4 in the morning to go to Monaco. Visit Eze on the way.
- Day 4 to 7: 2 days and 3 nights in Monaco. You can enjoy Day 5 doing some sightseeing in Monaco and spend Day 6 in Menton.
- On Day 7, leave Monaco to go to Marseille (in the morning) – around 2h30 drive with the toll highway for 25,90 euros and 5h with free local roads.
- Day 7 to 10: 3 days and 3 nights in Marseille. On Day 7/8 you can start visiting Marseille, then on Day 9 you can spend the full day in the Calanques, and on Day 10 do some more sightseeing in Marseille before you head back home.
Welcome to Marseille!
As the second largest city of France and largest city on the Mediterranean coast, Marseille is very dynamic and cosmopolitan! The economy of the city is mostly based on its commercial port: the largest port for commerce, freight and cruise ships in France and the 5th in Europe.
Built around 600 BC, Marseille was known to the ancient Greeks as Massalia. This city is therefore full of art and culture and combines tradition and modernity.
Additionally, the area around Marseille features many islands, and one of the most beautiful natural wonder with the National Park of the Calanques.
Given all of those treasures, Marseille is a must-see to include in your road trip itinerary in the French Riviera!
What to do and see in Marseille
Here are some of the amazing things you should do while in Marseille:
- Discover the Old Port: named the “Vieux Port” in French, this harbor exists since 26 centuries and is now the beating heart of Marseille.
- Wander in “le Panier”: this neighborhood is the Old Town of Marseille. You will find here colorful streets and buildings dating from the 17th
- Admire Notre Dame de la Garde : the most famous landmark of Marseille ! This basilica is also located the at the highest natural point in Marseille.
- Walk the Canebière: Marseille’s biggest avenue. It’s filled with prestigious buildings.
- Visit the MuCem: The Museum of European and Mediterranean civilizations. This museum is surrounded by a latticework shell of fiber-reinforced concrete: a unique architecture!
- Go to the Palace of Longchamp: this magnificent monument from the 19th century is housing 2 museums and is ornated with beautiful fountains.
- Take a look at La Major Cathedral: Marseille’s cathedral has a majestic architecture with a Byzantine style.
- Stroll through La Corniche to enjoy beaches, traditional fishing port, nice restaurants, and views.
- Hike in the Calanques: You cannot visit Marseille without spending one day in the Calanques close to the city of Cassis. Those white cliffs and turquoise blue waters are one the most stunning gems of the area! You can go to Calanques Port-Pin and Calanques d’En-Vaux for example. I wrote an article dedicated to the Calanques, read it here the Ultimate Guide to the Calanques in Marseille and Cassis.
Where to stay in Marseille
Marseille being a huge city you will have plenty of choice for a place to stay.
I stayed 2 nights in the Sofitel in Marseille, and it was amazing. Let me share a few words about my experience. This 5 stars hotel is ideally located in the Vieux-Port. From my luxury bedroom I could enjoy a large terrace with a view on the Old Port, which was very pleasant in the morning and in the evening! The bed was so conformable that I slept like a baby! It was ideal to relax, especially after my hiking day in the Calanques! I was also impressed by the views from the rooftop restaurant on the 7th floor of the hotel. From there you can not only see the Old Port with the marina but also the Palais du Pharo and the For St-Jean.
Disclaimer: I was invited to stay here by the Sofitel Marseille, nevertheless I have shared my own opinion.
Welcome to Monaco!
The Principality of Monaco is the one of the smallest countries in the world (2nd after the Vatican City). Its tiny surface of 2 square kilometers is ideally located on the shores of the French Riviera between Cap d’Ail and Menton. This independent sovereign state ruled by Prince Albert II is well known for being a place full of glamour, luxury and prosperity and even hosting a Formula One Grand Prix in its streets! You have to see it by yourself and add it to your road trip itinerary in the French Riviera. Then you can pretend to be a celebrity for a day!
