Updated: Dec 30, 2021
I spent 2 weeks exploring France, one of which I spent in the Riviera. Southern France was always in the back of my mind, but it wasn't at the top of my list of places to visit until I saw more and more pictures of it and travel articles talking about its beauty. Let's just say I fell in love with southern France! It is home to great food, nice people, and some of the most beautiful landscapes (beaches!) I've ever seen!
While the French Riviera is known for being luxurious, you don't have to be rich to visit. We made Nice our home base and took public transportation to explore the city and surrounding areas. Public transportation was easy and cheaper than renting a car or taking Ubers or taxis. Here are the best day trips in the French Riviera, specifically from Nice:
Monaco is exactly how you see it in the movies: fancy cars, expensive restaurants, and nice casinos. If you go away from Place du Casino, prices are more reasonable. We stopped at a café in Place du Casino and paid 7€ for an espresso. While there's a dress code and entrance fee for Monte Carlo Casino, neighboring Casino Café de Paris is free of charge and doesn't require you to get all dressed up. Go have some fun gambling and pretend like you're the millionaire whose yacht is parked in the port (or go to the penny slots like me).
Though Monaco has more cities than just Monaco, don't be fooled. The entire country is less than one square mile. Walk from Place du Casino, along the Circuit de Monaco, to Le Marché de la Condamine. Grab some lunch from one of the indoor restaurants or some snacks from the market before hiking up all the steps to the palace. It's a long trek up, but the view is definitely worth it! You can watch the guard in front of the palace and check out the cannons. Don't forget to explore the picturesque old town while you're on the hill. Before making the walk back down, stop by the Jardins de Saint-Martin and the Musée Océanographique de Monaco. The Oceanographic Museum, which is one of the oldest aquariums in the world, is home to so many different kinds of marine life!
Monaco may be the second smallest country in the world, but there is definitely plenty to do to fill your time there! Also, there is no passport check when entering the country from a train departing from France. If you're like me, you'll still bring your passport just in case (lol).
A friend recommended that I visit Antibes while in the Riviera, but other than that, I didn't know much about the city. It is now one of my favorite places in the world! While in Antibes, you must check out the Marché Provençal (provencal market). The market, which occurs every day but Mondays (except for summer months, in which it occurs every day), has cheeses, olive oils, sweets, meats, art, and so much more! Antibes also has a beautiful vieille ville (old town)!! I highly recommend walking around, grabbing breakfast from Boulangerie Béaud or a Salade Niçoise from Restaurant La Galerie Aubernon. Don't forget to stop for some gelato from Gelateria Del Porto!! Also, Plage de la Gravette in Antibes is a sandy beach!
Villefranche-sur-mer is a 15 minute train ride from Nice-Ville and the beach is a five minute walk from there! Plage Villefranche-sur-Mer is one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen! This is more of a family beach, but it was beautiful and there were people of all ages there! We didn't explore the town while there, but it seemed like a cute, quaint town. While Plage Villefranche-sur-Mer isn't a rocky beach, it is thicker/grittier sand.
I could live at Plage d'Eze-sur-Mer... I think that's all I need to say. It is seriously one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. The pebble/rocky beach is fairly quiet and boasts beautiful, clear water surrounded by rock cliffs. The hilltop village of Éze is beautiful and offers incredible views of the sea. It's about a 20 minute bus ride from Éze-sur-Mer to Éze village, so you could do both in a day!
Menton, the last city before you reach Italy, is a secret paradise! Menton offers rocky and sandy beaches surrounded by vibrant, colorful buildings! Menton also hosts the Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival)!! If you're not able to make it to the festival, you can still buy your fair share of all things lemon at the local shops. Menton has some of the cutest shops with all kinds of goods! If you're looking for a sweet treat, check out GM Glacerie!
While I felt that even a little over a week in the French Riviera was not enough, doing a day trip to each of these cities gives you a taste of everything that the area has to offer. These cities are all very close but feel so different from each other!
Note: The best way to travel between these cities is either by car or by train.