For years, the French Riviera has been a hotspot for beach-goers and holidaymakers in search of an exciting atmosphere and trendy places to visit. Monaco, Cannes, and St Tropez have been at the top of the list of desirable places for a long time now, but these are only the tip of the iceberg. The French Riviera (also known as the Côte d’Azur) has so much to offer – and here, we show you some of the most incredible hidden gems the area has to offer.
Les Baux de Provence – Breath-taking scenery and flavorsome fare
Located in the heart of the Alpilles Country Park lies a tiny, but outstandingly beautiful village. Les Baux de Provence attracts visitors from across the globe, who visit to photograph, paint and explore the village termed ‘one of the most beautiful villages in France’. It’s no wonder then that the village is littered with art galleries, as the views are so inspiring. It’s not just scenic art you can gaze upon, though, as the art galleries show a variety of artistic styles, but you can also admire the architecture of the galleries themselves as you browse.
When it comes to dining in Les Baux de Provence, you certainly won’t be disappointed. With a wealth of restaurants in the village to choose from, offering dishes prepared with the freshest local produce paired with locally produced wines, it’s no wonder many of the eateries here have won good food guide stars for their tempting dishes.
Port Grimaud – The ‘Little Venice’ of the French Riviera
If you want a holiday that offers a quieter, more relaxing break than the often overridden St Tropez or Monaco, then Port Grimaud, also known as ‘Little Venice’ should be your first port of call (if you’ll pardon the pun!). Port Grimaud provides boating enthusiasts with chic restaurants, charming villas & apartments rental with stunning views across the water. You really will feel like you’ve taken a trip to Venice. Combining the glorious beauty of the French Riviera and the provincial charm of Venice in one holiday – who could want more?
Another reason for visiting ‘Little Venice’ is the high-quality cuisine you’ll find there, and there are a number of eateries that will tantalize the taste buds, allowing you a real flavor of this multi-cultural destination. Villa Belrose, only a few minutes from Port Grimaud has been awarded a Michelin Star for its take on modern Mediterranean cuisine and is a ‘must visit’ restaurant for seasoned foodies. With elegant dishes, atmosphere and décor to match, you’ll get a real taste of Italian cuisine with a French twist.
Eze Village – A combination of historic charm and Michelin Stars!
The ancient village of Eze offers the chance to experience the true, rustic France. Away from the hustle and bustle, and glitz of Monte Carlo and St Tropez, lies the real French Riviera, with a wealth of history and stunning views, this little gem means you can enjoy the weather and the culture without the crowds.
Steeped in history, Eze is centered around the ruins of a 12th-century castle, once occupied by the Romans and the Moors, and also the House of Savoy. Visitors can enjoy getting lost in the maze of cobbled, winding streets and charming squares while meandering through the village taking in the fantastic sea views.
You can also add a little shopping to your day. Let’s face it – on holiday there’s always time for shopping! The village has two renowned perfumeries – Gallimard, and Fragonard, where you can treat yourself to some elegant French scents! Once you’ve finished discovering the beauty of the village and its history, the perfect end to the day is a table reserved at the two Michelin Star restaurant Chevre d’Or. Here you can taste the delights of Philippe Labbe who uses seasonal, local produce to create masterpiece dishes to tantalize your taste buds.
Vence – Perfect for Culture Vultures
A pleasant, picturesque town located north of Cagnes-Sur-Mer, Vence is full of history and culture. The fortifications of the town still exist today, along with many other historical features. Take a stroll through this medieval town and soak up the traditional Mediterranean atmosphere.
Must see places include the Cathedral of the Nativity of Saint Mary, which was originally built in the 4th century and then rebuilt in the 12th century. The cathedral is a wonderful representation of France in the olden days. Take note, either side of the doorway to the cathedral you will find Roman inscription tablets and just inside, a mosaic by the famous artist, Marc Chagall. Other places on your list should include the Tower of Saint-Lambert and Vence’s entrance gates, dating from the 13th century, the 18th century and the 19th century. A trip to Vence takes you on a bit of a historical adventure so be sure to plan your day well to lap up all there is to see and do – and don’t forget to take your camera.
Lerins Islands – Serenity and Spectacular Scenery
Wherever you’re staying on the French Riviera, your visit will certainly be enhanced by a ferry trip from Cannes to Lerins Islands. Perhaps one of the most enjoyable days out is taking the Lerins Abbey tour on Saint-Honorat Island.
Saint Honoratus, who had intended to live there alone until several disciples joined him, founded the monastery in the 5th century, year 410. Some 300 years later the island became a popular place of pilgrimage. The island was considered a special, spiritual place, and this can still be felt today with some of the historic buildings still standing, including the monastery itself, which is still home to monks today.
Not only can you experience its past, magnificent architecture, and stunning panoramic views, but you can also taste the wine! A trip to France wouldn’t be complete without visiting a vineyard and tasting the beautiful produce of this very special place.
Although the call of the ‘usual’ holiday destinations of Monaco, Cannes, and St Tropez are still strong, there’s so much more to be gained by exploring the lesser-known gems of the French Riviera. You may even find that you prefer the charm of the waterways of Port Grimaud, picturesque Vence or the beautiful Les Baux de Provence to those destinations with glitz and glamor, but perhaps less substance than these hidden gems.