While there are many beautiful sights to see, the French Riviera is best captured through experience. There are those who watch and there are those who do, and when in the south of France, it is better to be the latter. Around the world there are places where it is absolutely imperative to seize every presented opportunity…and the French Riviera is one of them.
If it’s luxury, glamour, and excitement you seek, let your starting point Monaco. Although it may be the smallest French principality, it is certainly not lacking in wealth. Of course, Monaco is overflowing with beautiful gardens and architecture, but the experiences it offers are not to be missed. With this, the French Riviera destination guide recommends you begin with a motorbike rental. There is no better way to see the winding streets of Monaco and the nearby Cote d’Azur areas than behind the steering wheel of the preferred method of transportation in the French Riviera.
When in Monaco, the only way to kick off your holiday is at the legendary Casino de Monte Carlo. It is most famously known for its appearances in James Bond films. The elaborately decorated interior, fashioned Belle Epoque style, does not disappoint. Here, you can try your luck beside the elite of the French Riviera.
The Principality is home to some of the finest dining options on the globe. 5-star restaurants are scattered across the coast offering not only a meal of a lifetime but one that includes a view. If you really want to try a taste of Monaco you must find yourself at Place D’Armes for a bite of regional gastronomy. It is here you will find Monégasque barbagiuans. These are fried pastries filled with spinach, swiss chard, ricotta, garlic, and herbs. Barbagiuans are so integral to the culture of Monaco that the Principality hosts the Fete de Barbagiuans- an entire holiday dedicated to eating and celebrating the delicious pockets.
On the French half of Monaco, you will find Cap d’Ail: an area that stretches along the coast including yacht ports, high-end shopping, and scenic vistas. Moreover, Cap d’Ail is home to one of the most beautiful beaches on the Riviera. La Plage de la Mala offers an atmosphere for a relaxing afternoon with its turquoise blue water and a low key crowd. You can take a stroll along the coast to reach stairs leading down to a stretch of Mediterranean white sands. After walking down a flight of 100 stone steps, you will find yourself in paradise. La Plage de la Mala is ideally situated between two green covered cliffsides, giving it a more exclusive feel. While on the beach, be sure to do as the French do and open a bottle of rosé at one of the two posh restaurants. A la Réserve de la Mala offers a chic white-out look and its counterpart offers exotic bohemian flare at L’Eden Plage Mala. Pair the natural setting with a private beach restaurant and you may never want to leave.
No trip to the French Riviera is complete without a visit to Bagatelle Beach or Shellona at Plage de Pampelonne in St. Tropez. From Monaco, the best way to reach your next destination is via boat. You can conveniently charter a private boat from the port of Cap d’Ail to St. Tropez for the day. Picturesque maritime mountain ranges line the coast en route to Pampelonne. Upon arrival, you will be greeted by a dinghy to bring you inland to one of the restaurants if you have a reservation. Begin by relaxing on one of the many beach beds under umbrellas while enjoying a refreshing French cocktail. By the afternoon it will be time to move in for lunch. If you’re with a group, family style service is recommended at either Bagatelle Beach or Shellona.
What’s the difference between the beach neighbors? Bagatelle Beach offers French cuisine often generously topped with truffles and caviar, while Shellona’s menu incorporates a Greek mezzo flare. Aside from cuisine, the atmosphere is where the two diverge. Bagatelle Beach will provide an experience like no other. The restaurant changes from a quiet beach haven once the DJ arrives during the late afternoon. After guests finish their meals, expect to see everyone up and dancing on their tables. Patrons can order anything from bottles of champagne delivered by a man flying through the air to a full-on champagne shower. It’s truly an experience to have yourself. Of course, if you’re seeking a more relaxing time, Shellona offers a DJ and champagne with sparklers, but with less noise.
The French Riviera can be more than glamour. If you continue westward toward Cassis and Marseille you can find another natural marvel of French. Calanques National Park is made of numerous hiking trails that lead down limestone cliffs to private pebble beaches. While the trails can prove to be a challenge for some, the park is the perfect retreat away from city life. Each of the beaches are turquoise-colored inlets of seawater secluded by steep rock walls. When in the Riviera, la calanques are not to be missed.
The French Riviera truly offers an experience for everyone. Whether it’s thrills or relaxation you seek, the south of France and the Principality of Monaco has it. From natural vistas to celebrity parties, the French Riviera provides an adventure for all.