The French Riviera is one of the most visited coastal strips in the world, and it’s not hard to imagine why that is: it’s been the playground of the rich and famous for over six decades, is strikingly beautiful and offers visitors of all ages and interests a myriad of activities and attractions. Want to come frolic on the most famous coast on earth? Then let us take you on an unforgettable three-day trip which will see you take in the very best this little corner of paradise has to offer.
DAY ONE: Villefranche-sur-Mer
Waking up to stupendous coastal views is certainly not a bad way to start your vacation! Spend your morning whipping up a delectable breakfast in the villa’s gourmand kitchen and savour your creation on the terrace. When you’re ready, simply head out the front door and follow the path all the way to the centre of town. Villefranche-sur-Mer is a delightful seaside village, and a popular stop for many international cruise liners.
The Old Town centre is a maze of narrow cobblestone alleyways, and it’s the perfect place to explore on foot. Don’t forget to walk down Rue Obscure (Dark Alley), a charming side alley sheltered by arches which were meant to protect residents from German-fired shots during the Second World War. The town’s main church, St. Michael’s, was built in the 18th century and is home to a very unique statue of Jesus carved from a single fig-tree. Villefranche’s Old Town is jam-packed with delightful eateries, trendy cafes and some truly gorgeous boutiques, so don’t be surprised if you end up spending endless hours just wandering around. Grab a crêpe and a cafe’ at one of the outdoor restaurants and soak up the atmosphere of this ancient and enticing town.
After lunch, head to Citadelle St. Elme, a wonderful complex of museums and art galleries which dates back to the 1500s. Originally built to protect the coast from foreign invaders, this amazing 7.5 acre property is now home to the city’s Town Hall as well as three separate museums. Should you be lucky enough to visit during the European summer, don’t miss the outdoor film screenings held every night in the Citadel!
Head to the harbour side for a delicious cocktail and delectable dinner of freshly caught seafood and you’ll have yourself a magical first day in Villefranche. One of the most popular spots is the bar in Versaille just on the edge of town (towards Nice); the drinks are perfect and the sunset views absolutely enchanting (although the sunsets from the terrace of Villa Hippocampo cannot be beat!)
DAY TWO: Nice
Start your day with an early morning croissant at one of the local boulangeries in town. Head to the bus stop just five minute’s walk down the public walkway to the town centre catch a ride to Nice, only 20 minutes away. Ask to be dropped at Place Massena and you’ll be in the midst of all of the action. The town’s city centre is a wonderful maze of both designer shops and alternative boutiques, and spending a whole morning here exploring the back streets, and of course the hugely famous Promenade des Anglais bordering the water, is infinitely rewarding. Nice’s grand architecture is really a sight to behold, and that combined with people watching from a sidewalk cafe puts you in the absolute centre of Nice’s vitality.
If you’re in the mood for a dip in the sea, and you’ve packed your bathing suit, then head to one of the many private beaches and rent a sundeck chair and umbrella for a few hours, or the whole day. Nice does boast a lovely stretch of private beach, but keep in mind that the black pebbled beach can get extremely hot when just lying on a towel!
Head back towards the main square for lunch, and stop at one of the lovely seafood restaurants for a delicious paella. Funnily enough, this Spanish delicacy is made to perfection here in Nice so don’t miss your chance for a little epicurean gorging.
For an easy afternoon stroll, and a chance to work up a little afternoon pastry-and-coffee appetite, head left of the old town centre and head uphill towards the old châteaux ruins. Not only is the walk wonderfully invigorating, but the hilltop views of Nice, and the coast, are simply superb. Take a late afternoon bus back to Villafranche-sur-Mer and enjoy a wonderful night’s sleep in luxurious Villa Hippocampo.
DAY THREE: Antibes
For your third day out and about on the Côte d’Azur, we’d highly recommend you visit the historic town of Antibes, merely 28kms west of Villefranche-sur-Mer and one of the most artistic and cultural villages on the Cote d’Azur. It is easily accessible by train in the event that driving is not on your list of fun things to do in France. The train station is a ten minute walk from the villa, train service is plentiful, and operates on time (more or less.)
Antibes was the first Greek settlement on the French Riviera, and nowadays it is still brimming with superlative temples, monuments and amphitheatres, attesting to the city’s colourful and illustrious past. Antibes is also home to a splendid Picasso Museum, set in the former home of the Spanish maestro who (you may not find hard to believe) fell in love with this little corner of paradise and made his home here for many years. Yet Antibes is a town which swings with the time, and it is still revered as the birthplace of the European Jazz festival.
Right next to the Picasso Museum is where you’ll find Antibes’ famous covered market, the Marché Provençal, a thriving hub of charming activity which is likely to claim most of your remaining time and holiday funds! Fancy a relaxing afternoon stroll? Then head south along the coast towards the impressive Cap d’Antibes natural reserve, a most dreamy and luscious promontory, which gifts the most amazing coastal views in Antibes. End your day at Le Patio Bar at the Cap d’Antibes Beach Hotel and, while you savour a couple of mouth-watering cocktails and bask in the day’s last golden rays, start making your plans for the rest of your stay on the magnificent French Riviera….the unmatched Casino Royale in Monaco, seaside restaurants in Menton, the largest open air market on the coast in the town of Ventimiglia just over the Italian border and only 40 minutes by train, the exquisite perched village of Eze just a five minute drive in the hills from Villa Hippocampo…..the list goes on and on.