The Principality has only one commune, Monaco, made of four districts: Monaco-Ville (nicknamed “the Rock”), Monte-Carlo, La Condamine, and Fontvielle.
What to do and see in Monaco
Here are some of the amazing things you should do while in Monaco:
- Have a look at the Prince’s Palace of Monaco located on “The Rock”. You should also walk around the square of Place du Palace.
- Get lost in the Old Town: there are plenty of charming little streets full of colorful buildings.
- Wander in Saint-Martin Gardens: a green and exotic oasis offering beautiful views of the marina and the sea.
- Enjoy Monte Carlo’s legendary Casino: gaze at the architecture from the outside or dare to enter to gamble and admire the lavish décor. You should also walk around the Casino Square.
- Do some luxury shopping in Le Metropole Shopping Center.
- Admire the Roman-Byzantine style of St Nicholas Cathedral.
- Go to the beach in Larvotto.
- Visit the Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium.
- Walk around Princess Grace Rose garden in Fontvieille Park
- Appreciate Monaco from above from The Tête de Chien (Dog’s Head): a 550 m (1,804 ft) high rock promontory near the village of La Turbie.
Where to stay in Monaco
Staying in Monaco itself being quite expensive, I would recommend you choose an accommodation in the French surroundings. I stayed 2 nights in the Riviera Marriott Hotel La Porte de Monaco in Cap d’Ail. It takes just a few minutes to reach Monaco, therefore it’s quite practical. This 4 stars hotel besides Cap d’Ail marina features an outdoor pool and is only 200 meters away from Cap d’Ail beach! My suite was nicely decorated with modern designs of yachting inspiration. The thing I loved the most was the balcony offering a unique Mediterranean panorama! I also appreciated the boho-chic atmosphere of Bolinas, the restaurant of the hotel. Overlooking the yachts on the waterfront of Cap d’Ail, it offers all-day dining options. Enjoying tapas and cocktails in Bolinas was the perfect way to end a day of sightseeing!
Disclaimer: I was invited to stay here by the Riviera Marriott, nevertheless I have shared my own opinion.
Welcome to Nice!
With is ideal location between the shores of the Mediterranean and the summits of Mercantour, Nice has many assets!
Firstly, Nice is features amazing beaches: you do not need to take the car, it’s at a walking distance from downtown! How convenient right?! Secondly, this city is very pretty: the traditional architecture in the old town and city-center is beautiful and unique!
Thirdly, Nice is a city of art, culture and gastronomy: you can visit many museums and galleries here and enjoy some delicious food! Last but not least, the city is very dynamic and convivial.
Adding to all of this the nice weather, and you will understand why I felt so good in Nice! That’s why it should be well positioned high in your road trip itinerary in the French Riviera!
What to do and see in Nice
Here are some of the amazing things you should do while in Nice:
- Pass by Place Masséna: the historic and main square of the city, easily recognizable by its colorful facades, its majestic fountain with the statue of Apollo, and mesmerizing black and white tiled pavement.
- Wander in the Old Town, so charming with its pastel-colored houses and cobbled streets.
- Go to the beach, obviously! You will find many private and public pebbles beaches with warm azure blue waters.
- Stroll in the famous Promenade des Anglais: this pedestrian walkway stretches for 7 km from the airport in the west to the headland in the east.
- Admire the beautiful St Nicholas Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox gem that will make you forget that you are in France!
- Walk around in Castle Ill to get a stunning viewpoint over the Baie des Anges, the Old Nice and the Port.
- Enjoy the ruins of a Roman arena in the Parc des arènes de Cimiez.
- Visit a museum: Chagall, Matisse, MAMAC, Beaux-Arts, Arts Asiatiques, Arts Naïf…
- Take a look at Notre Dame de Nice: the beautiful façade of this Cathedral reminds me of Notre Dame de Paris.
- Have a drink at a terrace in Place Garibaldi.
