6 Must-See Spots on the French Riviera

carlton hotel

When we decided to visit the French Riviera this summer, visions of Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in “To Catch a Thief” immediately came to mind. The 1950s glamour of the Cote d’Azur, captured so perfectly in this film, was exactly what I envisioned as I packed my suitcase for our adventure. A DVF silk head scarf, wide brimmed boater hat, and one too many striped separates later, I was ready for the Mediterranean. Beyond the obvious wardrobe planning fun, a trip to the Riviera provided me the opportunity to see so many new, beautiful places. The list of must-sees could go on and on, but I’ve rounded up my top picks for you to keep in mind if you’re planning a vacation there.  Bon voyage!

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The A-Lyst for Exploring the French Riviera 

Exploring the Cours Saleya in Nice

This is a lively, outdoor marketplace located in the heart of the Old Town of Nice (Vieux Nice), offering fresh fruits and vegetables, and my favorite, flowers. Gorgeous peonies and roses filled the marketplace and it was so hard to resist buying them (clearly, bringing them back to the hotel wouldn’t have made the most sense)! If I lived in Nice, I would definitely be there every day to buy produce; it was so bountiful and so fresh! Additionally, the Cours Saleya is easy to pair with a walk up to a stellar lookout point at the Colline du Château, followed by a fresh Nicoise Salad and bottle of rosé at the beachside eatery, Castel Plage & Restaurant. I would also highly recommend aimlessly exploring the Old Town section, as it is incredibly beautiful and quaint. There are numerous sidewalk cafes, shops, and of course, places to get ice cream/gelato (try Fenocchio Glacier at 2 Place Rossetti…so many cool flavors!).

Enjoying a Sunset in Saint-Tropez

From the moment we arrived in Saint-Tropez, I knew that this would be my favorite coastal town. It is the perfect mix of quaint and luxurious, and not to mention, incredibly romantic. In every place that we travel, we love to find the best spot to watch the sunset. In the summer, the French Riviera enjoys 9:15pm sunsets; and that extra 45 minutes each day truly felt like such a gift! Before watching the most unbelievable sunset near the Tour du Portalet, we treated ourselves to crêpes avec nutella at the cutest crêperie on Rue Sibille (literally just a little window on a tiny street). Standing above Le Vieux Port (old port), on one side of us was the ocean and on the other side of us were boats and brightly colored buildings. Catching the sunset was the perfect way to close out a day in Saint-Tropez!

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Spending the Afternoon in Èze Village

This medieval village is perched on a high cliff and not only offers stunning views, but a rich history. Be forewarned, it is very touristy, but despite the throngs of people, the views and narrow pathways hidden by charming stone buildings are still worth exploring. I would recommend heading to the outdoor terrace lounge at Château de la Chèvre D’Or, a Relais & Châteaux hotel, and enjoying the views with a glass of wine. It’s the perfect place to take in the beauty of the Riviera! If you have time and don’t mind a climb, the exotic gardens of Éze, filled with many interesting species of cactus, are also worth exploring!

Strolling the Promenade de la Croisette

Chanel. Louis Vuitton. Prada. Gucci. You name it. The main strip in Cannes offers every designer boutique imaginable alongside gorgeous beaches and exquiste views of the water. After window shopping, take a seat at the beachside restaurant at the historical Carlton Hotel and enjoy a cocktail by the water. Built in 1911, the statuesque property was a witness to Cannes during its golden age of Hollywood glory, and still draws a glamorous crowd today. This was also the filming location for “To Catch a Thief”(my favorite!) and “French Kiss” with Meg Ryan. Cannes is definitely touristy, but if you’re a fan of old school glamour, it’s worth a visit!

Visiting the Gardens of the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

This French seaside villa was highly recommended to us and it did not disappoint. We could have wandered through the property’s nine lush, exotic gardens all day long, as each one was so different from the next. The estate offers sweeping views of the Mediterranean and its interior is incredibly lavish! My favorite part was the synchronized fountains set to classical music in the Garden à la Française.  If you’re looking for a picturesque route to get to the Villa, the Promenade Maurice Rouvier is a scenic walking path that provides the most gorgeous views of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and Beaulieu-sur-Mer. An easy walk for people of all ages, we enjoyed leisurely strolling and taking in the beauty around us.

Perfume Making in Grasse

I have always been obsessed with perfumes, so when I learned that the Grasse, the perfume capital of the world, was a mere 30 minutes inland from Cannes, I knew I had to go. Grasse has three major perfume houses and I did extensive research on which to visit in order to make my own scent. Parfumerie Molinard, established in 1849, offers several workshops – one is an hour long and allows you to smell and choose from 90 different essences to create your own perfume. After smelling every single essence and narrowing down my favorites, I selected four top notes, four heart notes, and five base notes to create my very own scent. Making “Riviera No. 5” was a total bucket list experience, and if you’re a perfume lover, I would highly recommend it!

If you have extra time…

While geographically not part of the French Riviera, the Provence countryside is about a two to three hour drive away, and is just as peaceful and gorgeous as you would imagine it to be. You could literally spend hours traveling to your final destination because of all the interesting places you will pass by and want to stop at on the drive there. Take it at your leisure and make sure the driver isn’t scared of steep, windy roads!

Experiencing the Lavender Fields

Since we were traveling in mid-June, it was the beginning of lavender season, and we knew this was something we had to see. My trusty travel partner did extensive research on the areas where the lavender blooms early and made a geo-targeted map to help us find the best fields. We traveled to Valensole and found the most gorgeous lavender fields with a view of the French Alps in the distance. The smell of the lavender was incredible and the rows of bushes went on for miles! Another bucket list item checked off and totally worth the beautiful albeit long drive.

Paddle Boating through Les Gorges du Verdon

When we saw the turquoise-green water of this river canyon with our own eyes, we immediately understood why it’s often touted as being one of Europe’s most beautiful places. Entering the heart of canyon at Lac de St. Croix, we decided to explore the natural wonder by renting a paddle boat and pedaling/floating through it. It was such a cool experience to be in the middle of these massive rocks, surrounded on all sides by the most striking shade of teal water.

Outfit Details:

Cannes

Dress: J.Crew Short-Sleeve Cotton Shirtdress

Scarf: DVF Blue Seahorse Silk Scarf (similar here)

Sunglasses: Chloe Boxwood Retro Sunglasses

Earrings: Chanel Button Earrings (similar here)

Nice

Dress: DVF White Shirt Dress (similar here)

Sunglasses: Tom Ford Telma Cat Eye Sunglasses

Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

Dress: Mahi Gold Maxi Dress (similar here)

Shoes: Sam Edelman Greta Thong Sandal in Jute

Èze Village

Dress: Ann Taylor Striped Tie Waist Dress

Hat: B.P. Straw Boater Hat (similar here)

Shoes: Chanel Rhinestone CC Thong Sandal (similar here)

Bag: French market tote (purchased in France; similar here)

Photos by @TheLyleStevens

 

Leave a Comment

  • Ed GIGLIOTTI
    September 14, 2016

    Simply GORGEOUS!!!

    Reply
  • sCarlett
    September 18, 2016

    I’m dying to see the lavender fields!! This lunch with a bottle of rose looks unbelievably lovely as well! :)

    Reply
    • Alyssa Stevens
      September 21, 2016 sCarlett

      Yes, so beautiful! You have to add it to your list….!

      Reply