The French Riviera is unashamedly famous – one of the world’s top destinations with sun-drenched bays, perched hilltop villages, stylish shopping, peaceful vineyards and fine cultural landmarks, it attracts celebrities and high society year round. Get inspired with our insider’s guide to ten of the best luxury experiences on the French Riviera.
1. Indulge in Designer Shopping
If you want to treat yourself to the ultimate shopping experience, the French Riviera is one of Europe’s best destinations for high fashion and designer labels.
Monaco has a palatial collection of upscale boutiques in the Carré d’Or area where you’ll find haute couture and jewellery from Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Hermès. Cannes is a luxurious stop for prêt-a-porter fashion and accessories – saunter along the seafront Croisette where the windows of sophistication detail the collections from Valentino, Escada, Armani and Chopard, the Swiss jewellery house who craft the iconic Palme d’Or award for the Cannes Film Festival.
Shop for divine perfumes in vintage atomisers at Fragonard in Grasse, or tread the cobblestoned streets of Saint Tropez where à la mode is translated into classic swimwear, artisan leather handbags and seasonal separates of timeless elegance.
2. Charter a Luxury Yacht
As soon as you set foot on board, your tempo will change and you’ll understand why the French Riviera is a mecca for superyachts and the perfect remedy for a busy lifestyle.
Drift between quayside cocktail parties during Monaco F1 Grand Prix, soak in the Jacuzzi with a Champagne at sunset beside the cliffs at Plage Mala and wake up at anchor beside a picturesque port town while your private chef gathers fresh fruit and croissants from the market for breakfast.
With a Mediterranean climate guaranteeing long, sunny days for most of the year, the opportunity to cruise to jaw-dropping vistas is highly appealing. Alexander Coles, CEO and cofounder of Bespoke Yacht Charter says, “Having your own luxury yacht to resort hop along the coastline is a Riviera staple for those in the know where arriving for lunch by yacht means you skip the traffic. There’s plenty of secluded coves to use your yacht’s water toys and wonderful sightseeing for all ages. The French Riviera is something special, especially as dusk falls on the harbour-side cafés – getting up close to the coastal highlights couldn’t get much easier.”
3. Roadtrip in Style
Home to some of Europe’s most spectacular driving routes, the region is sublime for exploring by four wheels. Cruise the infamous Grand Prix circuit in Monaco – outside of race season – or if you have a need for speed, you can follow in the footsteps of film stars by renting a Ferrari, Lamborghini or Aston Martin for a thrilling drive along the Corniche roads between Nice and Monaco; the Moyenne Corniche has incredible views of sea, sky and mountains.
Hollywood couldn’t ask for a more picturesque region if they tried – other exceptional viewpoints lie on the beautiful Corniche d’Or coastal road from Mandelieu-La Napoule to Saint-Raphaël, and the winding roads that twist amongst the red cliffs and river through the Gorges du Cian and de Daluis.
4. Sun-soaked Mediterranean Islands
If you’re aching for stunning sea views and a more relaxing nod to luxury, the French Riviera has quietly charming islands with more than a dash of gorgeous beaches and azure waters to gaze at.
Little has changed since the days when Saracen pirates fought for ownership of the coastal trade routes centuries ago. Reached via boat, the Îles de Lérins are a perfect escape where sea breezes and cicada song make a welcome change from ‘La Croisette’ in Cannes.
The Îles de Porquerolles are the Côte d’Azur’s version of Caribbean islands with towering palms, magnificent beaches and restaurants serving up fresh seafood. You won’t find five-star lodgings and Champagne service to your sun lounger here! Luckily, the islands have kept modernisation at bay with a smattering of mistral-swept vineyards and rugged coastal trails where you may chance upon a celebrity or supermodel sipping a cool drink in the shade of the pine trees.
5. From Grape to Glass
France is a celebrated place for wine lovers and it doesn’t matter if you prefer red, white, rosé or bubbles you’ll be sure to find new blends or rare vintages to take home.
The south of France has an impressive array of splendid vineyards who proudly display their AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) certification and you’ll be won over by its famous Provençal rosé, the ideal holiday wine.
There are excellent vineyards dotted throughout the backcountry and coastal peninsulas – try a glass or two of the organic rosé from Château Léoube or sample the exceptional Rosé Or from Château Minuity near Saint Tropez.
For a rustic journey into French wines, venture to the vaulted stone cellars of Cave Bianchi in Nice. Open since 1860, you can reserve tasting sessions of grape varietals from local Bellet wines to grand crus from prestigious châteaux delivering precious moments from grape to glass.