Where to stay in Nice
Nice is one of the most touristy cities in France, so you will have no trouble finding an accommodation. Nevertheless, I can give you a good tip! I stayed 2 nights in the AC Marriott Nice and it was amazing! This hotel is ideally located close to the beach and you can admire it as soon as you wake up. I really appreciated the service; the staff was reactive when I needed their help. And I have to tell you that they have a rooftop featuring one of the trendiest bars and restaurants of Nice! It’s named the Farago and is famous for its tapas and cocktails! On this rooftop you will also find a beautiful swimming pool that you can enjoy during the day. From there you can admire stunning views of both the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains.
Disclaimer: I was invited to stay here by the AC Marriott Nice, nevertheless I have shared my own opinion.
Why you should visit Menton
Located close to the Italian border and not far from Monaco, Menton is a cute little town on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. You will fall in love with every corner of this city! That’s why it’s a must to have it in your road trip itinerary in the French Riviera!
First of all, the houses are full of colors, which will brighten your mood immediately! Second of all, the beach is very nice, and the water is warm: perfect to refresh and relax! Then, given the ideal climate, Menton is a flower paradise: you will find flowers growing everywhere and there many gardens in the city. I can add that there are a few international events organized here, like the famous Lemon festival during during 3 weeks from February to March. The atmosphere is definitely pleasant in Menton! I highly recommend you stay there until end of the day and look at the sunset from the beach.
If you are planning to visit Menton, take a look at my dedicated article: the Best Instagram Photo Spots in Menton! You will get all the best spots to take your photos and some recommendations of places to eat!
Why you should visit Eze
You will find Eze between Nice and Monaco. This medieval village will seduce you by its unique location at the height of a cliff and by its historical architecture. You won’t regret adding to your road trip itinerary in the French Riviera!
To wander in Eze is like stepping back in time! You will take a lot of pleasure to go up and downs the narrow paths in the middle of the beautiful Provencal stone houses! You can also admire the pretty parish church Notre Dame de l’Assomption, the botanical garden and the 400 meters high views of the coastline. On top of that, Eze offers you an amazing beach if you go to down to Eze-sur-Mer. You can hike the Nietzsche path from the village to Eze-sur-Mer. It will take you around 45 down and 1h30 up.
Why you should visit Villefranche-sur-Mer
Villefranche-sur-Mer is a very cute harbor town located close to Nice. The bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer reaches a significant depth only a short distance from shore, therefore this town has been used as a harbor since 130 BC! The Old Town of Villefranche is super charming with its colorful facades and louvred shutters, its narrow streets and stairways. You will love to get lost in this picturesque place! It has to be part if your road trip itinerary in the French Riviera!
Some of the most interesting places to see in Villefranche-sur-Mer are the 16th century Citadelle Saint Elme, the Chapel of Saint Pierre decorated by Jean Cocteau, and the church of St Michel with its pastel colors and baroque style.
What else to see in the French Riviera?
Here are some other interesting and beautiful cities you can visit if you have more time. You can also add them to your road trip itinerary in the French Riviera if you want to spend less time in the big cities!
- Antibes / Juan-les-Pins
- St Raphaël
- Sainte Maxime
- St Tropez
- Ile de Porquerolles, Hyères
Driving around the beautiful Côte d’Azur this summer was really amazing and I am sure you will enjoy your time there! This area is so beautiful! If you have any questions about this road trip itinerary in the French Riviera, reach out to me by email or in the comments!
Do not miss the calanques, this unique natural wonder: the Ultimate Guide to the Calanques in Marseille and Cassis.
You will get many tips about Menton here: the Best Instagram Photo Spots in Menton
If you travel in the south east of France I can also advise you to visit Provence, the neighbor region! It’s full of pretty villages and stunning landscapes – including some of the most beautiful lavender fields on earth! Take a look at my article Guide to the lavender fields in Provence !
And last but not least, if you are traveling in summer in the French Riviera you will be probably be interested to know where are the best beaches in the area! Check out this article written by Alex from The Mindful Mermaid: Best Beaches in the South of France. She did a very good recap!