If the Côte d’Azur is now a top tourist destination, it is largely due to its mild climate and its 75 mile-long beaches that come to life as early as March.
Of course, the 12 million visitors annually appreciate its 300 days of sunshine a year, as well as the large number of tourist sites on offer in the Côte d’Azur's major towns. From the border with Italy, Menton, Monaco, Nice, Antibes, Cannes and Grasse compete for attention.
The towns that are relatively less popular are also full of entertainments; such as Èze, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Vence, Saint Paul de Vence, Mougins and Saint Tropez. The hilltop villages of the French Riviera offer exceptional opportunities for their visitors to appreciate its gorgeous nature as well as the richness of their terroir.
Like French and overseas visitors, you will marvel at its light and relish the culinary traditions of Provence and the County of Nice. There are also a number of shows and festivals in the region; which you can enjoy while simply wandering through the streets and markets, and taking a break at one of the cafés or restaurant terraces nearby.
With an international airport (Nice, France’s second biggest) and train stations into which arrive trains and high-speed trains from across Europe, the Côte d'Azur is within easy reach, wherever you are in the world. There are frequent bus and train connections across the Côte at affordable prices. In the evening numerous taxis take their place (at student rates).
A mild, sunny Winter, which still offers the opportunity to take advantage of the many ski resorts less than an hour's drive away. A pleasant Spring is important as the region gets ready for the Summer season. Cannes Festival marks the moment when the beaches have a make-over to welcome the first brave souls. A warm Summer, but not overpoweringly so, which allows tourists to bathe in the sea from March to October! Indeed, our little corner of France has an exceptional 300 days of sunshine per year and an Indian Summer that extends right up to the start of Winter.
“Côte d’Azur” is a relatively recent term given by writer Stéphen Liégeard at the end of the 19th century. This marketing term, as we would call it today, this “brand” hits the nail on the head. It described the color of the sea and the sky in this corner of Southern France, but more than that, the visual delight that overcomes any visitor. Now a top tourist destination, and home to France's biggest airport outside Paris, the Côte d’Azur has turned welcoming visitors into an art form, welcoming both tourists and businesses to its Sophia Antipolis technology park. However, it would be a mistake to reduce it to this function.
The architecture combines Provençal, Italian and Belle époque styles. The architectural and cultural heritage also includes a number of religious treasures such as monasteries, abbeys, sanctuaries, cathedrals, churches and chapels, many of which are of the Baroque style. They have come down to us from the history and traditions forged here, as is the case of the famous Nice carnival which can be traced back to the Middle Ages.
Since Antiquity, this coastline has had a rich history. It has handed down heritage that is exceptional in its diversity. The cave paintings in the valley of wonders in the Mercantour go back to 3,000 BC; Rome left us Cemenelum and its ampitheater in Nice and the Trophy of the Alps above Monaco, erected in the honor of Emporer Augustus.
There is Lérins Abbey, off the coast of Cannes, and all the hilltop villages dating back to the Middle Ages, then came the fortifications of Vauban on the border of Provence. The statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi presides over the fine square that carries the name of this illustrious former resident of Nice.
The cultural heritage of this part of France, made up Provence Maritime and the County of Nice, has developed further in the modern era. The Côte has thrived on the interest it has generated. Theaters, concert halls, opera houses were built at the end of the 19th century for the enjoyment of illustrious vacationers including, at the time, the aristocracy of the whole of Europe. Modern painters, attracted by the light and beauty of the Côte d’Azur have bequeathed to us priceless works and museums dedicated to Picasso (Antibes) Fernand Léger (Biot) Matisse and Chagall (Nice) Bonnard (Le Cannet) as well as the Maeght Foundation in Saint Paul. Music festivals have been created to celebrate classical music, jazz (that of Antibes Juan-les-Pins is the oldest), and world music.
However, when we think of festivals it is the Cannes Film Festival, which opens the Summer season every year in May, that automatically comes to mind. The Côte d’Azur is then under the global spotlight. Hence, the Côte d’Azur has a lot more to offer than sun-drenched beaches. You will be treated with the whole Mediterranean culture: its history, gastronomy and the wealth of its towns.