6. Unwind at a World-Class Spa
French Riviera spas are pleasure palaces for mind and body rejuvenation with some fabulous addresses to be pampered.
On the Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat peninsula, Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, a Four Seasons hotel has an impeccable haven of wellness called Le Spa. Five lavish treatment rooms and two outdoor treatment pavillions offer an incredible spa experience, where after your facial or body treatment you can stroll in the large Mediterranean garden or reawaken your spirit in the hydrotherapy circuit.
Set in nine acres of parkland in Mougins, the five-star surrounds of Le Mas Candille are alluring for a sumptuous spa getaway at the Candille Spa. With ESPA treatments and a Japanese Zen atmosphere you’ll be floating on air after using the sauna, Jacuzzi and fitness area.
Imagine a a former 12th-century Knights Templar stronghold with panoramic views over olive trees, add exceptional gastronomy and the result is Château Saint-Martin & Spa. Located in Vence, World Luxury Spa Awards gave Spa Saint-Martin Sisley the accolade of “Best luxury Spa destination in Europe” and a range of treatments by Sisley and organic brand Bamford highlight this as a luxurious spot for total relaxation.
7. Gastronomic Heaven
Visiting the town markets is a window into daily life; a French matriarch hustling for the best cheese, a languid pétanque player picking up some saucisson for a midday snack or you may spot a chef in their whites filling their basket with spotless vegetables and handsome citrus fruits from the Gods such as clementines, lemons and oranges.
Life on the Côte d’Azur is about embracing the simple life and this transcends to enjoying food at a pleasurable pace. With 300-plus days of sunshine every year, nature’s ingredients are ripe and bountiful with Mediterranean flavour bursting from every plate across the region.
Provençal cuisine is represented at traditional bistros and the top restaurants – look for bouillabaisse seafood soup that pairs nicely with a chilled wine and crusty baguette, la daube beef stew with lashings of garlic and rosemary, grilled sardines with spices and lemon or savour the delicately stuffed courgette flowers with ricotta and Herbs de Provence.
Venture to the medieval village of Mougins for their annual gastronomy festival ‘Les Étoiles de Mougins’, or book a table at two Michelin-starred La Chèvre d’Or in Eze, that has been defining French cuisine for over sixty years. The food is expertly crafted and you’ll be suitably impressed as you savour your meal in the dining room with picture windows framing the sea view.
8. Book a Heli-Sightseeing Tour
A memorable way to experience the beauty of the French Riviera is via helicopter with breathtaking aerial views of the megawatt destinations of Saint Tropez, Monaco and Cannes from the sky.
Drift over the glimmering turquoise sea lapping at Nice’s Promenade des Anglais, the orange-tiled roofs in Antibes or medieval villages in the hinterland of the Roya Valley. An added bonus is the helicopter companies are au fait with seasonal transfers too, meaning you can be soaring over the coastline in summer then zip to the fresh powder at the ski resorts in winter.
9. Party at Glamorous Events
The French Riviera is a thriving playground for the international glitterati with a number of major events ensuring celebrities jet in to see and be seen each year.
High society can sip Champagne court-side at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters before a flutter at the Belle Époque Casino de Monte-Carlo or take in the mellow sounds at the iconic Jazz à Juan festival; we recommend nestling a Fitzgerald cocktail with enlivening rum, grapefruit juice, lime, and Marasquin as you listen from the waterfront terrace at neighbouring Hôtel Belles Rives.
If you want to live the ultimate luxury lifestyle, book your French Riviera sojourn for May when both the Cannes Film Festival and Monaco F1 Grand Prix kick start the party season for the global elite.
10. Sample Provence’s Best Gourmet Products
The South of France is home to amazing gourmet products that preserve the essence of the sea and earth. Wander among the stalls at Cours Saleya in Nice, the grande dame of markets will pep up your senses with the best flowers and food from the area.
Take your time sampling the produce and taking home gifts such as candied fruit or chestnut conserve from the alpine towns. Buy some black truffles, plump figs, girolle mushrooms and briny olives. Artisan bread can be found at most boulangeries (bakeries) in Nice and is lovely when warmed and dipped into AOC olive oil from Nice.
Make sure you book a gourmet cooking lesson to relive your French Riviera escapade on those dreary winter days, when you’d much rather be where Matisse and Renoir enjoyed the Mediterranean sunlight.
For luxury yacht charters on the French Riviera, contact Bespoke Yacht Charter.
Disclosure: Most of our property, service & product reviews are sponsored by the proprietor or brand being appraised. All opinions remain our own & are in no way influenced by any sponsor.